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Tuesday, 23 February 1971

Senator HANNAN (Victoria) - I support the Bill and I oppose the amendment moved by the Opposition.

Senator Keeffe - Is this your maiden speech?

Senator HANNAN - No, it is not.

Senator O'Byrne - It is his second time round.

Senator HANNAN - Any assistance that you want to give will be accepted readily. While expressing those views, I think the Senate is indebted to Senator McClelland for his thoughtful contribution to the debate. Although I must break a lance with him on a number of points, I feel that his thoughtful contribution to this fairly complex subject was something for which the Senate should be thankful. I support his remarks about my former colleagues of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. In the 2 years that 1 was privileged to serve with them I came to know and to respect their dedication to the tremendous task of directing the bulk of Australia's television and radio programmes. For good or for ill, regardless of what cynics and sceptics might say, 87 per cent of viewers - I am not quite sure of the percentage of listeners to radio programmes - watch the commercial channels - the channels for which the Broadcasting Control Board is responsible.

It is true that in another place the Control Board has been criticised fairly extensively and fairly heavily - I think unfairly. As Senator McClelland said, the Chairman, Mr Myles Wright, has a knowledge of the industry unrivalled by anybody. The Vice-Chairman, Mr Donovan, is a senior public servant whose long years of service in this industry have made him an intellectual genius in the very difficult and complex task of unravelling interlocking company directorates and interlocking company shareholdings. The third permanent member of the Board is Mr McDonald, a former Post Office engineer, with whom I was privileged to work in the development of Navy radar equipment and whose knowledge of medium frequency transmitters and practice is. I think, probably unique in the Commonwealth. The membership of the Board is completed by adding the distinguished educational authority, Dr Radford. I suppose it seems almost an anticlimax to add my name to the names of such distinguished personnel.

Senator Sim - Hear, hear!

Senator HANNAN - Do not be so enthusiastic about that. Until a month or so ago I was a member of the Board. The Board has a fairly thankless task. If things go well, the licensees do them off their own bat. If things go wrong, they blame the Control Board. In my younger and more exuberant days I once said that the Broadcasting Control Board could not run a milk bar. I do not resile from the statement that I made at that time because of the circumstances in which it was made, but I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the Control Board and to the dedication and ability with which it directs itself to its tasks. My belief is that it is perhaps the most dedicated-

Senator Mulvihill - Has the Board brainwashed you?

Senator HANNAN - If you cannot beat them, join them. In my view, the Board is one of the most dedicated and competent statutory bodies in the Commonwealth. It is misunderstood frequently and criticised frequently. Sometimes it is blamed for the programmes on the Australian Broadcasting Commission network, over which it has no jurisdiction. Some of its failings are not of its own making. As the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) would be well aware, the decision in the boilermakers' case in 1953 makes it impossible at the moment for an administrative body to have any judicial power. Hence the Board's powers over licensees are either too great, that is, it can cancel a licence, or too little, that is, it can deliver a reprimand. If the legal geniuses - or genii - were able to work out some system by which the Board, in the enforcement of its standards, had a moderate power to fine, with provision for appeal to the courts, I think its machinery provisions would be improved greatly.

The philosophy behind the Bill. I think, appeals to all honourable senators. In fact, in another capacity, I had the privilege of taking part in the discussions before the Bill actually reached this place. I think that if the Senate passes the Bill it will be very well received by the people who have to administer it. I am not brash enough to intrude into those areas concerned with accountancy, into the mystical realm of figures. I content myself by saying that anything which simplifies, regularises and makes more certain the financial accounting procedures of any statutory body is to be commended. Over the years the Government has been at some pains to prevent the ownership and control of radio and television licences from falling into too few hands - from becoming the plaything of powerful monopolies. 1 express no view as to how successful these endeavours have been, bill il seems to me extremely desirable that, whatever the position may have been before 1964, the control of mass media should be as widely distributed as possible. The ownership of these valuable licences should be controlled carefully.

