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Wednesday, 18 May 1960

Mr BRYANT (Wills) (3:22 AM) .- It must be a great comfort to the assembled multitude to know that there is to be no curtailment of this debate. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) has just made an admission. We informed him, four years ago, that monopoly was going to develop in this field, as it did with radio and the newspapers. He now has the brass, Mr. Speaker, to tell us that he is contemplating three more amendments of the bill. I ask the Minister why he did not model himself on the treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in his handling of the banking legislation. It will be remembered that in that case we received a memorandum and a bill printed in such a way as to indicate how the act would look when it was finally passed. Instead, we have this hotch-potch which every honorable member admits is difficult to follow, and in which some of the definitions are completely vague. I come now to the reply of the Postmaster-General to the suggestion that he was attempting to bulldoze the bill through.

Mr Wight - Be brief.

Mr BRYANT - I intend to continue in the footsteps of the honorable member's master, the Postmaster-General. We shall deal with the matter as it comes. As far as we are concerned, there is a question of public responsibility involved in the subject of this legislation. We are discussing the disposal of a very rare commodity - the granting of television licences in the community. I think that, so far, there are only seven or eight such licences in the whole of Australia. I know that the Father Christmas department that runs the Liberal Party does not realise what it is doing in this field and does not appreciate that it is taking a valuable community commodity a licence which is the property of, and in the possession of, the community generally and granting it to a number of lucky players who happen to be the proprietors of television stations. There is no doubt that, by doing so, the Government is conferring great fortune on the lucky players. Therefore, we shall give full consideration to this measure and we will see to it that it is considered down to the last comma and the last full stop.

We on this side of the House believe that this legislation is just a part of the Liberal Party and Australian Country Party facade of intention to attempt to control monopolies and so on. We know that in most instances in the past they have either not been dinkum in their attempts, or have played the game with kid gloves. They have made no real or adequate attempt to control monopolies, and that being so, it is fair to assume that their future activities will be no more effective. I do not mind whether we meet here at 25 minutes past three in the morning or at 25 minutes past three in the afternoon. I represent 44,000 of the ordinary citizens of this country who have not one earthly chance of getting a television licence. They are excluded, under the system which the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) and his mates support, from participation in this grand game of largesse.

The Postmaster-General chose to intervene at this late hour of the debate, claiming that he had been misrepresented from this side if the House. He had some very hard words to say about the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). He chose to ignore, of course, the opposition that is coming from his own side. It will be interesting to see whether the honorable members for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth), Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), and Moreton (Mr, Killen), vote their opposition to the clauses of the bill about which they feel passionate in the extreme - I think that was the phrase used by the honorable member for Moreton. I suggest that if the. honorable members feel so passionately about principles which are affected by this bill, they have a duty to come over to this side and vote with us.

The amendment which has been moved on behalf of the Labour Party seeks reconsideration of the measure. We should prefer to await the production of the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, so that we might have more information before we proceed. The bill is an important and far-reaching document. 1 want to know why the Minister, after four years of hesitation, dilatory behaviour and pondering, has produced a bill which is not explanatory, which contains provisions that will be explained, he says, at the committee, stage, if he can get round to it, and to which three amendments are to be moved from his side of the House. I think he has at his disposal the largest organization in Australia and probably one of the largest in the world, with about 80,000 employees. Why could he not have produced a bill in a more satisfactory fashion?

This bill is not just an ordinary piece of legislation. It relates to the welfare of the employees of the board and covers a whole host of matters. It deals with the powers and functions of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, as would normally be expected. It deals, too, with the term of office of the commissioners, dismissals and vacation of office, the appointment of officers, the reclassification of officers, the penalties that may be imposed on officers, and the need to obtain the approval of the Minister for certain classifications. There are provisions in regard to licensing and programming, and there is the very contentious, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say the very vague provision which describes how this Government defines the control of companies. As I have said, the legislation is far-reaching. It reaches into the habits and customs of the Public Service Board in the handling of its employees. It proposes to introduce a new attitude towards the control of private property. That is offensive to some honorable members on the other side of the chamber. The bill seeks to define exactly what is meant by the ownership and control of public companies.

Any of those matters could form the subject of major legislation. They should not be lightly considered at this hour of the morning, but should be discussed after due consideration. I think it is only six days since the bill was introduced in the House, and we have been away from the Parliament for three or four days since then. We now have to proceed to discuss it. After weeks and weeks of very little Parliamentary activity on the part of the Government, we suddenly have to rush through a matter such as this. We on this side object to such a procedure.

The Postmaster-General raised several matters in the course of his intervention in the debate. One of those matters was nationalization. It is interesting to note the failure of the Minister to see exactly what is meant by government control of an institution such as television. The PostmasterGeneral seems to look upon government control as something completely foreign to this Parliament and the Australian people - something that has dropped in from outer space and achieved a monopoly that is in the same terms as ownership and control by commercial interests. This is a complete denial of the facts.

