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Thursday, 7 July 1949

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Minister for Information and Minister for Immigration) . - I wanted to hear the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) conclude his speech. I am sorry he was not permitted to do so. 1 shall reply, however, to the first instalment of his attack on a member of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Although there are three members of the board only ohe of them was referrred to by the honorable member for Richmond. The Chairman of the board is the former DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs, Mr. Fanning. The fact that Mr. Fanning was once Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs does not prejudice him in favour of the Postal Department as against private enterprise. Yet, if the honorable member's argument were valid, any person who had been associated with the Postal Department should not be appointed to a position which entails the making of decisions that affect private enterprise. Nothing has been said against the appointment of Mr. Fanning. I merely mention his appointment to show that if what has been said about Mr. Ogilvy could be sustained the same criticism could equally validly be used against the appointment of Mr. Fanning. Mr. Ogilvy has. a very wide and extensive knowledge of commerical broadcasting. He has been a very successful entrepreneur - if I might again use that term - in the field of commercial broadcasting. He was managing director of station 2CA Canberra until a few days before he was appointed to the office to which reference has been made. If Mr. Ogilvy had not been appointed to the position, some other person with wide experience in the broadcasting world would have been appointed to it. It was suggested at one time that Mr. King, M.L.C., who is manager of the Sydney Labour station, 2KY, and also secretary of the Sydney Trades and Labour Council, might be appointed. If we had appointed Mr. King, we should probably have been accused of appointing a person with strong political prejudices. Mr. Ogilvy was a very important member of the Denison-Macquarie radio organization which has had a very successful career in radio.

Mr Spender - Is the MacquarieDenison organization the organization which arranges free broadcasts for the Prime Minister?

Mr CALWELL - The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) should not put leading questions to me or try to examine me. The facts in relation to those broadcasts have already been announced. Probably the announcement was made on one of those many days on which the honorable member for Warringah was not present in this House. The time which the Macquarie network has made available for this purpose is given to the occupant of the office of Prime Minister of the Commonwealth for the time being. Some day the honorable member for Warringah might enjoy the advantage of broadcasting to the nation as Prime Minister of Australia free of charge; but that day is a long way off. The third member of the board is Mr. Osborne, formerly registrar of the Australian National University. Mr. Osborne is a distinguished lawyer from Tasmania who became a member of the Commonwealth Public Service for a period during the war years and remained in the service of the Commonwealth until his appointment to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. No one was more surprised than was Mr. Osborne when he was appointed. We selected the most qualified persons we could find for the positions for which the act made provision. We had to appoint somebody who had a knowledge of broadcasting. If we had not appointed Mr. Ogilvy, as I have said, we might have appointed Mr. King. If we had not appointed Mr. King, we might have appointed Mr. Dooley, the secretary of the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations. We might even have considered appointing " Ammo Alfie " Paddison, who runs the station owned by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang). It could be argued against any of those persons that their association with broadcasting precluded them from consideration in the same way as the honorable member for Richmond desired to exclude Mr. Ogilvy. Many members and former members of this House have been appointed to responsible governmental positions. The fact that they had engaged in politics did not necessarily prejudice their appointments. As a matter of fact the experience which honorable members gain in this Parliament very often helps them to carry out the duties of such important positions. In passing, I mention that Mr. C. L. A. Abbott, a former honorable member for Gwydir, was appointed from this House to the position of Administrator of the Northern Territory. A former right honorable member for Kooyong became Chief Justice of the High Court. A former honorable member for Parkes became a justice of the High Court. One of the two latter gentlemen was a Nationalist and the other was a Labour man; but that they had been associated with politics did not necessarily mean, nor has it meant in the opinion of honorable members ever since, that they were unfitted to occupy the official positions to which they were appointed. By the same line of argument, Mr. Ogilvy should not be excluded from occupying a position on the Australian Broadcasting Control Board because he has been associated with broadcasting. Because Mr. Ogilvy had been associated with the Macquarie network, which decided to make time available to the Prime Minister free of cost, the honorable member for Richmond is not entitled to use the term " pay off ". That is a nasty expression. This Government makes no deals with people in regard .to services that are generously offered to it as a government. The broadcast which the Prime Minister makes over the Macquarie network every Sunday night is, as its title implies, a report to the nation, and is not Labour propaganda. The right honorable gentleman merely makes reports of what is happening in Australia from time to time and the people appreciate them. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has suggested that the British company should have been given the franchise for which it asked and should be allowed to commence operations immediately, bringing out its prefabricated houses and its staff, so that it could give the Australian people the advantage of a new development in broadcasting technique. On the face of it, there is something in the honorable gentleman's argument. But there is also something against it. If we gave that company, with its large capital resources, a licence to begin this form of broadcasting in Australia, we should be giving it a monopoly. The company would be the only organization in Australia with the necessary capital, facilities, technique and know-how to start immediately. If it were given a licence, it would hold it for all time. We should establish a monopoly for private enterprise. One honorable gentleman has said that the company was prepared to manufacture its equipment in Australia and to enter into arrangements with the Government concerning the conduct of its activities. We do not say in this legislation that an arrangement of that kind cannot be made in the future. All that we say is that the time is not ripe to allow one company to begin such an enterprise. It may be that the honorable member for Richmond was correct in saying that Mr. Warner opposed the introduction of this method of broadcasting and applied for a licence for himself almost the next day. I shall have to check up on that statement. I suppose that, viewed from the standpoint of commercial morality, there is nothing wrong in such a line of action. It may be a commonplace happening in the business world. If we gave the British company, with its great resources and tremendous advantages, a licence and then gave a licence to Mr. Warner, I am not sure that he would be satisfied. He would probably feel that he was at a great competitive disadvantage.

