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Thursday, 26 February 1959

Mr HAMILTON (CANNING, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) -MILTON.- The-honorable member may not like what' I say by the time I have finished. Now let' us see what happened in regard to Perth. There- were two applications for commercial television licences in Perth: One was lodged by TVW Limited, consisting of West Australian Newspapers Limited and some others, and one by Western Television Services Limited. Both organizations said they thought that at this juncture Perth could carry only one commercial television station, and I think every one will agree with that opinion.

I should like to look at those, two applicants through the eyes of the board, and in the light of its report. Both companies proposed to establish a station with the same amount of capital, namely £1,000,000, to be divided into 2,000,000 shares of 10s. each. The successful applicant, TVW Limited, which, as I indicated, was controlled mainly by West Australian Newspapers Limited, proposed to make only 600,000 shares available to the public and to retain 600,000 shares, with the proviso in its articles of association that the directors may. at their absolute, discretion, decline to allow any one shareholder except itself to hold more than 60,000 shares. To my mind, that is a definite indication that this organization desired no one but itself to control this powerful instrument of mass communication. Reference to that can be seen in paragraph 1 8 of the board's report.

Western Television Services, the other applicant, in contrast with what I have just said, had in its articles of association a clause limiting the voting power of any member of the company to 10 per cent, of the votes at any meeting of shareholders. That was a truly democratic idea, because every sensible individual in this country knows that television is a powerful medium of mass communication. A reference to that limitation can be found at paragraph 27 of the report.

Western Television proposed to spread its shareholding among community interests, such as the Young Australia League. Is there any person in Australia who dares to stand up and say that the Young Australia League is not a fit and proper organization to have a share in this medium of communications? This organization has sent, youths and- girls not only throughoutthe length' and' breadth of Australia but also to. many other parts of the world to im- prove their education: Nevertheless, the. Australian Broadcasting Control Board gave the licence to a- monopoly interest.

It was claimed that TVW had much the better proposition, because it put forward figures to show that it held 427 applications for 747,000 shares, and 1,649 applications for notes to the value of £500,000. It was admitted that if the sole licence was not given to that company all that money would have been refunded without interest - the charges being borne by the company - by 31st October, 1958. The report further shows that of the 747,000 shares for which applications were held, the board thought, that 600,000 were intended for West Australian Newspapers Limited. It is obvious, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that all this investment in TVW came from people who were not interested in personalities but in television. If TVW had not obtained the licence, that money would have gone to the other organizations interested, but now it has gone to TVW.

Let us consider another aspect of the matter. As I said, TVW is to be controlled by West Australian Newspapers Limited. That company controls the only two daily newspapers in Perth. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), who is now sitting at the table, knows full well that on one occasion when he was very badly misreported, the newspaper company representatives laughed in his face when he asked for a correction. The present managing director of the company notified men in public life and others interested that in future the prefix " Mr." would not be used because he wanted to streamline the English language, and unless you are a titled gentleman or a senator you will be described in those newspapers simply as " Jones " or " Thompson ".

The financial proposals of the two applicants were identical, and they can be found in paragraphs 20 and 30 of the report. There was considerable surprise when the Broadcasting Control Board gave this licence to TVW. Then some ugly rumours began to circulate in Perth to the effect that the board had been overridden by the Australian Government. When that was not accepted, there was criticism of men like. Sir. Alex Reid, John Thompson and. Mr. Steffanoni, all men who have contributed the sum of their time, energy and ability to the. advancement of this Commonwealth.

This is the point 1 now come to: If the Government does this kind of thing, and over-rides the Australian Broadcasting. Control Board, which said at Adelaide that these interests should not be under the control of people already in command of the means of mass communication, but should be spread so that a diversity of interests would be involved, or if the Australian Broadcasting Control Board treats applicants in this manner, then I say they are doing the greatest disservice to the youth of this country that has ever been done: It is all very well for members of the Australian Labour party to get up here and ask spurious questions about these matters. What the Government is now doing is placing in. the hands of honorable members opposite, for use when they get into office - and they will on some occasion; do not let us fool ourselves - a medium by which they could drum into the people of Australia all the false propaganda they cared to gather. The Opposition is always threatening to nationalize. As we saw when we ourselves were in opposition; when these newspapers, powerful as they are, and shipping companies and other big concerns are threatened by a Labour government with nationalization, they run like dingos with their tails between their legs. Therefore, I say that if the Government over-rides the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, it must accept the responsibility for so doing. But if the control board is taking this action on its own volition, then the Government should take a firm stand and sack the members of the board.

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