4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the Chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SAMPSON presented petitions from the subscribers to the telephone exchange at Warracknabeal, Mildura, and Kerang, and, on behalf of Dr. Carty
Salmon, from subscribers to the telephone exchanges at Maryborough and Castlemaine, praying the House to suspend the operation of regulation 7A until the condition of the telephone service has been further considered, and the recommendations of the Postal Commission in regard to it have been placed before Parliament.
Minister of External Affairs lay on the table a copy of any offer made by the Holder or Jenkins Government of South Australia to transfer the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth, and the correspondence pertaining thereto?’
– Everything has been laid on the table of the House, and is in print.
– I think that that is so, but if the honorable member will let me know exactly what he requires, I shall try to get the information for him.
– I wish to know from the Treasurer when we may expect to hear his Budget speech. Last year, he affected to think that the preparation of the financial statement was a very simple matter. I would remind him that we have now reached the 17th August.
– The Budget will be delivered on some date before the end of this month.
Mr. FISHER laid upon the table the following paper : -
Public Service Act - Department of the Treasury - Auditor-General s Office - Recommendations, &c, in cases of promotion of G. H. Gatehouse as Chief Clerk, 1st Class; L. Cantwell, as Examiner, 2nd Class; J. Maher, as Examiner, 3rd Class ; anil C. L. Westbrook, as Examiner, 4th Class.
The Clerk laid upon the table
Papua- - Appointments made in the Public Service - Return to an Order of the House, dated nth August, 1910.
Telephone Administration : Rates, Change of System, Obsolete Char-‘ acter of Instruments, Undergrounding of Wires, Bendigo - Telegraph Instruments - Hay Post Office Clock.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral seen the statement in . the press that Dr. Bell, who is acknowledged to be the greatest telephone expert, prefers the flat to the toll system for charging for the telephone services? If so, is the honorable gentleman likely to stay his hand, and inquire a little further into the matter before making any change?
– I have not seen the statement referred to, but I know that Dr. Graham Bell has said that the measured rate system is the fair and equitable one.
– I wish to know from the Postmaster-General what will be the position, on the 1st September next, of subscribers who have paid for the use of their instruments for a term which will not have expired by that date? Will they lose the extra money that they have paid?
– If, on 1st September, a subscriber wishes to discontinue, whatever money he has paid to the Department for a term of service extending be yond that date will be refunded to him, but if a subscriber desires to continue, the sum will be credited to him in connexion with the accounts of the coming half-year. /
– Will the PostmasterGeneral ascertain if it is practicable to put on additional hands with a view to expediting the undergrounding of telephone wires in Bendigo?
– The work there, and in other places, will be carried on as expeditiously as possible.
– Is this work being done by day labour or by contract?
– By day labour.
– Has the Postmaster-General read that Dr. Bell yesterday informed the Postal Commission that our telephone appliances are not uptodate? Will the honorable gentleman take steps, either by sending our men to centres where everything is modern, or by securing the services of men accustomed to work among more modern surroundings, to bring our telephone service up-to-date, and to prevent the expenditure of money on obsolete instruments and appliances?
-We have realized that the system in vogue here is out of date, and in every State we are endeavouring to modernize it. At Hobart’ there is the most up-to-date system in existence, and the Sydney system is partly up to date, a large number of subscribers there being connected with the common battery board, which Dr. Bell says is the most modern arrangement. In Melbourne, we shall endeavour to connect all subscribers with a common battery board in the new exchange, which has been building for some years past. I hope that it will be opened in a few months, and that the people of Melbourne will be served by the most up-to-date telephone system in the world.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
In view of the answer to a question yesterday that all post-office clocks in existence before Federation should be maintained and effectively lighted, will he now see that the post-office clock at Hay be effectively lighted ?
– Inquiry is being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as the necessary information is received.
Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– I move -
The discussion of this proposal for a few moments - I do not think it will take much more - will be a change from the consideration of financial measures. There has been some misconception as to the intention of the Government. From what has appeared in some London newspapers, it has evidently been thought that the Government wishes to subsidize certain Labour newspapers. I know how the misconception must have arisen. It is explained in a letter which I received this morning from Mr. Temperley, in which he says -
Yesterday I sent you a telegram asking you to accept my assurance that I had not at any time sent a cablegram to London containing the statements referred to by Mr. Johnson in the House on the9th instant. I beg to forward you enclosed official copy of the cablegram I did send the day after Parliament was opened to Mr. R. McMillan, one of our directors in London. Kindly note that the words “ Independent Cable “ were the actual words contained in the Governor’s address.
I have the honor, &c,
One of the two associations which now send press cable services to Australia is called the Independent Cable Service.
– There are only two, one of them being called the United and the other the Independent.
– What was the cablegram to which the honorable gentleman alluded ?
– It reads as follows : -
Governor’s speech announced subsidy six thousand pounds over three years Independent cable expected start first A ugust. -Temperley.
I do not know whether Mr. Temperley misunderstood the words ‘in the GovernorGeneral’s speech ; but evidently at the other end they were mistaken for a promise for a subsidy to this particular company. As a matter of fact, what the words meant, and what I think honorable members generally understood, was that the policy of the Government was to give a subsidy to a cable service which would be independent - that is, independent in the sense that the conditions that are attached to the agreement under which most of the newspapers of Australia get their cable service would be left out, that every newspaper would be free to get its news from where it liked, and that no prohibitions or difficulties would be set up in the way of newspapers starting anywhere in Australia. In that sense the word “ independent “ has been used, meaning a truly independent service.
– Under the Government proposal, no newspapers will be boycotted.
– The Government want to subsidize certain newspapers.
– I want to remove that misconception as to the policy of the Government. Nothing was further from our intentions than to subsidize certain newspapers. Our idea is to secure a truly independent cable service. That is what we are arranging, and we are quite indifferent as to what association provides it. The honorable member is apparently so used to trickiness in these matters that he does not seem to understand straightforward dealing.
– The Government want to give cheap telegrams to Labour newspapers.
– What nonsense! I suppose that the honorable gentleman is so desirous of trying to think the very worst of his opponents that he assumes whatever he sees or hears to their detriment to be true. But let me assure him that his statement is wholly untrue. I do not intend to be drawn off any more, by his interjections from a statement of the proposals of the Government.
– Is any other private cable service to be subsidized by this Government?
– Not so far as I know. Up to 1895 there were two cable associations supplying news to the Australian newspapers. The Melbourne Age, the Sydney Daily .Telegraph, and the Adelaide Advertiser comprised one group. The other group of newspapers which had a separate cable service was composed of the Melbourne Argus, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Sydney Evening News, and the Adelaide Register. Honorable members will see from these combinations that at that time - I do not say at present - there was a distinct cleavage in policy. Generally speaking, the Age, the Telegraph, and the Advertiser were the Liberal newspapers, as against the Argus, the Herald, the Register, and the Evening News.
– Which were. Conservative then.
– At that time the latter were much more conservative than the other group.
– Did not some Queensland newspapers belong to one group or the other?
– No; they were subscribers. The Western Australian newspapers are subscribers just as the Melbourne Herald is a subscriber. The subscribers to the Argus-Herald Association were the Brisbane Courier, the Tasmanian Press Association, the Country Press Associations of Victoria and New South Wales, and the West Australian. And the subscribers to the other group were the Melbourne Herald, the Brisbane Evening Telegraph, the Sydney Star, and the Western Australian Daily News. It will be seen that the newspapers whose proprietors were not shareholders in the Cable Association grouped themselves, very naturally, according to their general policy, and so we had two associations representing newspapers with somewhat different policies, and providing a separate cable service.
– What is the object of having this subsidy for only messages passing over one particular cable, namely, the Pacific cable?
– Let me deal with one thing at a time. At present, I am describing the position prior to the combination, which occurred in 1895, and under which all cable news coming to Australia has been diverted into one channel-
– Does not the honorable gentleman think that it is making in the direction of a more plentiful supply of news ?
– Of a particular kind.
– It may have been, but I should say that the probability is that more news was provided under the old system, when two strong associations were in competition. In 1895, they decided to combine for business purposes in order to cheapen the service to both groups, and they formed an agreement, to the main features of which I desire to draw attention. It was a business agreement made with the intention of strengthening the newspapers, and enabling them to get a much cheaper service.
– Does the honorable memtier call it a business agreement to distinguish it from the proposed agreement which I hold in my hand?
– Yes. The latter is not a business agreement in that sense. There is no commercialism in it. A copy of the agreement of 1895 was handed in by Mr. Mackinnon, managing director of the new combination, to the Select Committee of the Senate on Press Cable Service, and appears as appendix E -
This agreement, made the thirteenth day of August, One thousand eight hundred and ninetyfive, between the proprietary of each of the following newspapers, namely, the Argus, the Sydney Morning Herald, the South Australian Register, and the Sydney Evening News (hereinafter collectively called the Argus-Herald Association) of the first part, and the proprietary of each of the following newspapers, namely, the Age, the Sydney Daily Telegraph, and the South Australian Advertiser (hereinafter collectively called the Age Association), of the second part : -
The parties hereto shall procure for their respective benefits a service of cable messages from Europe and other foreign parts for publication in the several newspapers of which the parties hereto are now, or of which they may respectively hereafter be, the bonâ fide proprietors, and the costs and expenses of and incidental to obtaining such cable messages shall be borne by each of the parties hereto in the proportions hereinafter mentioned.
The second paragraph of the agreement provides that the direction and control of the combined service shall be under the care of the Argus-Herald Association, and that during the currency of the agreement the proprietary of the Argus newspaper shall be empowered to sue and take all proceedings, and generally to manage the whole business.
– What has all this to do with us?
– It has something to do with my proposition.
– It has nothing to do with the primary purpose of the motion.
– It has everything to do with the primary purpose of the motion, as I think the honorable member will see. Clause 5 of the agreement reads -
That the total maximum cost for such cable messages as aforesaid shall be the sum of £12,000 sterling per annum.
It fixed the annual minimum cost at £12,000, to be borne equally by the two associations. I think that the honorable member for Parkes will see that the clause which’ I am” about to read has something to do with the motion -
That no messages shall be supplied to the proprietary of any newspaper published either in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, or Brisbane, other than in respect of the newspapers mentioned in this agreement without the unanimous consent of the parties hereto, except to the proprietary of any evening newspaper or newspapers which may hereafter be published in Melbourne.
Honorable members will see the object of that clause. It was to provide exclusive use of the news forwarded by the Cable Association. When Mr. Mackinnon, managing director of the Association, was under crossexamination by the Select Committee of the Senate, he made a reference to that clause which I may mention has been modified somewhat since then. On page 14 of the report, honorable members will find a statement which Mr. Mackinnon read to the Select Committee. Referring to that particular matter, he said -
Complaint has been made that a daily paper which was recently started in one of the capitals was refused the cable service by the Association. When the Association was formed a clause was embodied in the agreement requiring that the unanimous consent of the whole of the parties to it should be obtained before any new daily paper established in Adelaide, Melbourne, or Sydney could be furnished with the cable news. This provision was part and parcel of a legal document, and had, of course, the force of law, and had to be carried out. But to meet the altered circumstances and conditions which the lapse of time has brought, this provision has, within the past few months, been waived by mutual consent of all parties to the agreement. Consequently, there is no bar to any paper obtaining the Association’s cable news on terms to be arranged.
A clause, manifestly preventing the establishment of a rival newspaper by barring it from participating in the joint cable service, and saddling it with the heavy cost of maintaining unaided its own cable service, was recognised by the public as so serious a bar to public liberty that the Association themselves waived the requirement of the mutual consent of all parties.
– Will the honorable member say what there is to prevent other newspapers from making an arrangement of their own?
– The newspapers I mentioned embrace all the daily newspapers in Australia. To compete with them, any other newspaper would have to provide at least as full a supply of cable news as is given by them. And to do that it would have to incur .as much expense individually as the whole of the Australian newspapers belonging to this association incur collectively. What newspaper could be started in such circumstances?
– Is this then a proposal to start the publication of fresh newspapers ?
– No, the honorable member knows what it is.
– I do not, and I wish that the honorable member would tell me.
– I am answering a question put by the honorable member himself, by pointing out the circumstances in which the proprietors of a newspaper would be placed in commencing operations. They would have to compete with a rival association embracing all the big daily newspapers of Australia, and would be called upon to bear, unaided, and with no prospect of securing the co-operation of others, the whole cost of a cable service. The cost of cablegrams is one of the chief items of expenditure to which a newspaper is necessarily put. The terms of the United Cable Association have been modified to the extent that the unanimous consent of all its members is not now required to an application for participation in their news. Such an application can be granted without the unanimous consent of all concerned, but terms must be arranged. The question of terms is, of course, most important.
– What proportion of the members of the association have now to consent to the granting of such an application. There must be a majority ?
– No proportion is stated. Applicants may obtain the service on terms to be arranged, but the actual terms are not defined. It is not suggested that the proprietors of a new newspaper should be allowed to come in, and to participate in this service on equal terms with those who had established it, but the terms, as I have said, are indefinite, and might be entirely prohibitive.
– Can the honorable gentleman tell us whether the association has been asked to submit terms?
– I do not know that it has been asked since it was decided to waive the clause in the agreement providing for mutual consent, but prior to that a request to participate in the service was made and refused.
– When was the agreement altered with respect to the requirement as to unanimous consent?
– I do not think that that alteration will legally come into effect until September or November next, but it was made, I think, in July of last year, during the sittings of the Select Committee, appointed by another place to consider this question, or, at all events, after the motion for its appointment had been carried.
– Does the honorable member question the right of the newspaper proprietors that have established the service to-
– No, I have said that I consider it a business arrangement on the part of the newspapers. What we have to determine, however, relates not to that consideration, but to what is the best course to adopt in order to secure to the public of Australia the fullest possible supply of news. If newspaper proprietors have entered into a combination in restraint of news, is not that a serious matter?
– Has any one suggested that they are doing so?
– The honorable member has been asleep. It has not only been suggested, but actually maintained in many quarters, that there has been restraint of news. The case, however, for this proposal does not depend upon the making of charges against the United Cable Service Association. It is based upon the general principle that if assistance is given by the Commonwealth Government to any association for the supply of cable news we should not permit any barrier to the dissemination of that news amongst all newspapers.
– Is this the way to secure the remedy ?
– It is the only practicable remedy.
– Making the public pay for some supposed delinquencies on the part of a supposed newspaper trust.
– While I shall be” prepared to hear the honorable member defend the press agreement, I should be surprised if he did so.
– What provision will be made for the supply of cable news to newspapers that are published only once a week ? Such newspapers are not referred to in the conditions.
– In paragraph 4 of the conditions we have the words -
The proprietor of any newspaper in the Commonwealth shall be entitled to become a subscriber to the Association for the cable service on payment of the annual rate applicable under Schedule A.
That gives to every newspaper the right to obtain this service.
– Will the weekly newspapers have to pay the same rates as the daily newspapers?
– The Government in the schedule have simply set forth the maximum annual charges.
– That is so; we have given the. maximum rates, and we could not be expected to state in the motion the amount that each newspaper should pay. To attempt to do so would obviously be absurd.
– I rise to a point of order. It seems to me, Mr. Speaker, that this matter should have originated in Committee. Standing order 243 provides that -
If any motion be made in the House for any public aid or charge upon the people the consideration and debate thereof may not be presently entered upon, but shall be adjourned till such further day as the House shall think fit to appoint, and then it shall be refererd to a Committee of the whole House before any resolution or vote of the House do pass thereon.
We are here discussing a detailed proposal. The charges enumerated in the conditions are specific, and indeed are set out in detail. I submit that the place where any modification of those charges and the conditions attaching to them can be discussed is in Committee of Supply. I am aware that some motions of this kind have been submitted in the House. For instance, the motion relating to the mail contract was so submitted, but to submit such a detailed motion as this in the House is to curtail our privileges. Our privileges are, as a rule, safeguarded by the terms of the motion itself, and if the terms of this motion were abstract or general I should not take exception to the course being pursued. But they are not. The motion fixes the conditions that should attach to the grant that is proposed to be made by the Government. May dealing with this point says -
In like manner motions advocating public expenditure - precisely what this motion does- or the imposition of a charge - this advocates the expenditure of money and the imposition of a charge - if the motion be framed in sufficiently abstract and general terms can be entertained and agreed to by the House.
Can any one say that the terms of this proposition aire abstract or general ? It actually goes into details and determinesthe number of words per week that is to be sent, and the conditions to be subscribed toby those who seek to take advantage of trieservice. It may be said that this question will come up again, but in what way will it be brought up ? It will only come before us again, I presume, on the Estimates. Will all these particularities appear on the Estimates? They never do. The only place in which we may discuss the particularities of this motion is, I submit, in Committee, and I contend further that it should be preceded by a message from the Governor-General.
– I submit that the objection taken by the honorable member for Parramatta is supported by logic and convenience. If, as he contends, this motion is not to be followed by a measure to be dealt with in the ordinary way, it’ seems to me that it is really equivalent to a Bill, and will have the effect of committing the House to a series of details without giving it an opportunity to discuss them in Committee. If all the Government have to do, after passing this detailed motion, is to provide for the amount in a lump sum on the Estimates, it is probable that the matter will be passed over without that careful and detailed consideration which it demands. The honorable member forParramatta has pointed out that the conditions lay down very carefully the annual payments for the first, second, and third years of the service, and give actual details as to the number of words which newspapers shall have an opportunity of receiving through this medium. The standing order which the honorable member has read seems to be aimed at preventing honorable members being deprived of a fair opportunity to discuss such details in Committee, as we should be able to do if they were embodied in a Bill. I therefore think that the contention of the honorable member for Parramatta should be upheld, and that this motion should be discussed in Committee, if honorable members are to be given the privilege of a detailed discussion of it.
– I direct attention to the terms of the motion, which is clearly intended to get the sense of the House as to whether such a policy should be adopted. The carrying of this motion will not involve the appropriation of a penny of revenue. An appropriation will still be necessary to cover the expenditure required to give it effect. The objections which honorable members have raised are, therefore, without force.
– Could all these conditions be included in the Estimates?
– This motion is intended merely to secure an expression of the opinion of the House that a subsidy on certain broad lines would be desirable.
– It will be stating the opinion of the House on a proposed contract.
