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Wednesday, 23 October 1974
Page: 1878

Senator STEELE HALL (South AustraliaLeader of the Liberal Movement) - I am happy to vote for the second reading of the Australian Film Commission Bill. Of course, I do so in the hope that significant amendments will be made to the Bill in the Committee stage. I will vote for this Bill, knowing that the original legislation which introduced the Federal Government into this very important sphere was initiated by a previous Prime Minister and Liberal Party Leader, Mr John Gorton. I suppose that he has been the most pro-Australian Prime Minister and party leader that the Liberal Party has had. I pay tribute to him for bringing in the legislation when he did. I believe that the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) helps the situation further by now introducing his amending legislation, especially if the amendments, which will be discussed at a later stage, are accepted.

I believe that this is a very important Federal involvement. I say that because I am concerned, as I am sure many people in Australia are, that Australian citizens should develop some conception of their country. If there is one fault amongst Australians today, it is a lack of any conception of where they have come from as a nation and where they are going as a nation. One of the ingredients in this lack of conception- it can be only one- is the very great lack of appreciation of things Australian, of the origins of this country and of a good presentation of the history of its development. I like to think that some of the films that have been encouraged on television by the Australian Government's involvement in the points system have produced very quickly amongst Australians a greater awareness of their country. I certainly congratulate the Australian Government on its involvement in the points system for the television industry. I trust that this Bill will continue the very good work commenced there, in developing for Australia that awareness amongst its citizens which I would like to see.

However, my view of the Bill in relation to amendments is somewhat different from that presented by Senator Guilfoyle on behalf of the Liberal Party. I take a different viewpoint as to where the final authority should rest in regard to a number of important decisions which will be made. If there is one thing that this Bill does, it is to confer very great authority on the new Australian Film Commission. I insist- certainly the amendments I will propose will be to this effectthat some of that authority should be regulated and modified. These remarks apply particularly to clause 1 1 of the Bill under which the power, as it now stands, is complete. The Commission or its delegated authority, as represented by some other individual, could require any information of any person. That is simply too wide a power to provide to the Commission for the purposes of film making and film distribution. Therefore, I say that in my opinion the Senate should take a different viewpoint and in conferring, even under amended powers, very great power on the Commission, it should make sure that in the end it is the Parliament which has the oversight of the use or misuse of those powers. I certainly would like to see, by way of amendment, the final responsibility for the Commission intruding into what are now free industries or free enterprises in the community and how far the intrusion goes come under the direct oversight of the Parliament. In Committee I will be moving amendments to provide for parliamentary authority. Speaking at a different level, I think that the South Australian Films Commission set up by the South Australian Government would be operating far more efficiently if it were under far more direct supervision by the Parliament than it is at the moment. Certainly, in this instance of conferring much wider powers on the Commission I would like to see the oversight of it left with the Parliament itself.

I also hope that it is the Commission's intention and certainly the Minister's intention that a great deal of material should be available and that exhibitors and theatre operators in Australia should in no way be directed, in the sense that there is only a very small amount of material from which to choose, in disciplines they must observe in respect of the time factors which will be presented to them and the proportions they must observe in showing Australian short films. I imagine that it is certainly the Minister's intention that the Commission should develop as soon as possible a very wide range of material so that a de facto form of censorship will not be imposed by that sort of limitation. I see little reason to hold up the second reading of the Bill. I certainly believe that there is ample precedent in the Minister's attention to television for him to further busy himself as he desires in this direction. But, in approving the second reading of the Bill, I do so on the basis that I want to move quite important amendments during the Committee stage.

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