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Wednesday, 23 October 1974
Page: 1887

Senator STEELE HALL (South AustraliaLeader of the Liberal Movement) - I wonder which is closer to the people, whether it is the Minister who is elected to this House or the Commission without the responsibility to the public and in the fashion as Senator Greenwood recommends it. I suggest that the Minister stands far closer in the control of the elector than does the Commission which is outside ministerial direction. If we are to suppose that we are arguing the cause of the people for control of their commission, certainly I would argue for the Bill as it is. I would urge not to take it completely out of the Parliament's hands, as I believe the South Australian Film Corporation is quite separate from the Parliament. I think it is far too separate from public scrutiny so that the Minister is able to turn queries away from it. I would like to see the Bill passed in its present form. It is not unusual for a government to support publications, as Senator Greenwood said it ought not to do. I remember that once the South Australian Government gave $10,000 to produce a book on condition that it was produced by a certain society. It was produced by the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science to commemorate a conference held in South Australia. The title of the book was 'South Australia from the Air' and the South Australian Government quite freely and proudly subsidised its publication.

I am sure that there would be many other instances of governments helping in the publication of literature, and directly so, without an intermediary such as a commission. In a sense the Minister is his own customer in respect of some provisions of the Bill. The Senate has to realise that the Commission will be making films on behalf of some government departments. Once I had the responsibility of promoting industrial development. I commissioned a 10- minute film which was a major undertaking. I suppose it would have cost about $20,000 had it been done outside of government involvement. It was filmed by government cameramen and I supervised and revised the script. It was made to the customer's specification. It was a successful film and was widely distributed around the world.

I imagine that the Government will request the Commission to make films specifically tailored for departmental use. I see nothing at all wrong in a Minister's requesting a film for a specific purpose for his Department, whether in the field of urban development, foreign affairs or any other aspect of publication. Surely the Minister is not only right in having some approval conditions laid down for the provision of funds but also should go even further and, if necessary, look at the script if his own Department is the customer. I have a personal precedent, as I have said, which I believe proves that to be quite the proper thing to do.

If the Minister is to misuse his approval and is to direct ruthlessly to the detriment of the industry and the Commission, and what is possibly more important, the public investment in it, he will be responsible to this House. He will be subject to direct criticism and will not be able to shelter as some of his colleagues have been trying to shelter on the big financial questions of the day behind Treasury. He will have to take the responsibility for the decisions he makes and for him there will be no sheltering from the criticism of the public in the people's House. Having regard to what Senator Greenwood has said, I choose the Minister's approval and his responsibility here rather than his being removed from the scene and therefore unable to take that responsiblity. I cannot agree with the amendment.

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