– It was quite unnecessary for my purpose to have included in this motion a single word about the conditions. I might have stated in a general way the conditions which I thought should apply to the proposed subsidy, but I thought it right that honorable members should be treated with absolute fairness, and, therefore, the conditions to be attached to the grant of the subsidy have been included in the motion submitted to them. I repeat that the carrying of the motion will involve merely an expression of opinion by the House on the question of a subsidy for a cable service.
– And also on the conditions, surely ?
– As I understand the matter, the objection raised by the honorable member for Parramatta is thatthis is an appropriation.
– No, it is a motion f or a charge.
– I understood the honorable member to contend that this is a motion for the appropriation of a certain sum, and that it should have been preceded by a message from the Crown.
– If the honorable member takes the other view that it is merely a motion including a certain amount of detail, he must see that his point of order cannot possibly be sustained. The only objection on the ground of order which I think he could raise was that the motion should be preceded by a message from the Crown for an appropriation; but this motion appropriates nothing. It merely says that, in the opinion of the House, such and such a thing should be done.
– The details of the contract proposed will require an appropriation.
– That is quite true. The honorable member reminded the House that in connexion with the mail contract a similar course was followed, and that afterwards an appropriation had to be obtained in another form. I take it that before the Minister could spend threepence in connexion with the proposed subsidy, the amount would have to be appropriated by. Parliament. I do not know what course the Government intend to follow, but I presume that a vote for the purpose will be included in the Estimates. If that course is followed, it will be seen that the object of the honorable member for Parkes, as well as the honorable member for Parramatta, will be served, since an ample opportunity will be given to every member of the House to discuss the details of the vote before it is agreed to. If the Government decide to bring the matter forward in the form of a Bill, honorable members will remember that the Bill must go through Committee, and the same object would therefore be served at that stage.
– Do you suggest, sir, that we can vary this contract in discussing the Estimates ?
– The honorable member’s interjection is welcome, because it affords me an opportunity to convey additional information. He asks whether I suggest that it will be possible for honorable members to alter the terms of this motion in discussing a vote on the Estimates. He must know that it will not ; but honorable members have full opportunity to alter the terms of this motion now if they think fit.
– Yes; the House can deal with this motion in any way it thinks proper. It can reject it, add words to it, or strike words out of it.
– Can we discuss the motion?
– Honorable members are at liberty to discuss the motion, and deal with it in any way they please. The privileges of honorable members are safeguarded to the fullest extent in the circumstances, and I therefore rule that the motion is in order.
– I should like to ask for further information. I understood you, sir, to say that the House has a full opportunity to discuss every part of the motion, and to amend it as it sees fit. Will it be possible for that to be done when each speaker is limited to one speech on the motion ? Is it not necessary, if honorable members are to have a full opportunity to deal with the details of the motion, that it should be considered in Committee ?
– Honorable members have a full opportunity to move any amendment they think right on the motion. It is true that each honorable member will have the right to speak once only on the motion, but if an amendment is moved, each honorable member will have the right to speak again on the amendment.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, and in order that the ruling you give may be quite clear, I wish to remind you that when I moved to omit a certain word in another motion, and proposed later to add further words as a consequence of the omission of that word, you ruled that I could move only one amendment, and was not entitled to move another.
– The honorable member is quite correct.
– That means that we cannot properly discuss the details of this motion in the House.
– After this interlude, I shall resume my speech where I left off. In clause 10 of this agreement, there was an arrangement arrived at between the two associations, under which news was to be supplied to Reuter’s Telegraph Company in Australia. That was modified by an agreement entered into later between Reuter’s Company and the combined associations. That arrangement was a reciprocal one, under which the united cable associations agreed to supply Reuter’s Company in Melbourne with all their news free for sale to whatever newspapers they pleased at their own price. In return for that, Reuter’s Company undertook to place all their foreign service news in London at the disposal of the association’s compilers in their London office. The next clause in the agreement is one to which I take the strongest possible exception. It is one which I think we are justified as a Parliament in doing all we can to prevent being carried out. if this combination is to be the only body supplying news to Australia. Clause n reads -
Neither of the proprietaries constituting the aforesaid respective associations shall (subject to the proviso in this clause contained) use any European or foreign cables other than and except the cable messages, the subject of this agreement, and in case of wilful breach of this stipulation by any proprietary the proprietary committing the breach shall pay to the credit of the general fund of the cable service, as and by way of liquidated damages, for each and every such breach, and not as a penalty, the sum of One thousand pounds sterling.
Every newspaper in Australia is bound by this undertaking to publish only the information supplied by this Association under a penalty for every breach of ^1,000. No matter how important certain information might be, or how desirable in the public interest, or in the interests of any of the proprietaries, its publication might be, it cannot be published under a penalty of £1,000. There is one exception mentioned which does not affect the matter. The clause proceeds -
And any agreement to be entered into with any subscriber or contributor to the service under the control* of the parties hereto shall provide against such subscriber or contributor using any foreign or European cables except as aforesaid.
So that this binds not only direct proprietaries, but every subscriber to their cable service. Any one who becomes a subscriber is bound to continue to be an exclusive subscriber. This clause provides for exclusive trading of the most pronounced type. It continues -
European or foreign messages shall include all messages received in Australia by cable from places beyond the Australian Colonies, Tasmania, New Zealand, and New Caledonia.
Then there is a proviso covering the onlycase in which an exception is made -
Provided always that nothing in this clause contained shall apply to Government or private messages received by any persons or corporations for their own bond fide use and at their own expense, or at the expense of the sender,, and handed by them for publication to any of the newspapers hereinbefore mentioned or referred to.
News sent to a private person in Australia? may be published, but not news supplied from any of the recognised sources. Colonel Reay, editor of the MelbourneHerald, which is a subscriber to the Association, made the following reference to this in the evidence he gave before theSelect Committee, in answer to questions- 738 and 739-
You have told us that the agreement bindsyou to accept no cable from any other source? - Yes; it precludes us from accepting any other cable service, but not from the publication of a message received privately, or messages that might he supplied by the Government. For instance, we publish every week the prices of the produce markets sent by the State AgentGeneral.
But you cannot go behind the back of the Association and obtain cables from another source ? -No. When I was in South Africa during the war I had to rely entirely on letters.
Here was a gentleman sent to South Africa as the war correspondent for his newspaper, and because the newspaper was a subscriber to the Association, he was unable during the progress of the war to forward any cables for publication.
I could not send any cables. Similarly when I was in London during the last Imperial Conference - when Mr. Deakin represented the Commonwealth - I could not send cables. I had to rely upon letters again.
Honorable members will see that I am not overstating the case, but putting the actual facts, as they were up to the starting of the rival association, some months ago. News had to come through one source only, and no newspaper, under penalty of being deprived of news altogether, or paying £1,000 for every breach of the agreement, had a right to go outside for information.
– The newspapers of this combine are now debarred from using other cablegrams.
– The agreement stands to-day, and Mr. Mackinnon, in his evidence, distinctly said that he was not prepared to alter the provision. There is a good deal of evidence to the same effect, but I am not quoting any more than is necessary to show the state of the case. I do not suggest that there is anything unfair or improper in the attitude of the Cable Association, which is a business concern, bent on doing the very best for its members. Mr. Archibald. - It is a business monopoly.
– And like all monopolies-
– It is not a monopoly, because other newspapers may combine, and have an arrangement of their own.
– Of course, they may; but while it is not a technical monopoly, it is, as a matter of fact, an absolute monopoly. What is the use of the honorable member for Parkes sticking his head in the sand?
– It is a practical monopoly.
– It is of no use our pretending to each other; and. the honorable member should keep his pretending for the platform outside. As a matter of practice, this is a monopoly, and no newspaper could, as rival to the association, pay for a cable service of its own. There is just one other reference I desire to make to Colonel Reay’s evidence. That witness was asked -
Supposing a further concession were made in the matter of reducing rates, should it not be made on the understanding that the wishes of the Government were attended to in some respects? - No. I think it would be a great mistake if anything were done to enable a Government to exercise control over newspapers in that way.
I agree with Colonel Reay in that respect.
– How is it proposed to control the service?
– A copy of the conditions was, I think, distributed to honorable members yesterday. Colonel Reay continued -
We do not want to create in Australia such a situation as exists, let us say, in Germany, where the official control exercised over newspapers has not always been to the public interest. I should imagine, from what I have read, that the Franco-Prussian war was caused largely owing to the fact that Bismarck was able to control some of the newspapers in Germany.
– That was not control in the sense meant by the Minister of External Affairs - it was not control by means of a ‘cable monopoly.
– No, Bismarck’s control was by a censorship.
– A totally different thing.
– Quite a different thing ; and I am not saying that the cases are analogous. I am pointing out that by the control of the newspapers, which are’ the sole source of public information, one unscruplous man, according to Colonel Reay’s evidence, was able to bring on the FrancoPrussian war, probably, one of the most unjustifiable of wars. And, if the sources of information may be controlled by an individual, or set of individuals, the same thing may occur again.
– Colonel Reay must know very little of European history.
– I am not concerned about the accuracy of Colonel Reay’s opinion as to whether Bismarck did or did not cause a war in Europe by his control of the newspapers; but we do know that wars are caused by racial feeling, stirred by newspapers - sometimes, I am afraid, to the prejudice of the peace of the world - by publications which are more concerned about getting spicy and readable matter than advancing the true interests of their nation.
– I have known wars stirred up by politicians.
– I daresay the honorable member is giving us a little autobiography just now. Honorable members will see that this clause of the agreement is very binding, and one which, however desirable it may be in the interests of. the newspapers, cannot for one moment be contended to be in the interests of the public. I do not know that there is any other clause that needs particular reference. The agreement was originally for five years, but it was extended twice for a similar period, on 30th November, 1899, and on 3rd October, 1904, and at the time of the publication of the particulars was very nearly due for another extension. I gathered from a remark in Mr. Mackinnon’s evidence that the agreement would stand, at any rate, until the end of this year.
– Supposing the newspapers cancelled the agreement, who would get the subject of the monopoly, if it is a monopoly ? - Mr. BATCHELOR.- I do not know.
– The Minister does not know, because there is none.
– Probably not; there is nothing in the agreement which states who would get the subject of the monopoly, and, as a matter of fact, it would be open to everybody. I am not complaining of a combination in order to establish a service, or of certain newspapers joining in order to get the best possible service for themselves. The point is that, in order to attain this object, those newspapers have combined in such a way as to prevent news coming to Australia from any other source, however desirable such news might be.
– Who will prepare the news to be sent out under the agreement ?
– Paragraph 2 of the conditions “ states that the cable service is to consist of items of news electrically transmitted from oversea to the Association in Australia.
– Who is to send the news ? »
– Paragraph 5 plOvides -
A subscriber shall- not be liable to any penalty or disability at the instance of the Association by reason that he receives and publishes in his newspaper cables or other electrically transmitted matter received from some source other than the Association.
Newspapers are entitled to receive news from any source. If this subsidy be accepted, the subscribing newspaper must be free to get news from anywhere it chooses.
– Who is to collect the news in England and elsewhere?
– That is a matter for the newspaper which obtains the information.
– It is a matter for the Association.
– But the honorable member for Swan is suggesting that a newspaper may go to other than the recognised associations to get its news - to other sources than Reuter’s and the other agencies - and I say that that is a matter for the newspapers themselves. So far as we are concerned, we insist that those who receive the subsidy shall not impose any penalty on a newspaper which goes elsewhere.
– If there is no combination the cabling will be much more expensive.
– That is probably true. I do not think we could have nearly as good a supply of news if there were no combination; but to have only one source is dangerous in the interests of the community. We have a precedent in Canada, where the Government, because, in their opinion, there was a deficiency in Empire news supplied by the one Association, gave a subsidy of ^3,000 a year, some six years ago, and a subsidy is still paid. At the present time there are two rival associations. Recently a second association has been established calling itself the Independent Cable Service Association. It is at present struggling along under great difficulties, because it is unable to get the support of any of the daily newspapers of Australia, with the exception of, I think, two. The others stand out because they are necessarily bound by an arrangement which was insisted upon by the combine when they became subscribers to its service. The agreements of the various newspapers with the Association naturally expire at different times, so that they have no opportunity at any one time of insisting upon different terms.
– The Government -propose in the conditions to confine this subsidy to the “one existing association.” They do not propose to allow any fresh association to come in.
– We do not confine this subsidy to any particular association. We propose to give it to any association which will conform to the conditions.
– The motion read with the conditions appears to apply to an existing association.
– It applies to either of the present associations if they will conform.
– Does not the resolution exclude a third or a fourth if they want to come in?
– Of course, the subsidy can be given to only one.
– Why should there not be an entirely new association?
– If any new association comes along with a proposal, there is no reason why its claim should not be considered.
-Then this resolution is not intended to be a limitation against a new association?
– No, there is no objection to any other association coming in, provided that it carries out the conditions.
– Would the Government include the present Association in the arrangement ?
– Undoubtedly. The right honorable member is quite in error if he supposes that it is intended to bolster up any particular association. One of the strongest reasons for bringing forward this proposal is that at present there are two associations. If there were only one, it would be quite idle for us to talk about proposing the conditions and terms under which it should carry on its monopoly. But as there is a rival association, an opportunity is afforded for the Government to lay down conditions under which we think the public can be better served.
– Suppose that more than one association wants to come in?
– Then the matter will be considered by the Government as to which association shall receive the subsidy.
– Could not the subsidy be divided between them?
– That might be possible. The right honorable member is, however, asking me to jump before we reach the fence. At any rate, if more than one association is prepared to come into this scheme, all that we desire is to have these conditions complied with. That they are perfectly fair conditions no one can deny. They are purely in the interest of the public.
– The conditions appear to apply to existing “ associations only.
– I do not attach any importance to the word “ existing.” Of course, however, the Government do not want to be troubled by proposals which really have nothing behind them. It would be of no use to hold out encouragement to persons who merely desired to start an association. We want to deal with an association as to which there is some possibility of carrying out the agreement.
– The Minister reserves to himself, under paragraph 4 of the motion, the right to formulate and lay down conditions which the House knows nothing about.
– The honorable member will see that the conditions have been printed and laid upon the table. What I am now doing is simply to lay the matter before the House in order to ascertain its opinion on the general proposition. The detailed conditions will be as printed.
– This method of doing business will involve a detailed discussion of the conditions.
– Does the honorable member suggest that I should have included in the motion before the House a. number of conditions?
– I do not suggest that.
– I will state what the conditions are. But the principle is what is involved in the motion itself.
– How does the Minister know that further discussion may not suggest some modification of the conditions ?
– If there is any suggestion for amendment we shall be glad to consider it.
– I was thinking of suggestions that might be made by persons outside, who would be interested in obtaining the subsidy.
– Well, any modification which does not affect the principle will be considered.
– Do not modify or give way in any manner at all to the Opposition !
– I am not referring to honorable members opposite. I was alluding to a suggestion as to modifications from persons outside who may be interested. We are prepared to listen to such suggestions. While we lay down general principles there is no objection to the alteration of some details.
– An outsider might say, for instance, “ That is all right enough except for this, that, and the other thing.”
– We have formulated the general conditions which the Government think it necessary to lay down.
– May we have copies of the conditions?
– They were distributed yesterday amongst honorable members. There are some copies on the table at present. The conditions which we ask the House to consent to are, first, that a subsidy, of £6,000 shall be paid - £2,500 for the first year, ^-2,000 for the second year, and. £1,500 for the third year. The reason for those different amounts is that any association - such as the association which has recently been started, or any new association - would necessarily be put to great expense at the beginning of its operations. Next, the cable service is to consist “of news, electrically transmitted from oversea to the Association in Australia.” Those words are used to provide for a wireless service as well as for an ordinary cable service. .The minimum number of words to be transmitted is to be 6,000 per week. The number of words at present sent out per day to such newspapers as the Age and the Argus is about 1,100. Then we provide that -
At least 6,000 words of the cable service are to be transmitted in each week from Europe or America to Australia, by way of the Pacific cable, unless that cable is broken clown.
It may be asked why we lay it down that a proportion of the news must be transmitted by the Pacific cable. The reason is that the Government are concerned in the control and upkeep of the Pacific cable. It is a State-owned line, so far as the Pacific portion is concerned. The Government are responsible for the loss which at present occurs upon it, and have to call upon the taxpayers to make up the deficiency. So that, in giving such a subsidy as this, it is natural for the Government to lay it down that at least 6,000 words of the service are to be transmitted over the Pacific cable, with a view to the loss being to some extent minimized. The fourth condition is -
The proprietor of any newspaper in the Commonwealth shall be entitled to become a sub scriber to the Association for the cable service on the payment of the annual rate applicable under Schedule A.
The schedule provides that the maximum annual charge in respect of metropolitan newspapers shall be- Sydney and Melbourne, .£1,000 j Brisbane and Adelaide, £750; Perth. £500; Hobart, .£300. The maximum annual charge in respect of newspapers in the chief provincial cities is to be £200. The maximum annual charge in respect of newspapers in minor cities and towns is to be £50. That is a rough table of charges based on the probable circulation of newspapers in the cities and towns so classified. I do ‘not know that I need take up any more time upon the matter. The principles of the proposal are perfectly clear. If any one entertains the opinion that it is intended to bolster up any particular association or newspaper, I think that the conditions show that that is not the desire. The main object of the proposal is that the newspapers of this country shall be free to get their information from any source that may be available, and, further, that there shall be no combination having it within its power to prevent fresh newspapers from being established in any Australian capital or city if considered desirable.
– That is not the real object of the subsidy.
– The honorable member should try to Be as fair as I have tried to be to the existing Associations. He will see, if he looks into the matter more carefully, that all that is desired is to prevent the closing up of sources of information, the result of which might be to create in this country a most unhealthy and unsound public opinion. If no newspapers other than those now in existence can get a fair start, and if all the chief newspapers are practically compelled to be subscribers to one Association, there can be but one channel of information, and that, we hold, is an exceedingly dangerous thing.
– Could hot the Government insist upon present arrangements being altered without resort to a subsidy at all ?
– How could we?
– Why not? The Government control the telegraph.
– But we have no power to do what the right honorable member suggests.
– Why could not the Government say, “ We will not give you cheap press rates unless you conform to certain conditions.’-‘
– I dp not know of any method by which we could insist upon an alteration in that respect. I do not know of any method of attaining our object except by giving a subsidy to some Association that will conform to certain conditions.
– Could not the Government make the enjoyment of press rates, which are lower than ordinary rates, subject to certain conditions?
– That would virtually amount to the same thing as we are now proposing.
– That could be done without a subsidy at all.
