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Thursday, 19 May 1960

Mr WARD (East Sydney) .- The clauses of the bill with which we are now dealing include a number of provisions which have been criticized by members on both sides of the House. I want to make a passing reference to the question of the bank with which the Australian Broadcasting Control Board shall conduct its business. I agree with the honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes). It is the first time I have ever done so, but I want to say to him that I, too, believe that the board should bank with the best bank, and obviously the best bank is the Commonwealth Bank. The honorable member made it quite clear, however, that the Government intends, if it gets the opportunity, to sabotage this bank and destroy it because the Government regards it as an instrument of socialism. That is an illuminating thought for the people of this country to ponder before they have their next opportunity of voting at general elections. I have always believed that it was the intention of the Government to sabotage this particular public institution.

I now pass to the question of legal representation before the board. What we have to keep in mind - and I differ on this with some of my colleagues - is that this does not necessarily involve a question of costs. I should imagine that people who will apply for licences would not be in poor circumstances. I oppose this provision because, when the Broadcasting Control Board is dealing with applications for licences, its first consideration should be to get down to the facts. However, it is most difficult to get the facts when lawyers appear before the board to represent applicants. We have had evidence to support such a viewpoint by our experiences in this Parliament. The most simple proposition sometimes, when explained by a lawyer, becomes most complex and difficult. I believe that the exclusion of lawyers would expedite proceedings before the board an'l lead to a greater degree of clarity of thought; it would assist the members of the board in making their decision.

Just as we criticized the appointment of what we termed " part-time members " to the board, I am also critical of part-time lawyers who have taken part in this debate. They want to be members of Parliament and also they want everybody to remember that they regard themselves as very distinguished members of their profession. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) made some reference to myself during his speech. At least he is appropriately named for his profession if for nothing else. As I listened to him, I recollected what a distinguished member of this party once said. In years gone by he was Speaker of this House - I refer to the late Mr. Rosevear. On one occasion, when listening to one of the legal members on the Government side he said, "Now I know why the gaols are full ". That is what I thought as the honorable member for Wide Bay was making his contribution to this debate.

Now I pass to another important matter. Clause 16 of the bill refers to people who may be disqualified from acting as commissioners. Proposed new section 37 provides - fi.) If a Commissioner -

(b)   becomes bankrupt, applies to take the benefit of any law for the relief of bankrupt or insolvent debtors, compounds with his creditors or makes an assignment of his remuneration for their benefit . . .

He then vacates his position. I can understand that. Anybody who becomes bankrupt obviously should not remain as a commissioner. But what I want to know is this: If a commissioner is disqualified because of this circumstance, can he become eligible for re-appointment? It may happen that a person, who becomes bankrupt through circumstances over which he has no control, is able subsequently to discharge his indebtedness and get a clearance from the court. Would he then become eligible for re-appointment? I should like the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), to confer with the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) on this point because we know that in this country people who have been bankrupt have later risen to positions of high eminence in this Parliament and people in similar circumstances could, no doubt, some time in the future, become members of the High Court of Australia. If they can qualify as members of the High Court surely they ought to be eligible for re-appointment as members of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.

I realize that the Government is trying to bulldoze this legislation through the Parliament, keeping us here until the early hours of the morning, exhausting everybody; but these are important queries that ought to be answered by the Government so that we may have a clear indication of what it intends. So I hope that the Government and the Postmaster-General will pay some attention to the suggestions made by members of the Opposition.

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