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Wednesday, 18 May 1960


Before the suspension of the sitting I was rather aptly referring to the clause which deals with the licensing of every television set and every speaker in every room of an hotel. It may be quite a sound proposition. On the other hand, I am wondering whether it would not be much better, as we are trying to attract tourists to this country, if the Government would consider putting hotels on a pro rata basis. I doubt whether sets in hotel rooms would be in use for 50 per cent, of the time. I suppose that the people who want to use them will have to pay their proportion of the licence-fee. However, this is not a very important matter.

The important aspect of the clause to which I have referred is that which concerns private hospitals. I have scarcely had time to read the bill, but I understand that private hospitals will have to pay the fees, although public hospitals will not. I do not suggest that private hospitals should have licences granted entirely free, but I believe that the Government should consider allowing them to pay on a pro rata basis. I think there will be considerable complications, as a result of this clause, in relation to hotels that already have all rooms wired for sound.

More important matters were referred to by the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall), who dealt with restrictive practices in relation to the control of programmes. I feel that if the Government intends to deal with restrictive practices it should deal with them as a whole rather than experiment in the limited field of broadcasting and television. I am not at all satisfied with clause 28, which deals with this subject, because I think that it could have certain results which apparently have not received consideration. I have not really had time to investigate the position properly, but it seems to me that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board which is, in effect, in control of the national broadcasting and television stations, will be the authority which determines the reasonable pries that shall be paid for a programme which it wants to use. 1 do not think for one minute that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) intended that the purchaser should be able to decide his own price.

Mr Wilson - A judge in his own case!

Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES - That is so. This is one effect that will flow from this clause. There are many others. I think that it will operate not only with regard to restrictive practices, but with regard to the author or creator of a programme. If it is right to put a clause of this nature in broadcasting and television legislation, why should the Elizabethan Theatre Trust have the sole rights for " The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll ", which I understand it has had for a very long time past. If it is right to fix a price to be paid to somebody who creates - the author of a programme or a film that is to be used on television - why should it not also be right to fix the price of a book which may be considered to contain material of great educational value which should be distributed as widely as possible? Where will this control of restrictive practices end? I know that members of the Opposition, being socialistic, will be in favour of this provision, but I ask honorable members on this side of the House how many of us understand the implications of this clause. It may be that the Attorney-General (Sir

Garfield Barwick) and the draftsmen are excellent on legal theory, but we are not dealing only with legal theory. We are dealing with practice and with the results that will flow from this clause.

I hope that the Government will do something in regard to the problem of the revocation of licences. I understand that it is giving this matter favorable consideration. I do not believe in the Minister having the final say as to whether a licence shall be revoked. I do not think that members on either side of the House would agree for one minute that this authority should be entirely in the hands of a minister of any political party. I hope that the Government will give very favorable consideration to amending the bill to give the right of appeal to an individual who has had his licence revoked or who has been told that his licence is to be revoked. There should be a right of appeal to a judge against the Minister's decision, and, as the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) said, a right of appeal against a direction to make a programme available to another station at a certain price. 1 repeat that I have not had time to look through every clause in this bill, but these are some of the more important matters which have been mentioned at greater length by other members and I would like to support their recommendations.

The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) spent the whole of his time in pointing out that certain companies in Australia were monopolizing the control of newspapers, broadcasting and television. In this country, we try to restrict that but we do not try, as other countries have done, to prevent newspapers from owning broadcasting or television licences. That is an entirely separate matter which does not come into this bill at all. According to figures given by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), this bill will not affect the holdings of most of the major companies in other companies at the present time. I think that the Leader of the Opposition said that one company held a 14.4 per cent, interest in a Queensland licence as well as a 10.5 per cent, interest in an Adelaide licence. These are matters which do not really come into this bill.

Our policy in this country is to have both commercial and national broadcasting and television stations. Many people feel that, with the two, we have the best system of broadcasting and television in the world. Whether that is right or wrong I do not know, but the fact remains that that is the settled policy in this country. Therefore, commercial companies cannot exercise a complete monopoly. If we feel that the quality of entertainment, news or educational programmes on the national stations is not sufficiently high the remedy lies in our own hands. I do not see that much is to be gained by criticizing that settled policy which I understood was favoured by practically every member of this House.

I do not want to talk just for the sake of talking out time, Mr. Speaker, and I have now covered the main points that I wanted to mention. In themselves, they all are important. In addition, we have the fact that the Postmaster-General himself left about six of the important clauses of the bill to be explained in committee. I want to add one final word of protest against the kind of parliamentary procedure into which we seem to have fallen. Towards the end of a sessional period in which, earlier, we have had little business before us, it is characterized by the Government's bringing in bills of this kind and saying, " You must pass them in two days ". There is no necessity for this sort of thing to be done.

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