The Government monopoly directly represents 10,000,000 shareholders and if the Government is doing its duty the monopoly is under proper and strict control. The Postmaster-General seems to imagine that there is only one way to deal with these matters and that is to hand them over to commercial control and monopoly. We believe that monopoly interests in this country are a menace to our present way of life. Four years ago we pointed out what would happen and now we have the classical admission by the PostmasterGeneral that six or nine months ago these cads broke their trust and attempted to railroad other television interests into handing over the management and control of their stations. But such things have been going on ever since the dawn of time. The Postmaster-General has been asleep regarding the control of broadcasting and television.

Several interesting points were raised by the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr.

Haworth) and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). The honorable member for Moreton said that he was passionately dedicated to the rights of property. He said that he would object to any direction of property. Why is he not consistent? Why does he not extend the same argument to matters concerning industrial legislation? Is it such an infringement of liberty to say that a man who owns a certain television film must make it available on just terms to a person who wishes to use it on a television programme? But the same honorable member supports the penal clauses in industrial legislation affecting trade unions. Apparently there is no effect on the freedom of the trade unionist or the employee if he has to give his labour where and when the court decides. In all these matters the Government and its supporters are inconsistent.

I want to bring to the notice of the House the manner in which television, radio and newspapers are owned and controlled in Victoria. What I am about to say is related particularly to that provision in the bill which we may call the 15 per cent, clause. In Victoria we have the " Herald ", the "Sun" and the "Age" - three large newspapers. The Herald & Weekly Times Limited owns the " Sun " and the " Herald ", radio stations 3DB and 3LK and television station HSV7. David Syme and Company Limited owns the " Age ", radio stations 3CV, 3 HA and 3TR and is closely associated with radio station 3AW. It is also a shareholder in the other television station. Associated Broadcasters Limited owns radio stations 3SR, 3UL and 3YB. In all we have six organizations almost in complete control of the distribution of all communications to a population of 2,500,000 people in the wealthiest State in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. That is a menace to the community and there should be a more passionate attempt to break it up.

Let us examine the position of the Herald and Weekly Times Limited, and its ownership and control of a television station. The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), who is a man skilled at law, should give some consideration to the development of remote control in industry and commerce. He should also look into the matter of holding companies and the ramifications of the ownership of large blocks of shares by one particular company. It is impossible to trace who is in control of these companies. The attempts that are made to defend the ownership and control of television stations are designed to act as a smoke-screen. We must establish a governmental trusteeship over individual stations under which the shareholders and the management are responsible and under suveillance all the time. Such action would not be novel although the Postmaster-General has taken four years to wake up to the fact that takeovers are going on everywhere. In the Herald and Weekly Times Limited 1,250,000 shares are held by Advertiser Newspapers Limited. Other companies own shares inside that organization. For instance, Queensland Newspapers Proprietary Limited owns 500,000 shares. This is an impersonal intrusion into Australian commercial life. I suppose it is natural in commercial life everywhere but I believe that it will have a serious effect on any possibility of controlling industrial enterprises. The Government should turn its mind to this matter. How are we to control these impersonal relationships within commerce and industry? The New Zealand Insurance Company Limited owns 46,000 shares and A.N.Z. Pensions Limited owns 40.000 shares.

Dealing with David Syme and Company Limited we find that 600,000 shares are held by the Estate of the late David Syme. The ownership and control of the television stations are in the hands of these people. I do not know why we should be so dedicated to the principle that only newspapers should have major interests in television stations. The remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) this evening with regard to South Australia should be read by everybody. Once you become the owner of a newspaper you seem to have a vested right to lay down the law and to own and control valuable community assets. In regard to television station GTV9 in Melbourne, 628,881 shares are held by Electronic Industries Limited; 188,169 by David Syme and Company Limited; 58,848 by Greater Union Theatres Proprietary Limited; 58,847 by Hoyts Theatres Limited; 35,290 by Nilsens Broadcasting Services Proprietary Limited; 17,646 by Val Morgan and Sons Proprietary Limited; 13,759 by

Efftee Broadcasters Proprietary Limited; and 560 by Radio Corporation Proprietary Limited. Recently some extra allocations of 100 shares have been made to certain interested firms, including Allied Bruce Small Proprietry Limited, Bruce Small Proprietary Limited, General Accessories Proprietary Limited, Homecrafts Proprietary Limited, Electronic Industries Imports Proprietary Limited, Eclipse Radio Proprietary Limited, Servex Electrical Company Proprietary Limited, A. W. Jackson Industries Proprietary Limited, Extrusion and Dry Batteries Proprietary Limited, Vending Machines Proprietary Limited, E.I.L. Service Proprietary Limited, Gainsborough Furniture Proprietary Limited, and Lugon Electric Lamps Proprietary Limited. The list of directors is here. I could of course read it out, but the question that arises in one's mind is: Who actually are the persons owning and controlling a concern in which all the shareholding is held in the names of impersonal public or proprietary companies? I say that it would be almost impossible, under those conditions, to determine just who has control of this company. This is a question to which the Government, and the Attorney-General in particular, ought to address themselves.

