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Wednesday, 23 October 1974
Page: 1906

Senator STEELE HALL (South AustraliaLeader of the Liberal Movement) - I think that Senator Guilfoyle has missed the real point because the amendment she foreshadowed to this clause would prevent the guidance and development of the Australian film industry. It would not help, but harm. One has to look at the points system in the commercial television field to see how that has opened up a whole new vista of enterprise for the Australian television film industry. As I said in my brief speech during the second reading stage, I think this clause has a much more important impact. Certainly the content of films can be slanted towards a very important aspect of Australia and that is to make Australians aware of their heritage. I am sure that in all sorts of ways the points system for television has been a very valuable instrument in that desirable direction. But the Liberal Party and Country Party sector of the Opposition has obviously decided simply to vote against the clause and has not tried in any way- and I find this depressingly frequent- to amend the clause or to insert a safeguard. It is rather illuminating or depressing, whichever way one looks at it, that the Opposition sees everything only in stark black and white. It seeks not to amend clauses but simply to defeat them and this is what it wants to do with this clause.

If the Opposition looks at the amendment I had proposed to move I believe it will see a very real safeguard in it. I hope it is not going to argue that the implementation of this clause by regulations laid on the table of this chamber is in some way undemocratic because if it does it will be arguing against the basis of the institution in which it sits. The amendments which I have framed to clause 10 are quite clearly to require that the proportion of films which must be shown in the theatre, the fact that they are certified and the time that must be devoted to their showing, dependent on the Minister's laying regulations on the table in respect of those factors. The amendment clearly states that he may not operate unless he does so in this way. There is no way around it. The amendment is quite clearly and effectively drawn. My intention was put into words by better draftsmen than myself. It is clearly drawn and is not a fallible amendment. So we have the utmost safeguard. It will be interesting to note the response of the Opposition to my amendment, and if the laying on the table of regulations is not sufficient safeguard against malpractice by the Minister this will be a test of the Opposition's intention. If it votes against this amendment and the clause it will show that it just wants to be against the clause. It is not out of any fear of misuse because in the hands of the Senate as at present constituted any real malpractice -

Senator Jessop - We might be behaving like you on many occasions.

Senator STEELE HALL - I would hope that but I do not expect it from the honourable senator. I do not think he has that sort of wisdom. I say to the Opposition that it is a real test of motive. The utmost safeguard is given. To say that this is not sufficient is to say that this Senate does not convey the will of the people. If it does not convey the will of the people the fact that the Opposition has more supporters than the Government has no effect. So having a majority here, or at least equal numbers- with the half and half number it is a majority- the Opposition cannot claim that this is an undemocratic chamber. If I am saying that the Minister can act only through these amendments by laying a regulation on the table which ought to be at the Opposition's mercy -

Senator Baume - Who has claimed that the Senate is undemocratic?

Senator STEELE HALL -Mr Chairman,I will not be distracted by the rather able senator from New South Wales. What I am saying is that I am providing in these amendments the utmost safeguard. The honourable senator can test his motives by voting against the safeguards and revealing his true intention, that he does want this thing to work in this way. If he wants that, let him say so. Senator Guilfoyle said that she wanted to encourage people and to give them opportunities, but her amendment did not provide opportunities because she is frightened of what could happen.

If one looks at this proposal one finds that in a way it is very similar to the points system. I know that it has a different mechanism but it wants to achieve the same thing for the exhibition of short films of less than 60 minutes. It has the same objective as the points system in commercial television. I do not think anyone here would say that that has been harmful. I do not hear any protest in the community about looking at too much Australian programming. The Australian film industry has been praised from all sides in the second reading debate. If we mean anything, if we are going to do more than mouth words, let us put some teeth into this measure at the same time maintaining some safeguard, so that the

Parliament- the House of the people- will have the final say as to whether the Minister's actions shall be approved. Therefore, I move:

At the end of the clause add the following sub-clauses:

(7)   A requirement shall not be made under this section unless there is in force a regulation declaring that such requirements may be made on or after a specified date and such a requirement shall not be made before the specified date.

(8)   The regulations may make provision, not inconsistent with this section, with respect to any matter in relation to the exercise of the power to make requirements under this section (which may include provision with respect to the proportions that are to be, or may be, specified in such a requirement), and that power shall not be exercised otherwise than in accordance with any regulations so made and in force'.

I hope that at least some members of the Opposition will come out and show that they believe in the Australian film industry and will not turn their backs on it by voting against this clause. There is no way of devising a better safeguard if we believe in the parliamentary institution. I ask honourable senators to support the amendment.

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