– It would, as I have said, amount to the same thing. Substantially there are two Associations in existence. Assuming the case to which the right honorable member refers under this proposal of the Government, one of them would be receiving a subsidy of ^2,000 a year for three years, and the one that conformed to his proposal would be getting its press rates cheaper if it complied with certain conditions, which would probably amount to about the same thing. You would have to make an allowance in some way. I have attempted to show that it is absolutely essential for the healthy government of any Democracy which has to depend on a sound public opinion that it should be free to get its information from any source from which it was obtainable, and that the prohibitory clause, to which I have referred, is so serious a barrier to the newspapers getting sufficient desirable information
– Are the Government going to allow them to choose their informationprize fights, immoral cases, and so on?
– We are not proposing to establish a Government censorship.
– Then they may send anything they like, and as much as they like?
– They may, and it then becomes a matter for the newspaper’s, as it is now, to decide how much, or what they will print. We cannot affect that, but we think that the greatest possible amount of information should be placed at the disposal of all the Australian newspapers.
– If we found that they were printing immoral matter we should soon take action.
– That is regulated under State laws, and we could also prevent the newspapers sending any immoral or other undesirable matter through the Post. Office.
– You cannot subsidize without taking a certain responsibility in that regard. I do not know whether you ought not to limit the cables that we deal with to public affairs, or something relating to public affairs.
– I do not think there is any real danger in that respect. We cannot complain of the kind of information which has been published up to. date by the Australian newspapers, nor do I think that any association likely to be formed, or to receive the Government .subsidy, will be less concerned in keeping up a high standard of news. We need not assume that less care will be exercised in the future in regard to the kind of information published. I do not know whether any undesirable cables are now sent from the Old World, but I do know that the newspapers do not print them.
– The suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition is that there is no responsibility unless you subsidize, but when you begin to subsidize there is a certain amount of responsibility for the character of the news. You may be fathering a spicy divorce case through the cable.
– After all, that is a matter for the newspapers. We have to leave it to them to publish the sort of matter that suits them. As a matter of fact, I have seen in the cables, not so long ago, what the honorable member refers to as spicy references to divorce cases.
– This news will be published under the head-line of the Subsidized Association’s News.
– I do not know what head-lines will be used. The newspapers can use whatever head-lines they choose. I think honorable members will see that the conditions laid down are fair in the interests of the community, and that this is the best form in which we can insure to’ the public of Australia the fullest opportunity of being properly served by their newspapers. One point to which I have not yet referred is the following condition -
The Association must transmit to Australia by cable and supply to its subscribers any information on matters of Australian interest supplied to it or its agent in London by the High Commissioner.
I do not attach a great deal of importance to that, except that if the High Commissioner has any information in his possession it will be placed at the disposal of all the press of Australia, and no cable association or combine can prevent its being made available.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
.- I hope the debate will not be adjourned, unless the Minister has agreed to ‘.hat course. The question ought to be debated now. The way in which telegrams are now sent out has gone on long enough.
– If any one else is ready to speak, I have no desire to intervene. I ask leave to withdraw my motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
.- I should not have spoken on this question now, as I thought the Leader of the Opposition would speak, but the matter is very important, and those who have come under the ban of the present combined press feel it more than others. I have come under the ban of that service-
– What have they been doing to the honorable member?
– They would not allow the paper with which I was connected to come in, and for some years we had to pay for a special service, which cost us £2,000 or £3,000 a year. As the Minister has pointed out, they had the power to prevent us joining in the service.
– That is all altered now.
– I shall tell the right honorable member presently what is being done. They stopped a paper from starting in Hobart in opposition to the Mercury by that very provision in their agreement; and they have stopped other .papers throughout Australia, by that means making it a close corporation. When I was Premier of New South Wales, I could not get anything through this press giving an accurate account. They sent their own cables to England, which were not the class of cables that ought to have been sent.
– Not to suit the honorable member.
– Not to suit the public. I made an arrangement with Reuter, and got them to send cables. That was at the time of the South African war. I spoke to the manager of Reuter about it a short, time ago, and he told me that he could not now make an arrangement similar to that which he had made with me at that time, because he had entered into a combination with the associated press, or the Eastern Extension Company, so that they have snavelled Reuter as well as the rest.
– That is altered now.
– The arrangement is still in force, and Reuter have made an agreement with the press under which they are not independent. That is really what it means.
– I do not like that.
– Neither do I. It is making the service too much of a monopoly. I thought we were to have something fair. I think I am also right in saying that the originators of the associated press get their cables for nothing, because they make the other papers pay for them by subscribing largely. The only thing I regret in connexion with this proposal is that the Government do not provide more money, to insure a better service.
– And have some one to send the telegrams, as the honorable member did in the case of New South Wales.
– No, I did not. If the right honorable member wants to know what I should do, if I had my way, I should appoint a commission, irrespective of the Government, to regulate the service.
– Who would employ them if the Government did not?
– The Government would employ them. The Government would place at their disposal a sum of money, and they would act irrespective of the Government altogether.
– The honorable member would take care they were of the right colour.
– No. I should not care who the man in charge was, so long as he was a good and straightforward man. I certainly think that the service at present is not controlled as much as it should be. Talking about cables that are picked, out to be sent here, does the right honorable member think the High Commissioner would send very strong Protectionist cables? Many things that he has said have been tinged with Free Trade.
– That is a disgraceful and unfair thing to say.
– He has not so far made misleading statements.
– The honorable member ought to be ashamed of himself.
– The honorable member for Parramatta must withdraw his remark. He has no right to refer to anything said by another honorable member as disgraceful.
– I withdraw the remark.
– Under the rules suggested, the press would have to publish anyonesided statement sent out by the High Commissioner.
– I think they would, and that is what I object to.
– If the honorable member believes what he says, he ought to move for the High Commissioner’s recall at once.
– The High Commissioner has been a Free Trader all his life, and his speeches, almost unknown to him, are tinged with Free Trade now. I think the honorable member for Parkes is quite right in :saying that under this proposal as it stands the High Commissioner could send what cables he felt disposed.
– Yes ; and the newspapers could publish only so much of them as they felt disposed.
– The service should be one for which enough money is voted. If this is going to be a second or third service, it should be a service originated by some of the other newspapers. Great complaints have been made to me on many occasions by the Country Associated Press that they cannot get the telegrams they wish from the existing cable service.
– Who will print the cables when they come here?
– The country press, if they can get them. The country press would print the present cables if they could get them. But they could not get them until lately, even if they can get them now. At any rate, they cannot get them direct, although perhaps that is right, because they do not pay for them, but my objection is that they are, or were, not allowed to pay for them.
– I have never known them refused yet.
– I have. A good many newspapers of which I am aware have been absolutely refused.
– I am speaking of country, not metropolitan, papers.
– At Corowa, for instance.
– No; not at Corowa. I know a paper at Sydney.
– What right have they to refuse metropolitan dailies?
– They have refused the cables to papers in two or three of the cities, and they prevented papers from starting, because they would not allow them to have a share of the cables.
– That is all altered. If it has not been altered, then we can alter it.
– It might be altered after this debate. I think that the amount of subsidy proposed is too small, as the service now costs about, or not less than, ^12,000. The lowest rates should be charged to the country press. I do not know what rates are charged now, though I believe that there has been a reduction. At the last meeting of the Country Press Association a desire was expressed for the reduction of cable rates, so that the newspaper proprietors could get cable news direct.-
– That is not necessarily bound up with this proposal.
– I think it is bound up with it.
– The greatest expense to which the country press proprietors are put is connected with the telegraphing of news over our land lines.
– The country press proprietors would be greatly benefited if they could get cheaper cable communication with London. Means should be taken, too, for the representation of both sides of public opinion in the cables transmitted from London. At the present time the Melbourne Argus and’ the Herald proprietaries appoint a person in England to send cablegrams to Australia, and he naturally sends what he thinks they wish to get. The matter might be managed better by a committee, which could easily get. men who would act independently, sending both sides of public opinion on any question. Now we do not get both sides.
– What does the honorable member mean bv both sides?
– When the British elections were in progress, we did not hear both of the sets of arguments put before the country. We got only those arguments which the newspaper proprietors here wished to make public.
– The newspapers here which belong to the Cable Association represent different political views.
– But those publishing the views which I and many others hold do not predominate. Often the columns of the press are filled with trivial cable news, such as the making of a good score at cricket and so forth.
– What the honorable member is saying is equivalent to an admission that the press is against him.
– It would be against me if it could manage it, but unwittingly it does me no harm.
– Why would it be against the honorable member?
– Because I am not a red-hot Conservative like the honorable member for Swan.
– The honorable member is the biggest Tory in the House.
– I am not, nor do I turn my principles topsy-turvy as does the honorable member for Parramatta whenever he gets the chance.
– Where is the honorable member’s party?
– The honorable member for Swan would join it if he could. I am surprised that certain honorablemembers have the impudence to talk as they do, or to hold up their heads after the last elections. The proposal is that the Minister shall control the sending of cable news, but I think that that work might be done by a committee, and that the subsidy might be increased. The Australian community should know what is happening on the other side of the world, and read both sides of every political ques-. tion. I hope that the Minister will, on reconsideration, be able to propose a larger subsidy. The sum of £4,000 a year would be little enough. An association might be able to add to that amount, and thus be able to give a good service. I understand that the Sydney Sun has now a special cable service, which costs between £8,000 and £10,000 a year. It will be a good thing for Australia if it gets a news service properly subsidized. This will destroy the monopoly which has hitherto existed, and the people will be grateful to the Government- for having brought that about*
– The debate illustrates the grave inconvenience of conducting the business of the House by the method which has been adopted. The Minister tells us that we shall be able to discuss the details of this proposal when we. are asked to vote money to give effect to it. But, to all intents and purposes, the motion before us is equivalent to a Bill of so many clauses, one of which enables the Minister to modify, as he pleases, the conditions which have been circulated. The Minister is in no way bound to give administrative effect to these conditions. They are not incorporated in the motion in such a way that the House can deal with them, and, if it thinks fit, limit the Minister’s power. A series of motions, dealing with a very complex question, has been put before us for our approval, without our having an opportunity to consider the subject in Committee, and to discuss every detail. If this practice is to be adopted often, it will seriously interfere with the liberties of the House by preventing that full and free discussion of legislation which is necessary. In modern communities, every Bill passes through three stages or readings, and is discussed in Committee. The third-reading stage gives an opportunity for a recommittal, should any matter have been overlooked.
– I think that the honorable member is not now complying with my ruling.
– I am endeavouring to show the inconvenience of our present procedure, and the manner in which it curtails the liberty of honorable members. We are asked to give consideration to a set of so-called “ conditions “ which are not part and parcel of the proposal before us, which we cannot amend, and which the Minister will be able to alter as he pleases.
– The motion can be amended by the addition of any relevant proposal.
– If you, sir, read the conditions to which I refer, you will see that it would be impracticable for any honorable member to indicate his objection to any detail by amending the motion submitted. No doubt, honorable members opposite ha’e more confidence in the Minister than we have. The feeling there seems to be, regarding every Government proposal. “It must be all right; the Ministry has brought it forward.”
– Is not that the proper sort of loyalty?
– It may bc well for honorable members who arc supporting the Government; but when they were in Opposition they were not so ready to consider Ministers omniscient. I agree entirely with the Minister on the three main principles : as to the need for more cable news, cheap rates, and freedom on the part of the press; but I question whether the form the honorable gentleman has taken in dealing with this question is the best one. I quite understand from previous knowledge, confirmed by what the honorable gentleman says, that there has been, hitherto, an agreement between the leading newspapers of Australia to obtain news through Reuter, to have it condensed in England, and sent out here in Liebig form, for the information and edification of the Australian people; and, in order to obtain as much benefit from that news as is possible, they have not been as willing, as they might have been according to the great advocates of freedom on the other side of the House, to allow other people to participate in those benefits. I take it that what the Minister aims at is to break into that ring, and give the whole press of Australia an opportunity to share in this news. But I should like to ask him whether he is now assured that if he makes this more comprehensive, elaborate arrangement, with all these conditions, he will Induce the large newspapers to- come into it ?
– I do not know, but they can if they please.
– I recognize that they can.
– They cannot do so now.
– I point out to the Minister that it is quite possible that when all this elaborate arrangement is made the leading newspapers may still say, “ We want a number of cablegrams of our own, and we will have them selected for ourselves, and still preserve our own arrangement.” If that does occur, I do not know that the honorable gentleman will have quite secured his purpose. He may say that he will have’ secured the news for all the newspapers of Australia, but will he have got at the nerve centre which the honorable member for Hume touched when he said that Reuter is under an arrangement with the leading newspapers of Aus tralia to give them an exclusive right to their budget of news?
– No, I said the Eastern Extension Company.
– The honorable member used the word “ Reuter.”
– Yes, but it was used in connexion with the Eastern Extension Company.
– I am quite open to correction, but I understood the honorable member to say that in conversation with Reuter he was assured that the press arrangement had confined Reuter to limiting their news, so far as Australia was concerned, to their exclusive circles.
– Yes, but I did not say the Associated Press.
– The’ honorable member said Reuter.
– - -I meant Reuter with the Eastern Extension Company and the Associated Press.
– I thought that the honorable member intended to convey that the newspapers of Australia, which had been hitherto enjoying this preference for European and the world’s news, got it by virtue of an exclusive arrangement with Reuter.
– No. I wished to convey that Reuter has not the same liberty now as they had before in sending a special service, because of some arrangement which has been made with others.
– That amounts to the same thing. It is rather valuable information, because it comes from Reuter as the head centre of a great newsdistributing agency.
– Whoever represented Reuter. I do not know whether it was Reuter or somebody else.
– I understand that the honorable member wished to tell the House that Reuter, or somebody representing Reuter, and with authority to speak, had assured , him that Reuter, as a distributing centre, was limited by reason of seme arrangement with the existing Press Association in Australia.
– And the Eastern Extension Company.
– Then I think that there is still less chance of the Minister being able to break into the arrangement which the leading press of Australia now enjoys ; because, if Reuter is a fertile channel of news, such as is desirable for the people of Australia, we may depend upon it that the leading newspapers may, at any time, avail themselves of that exclusive use, and still preserve what is called a monopoly of the cable news ; and, therefore, the whole of this edifice, which the Minister is trying to erect, may tumble down, and be of little use, except to give the outside section of the press an opportunity of getting cable news from Europe and the rest of the world a little more cheaply than they did before at the public expense. I take exception to this proposal of the Government to contribute out of the people’s pockets to help certain newspapers to improve their circulation and their news ; because we all recognise that every newspaper is a commercial venture. It endeavours to sell something which the public want, and we can al.ways take it that the contents of a newspaper are not what the proprietors think best for the public, but what they think the public are anxious to have.
– They mostly want to sell their newspaper.
– That is what I said, and the honorable member is putting it. in another way, perhaps more generally than I did. A newspaper is essentially a commercial venture. It is considering itself in two ways. It is getting a circulation, and thereby it is securing a better chance of obtaining advertisements. What right has a Government, on general principles, to use £6.000 of public money to give the public better news of what is going on in other parts of the world ? Surely it is the duty of the newspapers, if they are run for dividends=-and I do not blame them for that - to collect their own material ? If the Minister should fail to induce the leading newspapers to come into an arrangement by which they will have in their columns the identical cablegrams which appear in every country newspaper, he will merely have appropriated £6,000 of public money to help the rest of the press to give better news than they gave before. That is subsidizing an industry. I do not see why the press should be subsidized more than any other industry.
– It is to override a monopoly.
– The honorable member will see. from what I have said, that it is quite possible that he may not break into the so-called monopoly.
– I can understand the honorable member’s reasoning, but I do not see any probability of it materializing.
– I think that my reasoning is sound. We are told on the one hand by the honorable member for Hume what the existing state of things was - that other newspapers which wished to participate in this exclusive method of getting news were not allowed to do so. On the other hand, the honorable member for Swan tells us that all that is altered.
– I understand that it is altered.
– The Minister should be able to tell us on what terms the Associated Press, which get these exclusive cablegrams, are willing to admit other newspapers.
– He cannot tell us that.
– If the Minister will put himself in communication with the leading newspapers in their Association, he can obtain the information.
– No; they have absolutely refused to state the reasons.
– What about the new paper in Adelaide?
– I hope the honorable1 member for Swan will not put questions to the Minister while I am addressing myself to him. I understand the Minister to say that the associated newspapers have refused to state their reasons.
– Does not that rather heighten the probability of the Minister being unable to induce them to come into the larger scheme which he is trying to formulate?
– The honorable member is not concerned about that, surely?
– Yes; the honorable member will see the bearing which it has on my’ argument. If the Minister does not succeed with this scheme of making a bigger ring, so as to embrace the whole press of Australia, he will have spent /:6.00a merely to improve the cable news service of Australia. Unless he can show that by spending that sum he is likely to bring about a more universal participation in the world’s news, then, I ask, whether he is justified in paying this bounty. Thai is my argument. I know that there are two or three members of the House who are interested in country newspapers, either by owning them or by having a share therein. I invite them to look at this proposal quite apart from the slight bias which that interest might give to their minds. The question is - Ought we to vote £6,000 of public money in order to improve the chances of circulation for the press of Australia unless we see that by its expenditure we are going to bring about a more universal diffusion of knowledge with regard to the world’s affairs?
– That is what we claim we shall do.
– We are not asking for anything else.
– That is what I doubt. If the Minister tells me, as I take it that he does in effect, that the Associated Press of Australia have said, “ We will not in any circumstances arrange for any other newspaper to participate in this arrangement,” I think it is some justification for using the Pacific cable, in which we have a great interest, for the purpose of : getting news. I am willing to go as far as that. The honorable member for Hume said that the associated body made money by admitting others. If a man rents a house in the hope of subletting it, it is generally recognised that he is entitled to sublet it at a slightly higher rate than would merely compensate him for the rent which he pays, because he runs the risk of having part of the house empty. On the same principle, if a number of the leading newspaper proprietors of Australia embark on a scheme which costs them many thousands of pounds to get news, and they admit other people afterwards, I think that they are entitled to some consideration from the fact that they risked their money in the first place with the chance of having nobody to participate afterwards. Therefore, the point is - Has the Minister assured himself that the Press Association absolutely refused to admit other newspapers to participate in their news, even if willing to pay a fair and reasonable contribution towards the first expense?
– On the question of terms one cannot say anything, because the Association are silent. They have waived the requirement as to mutual consent.
