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Thursday, 19 May 1960

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Bowden (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - Are they not the same unit?

Mr CALWELL - They are not the same unit. We know that a dreadful piece of surgery was performed last year and that a mutilated section of the Commonwealth Bank is now the Reserve Bank. This legislation is designed to harm the people's bank. It is all part of the same plot and we protest against the Government doing what it is doing in the matter. I am referring to clause 13.

I wish now to deal with clause 9, the sidenote of which reads " Briefing of counsel to assist board ". The performances of counsel and of the board over the last few years since television licences were made available to commercial interests show that counsel only clog up the work of the board and that it would be far better if no counsel appeared before it for either side. But under this and another provision, counsel are to have the same right to cross-examine witnesses as have members of the board, and thus the delay will be even greater than it has been. It looks as though only those who have a lot of money and can spend it on briefing counsel and wearing everybody else down will have a hope of staying long enough before the board to justify their claims.

We think that instead of encouraging more lawyers to appear before the board we should reverse the process. What the honorable member for Lang has said in the matter is perfectly true. We are told, in clause 12, that the board is not bound by the rules of evidence, so the lawyers are going to have even greater feasts than they usually get in the courts of law. They can ask questions about all sorts of matters and weeks and weeks of unnecessary delay, time-consuming and costing a lot of money, will be experienced by the board and those appearing before it in the future. Why should not the board be bound by the laws of evidence? What explanation has the Attorney-General for the departure from what is a common-sense practice in our courts where the truth is elucidated according to a set of rules which experience has found to be necessary? If lawyers can go on all sorts of journeyings into fancy and everything else when appearing before the board, either the board members will get sick and tired of it and will not want to serve, or else a lot of people who might want to get licences will not have a chance of obtaining them. What chance would a university have of getting a licence under this provision, even if it had the share capital as provided under another section of the bill? What opportunity has any group of people performing a useful function and doing some service to the community of getting a licence if it has to meet the competition of commercial interests which are concerned not with educating or uplifting the people or building morale but with playing down to popular tastes so that they can make more and more money out of what they are doing? I am told that one of the Sydney stations - I think it was the Packer station - made a profit of £300,000 in the first year of its operations. These are gold mines which the Government is giving, through the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, to many people. It would seem that only those with a good deal of money will be able to get any more of these gold mines so long as we continue to have this type of legislation.

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