Current legislation says that no company shall be in a position to control more than 2 television licences or 8 radio licences. I would have been quite happy to see these maxima halved. Control is defined in the parent Act as 15 per cent and a prescribed interest is set out as 5 per cent. I borrow a word from Mark Antony and Octavius. The word is 'proscribed'. Whilst I do not deny that originally there were difficulties in setting up this tremendous modern, jet age industry, I believe that every effort has to be made to prevent the control of mass media falling into too few hands. Hence it is h:,rd to argue against the proposition that when trustees of a staff superannuation fund are directors of the parent company they are not in effective control of the fund and its holdings. Accordingly, this means of circumscribing the Act must be slopped.

However, 1 oppose the Opposition amendment on the operative date, for 2 reasons. Firstly, in my view, retrospectivity, except in special circumstances, is repugnant to the concept of natural justice. Secondly, and perhaps more practically, retrospectivity to the date in the Opposition amendment, would not have stopped any dealings which should not have been prevented anyhow. Therefore it seems to me that the date set out in the Bill, the date of the announcement made by the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme), should be the operative date. Changing the date would nol have prevented anything which should not have been prevented - for example, the Fairfax foray. The date in the Bill, the date on which the announcement was made, has successfully intercepted the Melbourne 'Herald' venture. On monopolies and quasi monopolies, the Aus tralian Labor Party is in no position to cast the first stone. Ringed around Australia is a series of powerful radio transmitters which continuously feed out the old, worn out discredited and useless shibboleths of Labor Socialist propaganda. The licence of 3K.Z Melbourne is held by the Industrial Printing and Publishing Co. Ltd on behalf of the Australian Labor Party. One does not have to be Mandrake to know that that licence is worth a mint.

Senator Georges - Can the honourable senator tell me what its profit was last year?

Senator HANNAN - Yes, I can. I am coming to that. I am glad that Senator Georges brought up this point. The 'Australian Financial Review' reported that the net profit to the Labor Party last year from the operations of 3KZ was SI 56.000. Real money!

Senator Cant - lt is nothing compared with the profits of BHP.

Senator HANNAN - The year before - this will really slay honourable senators - it was $247,000. I am prepared to concede that nothing is too good for the representatives of the downtrodden and oppressed masses, but a net profit of 5247,000 is really laying it on a little too thick.

Senator Young - With free advertising thrown in.

Senator HANNAN - It is true to say that the socialists are really the most successful capitalists. Let us have a look at the operations of some of the other stations.

Senator Georges - How about 4KQ Brisbane?

Senator HANNAN - Let me finish the list I have in front of me and then 1 will get around to it. I shall deal only with the transmitters with which I am personally familiar. The next one is 2KY Sydney. You could not buy that station with hay. Then there is 2HD Newcastle. All of these stations are pouring our socialist nonsense day in and day out.

Senator Georges - Oh, no. I can believe the rest of the story but I cannot believe that part.

Senator HANNAN - I turn now to Adelaide. Here we have an amalgam in which a prescribed interest is held in SKA by the

Labor Party and the Methodist Church. I do not express any comment on the nexus or the association: I wish merely to point out that a prescribed interest is held in 5KA by the Labor Party. The next one on the list is 4KQ Brisbane. Our rather sizeable continent has been ringed with powerful radio transmitters controlled by the Australian Labor Party. I will not accept that radio has lost its impact and influence because it has not.

Senator Cant - What about the rest of the country?

Senator HANNAN - I am coming to Perth now. The struggling masses in Perth were represented by 6KY and 6NA. It is strange-

Senator Cant - They are not.

Senator HANNAN - They were. These 2 stations were not held in the interests of vested capitalists; they were held by the representatives of the workers before being sold out for a mint. They are no longer owned by the Labor Party, but I feel sure that the capital derived from them played a minor part in recent publicity in Western Australia which was possibly effective, although I hope not.

Senator Young - The money was probably used to buy television stations.

Senator HANNAN - 1 am unable to say what the Australian Labor Party's interests are in the field of television because they are fairly wide, diverse and obscure. If it has had something good coming up in the past it has often been fairly well-conceived. Most of the things to which 1 have been directing the attention of the Senate were reported in the 'Financial Review' during the past few months. Of course, matters relating to profits which have as many noughts on them as those which the Labor Party's stations have been making are well worth reporting. I feel quite sure that some of the directors of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd would not mind having a finger in some of the radio transmitters owned by the Australian Labor Party.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It only goes to show how efficiently operated they are and how well patronised they are commercially.

