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Wednesday, 17 February 1971


Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) (Minister for Housing) (9.57) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The intention of this Bill, Mr President, is. to update those portions of the Broadcasting and Television Act affecting financial operations of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. It also aims to make changes to the existing provisions regarding the ownership and control of broadcasting and television stations. In addition, it extends broadcast listeners' and television viewers' licence concessions to several new small groups of pensioners and introduces measures to permit the service, by post, of summonses in relation to licensing offences under the Broadcasting and Television Act. The financial provisions, as drafted, represent a standard approach to statutory authority financial legislation. I will not therefore be dealing with these provisions in detail. The existing provisions in the Act are known to be inadequate, and both the Treasury and the Auditor-General's Office were consulted as to the desirable provisions in relation both to the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the

Australian Broadcasting Control Board. This Bill has, accordingly, been drafted to update the banking provisions, provide for proper keeping of accounts and records; and to amplify the audit provision in accordance with more modern legislation. Changes affecting the administration of the Australian Broadcasting Commission are introduced in the Bill. Because of the present section 40 of the Act, which provides that the Commission may delegate its powers, except that of delegation itself, only to a Commissioner or the General Manager, administrative difficulties have arisen. The Commission operates throughout the Commonwealth, and delegations; limited to a few persons in Sydney place obvious obstacles in the way of efficient administration. The Bill amends section 40 so that the Commission's powers may be delegated to any person in the employ of the Commission. This, however, does not affect the power to appoint permanent officers of the Commission, which still remains limited to a Commissioner or the General Manager.

The Bill also proposes, through amendments to sections 61 and 62, to raise the limits involved in the purchase and disposal of property, or entry into any agreement or lease, involving expenditure by the Broadcasting Commission, without ministerial approval. At present the limit is $40,000 and the Act directs that no agreement or lease involving expenditure may be entered into for a, period exceeding 5 years. Values have changed and the Bill proposes that these changes be recognised by raising the limits to $100,000 and 10 years respectively. The existing section 71, providing that the Commission may not pay compensation to a member of the Commission or its officers or employees, in excess of $500 without ministerial approval, is repealed. The purpose of the existing provision, which has no counterpart in other legislation, is not known and, in any case, the Commonwealth Employees' Compensation legislation provides adequate cover.

Honourable senators will be aware that the Act now places important restrictions on the number of television and broadcasting stations that may be controlled by any one person or company. A close connection, it will be agreed in this context, exists between company employee benefit funds and the companies with which such funds are associated. There is an increasing tendency for pension funds associated with companies already having extensive interests in broadcasting and television stations to invest in companies having interests in such stations. If permitted to continue unchecked, this could have a material influence on the control of television and broadcasting stations. This is considered to be contrary to the intentions of the ownership and control provisions of the Act and, in consequence, 2 new sections, 90aa and 91ab, are introduced in this Bill. If passed, their effect will be that interests in broadcasting and television licences acquired by funds maintained for the purpose of providing pensions and retiring allowances or other personal benefits for the employees of a company shall be deemed for the purposes of the ownership and control provisions to be beneficially held by the company concerned. These new provisions, honourable senators will note, will apply from 12th December 1969, the date on which the Postmaster-General announced the Government's intention to bring down this legislation.

Mr President,this Bill also groups, m section 128, all pensions payable under the Repatriation Act and other Acts making provisions of a similar kind for the purpose of concessional broadcast listener's and television viewer's licences. In addition, it extends these concessions to several new pensioner groups. The new entitlement covers persons receiving a service pension under the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) legislation, and persons receiving service pensions and pensions in respect of total and permanent incapacity under the Native Members of the Forces legislation. Persons receiving pensions in respect of total and permanent incapacity under the Interim Forces Benefits legislation and the Seamen's War Pensions and Allowances Act will also become eligible for the concessions. These concessions have been extended in the interests of giving equitable treatment to all persons in receipt of similar pensions.

Finally, the Bill proposes the insertion of a new section 132a to permit the service, by means of registered post, of summonses for offences in relation to unlicensed broadcast and television receivers.

This will provide an additional means for the service of these summonses in most of the States. It will not do away with the availability of personal service in appropriate cases. Although it has been the practice to date to have summonses for offences relating to unlicensed broadcast and television receivers served on defendants by members of the State police forces, there have been indications for .some time that, in some States at least, this arrangement was not satisfactory. Some State Ministers in charge of police have taken the view that the service of. summonses is not a proper police function and that it diverts trained men from more responsible activities. They have therefore directed that police are not to be used for the service of certain summonses for offences under thei'r own State laws. More recently, with increasing demands on the police, it has been made clear to the Commonwealth that some of the States are no longer prepared to see members of the police used to serve summonses' for the more common Commonwealth statutory- offences. The Chief Secretary for Victoria has already informed the Commonwealth that the Victoria Police will no longer undertake the service of summonses - issued under the Broadcasting and Television Act. It has, therefore, become . necessary to arrange immediately for some - other means - of effecting service of summonses in respect of the common minor < offences under the Broadcasting and Television Act in relation to. unlicensed broadcast and television receivers.

Until quite recently, the Jaws in force in all Stales and - Territories --required that there should be ' personal . service of all summonses for offences and this generally involved the delivery of a summons to the defendant himself or leaving a copy at the last known or usual place of abode or business of-, the defendant, with some other person who was -apparently, an inmate -of; or employed at, that place and apparently at least 1 6 years of age. The laws in force in most - States were - amended - between 1962 and 1970 to enable .summonses for relatively minor offences ' to be served by post and the new procedures seem- to have worked satisfactorily in- the States. . It is desirable that, a ..similar procedure be authorised by Commonwealth law for the service of. summonses-, .in -relation .to offences concerning unlicensed broadcast and television receivers. The new provisions have been drawn to ensure, firstly, that there will be a high degree of probability that the defendant will in fact receive the summons that is posted to him and, secondly, that if a defendant does not receive a summons posted to him, there will be a simple procedure by which he or the prosecutor may proceed to have set aside any conviction that was recorded. This would apply in circumstances where the defendant was not in fact served with a summons or was not served soon enough to give him reasonable opportunity to answer the charge.

In providing for service by registered post, a more secure means of delivery will be provided than is required by corresponding laws of the States. Moreover, the provisions of the new clause enabling convictions to be set aside are more favourable to defendants than the provisions of corresponding State legislation. I am satisfied, Mr President, that the registered post will provide a satisfactory vehicle for the service of summonses under the Broadcasting and Television Act. 1 am also of the opinion that there will be adequate safeguards fo ensure that no person will be unjustly treated. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.

Debate (on motion by Senator McClelland) adjourned. '







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