– If the terms are in abeyance only until some other newspaper comes forward, it does not look as if there were a great many newspapers wanting to come forward, nor does it look as if the Minister has exhausted those efforts which we should have expected from him, to ascertain their views before he introduced a drastic proposal of this kind.
– I cannot find out the terms.
– Why not?
– They will not tell me the terms.
– They will not tell me their terms; but I venture to think that the Minister ought to be able to procure the information. Whilst we are agreed as to the advisableness of the people of Australia receiving as much information as possible concerning the affairs of the outside world - because there is nothing more calculated to destroy insularity than a knowledge of what is going on abroad - I do not think we should be called upon to spend £6,000 in this way until the Minister has exhausted all possibilities of ascertaining whether the present arrangement cannot be so extended as to cover all Australian newspapers. When that has been shown, I think that the House will be justified in making the proposed outlay, but otherwise the country should be saved this expenditure.
.- I should like, briefly, to combat one or two statements made by the honorable member for Parkes, who has just resumed his seat, and. if possible, to change his views on the subject. It is generally admitted that, to a large extent, partisan news is supplied to the existing newspapers. That is my experience, and I think it is the experience of most people. There has been for some years a tendency to conservatism, and hence the news sent to these newspapers is naturally coloured in that direction. We all know that a newspaper correspondent colours his work according to the tone of the journal to which he contributes. Coining to the question of what is done by the newspapers of the Association to which the cable news is supplied, let me say at once that it is not contended that Reuter has the power to make the service exclusive. The newspaper proprietors in the existing Association, however, have combined to secure one cable service, which is distributed amongst them, and with which they may do as they please. They disseminate the news received by cable amongst their own newspapers, and distribute the expenditure amongst them, with the result that the individual cost of the service is but a nominal amount.
– The honorable member admits that they have a perfect right to do that.
– I do. And I admit, too, that the members of the Association do not confine the service to their own newspapers. They distribute messages amongst country newspapers. I speak from experience. They are prepared to sell the sendee to country newspapers, but subject to the right on their part to excise from it any messages that they do not desire to go to the country. They censor anything which, if distributed amongst provincial newspapers, would prejudice the prestige of the metropolitan dailies, as vendors of the most important information. I know that they have censored messages which country newspapers would have been very pleased to get, and which 1 make told to say it would have been advantageous for the country to know.
– But such information is published in their own newspapers.
– Yes, and those newspapers reach certain country districts the day after publication. They censor the telegraphic news, and will not allow some of it to be sent to the country press. That has been the great trouble. If the proposal of the Government be adopted, we shall have not only a greater variety of news, but a quicker service ; and, in view of that greater despatch, it is quite possible that the present daily newspapers will be compelled to take some of the information supplied by the subsidized service. I think, as a matter of fact, that they will patronize it.
– Why will it be a quicker service?
– Because it will be carried over a shorter route. It is undoubted that this scheme will be of service to the general run of country newspapers, and I venture to assert that the combined influence of the country press is pretty well on a par with that of the daily press. If we give the country press increased facilities for publishing cable news, we shall add still further to its influence. There are many daily newspapers in New’ South Wales and Victoria, and there will be more if the facilities are improved for securing early cable news of special significance to Australia. I understand that it is the aim of the Minister that such news shall be supplied, and I have no doubt that in New South Wales at least 300 newspapers will proceed at once to avail themselves of this new service. What is known as the Independent Cable Service Company is air off-shoot of the New South Wales Country Press Co-operative Society, and is therefore directly representative of some 300 country papers which would at once participate in this service, and I suppose that about the same number in Victoria would take advantage of it. Indeed, I understand that there is already a movement to coalesce so far as the advantages of this scheme are concerned. Honorable members are often asked to view matters mI this kind from a non-partisan stand-point but such appeals as a rule have but littleeffect. If honorable members view this, matter from a non-party stand-point, if. they are really desirous of the effective distribution of early news of special interest to Australia, they will recognise that that object cannot be secured unless an effort is made to supply direct cable news to the people by channels . other than those through which it is now available. Under present conditions a new metropolitan* daily newspaper cannot be started. A. daily paper could not afford to pay- for a separate service, and, therefore, one could not be started in opposition to the present metropolitan daily journals since the latter would not share with any competitor their present cable service. The members of the Association do not mind selling to the country press, at a nominal sum, some of the cable news which they receive, but they will not sell to an outside metropolitan daily. Hence they have to a great extent a monopoly of public opinion. By virtue of the fact that they and they alone can afford to acquire this early cable news, they have n monopoly of public opinion, and that is the most pernicious influence that could be enjoyed by any monopoly.
– T am sorry that time is not afforded us to review this question more at leisure. It was not until yesterday that we knew of the intention of the Government to proceed with it.
– Reference was made to our intention in the Governor-Genera l’s. Speech.
– The GovernorGeneral’s Speech at the opening of Parliamentwas a general intimation, and did not enable us to prepare for precise proposals. We heard of this motion for the first time yesterday. The Ministerial memorandum setting forth the terms of the proposed subsidy we received only this morning-
– I sent it out yesterday.
– But many honorable members only received it to-day. The motion, instead of being submitted in Committee, where we could have dealt with it more freely, and probably, in- the end, with less delay, has been brought forward in the House, and the Minister in moving it has made a most interesting and useful speech. I had no conception that it was proposed to proceed with the motion immediately, and therefore did not follow the honorable gentleman’s speech with the close attention necessary to enable one to continue the debate. It is all very well for the honorable gentleman to say that this is only a matter of £6, boo. For whilst the amount is not large, the scheme itself marks a new departure. Ministers and those who support them, having adopted this precedent, will experience great difficulty in drawing the line fairly excluding similar experiments. We have to deal with this proposition on its own merits, but as marking an entirely new departure. If it be accepted, simply because some ground can be found for taking action in this particular instance, the question arises how many other interests are affected in the same way by private action, with which-, to be consistent, we ought to meddle by granting a subsidy, or in some other way ?
– There can be hardly any of similar importance.
– There may be some of much greater importance. This motion throws open the door to State interference in all businesses, the distinguishing feature of which is that at present they are purely private. We are therefore asked to create one of the widest possible precedents. No one can say where this may ultimately lead us.
– Such a subsidy as this is far more valuable than the Islands service subsidy.
– That may offer interesting side lights, but I repeat that the most important feature of this proposition is its entire novelty. The State is to throw into the scale its monetary influence so as to interfere with what has hitherto been a strictly private enterprise.
– A monopoly.
– It intervenes for the gam of some and the loss of others”, by proposing a material alteration of this business. The statement that the present service is a monopoly has been challenged. I am not prepared, because I have not had sufficient time to examine the report of the Select Committee, and the evidence on which it is based, to judge whether it is a monopoly in any sense of the term. What I understand is’ meant is that there is a practical monopoly in cable news that may be upset at any moment, but cannot be easily competed with except by those who have at their back considerable funds. I may be mistaken, but am driven to draw that inference from the speech made by the Minister in submitting the motion, and the interjections of some of his followers. Except in that sense, I do not know that any monopoly exists in this case. If it be a monopoly only in that sense, there are certainly many illustrations to be drawn from our every day business experience which would justify similar intervention. In that fact we have the importance of this proposal. But no others are promised or hinted at. Why? I do not wish to labour the point; but Ministers would have dealt more satisfactorily with the House, and with those likely to make a critical review of this question, had they given us time to refresh our memories. Business is being pressed on in a manner that I have not seen previously employed.
– Do not forget the “gag” of the late Ministry.
– That is not relevant to this case. Take two questions now before us - the question of the Australian note issue with all that it involves, the question of the land tax-
– I only allude to those matters. To save your conscience, Mr. Speaker, from unnecessary strain, let me merely direct honorable members to the list of other measures on the notice-paper, and ask them to say how we are able to keep abreast with the many matters brought forward at short notice. How can we bring ourselves up to date in order to deal with them? I feel the task extremely heavy already, and it is certainly added to by the action of Ministers in breaking novel ground by introducing at short notice a motion of this kind. Its object was elaborately explained by the Minister, showing that he felt the gravity of the situation, and that he required time to put before the House the matured results of his examination of the question. That being so, what time should be given to us, since we are dependent upon the Minister for the greater part of the information we possess? Clearly we have here a great inequality. Do what we will, we cannot put ourselves in the same position of advantage as the Minister. We are very unfairly handicapped.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– In the interval I have been able to make myself a little better acquainted with the report of the Select Committee of the Senate and other documents, of which, if ever I was familiar with them, my memory retained little trace. The Government proposal, which was introduced with an explanatory speech, none too long, but, for all that, considerable in length, relies chiefly on the first paragraph, which declares that- -
It is desirable …. to improve and increase the supply of European and other oversea cable news to the Australian press…..
On the general question of the improvement and increase of the supply of oversea news there will be no difference of opinion. “ European and other oversea cable news” is a very general phrase; but there is a little further definition lower down. However, so far, no exception need be taken. It is then proposed that Government assistance shall be given, and that at once affords ample opportunity for argument for those who foresee the consequences of the action. As stated by the Minister, circumstances go to show that a state of affairs exists which might be improved on; and from that he leaps to the conclusion that the improvement should be by some action of the Government. 1 shall not pursue that point, because, after all, I desire to reach two or three matters which appear to be more open to review. The Minister then proceeds to propose that the assistance shall be in the form of a subsidy, and that, again, is clearly open to argument. There are other ways of improving and increasing the supply of oversea cable news, and, of course, one of the first to suggest itself is simply to reduce the cable rates for press messages. The proprietors of journals are owners of a very important class of property ; . but, after all, it is private property, held by private persons, and managed in private interests. That is a statement which applies equally -to the press of all parties and of all denominational colours - they are private enterprises, in private hands, carried on to further private aims or private advantage. Consequently, a reduction in cable rates would be the broadest, and, using the word in its natural sense, the most Democratic shape that Government assistance could take.
-It would be much more expensive.
-On that point the Minister is informed, whereas I am not. I could not say off-hand what the £A, 000, or the ,£2,500 in the first year, would accomplish in that way. But even if it were more expensive, the course I suggest has the great advantage, first of all, of being absolutely unrestricted and non-partisan, and, next, of involving no Government responsibility, direct or indirect, for any of the news transmitted. I shall not labour those points, though both are well worthy of consideration. Unless the monetary expense is out of all reason, there can be no doubt that the simplest form in which this House could give effect to the desire of the Minister would be by a reduction in the rates - allowing the people of Australia and all interested persons to take advantage of those rates to the extent they find desirable in their own interests.
– Even then a newspaper might find itself tied up in the same way as now.
– It would be much more difficult to tie a newspaper up.
– Yes, it would.
– It would be much easier’ for those outside the existing organization to form a new one, and I should say it would be much harder to maintain any special advantage which’ the existing combination enjoys. My suggestion is certainly, as I have said, the manner most suitable for Government action since it makes the least discrimination, and points to no suspicion of bias in the interests of any parties. At the same time, it would encourage, I take it, such a development in the transmission of intelligence as might make up any loss occasioned in the first instance. For whatever the public have become familiar with, or accustomed to, they at least would share the advantages to be obtained from any extension of the cable news service.
– But that suggestion would not obtain the other objects, including the splitting up of the monopoly.
– As I have said, I do not know whether it is a monopoly or not. On looking at the report of the Senate’s Select Committee, I find this organization so defined on the ground that it has the only source of supply of news from the other side of the world.. There could be as many organizations as people choose to form, but because there is only one organization, the Select Committee call it a monopoly. True, it stands alone, but not as a monopoly in the sense in which that word is generally employed, namely, to indicate a body that is so entrenched that it is secured from rivalry except after an alteration of the law, or by some special agency outside the power of other organizations. In the present instance, it is open to anybody and everybody at any time to form another news organization ; and, at present, the only advantage is that of the people in possession and position. Plainly, the short and straight road, if the House is satisfied that Government assistance should be given, would be by a reduction of the rates. That might be still more limited by indicating in a general way that the reduction was made to obtain news of advantage to, and desirable for, Australia, apart from particular interests, classes, or sections. However, I do not wish to dwell on that any further. If we must go further, and adopt this form of subsidy which the Minister favours, we next find ourselves face to face with the conditions which it is suggested should be imposed. These are worthy of being discussed in detail, but I shall not attempt to do so. I come at once to the principal point contained in the third condition, which is that at least 6,000 words of the cable service are to be transmitted each week from Europe or America by way of the Pacific Cable. This cable is selected because we are partners in it, and, at present, in spite of the growing business are still paying towards its deficit, created, not by its actual working day by day, but by providing a sinking fund for renewals. I believe I am correct in saying, roughly speaking, that the Pacific Cable is now paying more than working expenses, or ordinary charges.
– Will every paper be compelled to take 6,000 words a week?
– No, the newspapers will take what they choose, but 6,000 words is what has to be transmitted by an Association before it gets the subsidy.
– I do not know whether with the assistance offered., the Pacific Cable Board will be able to provide for the sinking fund, but notice in the press that the Board, which I have always found to be fairly progressive and up to date, is endeavouring to increase the inducements offered by the service to customers, so that we, as part proprietors, may shortly find ourselves in the satisfactory position of seeing the enterprise not only earning working expenses, but providing the sinking fund, so that no further charge will be necessary on the Treasury. The next point is contained in condition No. 7, which is -
The Association must transmit to Australia by cable and supply to its subscribers any information on matters of Australian interest supplied to it or its agent in London by the High Commissioner, but the Association shall be entitled to charge the Commonwealth Government press rates in respect of the matter so transmitted.
That is a liberal, even generous, proposal, and it is one, if this proposal is to be carried out, to which I personally take no exception. Honorable members will note, however, that it is only information coming from the High Commissioner which is to be dealt with in this way, and that he is restricted to information of Australian interest.
– The information sent by the High Commissioner will be available for the press?
– Quite so, but the information is limited to that of Australian interest. Then, the motion provides that the Government shall impose such conditions as may be necessary to secure that the public obtain the fullest possible benefit from the subsidized service. I dare say that what the Minister had in his mind was the fullest possible encouragement that could be given to the use of the service for this particular purpose, but it is also capable, whether intended or not, of being read with condition No. 7, by which the matter sent is restricted to information of Australian interest. I ventured by interjection to’ indicate that this opened up another side to the question which we cannot ignore if we would. If we adopted the alternative of simply reducing the rates we should have no further responsibility, since everybody would stand on the same footing; but when, instead of thus throwing open the doors, we limit the subsidy to a particular Association of interested persons, subject to such conditions as we think fit to impose, it at once creates a responsibility in us for the cable messages to be encouraged. The Government show this when they limit the High Commissioner to matters of Australian interest ; and, whether we like it or not, if we enter this field of action, taking an active part in the business, either by creating or supporting one special organization and that alone,, we cannot escape responsibility for the character of the messages sent. I have no desire to see questions of. this sort forced on our consideration in Parliament, but, if we must consider them, let us seek for the broadest and least contentious ground.
– I fail to see why. The honorable member is straining the point tremendously ! ‘
– As I said before, if we simply lowered the rates for press messages we have no responsibility whatever in regard to those messages, but if, instead of lowering the rates, we offer a subsidy to one organization, laying down conditions as to its methods of work, we cannot stop short with the requirement that it shall send 6,000 words a week. We are subsidizing it to send that number of words, and become, as a Parliament, responsible for the use made of that power. If the Government do not think so, why do they put in that intimation to the High Commissioner that he is only to send matters of Australian interest?
– I am quite prepared to strike that out.
– The Government are right to keep it in, because it recognises the responsibilities that they are accepting. It seems to me that a similar qualification should be applied to those 6,000 words - that they should relate to the public affairs of the Empire. The only case to which the Minister was able to point as a precedent for the course he is proposing to follow, of subsidizing an organization, was in Canada, and there the arrangement was completed by the condition imposed by the Canadian Government on the subsidized organization that the messages must relate to Empire news ; that the 6.000 words which the organization is to send per week should be confined to cables relating to the public affairs of the Empire. If they want to send messages about the private affairs of distinguished society people, or others, let them send them at their own expense. They are entitled to send them as news, but it is no advantage to Australia to encourage the use of the cable for those purposes. So I could point to a variety of subjects with which, if they choose to deal by cable, in the exercise of their freedom, as caterers for the public, that is their business, and not ours.
– Why give a subsidy at all, then ? Why not get direct communication from the High Commissioner, if the cables are to be limited to public affairs ?
– There are two points involved. So far as I understand, what is done in regard to the High Commissioner’s messages, for which the Government pay press rates, they make arrangements with him as to what he shall send, and it goes to every one. Then there is the requirement that there must be 6,000 words sent, and for these we give a subsidy to a special organization. I contend that those words ought to be limited to news of the Empire in the largest sense, and more particularly its public affairs. Under public affairs, I include production, industries, and commerce, as well as news of the Parliaments, and matters of interest of that kind. What I exclude are sporting news, which we are not interested in subsidizing, the extravagances of multi-millionaires, the horrors of murder, catastrophes in out-of-the-way corners of the world, and so on. For instance, we have had columns of the adventures of Mr. Crippen, and his pursuit. Those are matters of news, which if the press choose to supply them, I suppose they know their own readers. It is their business, not ours. But surely there is more than enough news about the Empire, which ought to be known in Australia, and which it would be to the advantage of Australia to know. We ought to get that in the 6,000 words. At present, it appears to me, entirely from a nonbusiness stand-point, that the frivolous and sensational side-issues of European and American life receive more attention than they deserve; while certainly the serious, deeper, and graver subjects that affect the interests of Australia, bound up as they are with those of the Mother Country, South Africa, and Canada-
– Would the honorable member call labour news serious news?
– As a rule, but at times very comic. If the honorable member refers to any advances in the movement, or alterations in its platform, those, of course, are serious; but any ludicrous little accident to a Labour man, or a member of any other party, would probably be cabled out, while a solid speech full of important matter, and deserving of every consideration, would often be ignored. We cannot pretend to cope with these vagaries, or revise cables, but when we establish a particular organization, subsidize it exclusively, and supply news, we are entitled to ask for matter of some serious import to the Commonwealth. We get it now to a large extent, but we desire to be assured of more. That is no limitation of the motion. I have no ambition to father a particular amendment, and if the Minister will shape one in any form which on the best information he can obtain appears to him wise, I am prepared to fall in with it. But we have the responsibility and cannot evade it. If we stipulate for a certain amount of cable news, and give certain concessions for it, we ought to put the most important and valuable news first, and leave the less important and valuable to be sent independently of the 6,000 words.
