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Tuesday, 16 February 1971
Page: 25

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - When the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) commenced his speech he said that this Bill has been on the notice paper for a long time. I suppose that the yellow colour of the paper that he used for his notes indicates how long ago his speech was written. He made reference to the undesirability of monopolies controlling the news media. As a member of the Australian Labor Party, he is quite aware of the manner in which his Party uses its radio stations for pushing political propaganda. If any member of a party was aware of the danger of the news media being in the hands of a biassed party, surely a member of the ALP would be.

My purpose in speaking is to raise a matter which is not under direct discussion at the moment but which I have been drawing to the attention of the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme) for some months now. Most honourable members depend very much upon their constituents to bring to their attention facts and features of various Acts of Parliament which, at times, are not exactly fair, lt was in this manner that in mid 1969 I had drawn to my attention the provision in the Broadcasting and Television Act which makes the person who is watching a programme on an unlicensed television receiver the person who is liable to prosecution. At that time 1 wrote to the Postmaster-General. He undertook to have the matter investigated and he did so. In due course he advised me that his department, in collaboration with the Attorney-General's Department, would examine the matter with a view to devising a legally acceptable arrangement whereby a person other than the one detected may accept responsibility and thus be successfully prosecuted. In most cases the person caught using an unlicensed television receiver would not worry greatly about who was to be prosecuted. But there are unusual instances. For example, a husband may not own the television set; it may belong to his wife. The inspector calls and the husband is watching the set, and automatically the summons is taken out against the viewer. In certain instances this can mitigate against the person caught. A successful prosecution may affect his employment. The wife, in the instance to which T am referring, may be more than willing to accept responsibility. The present Act does not permit this.

Recently T wrote again to the PostmasterGeneral drawing attention to his letter of 15th October 1969. He told me that the matter was still being considered, in collaboration with the Attorney-General's Department. My argument is not with the Postmaster-General because the matter is purely a legal one. A legal matter has to be considered very carefully by the AttorneyGeneral's Department before it can give the best advice possible. But this is the question I ask: How long are we expected te sit by and watch Acts of Parliament, needing minor amendment, continue in their present state while innocent people are wrongly convicted? Mr Bryant - It is a waste of effort.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - The question is: For how long must we wait? J think it is completely unreasonable for officers of the Attorney-General's Department to take so long to come up with an answer to this question. All honourable members are aware that on occasions years can pass before an Act of Parliament is reviewed. Today, the first day of the autumn session of 1971, we have before the House the Broadcasting and Television Bill. There will be a number of honourable members, particularly on the other side of this House, who will never have an opportunity to voice any view on this legislation because it may be years before it again comes before this House.

The Postmaster-General has acknowledged in letters that some change is desirable. I suggest that when items such as this are referred to it the Attorney-General's Department has more than an obligation to attend to them promptly. I am disgusted to read in today's newspapers stories of tape recorded conversations being used in a court case in Victoria. One wonders about the responsibilities of the AttorneyGeneral's Department when Acts of Parliament are so blatantly flouted from time to time. Nobody seems to care. I might say that 1 am one who does care. I. understand that the Postmaster-General has to wait on advice from the Attorney-General's Department in these matters. But for Heaven's sake let us have a change because in the meantime a lot of innocent people are suffering as a result of what might best be described as inadequate legislation.

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