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Thursday, 18 September 1958

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) . - The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) has a curious mind. It is not a very pleasant mind, as we are discovering increasingly as he maintains his contact with this Parliament; but the impact that he is making on the Parliament is decreasing as his membership of it lengthens. The honorable member has used phrases, such as " political corruption ", in relation to this matter. He used it as a blanket charge against members of this Government, lt has not been adopted in those terms by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) or, for that matter, even by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who himself was critical of some aspects of this business.

I can assure the honorable member for Yarra that, coming from him, these epithets do not make a very deep impression upon honorable members on this side of the House. This Government has not come before the people of Australia only recently. It has been before the people since 1949. It has been weighed in judgment by the electors on a number of occasions since 1949, and if it had created an impression in the minds of the Australian people that it was a government of political corruption, they would not have hesitated to record their judgment on us on any occasion when they had the opportunity to do so. The honorable member for Yarra will not have to wait very long before the people will again have a chance to record their verdict.

Passing from the honorable member for Yarra to the matter which he has brought before the House, might I say that it would be a useful exercise if honorable gentlemen opposite could make up their minds where they stand. At one moment, we are attacked because we are charged with being the dupes of the bureaucrats who run the country. It is said that we have no mind of our own; that Government officials direct us what to do and that we jump to their bidding. But when on an occasion such as this, having established a reputable and expert body of men and asked them for their views, we have, in the exercise of our own judgment, chosen to adopt a different policy from that recommended, we are then charged with political corruption.

That charge has been initiated with the argument that some sort of veil of secrecy is to be thrown over our proceedings. Yet, the very act we have taken has been an act to enlarge the range of public expression and opinion through these television stations. We have not adopted a recommendation that there should be only one commercially expressed viewpoint of public opinion in these two great capital cities. Is that the act of a government that is trying to avoid some variety of viewpoint?

We have in this House had the spectacle, as recently as this week, of one member - I might almost say a leading member if the term " leadership " could be related to the chaotic group sitting opposite - a senior member of the Labour 1 party, who was given, apparently, an open go on one of the major television stations in Sydney only last week-end, with results, apparently, not so happy for him or his colleagues. But, Sir, at least our experience has been that this variety of viewpoint has been allowed to express itself, whether it be political viewpoints or viewpoints on great social questions of the day.

I do not intend to cover again the answers I gave the other night. I believe they were answers which commended themselves to most people in this Parliament; and I am quite certain the attitude adopted by this Government would be endorsed by the overwhelming majority of prospective television viewers in Adelaide and Brisbane.

Mr Ward - Who made representations to the Government?

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - So far as I am concerned, nobody made representations to me, and that is the experience of my colleagues as well. The first consideration I found it necessary to give to these matters was the Cabinet discussion in which we had a report before us and were able to deal with it on its merits. I said a little earlier that one would think that honorable gentlemen opposite could make up their minds where they stood. First, they charge us with being in the grip of the bureaucrats. Then they criticize us because we will not give a television licence to only one commercial operator. Yet, in the next breath they inveigh against the monopolists of Australia and say that our actions are promoting monopolies.

Of course, the real fact of the matter is - if you can go beyond this confusion of utterances which come from the other side of the printed word of the policy of the Australian Labour party and the platform to which every honorable member opposite has given his solemn pledge - that the policy of the Labour party is the nationalization of radio and television. About the only man on the Labour side who has been honest enough to stand up to his pledged word is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition will not openly subscribe to that policy because he has his eye to political repercussions. He sees how embarrassing it could be, with an election looming, to have the people in control of press, radio and television in Australia informed that nationalization of radio and television is the pledged policy of honorable gentlemen who would form the alternative government of this country. But is not that the fact? Is not that where their policy stands? Is not that the pledge they have given? It is open for them to make their denials or accept what they have put forward as their published policy on this matter. The honorable member for Yarra would be doing the country and his party better service if, instead of embarking on this range of invective which he has let loose to-night, he stood honestly up to the policy to which he, in common with the others who sit by him, are pledged to give effect.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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