– How would the news be obtained ? The position of the compiler in London is one of the most arduous and difficult on the world’s press.
– That is the difficulty of the Association, not ours.
– If it is meant to come through the High Commissioner-
– No, this is altogether outside of that. He is to send direct. This motion is another illustration that if you once leave the safe ground of public interests, simply lowering the cable rates and allowing everybody to do as he pleases - if you go beyond that, pick and subsidize your organization, and fix the number of words to be sent, you are at once drawn, whether you like it or not, into a certain responsibility. Honorable members might add condition to condition until in the end the whole thing might become a Government sub-Department. Once you start on thisline there is no given point at which you pre required to stop. I would quote from the report of the Senate’s Select Committee in this regard the following reference to the Canadian system -
There are conditions attached to the subsidy as to the class of news to be sent, but the re sult has been stated as eminently beneficial both to Canada and the Empire in promoting knowledge, trade, and immigration.
That is the testimony of the Committee of the effect of introducing as Canada has introduced a condition as to the matter to be sent.
– In the same part of the report it is mentioned that Canada first gave a subsidy of £3,000, but that that amount has now been reduced to , £2,000, showing that this is no new thing.
– I know it is not new, and simply call attention to the obligations which it brings with it. We can only get the fullest possible benefit from the subsidized service by asking ourselves what news Australia wants from London. It wants, I take it, news of the Empire, of real progress on the industrial, manufacturing, and commercial sides, and also some acquaintance with the political interests and developments of the Mother Country, which are coming much closer to our own than they were a few years ago. If we are to have this organization, and fulfil what appears to have been the conception which the Government had in their minds when drafting the motion, that seems to be a necessary condition. I am sorry there is not time for me to do more justice to the subject. Of course the Minister comes here, as he should, master of his subject, and has given an extremely clear exposition. All I can do is to take it up at an hour’s notice, and add these comments.
– I do not think any members of the Opposition can charge the Government with making very much of a new departure in this proposal. Had the Government gone on those Socialistic lines of which we have heard so much, they would have proposed to arrange for a Government supply of cable news from the Old World to this side of the globe. This is a kind of intermediary scheme in keeping with what has been done in a number of countries, although it is somewhat of a departure in the line which has been taken up. The subject is associated with the education of the people and as Governments in Australia take up other branches of public education, they are justified in interposing in this matter also. I do not think anybody is satisfied with the kind of cable service which Australia now has. and no one should grumble about the small amount which the Government are proposing to expend over a. period of three years in order to encourage the setting up of an improved, or rival, cable service. Those honorable members who believe so strongly in the principle of competition ought to hail with satisfaction this proposal of the Government to increase competition.
– How does this proposal to subsidize a private profitmaking concern harmonize with the Socialistic principles of the honorable member’s party ?
– It is part of that evolutionary development which the Labour party recognise is the only way to achieve ultimate success. It is worth while considering how we get the miserable epitome of news that at present appears. The honorable member for Ballarat has very properly referred to some of the samples that we read. Any one who looks at the cable news daily will see quite a number of things which it is astonishing that the newspapers bother to print at all. It has become quite a standard item of the cable service that the High Commissioner had a dinner. Seeing that everybody expects a dinner every day, I do not know that it should be of sufficient importance to cable out from the Old World that Sir George Reid dined. Any kind of sensational crime fills the columns of the papers, but we know practically nothing of important events in the Old World unless we take the trouble to read the papers when they reach us by mail. What happens at present is that practically one man, or two at the most, edit all that comes here. This man sits in an office and gets, say, an advance proof sheet of the London Times, which, of course, has its own service to collect news. He marks with a red pencil the matters which he thinks of first importance, and with a blue pencil those which he thinks of secondary importance. This is passed on to a sub-editor, who, knowing the number of words required for Australia, picks out sufficient. This is then typed and cabled out, The news comes out to a close combine, which permits the proprietors of country newspapers to have only part of it. The proprietors of the metropolitan dailies of Victoria will not allow the country press of the State to receive the cream of the cables. Under this arrangement the big city journals get cable news at very little cost. On a former occasion I read the statement in a leading article of the Sydney Daily Telegraph that there is no interference, and that any newspaper proprietor can get cables. But at the halfyearly meeting of the company controlling that journal it was stated by the chairman of the board of directors, Major Randall Carey, that they had succeeded in renewing the arrangement for another five years, which would render it practically impossible for another newspaper to enter into competition with them, except at the cost of establishing a special cable service of its own.
– Mr. Carey is too discreet to make such an admission, whatever may be his views.
– The admission was intended only for the shareholders of the Daily Telegraph Newspaper Company. I had in my possession the document in which it was published. It is generally known that a newspaper cannot join the Association except by the permission of those who form it. Of course, any one can start a fresh association, and the Government is desirous of making it worth while to establish a rival to that now existing. To this end it proposes a subsidy of £6,000. The present Association gets most of its news from the London Times reports, and the cablegrams which are sent out are Conservative in tone. We have to depend for our news from the Old World on what one man chooses to tell us. *
– Our news is often despatched from England before it has appeared in the London journals.
– Generally, news is public property in the Old World before it is cabled to Australia. It must not be forgotten, too, that censorship is exercised over what appears in the London Times and the other London dailies. The effect of news on the public, or on the share market, is carefully studied. The American Press Association represents some 200 newspapers, which publish statements of occurrences within the British Empire which are never found in the British newspapers. To be told half the truth is more misleading than to be told nothing.
– Is not the news appearing in the American journals strongly coloured ?
– It may be coloured, and it is often sensational. My point is that, owing to the censorship in Great Britain, we are not fully informed of the happenings in the world at large. The average reader is glad to find sensational matter in his newspaper. But we should encourage the transmission of news of importance. Were it proposed to grant a perpetual subsidy, we should do well to consider the difficulties suggested by the last speaker. But we have before us only a proposal for the granting of a subsidy to encourage the development of a new industry, or the supplying to Australia of ^better news than can be obtained under the present restricted service.
– What important newspapers are shut out from the present cable arrangements ?
– I am discussing the position of readers rather than that of newspapers.
– What newspapers has the honorable member in his mind?
– At the present time there is only one cable service for the newspapers of Australia, and it is controlled by the big dailies, so that no newspaper proprietor can benefit by it except on the terms which may be dictated to him by the Combine. If there has been a change in this matter, we should be told what it is.
– The Minister ought to know.
– The Combine has refused to give him information, just as it has refused to allow persons wishing to start newspapers’ to come into the Association.
M>. Batchelor: - Personally, I have made no inquiry, but the Select Committee of the Senate inquired over and over again, and could not get information.
– Is it true that the Adelaide Labour paper, the Herald, has been admitted into the Combine?
– That newspaper is arranging for an independent service; so is the Barrier Daily Truth. The proprietors of both newspapers have been refused the opportunity of joining the Association, which charges the country papers what it likes, and decides what news they shall receive. The railway services of New South Wales and Victoria are so arranged that the big dailies in Sydney and Melbourne can be distributed over large areas early enough in the day to compete with local newspapers. At places like Ballarat and Bendigo the Argus and Age are dis.tributed as early in the morning as are the local newspapers, and their proprietors take care that the local newspapers shall not get all the cablegrams which they have.
Some honorable members may regard these as proper commercial methods, but they result in the community getting less news of the world than it should have. We have been trying to interest our people in our association with the Empire, and to do this more fully our citizens should be informed of what is happening abroad, especially where the news is of interest to Australia. At present much of the news sent out is mere rubbish. Notwithstanding the cheapness of the cable service .to the newspaper proprietors, who have found out the value of the co-operative idea, they have not had the enterprise to improve the service. I believe that there is a widespread demand for news of a different character from that now received. Rapid developments have taken place in the Old World of which we should be fully informed, and any proposal to effect this result should be supported. ‘
– Who is to direct the collection of news under the proposed system ?
– Conditions are to be laid down by the Government.
– There may ‘ be several Cable Associations.
– The Government will have to regulate that. It is not likely that there will be several Associations, though if this proposal creates competition, so much the better.
– So long as there is competition which suits the Labour party.
– I support the proposal as likely to create an improvement in our system of getting news from the Old Country. When our readers are aware of this improvement, they will probably desire as Empire cable service.
– The honorable member overrates the desire for serious news. When he was twenty he did not care to read what he reads now.
– The desire for news of importance is increasing. Education in the large sense is spreading, and more thinking is being done, especially since Federation. Even the man in the street’ is disgusted with much of the news that is cabled to the newspapers. The Australian Democracy is not interested in learning that some one of whom they know nothing has obtained a divorce, or has attended a banquet. Such information does not interest Australians to any extent, but they are interested in learning of our relations with Germany, of developments in India, or other matters associated with the relationship of the Empire to the Continent of Europe. All such matters are read with increasing interest, and I think that if this proposal leads to an improved cable service the Australian public will rejoice, and say that at a cost of £6,000 per annum it is decidedly cheap.
.- The Minister has not -extended to us that consideration to which we are entitled, in asking the House to discuss this motion before many of us were aware even of its appearance on the notice-paper. 1 confess that I had not seen it until this morning, and I complain of the hurried way in which we are asked to deal with what is undoubtedly a new departure. I do not think this undue haste will lead to the question being dealt with more speedily than it would be if we were given time to obtain the information that we need. I had to appeal to the Minister of External Affairs, during the luncheon adjournment, to tell me exactly what the Government proposed.’ I wished to know whether the Government themselves were to receive the contributions of newspapers taking advantage of the proposed new service-in which case the State would make money out of the venture - or whether some other course was to be followed. The exact intentions of the Government are not clearly shown in the motion, although they may perhaps be inferred, and 1 learned from the Minister that the Association selected to do this work is to receive not only the Government subsidy, but the contributions of subscribers to the service. There is no justification for the haste which has been shown in pressing this . motion through the House. The request made by the Leader of the Opposition for the adjournment of the debate ought to have been agreed to.
– The Government can do nothing right.
– The honorable member himself, as he admitted, was not really prepared to speak when called upon to do so, and thought that some one else should have filled the breach. He would have been heard to better advantage if more time had been given him for the consideration of the motion. I do not believe in injurious monopolies, and certainly do not favour an injurious press monopoly. The newspapers receive cable messages at rates below those extended to the general public, and they should do nothing to exclude others from the benefits conferred upon them in that respect. It may be argued, however, that any private organization should be free to make its own terms in regard to obtaining and disposing of news. That is quite a common occurrence. When a man has a good business, he is not prepared to let every one into it; but when a substantial concession is made to the press in the matter of cable charges, in order that the public shall be supplied, at a reasonable cost, with adequate news, we have a right to see that no monopoly injurious to the public is created. The difficulty of which complaint is made by honorable members opposite might have been overcome without granting a subsidy. The Government of the Commonwealth, ‘ having a voice in the control of the Pacific cable, and complete control of the land telegraph lines, might have induced its partners to agree that nothing in the shape of a press monopoly injurious to the country should be allowed to exist in connexion with it. I have no doubt that those who in the beginning constituted a preserve or combine would meet the wishes of the public, especially when they knew that if they failed to do so, voluntarily, compulsion might be resorted to. We know that what was at one time said to be a close preserve, has changed considerably during the last two years. I understand that any newspaper may now obtain the Association’s cable news if it likes to contribute what is required.
– But what is required?
– One member of the Association is not, I understand, charged more than another. My plausible friend, the honorable member for Darling, has complained of the character of the cable news that is published in the Australian press, but he overlooks the fact that newspapers which have to cater for all shades of public opinion are members of the existing Association. That being so, his argument falls to the ground. We know that the metropolitan daily newspapers in this State have differing political views. Would the Age and the Argus run in double harness if under the existing arrangement favoritism were shown to one side or the other ? We may rest assured that the proprietors of those newspapers do their best to obtain fair news, and the news which they disseminate is not opposed to what .one reads when the Old World newspapers are received. There is, in my opinion, no cause for complaint in regard to the news of the world published in the morning newspapers here. I understand that a Labour newspaper, the publication of which was commenced in Adelaide quite recently, found some difficulty in getting into the press cable syndicate.
– It is not in it.
– The honorable member, who is very plausible, says that it is not- in it. Perhaps it does not wish to be a member of it.
– It was refused. It was offered absurd conditions.
– This looks like an attempt on the part of the Labour Government to subsidize that and other similar newspapers. There can be no doubt that the object of this proposal is to subsidize newspapers run in the interests of the Ministerial party.
– There was no daily Labour newspaper in existence when the Select Committee made the recommendation on which this proposal is based.
– If I remember rightly, the majority of the members of that Select Committee belonged to the Labour party. What else could we expect from such a majority.
– So far as the South Australian newspaper is concerned, it will not benefit one penny by this subsidy, and speaking for it, I do not care whether the motion is passed or rejected. ‘
– It is satisfactory to have that assurance. Another question that I desire to ask relates to the selection of the association to which this subsidy is to be paid. If several make application for the nomination of the Government, which is to receive it? Then, again, what guarantee shall we have that the association selected to receive the subsidy will transmit cable messages that will meet the news requirements of the general public of Australia? It may send out news unacceptable even to the Ministerial party. The whole scheme is an attempt to do by means of a subsidized private agency that which, if it needs to be done, should be undertaken by the Government. If this step is necessary, it would be far better to appoint a Government officer at Home rather than a private press agency, to transmit news to Australia, but I expect he would find a difficulty in obtaining it. I do not approve, however, of the adoption of that course, for I believe that the news requirements of the people are best catered for by those enterprising persons who make it a business to collect and disseminate information of interest to the public. We have no guarantee that the position will be met under this scheme. It may be met from the Ministerial point of view, if an association that will cater for their particular interest is appointed to do this work. Even if such an appointment be made, however, I do not think that an association, working from the other side of the world, is likely to do much good for the Labour party in Australia. The Labour party have promised, however, that a Labour newspaper shall be established in each of the State capitals, and, apparently, those newspapers are to secure their cable news at the expense of the State. Why can they not stand upon their own foundation, and obtain their own news without asking the State to provide it for them? I am inclined to favour that all newspapers be allowed to participate, on fair terms, in the news sent over the public cables, at specially reduced rates. I do not wish to interfere unduly with private enterprise, but I can well understand that it is fairly difficult for a newspaper to make a start if it has to pay considerably more for its cable messages than others doing the same business have to pay. I should be glad to obviate that difficulty, not by granting a subsidy, but by making regulations in regard to the transmission of press messages over our cables.
– And have the Government tied up.
– We have no information as to the class of people who are to be selected to supply this oversea news, or as to what their political views are to be. As a matter of fact, I do not observe any strong political leaning in the messages from the Old World that are published in the newspapers to-day. We are advised of movements in Imperial and Continental politics, and I have not observed any colouring in the press messages now published. I admit that I have assumed that news so published is selected with care, and based upon fact, and I have not . discovered anything to lead me to believe that I am mistaken in that assumption. I repeat that the Government should not have forced this motion upon the House before we had had an opportunity to speak to those mostly interested in it, and that we are embarking upon a new principle, which must prove unsatisfactory.
– Having sat on the Opposition benches for nearly ten years, I have some sympathy with thecontentionof the right honorable member for Swan that time should have been allowed for considering a motion of this kind. I am not so far removed from my experience of the disadvantages with which an Opposition has to contend as to lack sympathy in that regard, but I should like to remind the honorable member that this question does not come beforeus to-day for the first time. It has been engaging the attention of many people, and certainly ought to have been engaging the attention of honorable members on both sides, for a considerable time past. This is not a matter of a grievance of the Labour party, but a grievance of the general public, who feel that their interests are not properly catered for by the present combination. That feeling secured expression in the appointment of a Select Committee by the Senate in the last Parliament. Before that Committee witnesses were called representing all the interests concerned, including the present Association; and it was open to all to set forth their views. We have now the report of that Select Committee; and we must remember that it is not a matter of opinion, but a matter of evidence, though the finding was certainly in the direction in which the Government are now moving.
-T wo of the Committee dissented.
– That may be, but it is not unusual in the case of Select Committees and Royal Commissions, where many minds and various interests are represented, to find dissension. And, in any case, we have, irrespective of that, the advantage of the evidence, and are now in a position to judge the whole question quite apart from the recommendations of a majority of the Committee.
– Was there any evidence of any grievance on the part of the general public?
– If the honorable member is not aware of the fact, it is very curious, under all the circumstances.
– I never heard of any grievance on the part of the general public.
– The right honorable member for Swan moves in a sphere in which there are no grievances of this sort, because, in that sphere, all wants are amply provided for.
– Is that statement based on fact?
– It is the deduction I make from the interjection of the honorable member.
– It is curious that if there was this feeling, no representative of the general public gave evidence of the fact.
– The Select Committee elicited the fact that there is a particular combination, and that there is a large volume of dissatisfaction in the public mind. If the honorable member was in closer touch with public feeling, he would not ask for evidence of representatives before a Select Committee. At one time there were two cable services, one practically controlled by the Melbourne Age and the Sydney Daily Telegraph, and the other controlled by the Melbourne Argus and the Sydney Morning Herald. At that time the division between the policies of these great publications was most marked, and there was considerable rivalry ; but latterly political changes have brought these newspapers closer into line.
– The combination was made many years ago.
– Those newspapers found that by combining their services they could secure cheaper cable news ; and I take no exception to that; but one of the conditions of the association was that the combined service should be their special property. It is said that it is open to any other newspaper or newspapers to establish an independent service; but the conditions that the Association helped to create were wholly in their own favour, and against any opposition of the kind. In fact, they established a preserve so close that, according to the evidence before the Select Committee, a majority of the members could not extend the service to any other publication, because the rules demanded the unanimous consent of every party to it. We are told by honorable members opposite that this condition is not now in force.
– It was said that that was a condition, but, as a matter of fact, the decision rested with the . proprietors of particular newspapers in the capitals. .
– But what the honorable member for Calare says formed part of the agreement.
– At any rate, this shows how close and binding the combination was; and if the condition has been relaxed, it is only in response to the pressure of public opinion. The Association did agree to admit other newspapers on certain conditions. It has been stated) and, I believe, correctly, that some of the first promoters of the Association are able to reap profit - that newspapers which join are called upon to pay a rate so high that the original members of the Association not only obtain free news, but also reap monetary gain. Further, the newspapers which did not originally belong to the combination have now, when admitted, to agree, under a severe penalty of£1,000, not to publish news from any other source.
