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Wednesday, 18 May 1960

Mr HOLTEN (Indi) (12:36 PM) .- I have been listening with interest to the speakers from the Opposition side, quite a few of whom have tried to attack the Australian Country Party. The attack was led by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) who was, I thought, even more critical of us than usual. It occurred to me that perhaps something unusual was disturbing him, apart fromthe worries which he has in his own party. It could be that the honorable gentleman, who is a patron of the well-known football team of North Melbourne, is very concerned because the team has lost all of its games this season. I think that is worrying him more than is the political situation. I suggest that he send the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) to Melbourne to give the team a pep talk. When people attack the Country Party, I feel that we must have a lot of good in us and that this makes out attackers envious.

This Parliament, and the people of Australia, are most fortunate that this measure has behind it two men of the calibre of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) and the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick). This is unusual legislation for a LiberalCountry Party Government to introduce. It is the first step towards preventing monopoly control in various industries, and is just another phase of the enormous job of governing this great country of ours. If this Parliament, and Australia, did not have the services of the two able Ministers who have had the courage to introduce this legislation, knowing full well the storm of criticism which they would have to meet, the measure would not have been seen for many years. There has been a lot of talk about various companies having to alter their cases, but I consider that the PostmasterGeneral gave fair warning in his speech on 30th April, 1959, when he said that in this phase of television preference would be given to locally-owned, independentlycontrolled stations that could provide programmes comparable with those of city stations. In my opinion that was a fair warning to any one who wanted to form a company and apply for a licence.

No Australian likes controls, no matter in what activity or sphere they are applied, but one must bear in mind that legislation such as this concerns human nature and regard must be had to the fact that some people, perhaps unthinking and not realizing the effect on other people, want to gain control of every possible source of propaganda and publicity to satisfy their own desire for power. Because we are human beings we all need controls of some sort. We must strike a balance between necessary controls and freedom, and this is what the Government has tried to do in this legislation. It has been said that big city television stations are the only organizations that have all the technical equipment, knowledge and finance necessary to provide suitable television programmes for the country people. After all, the country people deserve only the best. I appreciate that more finance and more extensive knowledge are needed for television than for radio broadcasting, but one needs only to appreciate the standards established by various radio stations in country areas, such as 3NE, 3SR Shepparton, and 2AY Albury, to realize that country organizations have proved that they can conduct these means of communication efficiently, successfully and with good taste. The Country Party has always maintained, and every sensible person must agree, that decentralization is essential if we are to become a great nation. Decentralization of population involves not only the building of houses and the establishment of industries in country districts; the decentralization of the various administrative authorities is also essential to its success.

Regarding the 15 per cent, limit on a shareholder in a third company, I consider that the Government would do well to keep its eye on the success of this limitation. I doubt whether it is low enough. I should favour a lower figure than 15 per cent. However, as the Postmaster-General and the Attorney-General have said, this legislation will not necessarily stand for all time. The fact that we agree to this bill now does not mean that we cannot alter it if the Government finds that it is not working successfully. I hope that when country television stations are established the national advertisers will play their part in supporting them. Few honorable members have mentioned the important part that the national advertisers play in the success of television stations. I am certain that they will support the country stations as they have supported stations in the cities.

Speaking more directly of the Indi electorate for a moment, some doubt has been expressed whether Wangaratta, with a population of 14,000 people, Wodonga, with about 6,000 people, and Myrtleford, with 3,000 or 4,000 people, and many other people in the outlying districts to the east of Wangaratta, will get satisfactory reception from a television station on one of the proposed sites. I hope that the Broadcasting Control Board will pay due regard to this important aspect, because many thousands of people live in this great primary producing area which plays an enormous part in the economy of Australia.

This legislation is a genuine, sincere attempt by the Government, led by the Postmaster-General and the AttorneyGeneral, of whose capabilities there can be no possible doubt, to give country people high-class programmes and at the same time maintain a balance of control in this very important education medium.

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