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Tuesday, 24 November 1959

Mr POLLARD (Lalor) .- Last week I asked a question in this Parliament of the Postmaster General (Mr. Davidson) regarding the use by some broadcasting companies of what is known as video tape. I do not know much about the technical side of television, but I understand that some television companies, particularly Channel 9 in Melbourne, use what is known as video tape in all cases where the telecast is re-broadcast from other capital cities. I have a very keen television critic in my home circle who tells me that the companies that use video tapes for the rebroadcasting of pictures from other cities broadcast pictures which are infinitely superior to those broadcast by the national stations. I make these remarks reluctantly, because I am a 100 per cent, supporter of the national stations. Their programmes are not all that they should be in some respects, but they are as good as, if not better than, the programmes of the private stations, and one does not have to look at a lot of objectionable advertising material such as is presented by the private television stations.

In response to my question, the PostmasterGeneral indicated that he did not know much about the subject in relation to which I was inquiring, and he intimated that he would make some inquiries to find out the position. Subsequently, in the course of a short personal conversation, I understood him to say that if the national T.V. stations used video tape - the use of which is, I understand, the reason for the superior pictures broadcast by at least one of the private T.V. stations - it would involve an additional cost of about £50,000.

Mr Hulme - Is that for Melbourne only?

Mr POLLARD - It may be for the national station in Melbourne only, or it may be for all of them - I do not know. However, if all that is required to put the national stations on an equal basis in this regard with the privately conducted stations is the expenditure of an additional £50,000, it is time that something was done about the matter. I do not know anything about the technical aspects, but I understand that video tape is a material of some kind used for the reproduction of pictures taken in, say, Sydney and shown in Melbourne. I do not care what type of material the national stations use for this type of work as long as it is the best available and will give to the Australian people, who really own the stations, the best reproduction of pictures that can be given.

I leave the matter there. I hope that the Minister at the table will convey my representations to the Postmaster-General. Surely, it is a reflection on the national stations that other stations, with fewer resources than are available to the Commonwealth, can broadcast superior television pictures.

Mr. WARD(East Sydney) [11.441.- Although this is a rather inappropriate hour at which to raise the matters that I shall bring to the attention of the House, I am obliged to raise them now because the Government intends that the Parliament shall go into recess at the end of this week for some months. The matters that I have in mind are of sufficient importance to warrant the attention of the Parliament before that long recess begins.

I am pleased to see the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in his place in the House, because he will be able to listen to what I have to say and perhaps cause an appropriate investigation to be made. I refer first to a racket which the Government has an opportunity to curb or prevent. It concerns the National Bank of Australasia Limited and its interest in Custom Credit Corporation. I have been given to understand that a watchmaker and jeweller in Tasmania advertised that he would sell certain articles on hire-purchase without requiring a deposit. A young lady, responding to the advertisement, sought to purchase a watch valued at £20. She was then referred to Custom Credit Corporation, which granted her a personal loan of £20. There was an interest charge of £1 and a documentation fee of £1, making a total of £22. Before the transaction was completed, however, she was referred to Customlife Assurance Limited, and she was obliged to take out a nonparticipating life policy for which she had to pay the premium of £6. This brought the total sum involved to £28, and she had to repay it in four-monthly instalments of £7. Working on the basis of an interest charge of £8, it appears that an interest rate of about 120 per cent, was charged on the personal loan to this young lady. It seems that the banking institutions, which can be controlled under powers possessed by this Parliament, are using this method to avoid that control and to get an exorbitant return on moneys which they are providing for investment in different fields. I understand that Custom Credit Corporation has offices in the bank's premises. You arrange a loan through Custom Credit Corporation, but actually it is done in the premises of the National

Bank. I think it is about time that the Government took notice of this activity and! did something about it.

The other matter to which I wish torefer concerns the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon). He is not in the House, but that is not unusual. On a number of occasions, in referring to the number of registered unemployed, he has tried to give the impression that there has been a considerable reduction of the number of people seeking employment. I have frequently contested that view, and I have said that the figures supplied have been faked figures. Recently I put on the noticepaper several questions, with the purpose of showing clearly that the Minister was not revealing the actual unemployment position in Australia. I asked -

1.   What was the addition to the Australian work force in each of the last five years?

2.   What proportion of this increase was due to (a) the intake of migrants and (b) boys and girls reaching the school leaving age?

3.   What was the increase during the same years in the number of persons employed in (a) primary industry, (b) manufacturing industries, (c) commerce, (d) transport, (e) Commonwealth and State Public Services, and (f) local government activities?

I think the House will agree that I covered the whole field of employment. I will not read the whole of the reply by the Minister, but I will give the figures which he supplied. In the five years from 30th June, 1954, to 30th June of this year there were, on the Minister's own figures, additions to the work force totalling 357,000. With regard to employment, I was advised that in manufacturing industries, commerce, transport, Commonwealth and State Public Services and local government activities there were additions totalling 206,300. No reference was made to the figures relating to primary industries. In order that I should be able to state the position accurately to the House, I sought those figures. They, too, came from Government records. 1 could not get the figures for the year ending 30th June, 1959, but I was told that during the four-year period from 1954 to 1958 the number of persons employed in primary industries actually fell by 2,500. So it will be seen that during the period I have mentioned there was an increase of employment over the whole of the field of industry to the extent of 204,000, compared with an increase in the work force, on the Minister's own figures, of 357,000. That leaves 153,000 people not accounted for. It may be that a few of them went into the services and that a few are selfemployed, but it would be difficult to account for 153,000 people on that basis. Let us assume, although it would be a wrong assumption, that no people were unemployed at 30th June, 1954. How does the Minister account for the discrepancy of 153,000 on his own figures, between the additions to the work force and the increase in the number of people employed? It is clear that all the Minister does is to guess at the figure, and he arranges it in such a way that the Government can then use it for propaganda purposes to try to convince the Australian people, who know that the situation is altogether different, that the number of actual unemployed in the community is being reduced. I admit quite frankly that the number registered with the department and the number receiving unemployment benefit may have been reduced, but everybody knows the method adopted by the Government to bring about a reduction of these figures. What the Minister has declared from time to time to be the situation is at complete variance with the figures that he now furnishes, and I think I have proved beyond doubt that what the Minister has said is not in accordance with fact.

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