– The principals have to do the same.
– That does not make the condition less unjust, and the principals have the right of determining the kind of news sent, the other participants having no say in such matters. One objection that has been made to the Government’s proposal is that its object is to provide news for Labour journals. I do not think, however, that that allegation can stand the test of investigation. The proposal of the Minister stipulates that the news obtained shall be supplied, not only to Labour newspapers, but to every newspaper in the country, which so desires, on equal terms, whether that newspaper represents the extreme of Labourism or the extreme of Conservatism. That is not so under the present monopoly control of the cable. The Association now determines the conditions under which the service shall be used, and the particular class of newspapers that shall use it; and there is no power to compel any alteration of that determination. A newspaper which is antagonistic, either commercially or politically, to the Association, is entirely at its mercy. Thehonorable member for Parkes claims that practically all the great newspapers are commercial concerns which endeavour to meet the needs of the community. So far as I can gather, however, those newspapers are something more than commercial propositions, seeing that they endeavour tocontrol and determine the politics of Australia.
– Does that not apply to all newspapers?
– It does to all large newspapers.
– And to small newspapers as well. The Labour party compel people to subscribe to the partv organs.
– Not at all; and I can say that, so far as I am concerned, I never owned a newspaper, and I am never likely to. This Newspaper Association, as I say, aims at dictating the policy of the country, and it is one of the healthy signs of the independence of our national life and thought that the community, at the last general election, refused to be drummed into a particular line. However, the fact cannot be denied that the aim of those great publications, particularly those which control the Press Cable Combine, is partly commercial and partly to determine the politics of this country. That being so, they colour the news, and take only what is acceptable to their particular policy.
– It is absolutely wrong to say that that applies to the cables.
– If the honorable member has better information than I have he can give the House the advantage of it when he speaks. My contention is that the news transmitted by cable is of a character that suits the Conservative political tastes of the combination that controls the service. Consequently other papers which have nothing to do with determining the character of the news sent, but which receive their news from that source, are helpless. They have to take the information, coloured as it is, or leave it. There is no other source from which they can get it. I should like to refer honorable members to some interviews and press criticisms which appeared at the time when the English delegates to the Conference of Chambers of Commerce visited Australia a little while ago, and particularly to the remarks of Sir Albert Spicer with regard to our cable service. He pointed out how inadequately Australia was served in this respect, and it was a matter of surprise to him”, as a leading Englishman both in the commercial and political world, that this should be so. He declared in the course of an interview that justice was not done to the Liberal party and the Liberalism of Great Britain per medium of the doctored Conservative news transmitted to Australia by cable. That appeals very strongly to me as a reason why we should be no longer satisfied as a community to receive our news of happenings in the Mother Country from this politicallytainted source. We should be in a position to supply the thinking people of Australia, particularly as we are more Liberal than Conservative, with full and correct news of the trend of politics in the Old Country. It is impossible to get that kind of news from the existing cable combine and under existing conditions. In the interests of the people of the whole of Australia, and of correct information with respect to the trend of events in the Old World and in America, the Government are doing wisely in submitting a proposal to subsidize a company that will be formed to battle with the great octopus syndicate to which I have referred, and provide Australian readers with the kind of information of which they are now deprived. I am asked if we can guarantee that we shall get that information. To my mind there is no doubt about it. It is hardly likely that another’ company will enter the arena simply to cater for the news which a big company already supplies. If a new organization wants to obtain a footing, it must strike out on new lines, and there are ample opportunities for it to do so. I, for one, have no fear that that particular need of Australia will not be amply catered for. Another aspect of this proposal calls for. attention. We have what is known as the All-Red cable service, one of the aims and purposes of which is to bring cable communication between Australia, Canada, and the Mother Country directly under British control, and as far as possible under the control of the Governments representing those portions of the Empire. We have constructed a cable between Australia and Canada, and the deficiency, on its working is guaranteed by the Governments of Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. . Thai: cable service has had considerable opposition to contend with on the part of the Eastern Extension Company, as was only to be expected, seeing that the new service is cutting into the special preserves of that company. For some years past there has been a deficiency on the working expenses of this section of the cable of from ,£60,000 to £^80,000 per annum, and to this we have to contribute in common with the other guarantors. Although we have reduced the cable charges for the purpose of securing a larger and cheaper measure of European news for Australian purposes, the existing press combination has entered into an arrangement with the Eastern Extension Company that practically takes from the Pacific Cable all the revenue that should come from the reduced charges that we have instituted, and gives it to the. private company. This shuts out the line which we are subsidizing and endeavouring to build up into an AllBritish line. As an evidence of the extent to which this is done, there was recently an event in San Francisco quite close to the point from which our line starts - an event which, although not very creditable in itself, excited a great deal of interest. 1 refer to the late boxing contest between Johnson and Jeffries. A very large section of the community here was on the qui vive for the latest returns and fullest particulars of that event. The press combination to which I have referred sent over our guaranteed All-Red cable line only about half-a-dozen words, simply intimating who the victor in the contest was, while it sent messages to the extent of about 2,000 words across Canada, and across the Atlantic to Great Britain, and then via India to Australia by the Eastern Extension Company’s lines. Consequently our cable, although located in a special position of advantage, was used only to an insignificant extent, whereas the Eastern Extension Company’s service was utilized to the extent of about 2,000 words to convey this information to the Australian people. I am glad, in the interests of the All-Red route, that the Minister makes it one of the conditions of the proposed subsidy that it shall be paid for messages sent over the cable for which we are responsible, and any deficiency’ on the working of which we have to help to make up. I am asked if I claim that there is an understanding between the Eastern Extension and the Pacific Cable services. There is not. They are rivals, and their rivalry is strong and pronounced, but my information is that there is a very close understanding -between the ArgusHerald Press Cable Combine and the Eastern Extension Company. There is pretty fair evidence that that understanding does exist, because the Cable Combine could get their news equally as cheaply and also get it quicker per medium of the Pacific Cable if they desired than through the Eastern Extension Company ; but the instance I have given shows that they do not choose to do so. I am further informed that, as the outcome of a recent arrangement with the Eastern Extension Company, the Cable Combine are getting, or will very shortly get, their messages sent here, not at ninepence per word as laid down in the agreement with the Government, but at threepence per word. That is arranged in this way : The messages are transmitted from London with Australia as as their objective, but they have what are called drop services at half-a-dozen points in India and Africa, and the cost of the whole service is so distributed that the ultimate charge for the message when it reaches Australia is reduced to that extent.
– The honorable member does not object to that?
– Not at all, but it shows how a great combination like this can make it practically impossible for a single newspaper proprietary, or even a fairly considerable combination of proprietors, to fight it. It would not be possible for the present cable syndicate to have such a cheapened service unless the Eastern Extension Company was in sympathy with, if not an active participant in, its doings. A new association for the collection and cabling of news from the Old Country would scarcely be able to make such favorable terms for the transmission of messages at the Australian end as the, HeraldArgus combination has made.
– The present arrangement enables more news to be sent for less money.
– I do not think that it does. The news sent must be acceptable to the large centres for which it is supplied. Eight or nine of these have been arranged for India and South Africa.
– Who will be able to take advantage of the facilities which the Government offers ?
– According to honorable members opposite, advantage will be taken of them by the Labour journals ; but it will be open to every newspaper, including the so-called “ Liberal newspaper,” which was run at the last elections in the interests of the Fusion party, to take advantage of them.
– The President of the Country Press Association says that the country press cannot take advantage of it; that they could take advantage of it only if there were a Sydney daily which would sell them the news.
– Fortunately this matter is controlled by the Government, and not by the President of the Country Press Association. The extent of the Cable Combine’s monopoly is well known in.New South Wales. A daily .newspaper could not start in Sydney unless it was prepared to pay for a special cable service. Not many months since an evening paper there negotiated to secure the benefits of the new service recently established, but its proprietary was told that if it published any messages beyond those supplied by the Combine, it would be called upon to for feit the sum of ^1,000. That newspaper has been reconstructed, and to-day is publishing the news flashed across the Pacific cable, with the result that its readers get information of interest and variety sometimes twenty-four or forty-eight hours before it appears in the other newspapers. I have been told that particulars of the recent disastrous floods in Japan were published in that journal a couple of days before they appeared in the other newspapers. It is important that the people of Australia should have early information of what is happening elsewhere, and that news should not be suppressed because it does not suit a particular policy. We should be fully informed of the political movements in the Mother Country and elsewhere. We know that the news which we now get is censored to some extent. Furthermore, as the honorable member for Macquarie has pointed out, important news is often kept back from country newspapers until the metropolitan newspapers have published it. As conductor of a country daily newspaper, he has had wide practical experience. The Government proposal prevents the confining of cable news to a circle of newspaper proprietors, and gives to all the benefits of the cable service without respect to party politics. The publication of news obtained from this source will not prevent the publication of news from any other source, and the arrangement will place the struggling newspaper proprietors of the country on the same footing as their city competitors. The proposal is not to favour a few publications, Labour or anti-Labour, but to give all newspaper proprietors the maximum amount of information, and liberty to use it. The Minister’s proposal is well worth the consideration and support of all who are opposed to monopoly. This is the only way of dealing with what is undoubtedly a monopoly. Some honorable members opposite have attempted to limit the news which is to be sent to information of purely Australian interest. If the Minister listens to the suggestions which have been made in this direction, he will frustrate the end which he has in view. The object should be to get as much general news as possible for Australian readers, and to break down the present Conservative monopoly. The limitation which has been suggested would play into the hands of the present Combine. It would not achieve the purposes which, according to the Committee which investigated the matter, should be held in view.
.- The supporters of the Ministry who are trying to justify this proposal have spent their time in traducing the present cable service, which is undoubtedly an admirable one. Our newspapers cannot afford to devote more than a certain amount of space to the publication of cable news, and it is necessary that as much variety as possible should be given in what is cabled from the Old World. I do not say that the present system could not be improved, but, according to the report of the Select Committee which sat last year, the weekly average of the words sent to the combination increased from 1,500 in 1906, to nearly 5,000 in 1909.
– Was there an increase each year?
– Yes ; the increase was gradual. The total expenditure of the Association for the three and a-half years ending 9th June, 1909, was £51,786, and its income - receipts for cable news sold - £30,805, leaving it to seven newspaper proprietors to pay the balance of £20,981. The cost of collecting and distributing the news apart from the cost of cabling is very considerable. The Reuter Association has a system of coding which is very complete, and enables news to be condensed in London and expanded here in a manner which greatly reduces expense. The Association is able to collect its news from the most approved sources in London. I understand that it has the control of advanced proof sheets of the principal London newspapers.
– Is there authentic information as to that?
– I understand that evidence to that effect was tendered to the Select Committee. Reuter also has agencies in different parts of the world, and has built up at tremendous cost in the large centres of Europe special means of acquiring information. That being so, wc shall not only require to subsidize cable messages in order that we may obtain news in competition with the existing Association, but will find it necessary to have a means of collecting, coding,, and receiving that news in a way that will successfully compete with the work of Reuter’s great coding company.
– There is no difficulty in that respect.
– The honorable gentleman will find that there is considerable difficulty. I understand that there is a means of obtaining cable messages at the present time through an American Company or Association, but if we are to do anything in this direction we should enter upon the work in a systematic way and get our news first hand.
– We can obtain our news much quicker via America.
– We might obtain sensational news from the United States more quickly.
– We should obtain via Vancouver the same news as is supplied by other services.
– But it would be “ packed,” so to speak, by an Association having its head-quarters, I understand, in the United States of America.
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, this proposal to subsidize a new service involves a very considerable responsibility. If the Government take upon- themselves the right to exercise a censorship over the 6,000 words per week to be transmitted, they will have to adopt some means of giving that news to the public, and I can scarcely conceive of any way of doing that other than by a national newspaper. If that is what is intended we ought to be informed of it.
– The honorable member could have some of these messages in his own newspaper.
– 1 am coming to that point. 1 am not prepared to say that there is not a great difficulty in endeavouring to establish a daily newspaper in opposition to the existing wealthy newspapers in large centres of population. lt seems to me that it would probably be beneficial to some of the subscribers to the existing Association if some competition could be introduced. A new service would not only supply more information, but would probably tend to moderate the charges of the present Association.
– The honorable member is now on delicate ground.
– I am not going to speak with any authority on that aspect of the question. My own experience is that country newspapers can obtain messages from Reuter - and I am speaking now not of daily newspapers published in country towns, but of those published once, twice, or thrice a week - at a rate that is scarcely more than one-fifth of the maximum rate in the schedule to the motion.
– Is not Reuter, practically in the combine? Does not Reuter’s agency decline to supply news to some newspapers ?
– I have not known a case where country newspapers, published once, twice, or thrice a week, have been refused a supply of cable news, or where important news by cable has been withheld from them.
– But there is a limit to the number of messages which such newspapers may publish, and they are forced to pay an exorbitant price.
– They are not. As a matter of fact, the cost of transmitting the cable messages over the land wires is the biggest handicap that country newspaper proprietors have to face. I know that from actual experience. My impression is that if this subsidy be paid the new service will not be availed of to a very large extent by proprietors of newspapers published once or twice a week in provincial towns, although it may be largely availed of by the dailies df the metropolis and the large provincial centres. It is possible, indeed, that the subsidy will be mopped up by a few newspapers published in large centres of population. We should, if possible, use our powers in this direction to bring about a system of competition that will tend to extend the news that Australia should undoubtedly obtain as a part of the Empire. If the Parliament can do that to advantage it should do so.-
– Why not patronize our own cable?
– I agree with the honorable member. If the Government think that the £6,000 proposed to be expended will make good the difference between failure and success on the part: of any rival newspapers that it is proposed to publish in the metropolitan centres of Australia they are making a very big mistake. A much larger subsidy will be necessary, if there is to be any substantial competition with the existing service.
– Does the honorable member think that we ought to increase the proposed subsidy?
– I have not given my approval to this scheme. I have what’ I believe is a better proposal to make.
– But does the honorable member think it will be sufficient to make the old Association throw open its doors ?
– It may have that effect, so far as newspapers published in the cities are concerned ; but, according to the figures appearing in the schedule, it is not to be assumed that the Association’s charges to subscribers are excessive. The real difficulty is that those who wish to start a rival newspaper are not allowed to readily join the Association. That is a very serious difficulty, and should be dealt with if a reasonable way of dealing with it can be devised.
– A year or two ago, when the Association had the power, it point- blank refused to allow any one to come in.
– As to the contention that it is a monopoly, there is another view to take. A monopoly becomes injurious when it acts in restraint of trade. But honorable members will agree that, with the advent of new type-setting machinery, the quantity of general news, as well as the volume of cable news published, has been of a very substantial character. The difficulty could have been best met by tackling the problem of the Pacific Cable Board. We have what is substantially a cable of our own, and are already paying £20,000 out of the deficiency of £60,000 annually sustained in respect of it. The Government should have attacked that deficiency before bringing in legislation of this character. We have our own postal and telegraph services throughout Australia, and I think that the Government would be justified, under existing conditions, in exerting their powers in connexion with those services to compel business messages to be sent over the Pacific cable. That would tend to wipe out the deficiency, which is, after all, one of the real questions that ought to be tackled. We compel telegraphic business to be carried over our own lines, and as we have a monopoly of the telegraph business of Australia, why should we not take care that our own business communications with the Old Country are made over our own cable?
– Will not this subsidy help the Pacific cable?
– It will not effect a cure. The present deficiency is due to the fact that Reuter codes all private messages passing between Australia and London,’ so that they can be delivered at a cost rendering it scarcely possible for the Pacific cable to compete.
– Other companies could do the same.
– Yes; but I understand that Reuter has so complete a system of coding that, so far, no company has been able to compete with it. That is a matter into which the Government should inquire. The Government ought to do all that is possible to wipe out the present deficiency in respect of the working of the Pacific cable. If they did so, there would be some reason for voting a very big subsidy, if “necessary, in order to reduce the cost of cable messages between London and Australia. That is a direction in which the Government might well step. They should use their powers to broaden and liberalize communication between Great Britain and Australia; but let them do so in a way that will leave all of the advantages open to the whole press of Australia. If the Government become involved in a scheme which will mean their exercising a censorship over the news transmitted by cable from London, that news can be distributed only by the publication of a national newspaper. If the Government are to determine what shall be the character of the news to be sent from London to Australia - news, such as was indicated by the Leader of the Opposition, of which we ought to know - it will be necessary to circulate the news. It .is not possible for the Government to compel newspaper proprietors to circulate certain news ; and, under the circumstances, the Government having undertaken the duty and responsibility of seeing that a certain class of news is telegraphed, it will be necessary to establish a national newspaper.
– When considering an important question like this, we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
.- I regret the haste the Government is showing I did not have an opportunity of hearing more than a small portion of the speech of the Minister this morning, and, not having previously seen the report of the Senate’s Select Committee, I am placed somewhat in a difficulty in dealing with the question. The proposal is for a subsidy of £2,500 for the first year, £2,000 for the second year, and £1,500 for the third year, to be paid to an association on certain conditions laid down in detail ; but I did not hear from the Minister anything as to who were to form the new association, where it was to be formed, or any particulars of the kind. We have, therefore, nothing beyond the fact that if this motion is carried, some association will be formed, it is supposed, to comply with the conditions and receive the subsidy. One of the. conditions is that the number of words to be transmitted oversea shall be 6,000 each week. I do not know whether the Minister thinks it wise to impose that limit, seeing that in one week there may be much important, acceptable, and instructive information, while in another week there may be a dearth of news, and, in order to make up the 6,000 words, it will be necessary to telegraph a lot of rubbish or padding. Many statements have been made, especially by the honorable member for Calare, as to a grievance on the part of the public in rel n.tion to the cable news supplied by the present Associated Press of Australia. When that honorable member was speaking, I interjected that I had heard nothing of such a grievance having been formulated ; and it does appear strange that, seeing a Select Committee of the Senate sat for a considerable time, no witness was called outside the representatives of the newspapers, the telegraph companies, and Government officials, to state any case there might be on the part of the general public. Had there been such general dissatisfaction in the general community as has been stated, I think we should have found them represented before this Select Committee appointed by the other branch of the Legislature. We know that very often in the case of Select Committees and Royal Commissions, some members dissent from the findings of the majority ; and I have had some experience myself in this connexion. Although there might be an equal number of the members of the Select Committee or a Royal Commission on either side, yet, on the casting vote of the chairman, the finding of the majority is quoted as the finding of the inquiring body. While that does not apply, perhaps, to the present case, we find that Senator Chataway and Senator Pulsford not only dissented .from the finding, but gave their own opinions at considerable length.
