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Thursday, 7 July 1949

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Minister for Information and Minister for Immigration) . - I must reply to two criticisms made by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). One is that the Government fears that, unless this bill is passed a vested interest will suffer, and that if the bill were not passed the people would get a better ser vice than they are getting at the present time. The second is that the Government has brought the bill down under pressure from, first, the manufacturers, and secondly the controllers of commercial radio stations. Neither charge has any validity. The Government has not acted under pressure from anybody. It is not protecting the interests of either the manufacturers of radio receiving equipment or the owners of commercial radio stations. It has taken into consideration the interests of all the people interested in broadcasting, but it is primarily concerned with preserving such facilities as are available for the use of the people of Australia, such as the telephone service, and providing for the installation of increased telephonic communications, and the like, rather than dissipating the energies of the nation upon something that, at the present time, is in the nature of a luxury development.

Mr Anthony - The system would not be a luxury development if it were cheap.

Mr CALWELL - That may be so, but cheapness is not the only consideration. A lot of people who now desire telephones connected to their homes would be glad to have them even if they had to pay twice the rental and twice the new rates that have been imposed. It is the facility that they want and the price that they would have to pay is not worrying them. We must consider first things first, and cheapness is not the first thing to be considered in this matter. The honorable gentleman can be assured that we are not reacting or responding to pressure from vested interests in the way that some of our predecessors in office did. There is nothing to fear in that regard. There is no requirement in the act which could in any way be held to bear upon the fact that Mr. Ogilvy assisted in making this recommendation. There is no requirement in the act that any person appointed to the board must relinquish any appointment that he may have had in any commercial radio station immediately the bill was introduced. He should have to relinquish an appointment only if he were asked to accept an appointment on the board. Mr. Ogilvy agreed to accept an appointment on the board and then became quite a dispassionate person.

Therefore his recommendation about this matter has no relation to any previous position that he held.

Mr Menzies - What clause is the Minister dealing with?

Mr CALWELL - I am answering the objection raised by the honorable member for Richmond that Mr. Ogilvy, as a member of the board, did not make the recommendation on this particular matter that he would have made if he had not been associated with privately owned broadcasting interests. The honorable gentleman went on to say that people who once had certain interests cannot divorce themselves from those interests or affections or feelings when they make recommendations as members of a board that is not directly under the control of the interests that they once served. I think that acceptance of that line of argument would mean that no judge of the High Court of Australia could ever be appointed from the political sphere, and no member of this House could ever be appointed to the diplomatic service or as an administrator of the Northern Territory or Norfolk Island, for instance. The honorable gentleman has exaggerated his point far beyond what is fair and reasonable. The Government is quite satisfied that Mr. Ogilvy's recommendations are as valuable and disinterested as are those of any other member of the board.

Bill agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.

Bill - by leave - read a third time.

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