As I said in the second-reading debate on this bill, it is important that we should introduce this new system in an orderly manner. In the early days of commercial broadcasting, licences were granted willy-nilly, with the result that at the present time all the broadcasting stations in Sydney and Melbourne have clear channels and the best frequencies. They have very great advantages over broadcasting stations in country areas, which must share channels and operate upon frequencies that do not permit them to compete effectively with the strongly entrenched metropolitan broadcasting stations. The metropolitan stations have passed into the hands of newspaper proprietors and others, who operate them in order to advance their particular political beliefs or ideologies and for their own profit. They are not primarily concerned with the interests of the people as a whole. In view of the raw deal that was given to country broadcasting stations, we do not want to start off on the wrong foot in regard to this new system. Let us wait a while. We shall lose nothing by doing so. Nobody will be disadvantaged. We could not start the new system now even if licences were issued, because the Postal Department could not supply the necessary landlines, because it needs all the copper wire that it can obtain to make more telephones available for the people. If we went ahead at the speed that has been suggested by the honorable member for Balaclava, more public criticism would be directed at us than will be the case if we wait for a year, or perhaps two years, until conditions are more settled and we know precisely where we are going.

We have tied up television in the same way as we desire to tie up re-diffusion broadcasting. The proceedings of this Parliament will not be telecast for a few years.

Mr Archie Cameron - Hear, hear!

Mr CALWELL - The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) apparently has reason to say " Hear, hear ! " in answer to that state ment. We have tied up the issue of television licences, and for very good reasons. The Parliament passed the legislation that has enabled us to do so. There is, therefore, nothing wrong in following that precedent in regard to re-diffusion broadcasting. Television, frequency modulation, facsimile broadcasting and re-diffusion broadcasting form a pattern. Let the experts tell us when the time is ripe to begin the issue of licences. Do not let us act prematurely and get ourselves into an unfortunate position similar to that which obtained when broadcasting licences were first issued. Nobody then wanted them and they had to be offered to people who might use them, with a plea from the Postmaster-General's Department, " Please take one of these licences and see if you can make the system work". A lot of headaches were .caused as a result of that action. We do not want headaches again if we can avoid them.

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