This bill is just part of the Father Christmas attitude on the part of this Government. In the four or five years that I have been in this Parliament I have seen community largesse scattered amongst the friends, large and small, of this Government. First the assets of the whaling industry were disposed of to people, principally in Western Australia, who were able to recoup all their expenditure out of the profits of the organization in the first few years. The next great effort was, of course, the banking legislation. There are two means by which the Government provides for its friends in the banking field. The first is, of course, by the suppression of the Commonwealth Bank itself, and the second is by the development of a completely usurious system of finance in which greater and greater dividends are being paid to people who lend money. Then of course, currently there is the notorious case of Mr. Ansett and his multi-millions of Government support by guaranteed overdraft, by rationalization, and by every other procedure of which the Government is capable. Oil search is another field in which largesse is being given to the Government's friends, and in the present instance we have television. I believe that we have no right to shed our parliamentary and national responsibility and give it to any group of irresponsible persons. I have no particular grudge against the individuals whoare directors of any of these companies. I do not believe that they are bad citizens or bad Australians. But the point is that they are being handed irresponsible power. As we sought to make clear in the debate on the security service, it is not a matter of whether the people concerned are good people or bad people, but that in effect, they are irresponsible, politically and commercially.

Mr McMahon - That is a nice thing for you to say. You do everything you are told to do and at the direction of the Victorian executive of the Australian Labour Party.

Mr BRYANT - The Minister for Labour and National Service could develop a nice theme on that. We are not directed about what we should do. The Minister can come along - I suppose I can take the risk of inviting him - and see the 300 or 400 members of the Victorian Labour Party conference assemble to make their decisions.

Television is a national institution and we believe that it has to be brought under strict parliamentary control. But all we see going on in this field, and indeed in every other field of commercial enterprise and in relation to all the national resources, whether they are on the ground, or growing in the ground, or in organizational or administrative things like banking and television, is that great slices of the community's welfare and services are in the hands of the people who are responsible to nobody but themselves. This offends me as a socialist and as a democrat and just as an ordinary person, too! I object to being kicked around by people who are not answerable to anybody in the long run.

The essence of the argument, as I see it, is that while for three years, the GovernorGeneral willing, we can proceed on our merry way, eventually we have to answer directly to the people for whom we make laws, so that if we kick them around in any direction they can kick us back in three years' time.

Mr Turnbull - That is common knowledge.

Mr BRYANT - Yes, but the interesting part is that I do not seem to be able to get it into the honorable member's mind that just as we fought for centuries for parliamentary power until we actually chopped off Charles I.'s head some three centuries ago, so to-day we have to fight against irresponsibility. Political responsibility means that you have to answer for your actions to the people. The same principle should apply to every other activity, commercial and otherwise, which have control of large parts of the community's activities or assets. Such activities must be answerable to the community as a whole, as is the Parliament - and that, I think, is the very spirit of socialism. It is not a radical or revolutionary doctrine. It just appears to me to be common sense. But as far as I am concerned it is a matter of self-respect. No self-respecting person will allow himself to be kicked around by anybody without answering back. We cannot answer the television station owners back; we cannot answer the bankers back; we cannot answer the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited back. The same applies to the shipowners. At the present moment they operate on the coast of Australia and internationally. They can do what they will with our affairs. They can place whatever tax they like on the people of Australia. They can put their fares and charges up and are answerable to none. But they must be answerable, or should be answerable, to the people of Australia through this Commonwealth Parliament. The same thing applies to television. The people on the other side of the House usually show some spirit in their approach to various matters, but when they come to consider matters of national interest which affect property, commercial enterprises, finance, investment and so on, they become completely spiritless and say, *' We are incapable of handling this. It is not for the Government. It would be a dreadful thing if you handed television over to a monopoly. I may say what I think about this Government, but unfortunately some 51 per cent, of the people of Australia are foolish enough to think that they can put their trust in it. However, the interesting point to me, at the moment, is that honorable members opposite do not seem capable of trusting themselves.

If we can keep this debate going, with another half dozen speakers, until 10.30 a.m., we will save the Serjeant-at-Arms the trouble of removing and replacing the mace. Therefore, with these few cheery words, Mr. Speaker, I should like to advise the Government to see the error of its ways. If it realizes that those who control commercial television are completely irresponsible it will be on the way to doing something in the national interest.

Mr Ward - I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr. Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER - Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr Ward - Yes, Mr. Speaker. Earlier in the debate I made a statement that the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) had blamed the Jews for all the trouble in Israel. The honorable member for Moreton, in a personal explanation, questioned my veracity. I have had an opportunity to look up the records, and I shall quote a couple of passages from them, although I do not want to detain the House for very long. As reported in " Hansard " of 6th August, 1958, at page 107, the honorable member for Moreton said -

The fundamental cause of the dispute in the Middle East to-day, as I see it - and this is simply a sighting from an historical point of view - lies in the creation of the state of Israel.

On 7th August, the next day, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), in the course of his remarks, said -

Yesterday the honorable member set out to blame the Jewish State of Israel for the whole of the trouble in the Middle East.

The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) interjected -

That is very true.

I think that that should satisfy any member of the House that I was speaking the actual truth when I made that claim in my speech.

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