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Wednesday, 24 September 1958


Mr HAYLEN (Parkes) .- I should like to support the statements made regarding Australian television by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). When the legislation to establish television in this country came before this House, we on this side strained every effort to persuade the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), of the certainty that this situation would develop. To-night it gives us no satisfaction to be able to report to the House that the situation has developed, as we knew it would. A tremendous volume of cheap and nasty television programmes is coming to Australia from other parts of the world - programmes which have been used overseas and rejected, or rejected without being used at all. We knew that the Australian who had to learn the technique of television would not be wanted, first, because of the expense of putting on an Australian show, and, secondly, because the cheap product would, for the time being, have an advantage in production techniques. We suggested that the only way out of this dilemma was to impose a 33i per cent, quota for Australian artists. That request was refused. We battled it out here, day after day, in long debates. I read the record of those debates only the other day, and everything that we forecast from this side of the House has, unfortunately, come true.

An additional situation has arisen. The Postmaster-General does his best in the circumstances and tries to be fair, but he is being badly misinformed. When an Australian programme is telecast, he is told. " This is not of good quality. It is not as good as the programmes from overseas. Australians have to learn." The answer to that is that amongst the best artists in the world are numbered many Australians. Some of the best dancers, dramatists and screen-writers have come back to this country from overseas. They left this country because of lack of opportunity. What they need to-day is an opportunity. It is bad for this Federal Parliament, above all, to be talking about the poor quality of Australian television and Australian artists.

The honorable member for East Sydney is right on the ball in recounting the whole of the sequences in which the Australian has been crowded to the wall. I know that there are difficulties in the way of presenting shows that cost a great deal of money. The television entrepreneurs know that there is a public sentiment in favour of the Australian play, drama and musical show, and so they make some sort of an attempt to put them on, but those shows are crowded for time. They are stinted for money. The result is that the Australian shows are not as brisk and lively as they could be. But they are still more than comparable to " Tombstone Territory ", " Mr. Maverick " or any of those other shows from overseas.


Mr Cope - What about " Superman "?


Mr HAYLEN - Of course, I thought " Superman " had a deep political significance for the Government. The serious question is the future of television. I believe the Government to be seriously embarrassed in regard to our trade overseas. Sooner or later it will have to cut imports. Here is a wonderful opportunity to do something with regard to television programmes; to make sure that our television programmes are largely Australian. To-day, our television is some mongrelized version of everything that no other country wants.

In order to illustrate the point, there is just one other thing I want to say before I sit down. Television is not efficient because it is not up to date, it is not new, and it is not reasonable so far as Australia is concerned, because it is not giving jobs and job opportunities to Australian artists. When you turn on television and find that the play you are listening to and watching is twenty or 30 years years old, that the star died ten years ago, and that the whole situation is something out of the past, it is like looking at ghost images upon the screen. Must we take these things as being the best that can be given? The Minister is a reasonable man who does his best. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board advised him that these matters would be best left to the good taste and good sense of the companies concerned. It has not worked out in that way. The Government has been prepared to say to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, "You have made a recommendation about television licences. We will not accept that. We insist that there be two commercial television stations in each of two cities, Brisbane and Adelaide." The Government could also have said in the past, and it could say now, " We are not satisfied with your reports about the value and efficiency of television programmes, and we are not satisfied that an opportunity is given to Australian artists ". For these people it is a matter of bread and butter. It is their living.


Mr Cope - Would it save any dollars?


Mr HAYLEN - There is a grand opportunity for saving dollars while giving Australians a chance. I refuse to believe, and I think it is very wrong to canvass in this

House, that there is something inferior in Australian programmes already on television. I think that they are splendid. They can be improved, because they need money, opportunity, and time to perfect.


Mr Ward - "Alabama Jubilee" is one of the best shows.


Mr HAYLEN - Yes, and so also are the Lashwood Show and " Sydney To-night ", which for production as a play is an extremely slick and interesting experiment. Sometimes it may have a tendency to slow down a bit, but, given a chance, it will be one of the great Australian shows.

The point is that we are thinking in the wrong way. We have television now, and it is a wonderful invention. Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the capital cities can enjoy it. But is there any satisfaction for us as Australians when we realize that we are using rubbish that has been discarded by the rest of the world? Despite the fact that eventually licences will mean a great deal of money to persons holding them, these persons are not prepared to support Australian talent. It is the same with Australian literature, which has bad to struggle. We have tried for years to get a chair of Australian literature at Sydney University. We had a target of £80,000, but all we could get was £20,000. We talk of the development of the Australian consciousness. That cannot happen if we are commercially retarded by those people who decide to go in for profit, profit and, above all, profit. The libel upon the Australian performer should be nailed at once. Given the opportunity, whether it is in ballet, drama, or television, the Australian artist is equal to, and sometimes incomparably better than, the average in any country, whether it be America or the United Kingdom.







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