Senator HANNAN - I do not challenge that proposition. All that I am saying is that it is a little bit rugged for distinguished socialists opposite to get up and talk about the vested interests of the vast monopolies when they themselves operate stations with audiences running into millions. I would be grateful if honourable senators opposite could direct my attention towards one channel which is owned by the capitalist oppressors.

Senator Georges - All of them bar the ones the honourable senator has mentioned.

Senator Mulvihill - What about the Packer empire? What about Channel 9? How about the Santamaria interests?

Senator Young - I thought that someone would get him in somewhere.

Senator HANNAN - I feel, Mr Acting Deputy President, that this jesting is not in order in this serious debate. I know that honourable senators opposite are not serious about the propositions they have put forward, but I feel that it is only right and proper that as I have given the date, time, place, chapter and verse of these matters my remarks should be at least recorded.

Senator Cant - We could not get a television licence.

Senator HANNAN - I will get around to that later. I have mentioned these matters just to show the hard type of bargain the socialist democrats enforce. After they got $247,000 a year from the downtrodden and oppressed company with operates 3KZ, Val Morgan and Sons Pty Ltd, they charged $1,000 a year for the rental of their aerial field. Can honourable senators imagine a capitalist outfit doing that?

Senator Georges - Yes.

Senator HANNAN - All right. I will leave that matter. Perhaps I can deal with it on some other occasion.

Senator Georges - I am interested in 4KQ.

Senator HANNAN - I will come round to that one, too. I have only a few mon.utes and there is a matter of some significance to which I wish to direct the attention of the Senate.

Senator Georges - I asked for these figures from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and I was told that they were confidential.

Senator HANNAN - I am not allowed to disclose any of the Control Board's figures.

Senator Georges - But the honourable senator hay

Senator HANNAN - Everything I have disclosed has beeB reported in the 'Financial Review', so there is no problem about that matter, h is in the Parliamentary library.

Senator Georges - I would like to know how the 'Financial Review" got hold of confidential figures.

Senator HANNAN - That is not my problem. Perhaps the honourable senator had better see Max Newton or somebody else. Eleven years ago - on 31st May 1960-1 had the privilege of moving an amendment In this chamber to the Broadcasting and Television Bill that was designed to provide a qualified privilege to commercial licensees during an election period in respect of the broadcasting of political matter. I forget the precise section of the Act, 11 was either section 112, 114 or 1.16. I think it was section 116. It provides that if a licensee sells time on his commercial station to one political party he must supply the same amount of time at the same price to any other political party which is represented in the Parliament for which the election is being held.

Senator Georges - lt is not quite that. He has to give a reasonable time.

Senator HANNAN - No, it has to be the same amount of time and at the same price. Everything has to be equated as far as possible. This can present difficulties. In fact it has presented certain difficulties over the years, especially to country broadcasting stations. Having sold a quarter of an hour or whatever it is to a particular party a station must by law provide a similar amount of rime to other parties which are represented. For reasons which seem good lo the commercial operators - I will not analyse them in detail at this time - they have been acutely conscious of the law of libel and defamation in this regard, and many of them have refrained from letting out their station time to any of the parties because of this requirement. I hope that al some time in the future - tonight is not the opportune time to go into the detail of it - the Government will have another look at this. For reasons which completely escaped me at the time, my amendment was defeated. I suggest to

Senator DameAnnabelle Rankin, who in this chamber represents the PostmasterGeneral, thai some consideration be given to the problem posed by actions for defamation because it has been agitating the minds of commercial licensees in this country.

Senator Mulvihill - You want immunity for them?

Senator HANNAN - No, I want qualified privilege. There is a vast difference. I do not believe in immunity - that it is ridiculous - but qualified privilege is another matter. With all the modesty I can summon 1 might say that I have had some experience in libel actions against broadcasting stations and, since the actions which 1 took were eminently successful, I feel that the licensees on the receiving end of this kind of legal process have just reason for asking that their proposition be examined by the Government. I hope that at some time in the future the Government will get around to doing so.

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