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Celebrating 75 years of regular radio broadcast of the Australian Parliament

Thursday, 25 November 2021 in

This year we celebrated the 75 years of parliamentary broadcasting. Since 1946, Australians have been able to tune in to Parliament from across the country.


Australia was the second Commonwealth parliament (after New Zealand, in 1936) to commence regular live radio broadcast of its proceedings. 


Before it was able to commence, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting undertook a report on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Debates, and new legislation was subsequently passed.


Recording rooms in the Chamber 31.7.1946

Image: Recording rooms in the Chamber 31 July 1946. Courtesy Col Hattersley, Museum of Australian Democracy collection. 

Report on the broadcasting of parliamentary debates

In 1945, The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting were requested by the Postmaster-General, in terms of reference under section 85 of the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act 1932, to consider and report to Parliament:

  1. whether the broadcasting of Parliamentary debates is desirable, and
  2. if so, to what extent and in what manner should such broadcasts be undertaken.

The Committee assessed the New Zealand broadcasting service, a service that had been established since 1936. The Committee heard from witnesses as to how the New Zealand broadcasting service was set up, what was broadcast, and how often they would broadcast.

The Committee concluded that the New Zealand broadcasts had played an important part in the political education of the people, enabling them to be better informed on the positive and negative sides of public questions and thereby ensuring more effective functioning of the democratic system of government. Further, the service has forged a link between the Parliament and the people of New Zealand – something not found in Australia at the time.

The weight of evidence convinced the Committee that parliamentary broadcasting should be introduced in this country ‘as soon as circumstances permit’. This was based on the opportunities to:

  • raise the standard of debates
  • enhance the standing of Parliament
  • reach citizens across Australia.

Read the Report on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Debates from 1945.


Image: Recording rooms in the Chamber 31 July 1946. Courtesy Col Hattersley, Museum of Australian Democracy collection. 

Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act 1946

On 5 July 1946, the Minister for Information, Arthur Calwell introduced the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act 1946  which required the Australian Broadcasting Commission (now Corporation) to radio broadcast proceedings of the House of Representatives and the Senate. 


The Act established a Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings, chaired by the Presiding Officers, to control radio broadcast and rebroadcast, and televised joint sittings.


Radio broadcast is bound by general principles (such as each house having an equal allocation of broadcast time), and standing determinations (including the broadcasting schedule on sitting days). 


Read more information the committee’s recent inquiries and reports over previous parliaments.