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Wednesday, 18 May 1960

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (12:48 PM) . - T agree with the honorable members on both sides of the House who have said that we have not had enough time to consider the bill properly. I am opposed to the measure because I believe that it is wholly bad in that it allows for the control of two stations by one body or firm.

Mr Killen - Tell us the constitutional position.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Constitutionally, it may well be that the Government has not the power to control the prices of programmes, as proposed in the bill. Indeed, if I know anything about the previous decisions of the court on the pricefixing powers of the Commonwealth Government, I should be entitled to come to the conclusion that the Government has not the constitutional powers to do things that the bill sets out to do, namely, to control the prices which the stations that own film rights can charge to other television stations for the use of those films.

One of the things that I think is worrying certain television interests in this country is not that they have not had enough time to consider the provisions of the bill - they are wealthy enough to employ Queen's Counsel to study it for them and they have had ample time to look at it since it was introduced - but that they have not had time to lobby and bring pressure to bear on their supporters on the back benches on the Government side. They are worried because they have been caught unawares as it were, and the Government has put through something in the form of a very slight - I emphasize the words " very slight " - attempt to prevent further monopolistic control over television in Australia. They are concerned that their hopes of completely controlling the country stations, as well as the metropolitan stations which they already control, may be thwarted by this bill. I know that the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) said that he considered that the rights of property were the most sacred rights in the world--

Mr Killen - I did not say that.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Well, words to that effect. He said that the rights of property were more sacred than the rights of man and the rights of life itself.

Mr Harold Holt - Be fair!

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable member said this bill cut across the sacred rights of property. I do not have the same feeling, as between the rights of property and the rights of man, as the honorable member for Moreton seems to have. I think he very truly stated his attitude towards the rights of property when he made it clear that if he has to choose in this matter he will put the rights of property above all other things.

Mr Harold Holt - You are putting words into his mouth.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - No. A moment ago the honorable member agreed that that was substantially what he meant to say. I am inclined to think, from the interjections, that that is the attitude which the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) adopts. It is the attitude which the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) adopts. His criticism was not that the Government was not protecting the rights of the little people but that it was doing something to give them too much protection. That was his chief complaint. He objected, as did the honorable member for Moreton, to the fact that the Government sought to give the little country broadcasting or television stations an opportunity to compete with the big metropolitan stations, by having the right to call upon the use of their films when they attempted to tie them up.

Every one knows that as soon as the big metropolitan television stations had their licences granted to them they sent their representatives overseas to tie up all the worthwhile television programmes for their own exclusive use, knowing that if they could succeed in that regard they could eventually weave their way into all of the country areas in respect of which licences might eventually be granted and they could commandeer the market for advertising time. I think it is entirely wrong that these metropolitan stations should, by virtue of their enormous wealth and their worldwide facilities to get control of programmes; have the right to gain unfair advantages over weaker opponents. The country people are just as much entitled to decent television programmes as are the city people, and they cannot have that right now except on one condition. The only condition upon which the country people can now get the right to see decent programmes is if the Broadcasting Control Board is forced, out of consideration of the fact that the big metropolitan television companies have a monopoly of the good programmes, to give the whole of the country television licences to those companies, and I think that is entirely wrong. I think that the board's report ought to be before Parliament. We do not yet know what the board contemplates in regard to the allocation of country licences. We do not know what findings it has come to after these long drawn out legal proceedings before it.

I believe that the Parliament is being asked to make its decision on this matter very much in the dark. It would be ever so much better, as the Opposition proposes in this amendment, to let the debate be adjourned until such time as we know what is in the mind of the board. But that is not to be done. I believe that what we are witnessing to-night in this Parliament - it is a clear split between the Country Party back benchers and the Liberal Party back benchers - is really a contest between Country Party interests and Liberal Party interests. The Country Party interests are determined that the country newspapers, which normally support the Country Party in their presentation of news, are to be given the opportunity to share in the lucrative operation of television broadcasting in country areas, whilst the Liberal Party back benchers want their Liberal Party friends, living in the city areas, to have the country profits as well as the city profits which they now enjoy.