– And dodged the whole question.
– If that be so, it is for the Minister to show how those gentlemen “ dodged “ the question. I saw this report of the Select Committee for the first time during the lunch hour, and, from a hasty perusal of it, 1 think that Senators Chataway and Pulsford, in their minority statement, show a close grip of the question ; and their remarks are well worthy of consideration. It has been stated, particularly by the honorable member for Macquarie, who is a representative of the country press, that there is great dissatisfaction on the part of country newspapers with the service supplied by the Association Press of Australia. I may point out, however, that immediately the Select Committee was appointed by the Senate, some 800 circulars were sent out to the country newspapers of Australia, inviting information and suggestions, and that only ninety replies were received, and that of those ninety, less than one-fourth expressed dissatisfaction. I think this fact pretty conclusively meets the statements of the honorable member for Calare as to the dissatisfaction of the public, and also the other statements as to the supposed dissatisfaction on the part of the country press. I have always been led to understand - and I am glad to find .myself supported by the honorable member for Wimmera, who has had considerable experience as- a newspaper proprietor in Victoria, that the great difficulty under which country newspapers suffer is not in regard to the charges made for the cable news, but in regard to the cost of transmitting that news over the Australian wires. That this is so is borne out by the evidence given before the Select Committee, and, as Senator Pulsford pointedly puts it -
The most marked, and probably the most useful, point brought out by the inquiry, is that the cost of telegrams over Australian wires is more burdensome to the country press, and probably to the metropolitan press as well, than the sum that would be charged for the supply of oversea cable messages. Evidence in this direction was given by representatives of both the Victorian and New South Wales Associations.
If honorable members look through the evidence, they will see that the representatives of the Press Associations in both Victoria and New South Wales amply justify the position taken up by Senator Pulsford, who continued -
Reuter’s manager, Mr. Collins, said - “ It is the heavy wiring charges which prove crushing to a country newspaper.” He further said - “ Only yesterday I was waited upon by a gentleman from the country who has a biweekly newspaper. He was anxious to publish cables, which, so far, he has not been able to do. I quoted him the ridiculous sum of £6 per year for the right of copying them, but he could not pay it on account of the wiring charges.”
It will be seen, therefore, that it is not the cost of the cables, but the wiring charges, that place the country newspapers in such a disadvantageous position. There is one point in connexion with the majority report of the Select Committee to which I should like to call attention. On different occasions, in connexion with Select Committees and Royal Commissions, we have reports drawn up in a way that is scarcely creditable ; and this is not the first time I have referred to the matter. For instance,’ in the report of the Select Committee on the cable service, under the heading “ Power of Monopoly,” signed by Senator Pearce, now Minister of Defence, we find, as a justification for this portion of the report -
It was stated by a retired newspaper proprietor that whilst the rate for press cables was 3s. 6d. per word, he was then charged £128 per annum; when cable charges dropped to is. 4d. per word, he was paying £125 per annum; but when they dropped to is. per word, the association raised its charge to him to ^175 per annum.
This, of course, is put forward with the distinct object of discrediting the Associated Press. But if we look from one end of the evidence to the other, and through the appendices, we find no statement of the kind by any “ retired news- . paper proprietor.”
– Is the statement not a fact?
– How can I say?
– Does the honorable member contradict it?
– It is a statement that might be made by any person in the street. In the present case it was certainly not made on sworn evidence, and there is not even a letter throughout the report from this real or supposed newspaper proprietor to justify the statement of Senator Pearce.
– I did not quote the statement.
– I did not say that the Minister quoted, it, but a report based on statements of that character is absolutely valueless to the House.
– The honorable member does not deny it.
– How can I deny it? I might hear a statement of that sort from any one, in the gallery or outside. I do not know whether it is true or not; but, before members who occupy high and important positions on a Select Committee of the Senate bring forward and use statements of that character-
– A statement which is true.
– How does the honorable member know that it is true? I should like to put the honorable member on his oath, and see whether he would say so then. He was very quick the other day in casting a slander on all the dairymen in my district, which I had to refute - a statement which he dare not make on oath, any more than he would substantiate this one on oath.
– Absolutely true ; and the honorable member knows it.
– It is absolutely false, and the honorable member knows it.
– The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it; but if these interjections are made-
– I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the matter before the Chair.
– If you, sir, will stop interruptions of this character, in which I am told that I am saying what is absolutely untrue, perhaps I shall not break out in the way I did.
Mr.W. Elliot Johnson. - Those statements are contradicted on the sworn evidence of many other witnesses.
– I have not had sufficient time to go through the evidence. It is also pointed out in the next paragraph of the report, that there are none of the elements of free bargaining in the present position; and that a dissatisfied newspaper has no recourse but to submit. I am surprised to see, for the first time, a report from honorable members, all of whom occupy a position amongst the Caucus party, objecting to a state of affairs in which there are no elements of free bargaining. I always thought they were opposed to free bargaining. Are there any elements of it in the conditions laid down in the new proposal ? Schedule A gives a list of the maximum annual charges to be made. In respect of metropolitan newspapers, they are as follows : - Sydney, £1,000; Melbourne, £1,000; Brisbane, £750; Adelaide, £750 ; Perth, £500; and Hobart, £500. The maximum annual charge in respect of newspapers in the chief provincial cities is to be £200, and in minor cities and towns, £50. Certainly, those are maximum charges ; but who is going to fix the real charges?
– The owners of the information.
– The editor of the Worker will give the honorable member the information.
– I suppose the charges will be settled satisfactorily, so far as the Worker is concerned. We have heard a good deal in regard to monopoly in this matter, and statements have been made that it would be absolutely impossible for anyone to establish another cable service for his own use, or for the use of himself and others. But inthe report, honorable members will find that witness after witness admitted that a new service might be established without very much difficulty. Colonel Reay, the managing director of the Melbourne Herald, said -
I have already expressed the opinion that it is practicable to give effect to the idea. I will now go further, and say that if we sent a cable message to our agent in London, and also a message to our bankers, we should be furnished with another service in 24 hours.
So that it does not seem to be such a difficult matter to establish a new cable service, if any persons should require it. A great deal has also been said in regard to the Associated Press of Australia representing only one side in politics. The honorable member for Calare went into the matter at great length, in order to show that the cables received in Australia represent only one side of political thought in the Old Country and here. That question was inquired into by the Commission ; and Senator Pulsford, in his report, says -
As to whether the news supplied is “ garbled and inaccurate,” no evidence in support thereof was given, nor, indeed, was it seriously sought. In fact, this portion of the attack on the press cable service may be said to have been abandoned.
– Will the honorable member look at the reply to question No. 814, in connexion with thestatement he made just now, questioning the accuracy of the draft report? He will find it in the evidence of Mr. James Bell, who was connected with the Geelong Times.
– If we are to go on in this way, it will be 10 o’clock before the debate is finished.
– The honorable member said there was not a word in the report in support of the statement about the charges to a certain newspaper being increased by 400 per cent.
– I have not seen any statement in the report substantiating it. Question 814 is as follows : -
Will you make a statement to the Committee embodying vour views on the subject into which we ore inquiring.
As the Minister has referred me to it, I shall take this opportunity of reading the answer -
Yes. I became connected with the Geelong Times newspaper, and remained its proprietor until June of this year - covering a period of some 23 years. In 1885 and 1886, and previously to those years, the charge for cable service was£128 per annum. This was at the time when the press cabling was at the rate of either 3s. 6d. or 4s. a word. The£128 fee prevailed, I think, until 18S8, when it was reduced to £100 per annum ; in the meantime, the Cable Company had reduced their charge to about 2S. 3d. a word for press messages.
This gentleman is not very definite in any of his statements -
Of course, I am speaking from memory. In about the year 1900, when press messages were only required to pay is. 4d. per word, the telegraphic cable service to us was increased to £125 per annum, and it remained at that until about three years ago, when we were made to pay an extra ^50 per year - or in all £175 - although the Cable Company had reduced their charge in 1902 to is. per word. It will thus be seen that, notwithstanding the lowering of press messages by cable by over 400 per cent., the charge to us was increased by 75 per cent. It has been stated before your Committee that the association’s service includes Inter-State items. That is perfectly correct, but so paltry and insignificant were these items that a newspaper proprietor would hardly place value upon them at all. In my own case, I rarely used the matter supplied, and when I did so, it was only done in order to fill up. Newspaper proprietors throughout the Commonwealth stand in the not very enviable position of being completely under the control of the “ Combine,” a capitalistic monopoly which has the power either to raise the price for the service to such an exorbitant extent, or refuse to sell the service; and therefore.it follows that the association could crush out of existence any desired journal. It is no argument to say that that power has never been used.
I think if the power has not been used, it is an argument -
The fact still remains - it could be done, lt exists. It puts a dangerous power in the hands of a monopoly such as the United Cable Service Company is. With such a possibility hanging over their heads it will be difficult for your Committee to get newspaper proprietors to give evidence, for fear of reprisals. If it were possible to get behind the Combine’s figures, showing the receipts and expenditure yearly, I venture to assert that those papers forming this Combine are getting their cable service free, besides making considerable profit out of the business.
– There is nothing beyond that point bearing on that particular matter.
– Why should the Minister try to stop me from reading the whole of the answer, now that he has referred me to it? It continues -
It has been slated in evidence before yOU Committee that the service is now superior to what it used to be. This statement I deny. The best service I ever had during my ownership was during that period when Reuter’s Company were supplying cable news in opposition to the services obtained privately by The Argus and The Age - and then it was only a £100 a year fee, while the press cabling cost, I think, 2S. 6d. per word. During my long connexion with Reuter’s people, it is only fair and just for me to say that I always received at their hands every consideration and invariable courtesy.
I should like to refer to the question of the possibility of starting a new service; and. in that connexion to draw attention to the detailed evidence of William Thomas Reay, described as the manager of the Melbourne Herald. The following appears in his evidence, on page 39 : - 77S. You are the first newspaper man who has appeared before this Committee who has expressed any regard for the public interest. Mr. Mackinnon, you may be aware, distinctly refuses to reckon that the public have any interest in the matter. He regards it as simply a business concern. Do you agree with that? - I hope I may be excused from offering any comment on what Mr. Mackinnon may have said. 779. He distinctly said that it was purely a matter of business. You say that “in your opinion a new combination for cabling purposes could be -formed. But is it not the case that it would be practically impossible to give effect to such an idea owing to the fact that the agreements of the newspapers with the Press Association expire on different dates? - I have already expressed the opinion that it is practicable’ to give effect to the idea. I will now go further, and say that if we sent a cable message to our agent in London, and also a message to our bankers, we should be furnished with another service in 24 hours. We can therefore contemplate the situation with perfect equanimity.
This is the only opportunity I have had to look into the matter, the proposal of the Government having been brought forward unexpectedly. If I have been at fault in my references to the evidence of the Select Committee, it is because of the haste with which I have had to go through it. My only desire is to present the case properly to honorable members, who have not had an opportunity to thoroughly consider the effect of the Government’s proposal.
– We know what has been done.
– The honorable member, by reason of his connexion with die Postal Commission, has had peculiar opportunities, such as other honorable members have not enjoyed, for informing himself on this subject.
– I agree with the proposal of the Government.
– Then I hope that the honorable member v.-ill let the House knowwhy he does so. While the Minister has been able to cons’ider this matter, other honorable members have not had an opportunity to do so; and, under the circumstances, the Government should postpone the further consideration of the motion until it can be studied in all its bearings. My sympathy is with the proprietors of country newspapers, of whom I know a good many in New South Wales. I have come to the conclusion, from chance remarks which I have heard from them, that they deserve better treatment than they are getting ; but 1 think that it is not the cost of the cable service so much as the cost ot telegrams that creates difficulties for them.
– The telegraph charges should be reduced by one-half.
– The character of the cable service which they receive is unsatisfactory.
– Such contradictory statements have been put before us that it would be only fair to give honorable members more time to investigate the matter. In voting public money to subsidize private concerns, we are entering upon very dangerous ground, and taking a step which should not be taken until after the fullest inquiry.
– * address myself to the motion, not because of my sympathy with either the metropolitan or the country press, but because it is my duty to consider the interests of the taxpayers. On every former occasion when a subsidy or bounty has been proposed, Parliament has been asked to spend the money in regard to which it acts as the trustee of the taxpayers to assist deserving industries needing support ; but is the press of Australia so impoverished an institution that it needs assistance from the public revenue? Our press already enjoys many benefits at the expense of the general community. The ordinary taxpayer must pay duty on everything he uses in life, and on the coffin in which he is buried; but newspaper proprietors may import all their materials of trade, with the exception of ink, free of duty. Furthermore, it is admitted that the richest corporations in Australia are those which control newspapers. Within the last few years, a Melbourne gentleman left an enormous fortune, which had come to him through his connexion with the press of this city. If we grant the proposed subsidy, each of the electors whom we represent will have to pay his share of it. Do honorable members intend to spend public money in bolstering up an institution which not only does not require assistance, but is already more successful and prosperous than any other ?
– We desire to break clown a monopoly.
– All that is proposed is to make a special grant, the benefits of which are to go solely to the press of Australia. The Minister may think that at the present time the community does not get as much cable news of the right sort as it should get, but he does not propose to interfere in that matter. Notwithstanding the granting of this subsidy, the newspapers will be at liberty to publish what they please. Murderers can be held up to the emulation of morbid minds, and unedifying Court proceedings may be made the mental pabulum of those who can only be harmed thereby.
– Does the honorable member suggest a Government censorship ?
– If we are to vote public money for the benefit of the richest institution in Australia, we should insure that the news for which we are to nay shall be such as will benefit our people. Why do not honorable members opposite apply to the newspapers the new Protection of which they speak so much? In reality the object of the motion is to set the Worker newspaper of Sydney on its legs.
– Is that where it hurts the honorable member?
– It is a serious thing to use public funds for private purposes.
– No one would be better pleased than myself if the Worker became a daily newspaper. When that happens its methods of conducting party warfare will be so evident that it will stink in the nostrils of every decent-minded man. But does the honorable member think it right that the Labour Government, which is a trustee for the people, should grant money to a newspaper owned by one of the organizations which sent it into power?
– The subsidy is not to be confined to one newspaper.
– No, but- it is devised to assist that newspaper chiefly. What excuse is there for assisting the press of Australia generally ? Is there any reason whymoney should be voted by us to increase the profits of the Sydney Morning Herald. the Sydney Daily Telegraph, the Melbourne Argus, and the Melbourne Age?
– The honorable member has not read the conditions.
– It is because I have done so that I have come to the conclusion that the motion has been made in the interest? of the Worker.
– In the interest of. the proprietor of every newspaper.
– Obviously it is in the interests of the metropolitan rather than of the country newspapers. The maximum annual charge to a Sydney or Melbourne journal is to be £1,000 ; to a Brisbane or Adelaide journal, £750 ; to a Perth journal, £500; and to a Hobart journal, £300; while to a journal circulating in any of the chief provincial towns it is to be £200. Our chief provincial towns have populations not exceeding 50,000, while the population of Sydney, for example, is about 580,000. Is it fair tc charge only £1,000 to a newspaper which not only circulates in a city with a population of 580,000, but also, by means of railways run at the Government expense, over a very large area of the State, and to charge £200 to a newspaper whose circulation is confined to a city like Bendigo or Ballarat ?
– - -In other words, to assess the value of a country newspaper at one-fifth of that of the Age or Daily Telegraph.
– The proposal of the Government places the country press at such a great disadvantage, without taking into account the cost of telegraphing which it has to bear, that obviously, then, it is intended to benefit some metropolitan newspaper. I have looked round to endeavour to discover which of the metropolitan journals the Labour party wishes to help. It has given the mental services of the Attorney-General to the Sydney Daily Telegraph, who writes as a member of the staff.
– He is not on the staff j he is a contributor.
– He draws a salary. The Labour party has placed at the disposal of the Sydney Daily Telegraph the services of the cleverest brain which it possesses, so surely it cannot contemplate by the proposal now under discussion further aid for that journal.
– It is a good thing for the Daily Telegraph that the Attorney-General writes for its columns.
– An excellent thing, because the articles which the Caucus contributes through him are answered in the leading articles, which causes Labour supporters to read their rebuttal. The contributions of the Attorney-General are headed, “ The Case for Labour, by W. M. Hughes “ ; but as was suggested by a gentleman who was a brilliant member of this House some time ago, the heading should read, “ The Case for Labour and W. M. Hughes.” In my opinion, it is the case for the Daily Tele graph and W. M. Hughes that is mostly considered, the case for Labour finishing a bad third. I refer to the matter merely to show that the Labour party can have no interest in benefiting the Daily Telegraph further. Is it the Sydney Morning Herald that the party wish to benefit? I do not believe that it is the Melbourne Argus, and I am convinced that they do not wish to help the impoverished exchequer of the Melbourne Age. To what paper, then, is this subsidy to be given? To any one who looks at these facts and at the terms of this undertaking, it is admittedly to be given to a metropolitan newspaper published in a certain interest, and not in the general interests of the community. This subsidy must be for the Sydney Worker. It must be to put the Worker on its legs.
– It is already on its legs.
– The Sydney Worker is a great newspaper. There was a time when, I may say, the “ Darling “ of this House started on a crusade to organize a vast body of men. A union was organized. It then became necessary to have a newspaper, and the newspaper was organized.
– Order. Will the honorable member confine himself to the question before the Chair?
– I admit, sir, that the newspaper may be out of order. The Sydney Worker is a great newspaper, and provides the honorable member for Darling with many opportunities for usefulness.
– I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the question before the Chair.
– What deeply grieves me is the knowledge that this grant, at the expense of the taxpayers of Australia, rich and poor alike, is to go into the coffers oi a newspaper that has already provided a living for many a man who is doing well out of the Labour movement. I am not referring to the honorable member for Darling in that connexion, but I hold that the Sydney Worker is not deserving of our support. It is mendacious in almost every line of its contents.
– The honorable member must confine himself to the question before the Chair.
– The matter before the Chair, I would point out, Mr. Speaker, is the question of granting a subsidy for the transmission of cables to be used by certain newspapers in Australia.
– That is so; but it does not warrant the honorable member in discussing the merits of a particular newspaper.