I can understand the Country Party wanting to maintain control over television in country areas. Why, already we can see the Liberal Party making great inroads into Country Party strongholds in practically every State in the Commonwealth where they operate as separate political units. The Country Party can see that it will not be long before men like the honorable member for Moreton will be supporting Liberal Party candidates against the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson). If they thought that they could elect a Liberal member against a Country Party member they would not hesitate to try to bring into this Parliament the same complete control as the Liberal Party has obtained in the Victorian Parliament. We have witnessed a great struggle between the two parties in Wimmera. A Liberal Party member, Mr. Lawrence, pinched what the Country Party regarded as its seat and there was a bitter conflict which was resolved only at the last election by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King) winning the seat for the Country Party. We see the same thing in Indi. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Holten) succeeded in wresting back from the Liberal Party what was geographically a Country Party seat, so that it is once again a Country Party seat. There is, therefore, great bitterness between the two parties and it is vital to the Country Party that country television licences should go to those who are favorable to the Country Party rather than those who favour the Liberal Party. Every one knows the terrific impact that television makes on the minds of the viewers and we can imagine how much longer the Country Party could survive if all the country television stations were passed over to the control of the Liberal-inclined city-owned newspapers.

Mr Reynolds - And to the control of Sir Frank Packer? What quarter would the Country Party get from him?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Of course! What quarter would the Country Party get from Sir Frank Packer? I do not blame the Postmaster-General for having realized at last the danger into which his party has walked and in which it has found itself almost engulfed by allowing through the old measure, city interests representing and strongly favouring the Liberal viewpoint to be given control of country television stations as well as the city stations. I congratulate him, as a crafty, shrewd and cunning politician for having seen at long last the danger that his party faces in this regard. It seems to me to be rather odd that you can say, " We do not mind one person or company controlling two stations - that is all right - but you are not allowed to have even a 15 per cent, control of a third station."

What is the position at present? The Herald and Weekly Times Limited owns, or at least controls - and I will deal with the question of ownership in a few moments - three metropolitan television stations. These are the Channel 7 station in South Australia and their stations in Victoria and Queensland which are owned or controlled by the Herald and Weekly Times Limited. I am pleased to see that this bill will at least reduce the number of stations controlled by that company from three to two, but I would be very much happier if the bill went further and corrected a great weakness in the original piece of legislation, by preventing the Herald and Weekly Times Limited from owning any television stations at all. I think it is entirely wrong that a giant newspaper monopoly, already exercising complete control over the medium for influencing public opinion by means of the written word, should have the right to control another instrument for influencing public opinion in the form of a television station.

I think the Labour Party's original point of view, in the days of Ben Chifley, was correct. It was the opinion of the Labour Party, as expressed by Mr. Chifley - and, indeed, it was also the opinion of the British Labour Party - that television was a medium which could so influence, either for good or for evil, the thinking, the psychology and the very nature of the people of a nation, that it should be placed under the control of the Parliament and of the Government, which is another way of saying the people themselves. In this way we could give to the people the very best possible programmes. We would not have to worry about the cost of providing Australian programmes. The programmes put over Australian television stations would be really Australian, as the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) contends they should be, putting forward the Australian viewpoint in the Australian idiom. Everything that was Australian would be presented through the medium of our television stations.

Let us have a look at some of the programmes that are seen on television to-day. I looked at a programme before I left home the other night, and I was surprised to see a hippopotamus dressed in scanties walking around the stage - and this is supposed to be entertainment.

Mr Curtin - Who put the scanties on the hippopotamus?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I do not know who put them on the hippopotamus, but that was the kind of programme being shown. This is the kind of utter nonsense that is being put over the commercial television stations. The honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Jack), who does not often speak in this Parliament, but who occasionally nods, is now nodding his complete approval of what I have said in this regard. I thank him for it. As a matter of fact, I feel that he nods more wisdom than all his colleagues put together speak.

Before I leave the subject of the monopolistic control which is now exercised over the metropolitan stations, I would like to have something to say about the station in Adelaide known as ADS Channel 7, which is controlled by the Herald and Weekly Times Limited. I shall give honorable members some information about the shareholding in that station. Advertiser Newspapers Limited owns 900,000 of the 3,000,000 shares, and that company is controlled by the Herald and Weekly Times Limited. For this reason the Herald and Weekly Times Limited is able to tell the representatives of Advertiser Newspapers Limited how they shall vote at any of the meetings of the shareholders. Radio station 5KA owns 300,000 shares, and another 300,000 are owned by Midlands Broadcasting Services Limited, representing the Advertiser Broadcasting Network. This presents a situation that should be further examined. Advertiser Newspapers Limited owns 900,000 shares, and that company is owned by the Herald and Weekly Times Limited. Radio station 5 AD owns 300,000 shares, and Advertiser Newspapers Limited owns SAD. This makes a total of 1,200,000 shares owned by these two companies, which in turn are controlled by the Herald and Weekly Times Limited. This company then has control of over 1,200,000 of the 3,000,000 5s. shares. Philips Electrical Industries Proprietary Limited owns 225,000 shares, and then, in order to make the position look a little better, there is what is described as a public issue of 900,000 shares.

I took the trouble to find out what happened to this so-called public issue, and I discovered that the major portion of it was set aside specifically for allocation to employees of Advertiser Newspapers Limited. Depending on the service that an employee had with that company, he was entitled to 100, 200 or 300 shares. I think some senior employees were entitled to 400 shares. In what way does any one think an employee of Advertiser Newspapers Limited would vote at a meeting of shareholders of which Sir Lloyd Dumas was chairman, he being the managing director, or managing editor - whatever you like to call him - and the effective controller and boss of everybody employed by the company?

Mr Ward - And they do not have a court-controlled ballot, either.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - No. That is a very important point. The result is that the great majority of these 900,000 shares are also virtually controlled by the Herald and Weekly Times Limited.

Mr Hamilton - Did you get any of them?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - No, I did not get any, but I know one of your colleagues who made an application for 500 and received only 100. He was told that was all he could have. This was a public issue, and he was very upset about the matter. He complained to me, and I said, " I am an expert in checking share registers. I will go to the office ofthe registrar of companies and have a look at the share lists, and see where they have gone ". I discovered, and I was able to tell him, much to his ill-content, that the major portion of the public share issue went either to employees of Advertiser Newspapers Limited or to employees of 5AD - which amounts to the same thing.

Other shares went to Jimmy Martin, the managing director in Adelaide of Myer Emporium (S.A.) Limited, to Ian Hayward. a leading member of the Liberal Party and the managing director of John Martin and Company Limited, to the managing director of Charles Birks and Company Limited, which is owned by David Jones Limited, to the managing director of Miller Anderson Limited, to the managing director of J. Craven and Company Limited, or to the managing directors of various other firms that engage extensively in advertising. I went through the whole of the so-called public share lists, and I discovered that the shares had been carefully allocated by the management of the company to the various people who bad done a good deal of advertising with Advertiser Newspapers Limited.

What do you think it is worth to have 4.000 or 5,000 of these shares allocated? Jimmy Martin received 4,000 shares.

Mr Curtin - Who is Jimmy Martin?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - He is the managing director of Myer Emporium (S.A.I Limited, which is one of the firms which advertise most extensively with Advertiser Newspapers Limited and on television. Martin, of course, did very well out of these 4,000 shares. The

House may not know it, but although the company has been operating for only about a year, shares that cost 5s. to purchase are now listed on the stock exchange at 16s. 3d. or 16s. 9d. each. These listings can be seen in the copies of the Adelaide "Advertiser " that are now on display in the library. Shares that were worth 5s. only a year ago are now worth something more than 16s. What does that represent in total amount? For the 3,000,000 five shilling shares I talked about, there has been an increase in their stock exchange value of £1,650,000 in the space of one year. In fact, the people to whom the five shilling shares were allocated found that they were quoted at11s. the first day they appeared on the stock exchange.

Mr Makin - No wonder they wanted a licence!

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Exactly. That is a very relevant interjection and it brings me to another important point. When the licences were being allocated in Adelaide, a rather remarkable turn of events characterized the proceedings. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board sat for a long time, and finally brought down the decision that it would allocate only one licence to South Australia. It took the view that South Australia was not a State which at that time could justify two licences. The licence was to be given to the Adelaide "News". What happened? Sir Lloyd Dumas flew from Adelaide to Canberra and had a talk with somebody in a high position. I know his name but I will not mention it.

Mr Wheeler - Was it Mr. Somerville Smith?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - No, I do not think Mr. Somerville Smith had the same influence with the Government then that he has now. Sir Lloyd Dumas had a talk with somebody in a high place in the Cabinet. As a consequence of that talk, which was just prior to the last general election, the Government decided to direct the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to review the whole thing and bring down another report. It was not satisfied with the report recommending one licence, which was togo to Mr. Rupert Murdoch of the "News".

Obediently, the board did as directed. It conducted a further inquiry and,to and behold, it discovered that its first opinion was entirely wrong! It found that it had made a great mistake in recommending only one licence for South Australia, so it said, " We will recommend the issue of two licences". One went to Mr. Rupert Murdoch, as originally intended, and the second went to Sir Lloyd Dumas. So the people in Adelaide continued to receive two newspapers - the "Advertiser " and the " News " - both of which sang the praises of the Government and gave reasons why the Government should be returned at the general election. One does not have tobe an Einstein to understand why the people who benefited saw such good reasons for the Government to be supported.

The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) seemed to find great fault with the fact that the Minister will have the final say in whether a licence should be revoked or not. I do not see anything wrong with that. The Minister is elected by the people as a member of the Parliament, and then is appointed as a Minister who is answerable to this Parliament for every act of omission and commission. But the honorable member for Chisholm evidently wants to put this matter under the control of somebody who is not answerable to the Parliament.

Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes - I wanted the right of appeal.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It is the same thing. There should be no right of appeal from the people's representative, except to the people.I see nothing wrong with this Minister, or any other Minister who is answerable to the Parliament, being the person to take the responsibility and make decisions like this. I do not like any Liberal minister making decisions of this kind, but while the people are foolish enough to elect them and allow them to remain here, they have to put up with the stupid and foolish decisions the ministers sometimes make. The right of appeal lies with the electorate every three years at election time.

It is all very well for the honorable member for Chisholm to take umbrage at this provision, but if it is right that the Minister should have no say in a thing like this, let us take away from ministers generally the right to determine anything, or let us go through the whole circuitous process of a right of appeal from the decision of every minister. If it is proper to have a right of appeal from the decision of a minister - who is responsible to the people who sent him here - what about having a right of appeal from the decision of the body to which you have a right of appeal from the Minister's decision? Who is to say that the body to which you will appeal will be any less fallible than the Minister? At least you can get to the Minister if he does something wrong; but you cannot get to a judge.

Mr Killen - The Commonwealth Industrial Court helped you.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It is an exceptional body, but the honorable member for Chisholm does not propose that we should give a right of appeal to the Commonwealth Industrial Court. What is wrong with some of the back-bench members on the Government side, particularly those who have been so vociferous, is that some of their friends are missing out on the gravy train. It is about to move off, and it appears that it will go out into some of the country areas and that some of the tiny country newspapers will get some of the rich rewards that now are confined to the city press. What is worrying the people on the back benches on the Government side, particularly the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler), who is probably one of the biggest share-brokers in Sydney, is that some of their influential and wealthy speculator friends are disappointed that the members of the Australian Country Party, seeing the danger they had allowed this Government to drag them into, have at last decided that they will keep the country areas free from the Liberal Party taint.

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