– By a process of exhaustion, I showed that this proposal, in the first place, would benefit metropolitan newspapers at the expense of country newspapers. By another process of exhaustion I showed that the Government would not wish to benefit any metropolitan newspaper but the Sydney Worker. I was proceeding to show that the Sydney Worker was not worthy of any support at the hands of the taxpayers of Australia; but if you, Mr. Speaker, rule me out of order, I shall not be able to go into the methods of that newspaper, and shall have to forego inviting the attention of honorable members to judgments of the Arbitration Court of New South Wales as to its methods, and the dishonesty of its public criticisms.
– Would not the honorable member be much happier in dealing with the Age?
– The .Age is an old offender ; but I doubt if the Age, in its happiest moments, has the same inspiration of reckless mendacity as has the particular newspaper for which this subsidy is intended. I notice that the subsidy to be paid is larger than that which the Select Committee recommended. The Select Committee proposed that there should be a subsidy to the Worker - it did not mention the Worker, but we know that the subsidy was intended for that newspaper - of £2,000 a year to commence with, whereas the Government propose a subsidy of £2,500 for the first year.
– What about the proposed new Melbourne daily?
– I am delighted to see these dailies coming into existence. I hope that the Government will insert in this motion some safeguards which will incorporate the provisions of the new Protection in the regulation of the service.
– Why not move an amendment ?
– Amendments in that direction will be moved. I am encouraged by the honorable member’s interjection to say that I have seen in his newspaper Holy Writ, or was it verse by the honorable member for Gwydir? This newspaper was proposing new methods for the collection of advertisements.
– Why not recite the poem?
– I could not do justice to it. I will leave it to the honorable member for Gwydir. We must be very careful to see that any newspaper that reaps the subsidy proposed shall at any rate conduct its advertising operations upon ordinary straightforward lines. There ought not to be any black list in any paper that reaps a benefit from this subsidy. No dealer, manufacturer, agent, or distributor, should have a man calling on him and making the statement, “If you do not give us an advertisement, you will not get our readers to buy your goods.” That must be stopped if we are going to pass any such legislation as is now proposed. There, must be no blackmail.
– Is there any such practice in existence?
– If the honorable member for Wentworth says that I have anything to do with black-mail, I will tei’, him what he is, quick and lively.
– Order !
– I hope that in the interests of the Marquis of Queensberry rules I shall not be called upon to enter the lists with the honorable member.
– Will the honorable member address the Chair?
– In justice to the honorable member, I wish to say that, as far as ] know, his newspaper is not directly worked for black-mail or-
– Order ! Will the honorable member address himself to the question before the Chair?
– Then I shall be compelled, in the interests of the honorable member for Cook, to make a personal explanation at the close of my speech.
– The honorable member is making a lot of dirty insinuations. He is insinuating what he dare not say directly.
– All that I have said I shall be prepared to supplement at the expense of the honorable member if he desires it. I shall produce a statement at the head of the newspaper to show-
– Order ! Although I have repeatedly called the honorable member to order, he persists in deliberately evading my ruling and in trying to get in by a side method that to which I have objected. He must not do that. If he persists in doing so, then sooner or later some further action will have to be taken. I must ask the honorable member to address the House respectfully, and in a way that will be in keeping with its dignity. The House must not be used merely as a means of jocularity. I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– I must most respectfully protest, sir, against your statement that 1 am addressing the House in a jocular spirit. 1 am addressing myself to the consideration of one ofthe most serious proposals ever rushed before the House. I represent 36,000 electors-
– Will the honorable member address himself to the question?
– I am proposing to do so, and shall deal on the motion for the adjournment with the other question that has been raised. The electors who returned me to this House have intrusted me with a duty, and I think that they will be satisfied with the manner in which I am discharging it. I come now to the question of safeguards in respect of this legislation. It is well known that a number of newspapers are run on lines similar to those just suggested. It is extremely well known that one weekly newspaper in Australia is in the habit of coming out with a full-page advertisement’ at certain fortunate periods of its existence. Such methods as these should receive no support from a House that exists as a trusteeof the public purse. We must see that safeguards exist in this legislation to insure that the people of Australia shall have a fair thing so far as they can obtain a fair thing out of a proposal to pay the funds of the Commonwealth into the pockets of party organizers. Further, I think that the news that is sent out by cable should be on the lines suggested by the Leader of the Opposition. If there is any objection to be offered to our present cable service it is that we have in it too much sensationalism and too little serious news. . 1 admit that in journalism one cannot expect a journalist to be an altruist. A journalist runs his paper for profit, and he will provide exactly the sort of news that his readers demand. I do say, however, that the Commonwealth should not waste public money in providing reports of this or that judicial proceeding of an unsavoury character, of this or that murder case, of a fatal accident, say, in California, or any other matter of merely sensational and passing interest.
– Reports of the beastly details of divorce cases ought not to be transmitted.
– Certainly not. Nor ought we to have news of the kind that we have been reading lately in respect to the doings of a certain individual who is now charged with murder. The cable messages have been crammed full of his doings, and a number of other cases of undesirable messages might also be given. Pick up a newspaper when you will and you will find that a good deal of its news is in respect of sensational matter that is not in the interests of the mental well-being of the people we represent. That being so, we ought to be careful to see that any additional matter that we subsidize shall be in the interests of our people. That is all I ask, and all I hope that the Government will see fit to grant.
– But is there any necessity to subsidize a service?
– I cannot see any. I find that the press in Australia is infinitely more numerous per head of the population than the press of the Old Country. For instance, per one million of the people there are five daily newspapers in the United Kingdom, as against nearly sixteen in Australia. Of weekly, bi-weekly, and triweekly newspapers, the average per million in the United Kingdom is just on 60, as against nearly 183 in Australia.
– Is that an argument or a joke?
– In either case I do not expect the honorable member would see it, so I hope that he will spare me his interruptions. I quote these figures from the “dissent” to the majority report of the Senate’s Select Committee, signed by exSenator Pulsford.
– Does not that illustration afford a reason why we should have legitimate news cabled to Australia ?
– There are in Australia more newspapers per head of the population, because, perhaps, the industry here is more profitable than it is in England. That is a matter to which I addressed myself at the opening of my remarks. This additional information shows pretty conclusively that the press of Australia, taken as a whole, is a fairly prosperous institution. It is extremely prosperous in the big cities.
– Most prosperous.
– Most prosperous. That being so, if we go to the extent of paying money at the expense of the taxpayers to these prosperous institutions, we ought to see that the news they give will help to educate and uplift the people, make them more knowledgable of Imperial questions, and more cognisant of the affairs of the world.
– That is provided for: the High Commissioner has a man in London.
– The High Commissioner may send information in addition to what is provided elsewhere, but, in any case, the Commonwealth pays. The point to which I specially direct the attention of gentlemen who are really and truly interested in the country press of Australia is the extraordinarily small subsidy which is to be paid to the country press as compared with that paid to the metropolitan press.
-“ Subsidy “?
– Yes, using the word indirectly. I understand that the honorable member was editor of a country newspaper in New South Wales, and I think he will agree that Bathurst is one of the chief provincial cities in the Commonwealth.
– Quite correct.
– A daily paper circulating in Bathurst, or, indeed, any newspaper, will, under the proposed scheme, have to pay £200 for cables to supply a population of 18,000 or 20,000.
– In the case of Bathurst the charge would be £50 per annum.
M.r. KELLY. - No, because the honorable member for Macquarie says that Bathurst is one of the chief provincial cities.
– The charge of £200 is the maximum.
– But will not the maximum be charged when this particular Association is deciding what other people are to pay? There is absolutely no check on the Association, and what is described as the maximum may be claimed from every newspaper in Australia. Whilst a Bathurst newspaper will pay £200 per annum to supply 20,000 people, the Sydnev Daily Telegraph, with the opportunity of circulating throughout New South Wales, and especially amongst 580,000 people in its immediate neighbourhood, will pay only £1,000. The larger newspaper will pay * only five times as much as the smaller one, whereas it ought to pay twenty-seven times as much on a mere population basis, and, indeed, twice as much as that again, when we consider its infinite opportunities for circulating throughout the State as a whole.
– That is hardly fair, when we consider the number of newspapers published in the metropolitan area !
Mi. KELLY. - A newspaper published anywhere has access to the people in its immediate vicinity, and there are 580,000 people in the immediate vicinity of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, while there are approximately only 20,000 people to be served by a newspaper in Bathurst or Goulburn.
– A Bathurst newspaper will pay only £50 per annum, seeing that the place is not a city.
– My honorable friends opposite are always full of suspicion of capitalistic enterprise; and here we are dealing with an Association which will have absolute authority to charge anything it likes up to the maximum. According to remarks which honorable members opposite have so often addressed to this Chamber, such an Association will charge a great deal more than the maximum if it has the opportunity, and, at any rate, according to them, it is only human nature for them to charge up to the maximum. To this consideration I direct the earnest attention of those who are seriously concerned about benefiting the country press of Australia, and not trying to rush through a project which has no other immediate object than putting the money of the people of Australia into the pockets of an organ that works night and day in the interests of the Labour party.
– One wonders why this proposal is being pressed with such persistency.
– Are honorable members opposite going to block everything?
– As the honorable member knows, we are absolutely unable to block anything; we can only wonder why important business on the noticepaper is put aside in favour of this motion. It seems as though there were some specially urgent circumstances which require the Government to postpone their land tax proposals, the Australian Notes Bill, and other important matters for the purpose of having this motion passed to-day.
– The debate on the land tax proposals was deliberately postponed in order to meet the convenience of the Opposition.
– I am glad to hear that the Government are so reasonable, but they were not so considerate in connexion with the Australian Notes Bill. I can only ask why we should not have proceeded with that latter measure to a finish instead of interpolating this motion, about which there is no great urgency? The Government have declined to give permission to honorable members on this side to examine the evidence taken before a Select Committee, and to consider the motion in the light of the speech of the Minister; in fact, they have declined to extend the ordinary courtesies of debate in connexion with this proposal above all others. Why do they make an exception in this matter, as compared with infinitely more important matters of Government business ?
– Just for fun !
– I am sorry to hear that the Labour party, now that they are ensconced in the “ seats of the mighty,” are doing nothing more than funning with the business of the country.
– My answer will suit the honorable member as well as any other answer !
– It is an excellent admission; and I hope the honorable member’s supporters outside will take note of the fact that he and his colleagues are doing nothing but indulging in fun.
– Is that not very thin?
– If so, who is responsible for the thinness ? I am merely accepting a remark made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that this is a matter of fun.
– The honorable member is stretching the answer !
– Not at all. I thought the Labour party was a party with ideals - that there was no other party in Australia with ideals - but it seems that their ideal is fun, nof business. One begins to understand now why it is that the proteges of the party outside are going about advocating light opera, the drinking of light wines, and gaiety of every possible description.
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the question before the Chair?
– I am afraid I have been led off the track by the interjections of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports; but it struck me as peculiar that gentlemen who are supposed outside to be full of earnestness - full of hurry, in fact - to get the Labour proposals on the statute-book, should, when those proposals, are under way, intenpolate a motion of this kind, and, when asked the reason, tell us that it is done for fun. Let us consider the matter seriously, as we on this side, at any rate, have done.
– The honorable member looks serious !
– I might even be forgiven if I smile at the hilarity and fun which appears to be the main business of the day. It is very singular how the whirligig of time brings round a complete reversal of form and attitude.
– There is no one more capable than the honorable member of speaking on that point !
– Honorable members opposite can accuse me of no reversal of form. The Minister in charge of the motion will recollect that, ever since I have been in this Parliament, I have been an earnest advocate of the Pacific Cable, as opposed to the interests of that great monopoly of which he, at one time, was an ardent champion in this House.
– I was not a champion of the company, but a champion of South Australia in connexion with the company.
– That is exactly the same thing.
– No, it is not.
– Will the’ honorable member for Parramatta confine himself to the question before the Chair?
– I shall do so; but I am entitled to point out that the Minister, who is now submitting a proposal for a special subsidy to the Pacific Cable, fought every step of the way against the proposal to reduce the charges for the use of that cable, and has always done so in the interests of the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company.
– Under conditions which then involved the expense of South Australia, and not the expense of the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company.
– The honorable member, in order to bolster up a line-
– I have repeatedly called the honorable member to order. The question before us is not one of the merits of one cable company as against another.
– Indeed, it is.
– The question before us does not deal with the relative merits of the two Companies. It is a proposal to give a subsidy to certain newspapers, and not a question of the cable companies. I remind honorable members that continuous interjections only lead speakers from the issue, and also have a tendency to cause many things to be said which ought not to be said, and which are unpleasant.
– I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that your ruling has been given under a misapprehension of the facts. Let me remind you that this is a proposal to specially subsidize the Pacific Cable, which now practically sends no press messages one way, the bulk coming over the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company’s line. The whole question is whether the Pacific Cable shall be encouraged without reference to the other line, and encouraged in the way the Government propose.
– The honorable member will not be in order in discussing the relative merits of the two lines.
– I am not going to do so - that is not my purpose - but I am entitled to point out the strong reversal of form on the part of the Minister of External Affairs in his attitude towards the Pacific Cable.
– The honorable member will find that my attitude is quite consistent.
– The honorable member for Parramatta must not proceed any further with this line of argument. I have already called him to order several times.
– May I not quote the attitude of the Minister towards the Pacific Cable some years ago?
– I do not know what the honorable member is going to quote.
– It would be far better if I were allowed to quote, before being told I cannot deal with the subject, which is the very subject, I should have thought, we have now under discussion. When this matter was under discussion some years ago, I spoke then, as I have always done, for the Pacific Cable, and for its encouragement.
– The honorable member is now evidently going to try to evade my ruling. I have already ruled that the honorable member must not discuss the relative merits of these cable companies. The motion now before the Chair is one to give a subsidy to a certain newspaper association.
– Provided they use a certain cable.
– There is no provision at all for using a certain cable. All the association is expected to do is to provide a certain service; what method they use is quite another matter.
– With great respect, sir, I think you will find that what is proposed is a subsidy to the Pacific Cable. One of the reasons for which the subsidy is being offered is to support this is against another and competing company. That is the very purpose and intention of the Government’s proposal, and the words ” via Pacific “ are expressly stated in the third clause of the motion. It is strange to me to find the Minister, who has always fought every effort to subsidize the Pacinc Cable, and to reduce its charges, particularly its terminal charges over the land lines at this end, and who has, time and again, resisted any concession of the kind, now showing a complete reversal of form by specially subsidizing the Pacific . Cable Company.
– The bookkeeping sections are abolished now, which alters the whole matter. When the proposal involved a charge on South Australia, it was a different thing.
– I see. So long as South Australia is looked after, the press’ and public of Australia can go hang?
– No; but when the whole charge was on South Australia, it was not fair.
– The whole nharge was never proposed to be put on South Australia, and the honorable member always resisted any proposal to cut down the terminal charges of the Pacific Cable. I do not want to pursue that matter further, but I am entitled to make that reference, because, for a long time past, I have stood almost alone in this House on the question. I think the only supporter I had when making that fight for the Pacific Cable Company was Mr. Watson, the ex-Leader of the Labour party.
– I have always fought for the Pacific Cable against that monopoly.
– The honorable member’s party supported Sir Edmund Barton in putting the agreement through, and declining to cut down the terminal charge of 5d., every time we tried to get it reduced.
– I was not here then.
– I refer more particularly to 1903, when the honorable member was not here; but we could get no support then. Now, however, it seems that the Pacific Cable is the one thing in all the world that ought to be encouraged.
– The honorable member ought not to growl. He is getting his own way, and yet he is not satisfied.
– I am not getting my own way. I am getting the Government way, and, as usual, it is the wrong way. There is a right and a wrong way of going about all these matters, and my honorable friends, somehow or other, seem always to choose the wrong. Why have they departed so fully and radically from the agreement as suggested by the Committee of the Senate, of which Senator Pearce was the chairman, and the majority were Labour members? 1 do not know why this complete departure from the recommendations of that Committee has been made, but it seems to have been coincident with the advent of the party to power in such dominating numbers. One wonders what influences have been at work to so seriously modify the report which appears over the signatures of Senator Pearce, Senator Givens, Senator Findley, and the other Labour senators who formed the majority of the Committee. The Committee, in the first place, recognised the precise suggestion made by my leader this afternoon that the subsidy should be conditioned by the collection of news relating solely to the Empire, and not be for general newspaper news, such as we are in the habit of getting over the cable. It is also suggested in the report that the High Commissioner’s office should be utilized for, the collection and despatch to Australia of Empire news. That is practically the suggestion made this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition.
– It is very absurd.
– Whatever may be the merits of the suggestion, it is made by the Committee, and yet when it was put forward again by the Leader of the Opposition to-day, the honorable member for Calare warned the Minister to beware of “ any suggestion coming from the other side.” That emanated not “ from the other side,” but from the honorable member’s own side. It. came from his present leaders, who put it forward as one of the conditions to be observed before any subsidy should be paid. Moreover, they, very rightly, before any subsidy or anything else is undertaken, approach the question of an efficient cable service. Their first recommendation is for the completion of the All-Red cable route by laying down the Atlantic cable section, and the Canadian land line, the result of which, they say, would be to make possible a substantial reduction in the charges tol press cables. Here, again, the Government seem to be beginning at the wrong end in precisely the same way as they have done in connexion with the Post Office charges. The primary requirement of the public in connexion with all these Government functions is an efficient service. The very first thing asked for by the newspaper proprietors who first approached the Government and the Committee, was an efficient service. I have no time to deal with the report iti extenso, but I should like to quote the remarks made by Mr. Robert McMillan, who went into the matter very thoroughly, as follows : -
We want a complete cable from Australia across Canada, across the Atlantic, and back again to Australia by the Red Sea. If we are going to make it a commercial concern, we must have an alternative route. That is a strong point with the Eastern Extension Company to-day. They have an alternative route, so that if one breaks down they have the other. Imagine my depending upon the Pacific cable for my news ! The Canadian-Pacific Route service comes over the Rocky Mountains, and in a terrible storm the cable might break down. I would then be left” absolutely without messages, whereas the Eastern Extension Company have an alternative route, and can keep up the supply. In any discussion as to forming a cable service, there must be an alternative route, because as a newspaper proprietor with big interests, I should not be dependent upon a single line over the mountains.
In another part of his evidence he reverts to the same proposal, and points out, as one objection to the Pacific Cable as at present constituted, that all its messages have to go through a cable run by private enterprise. He says -
The Pacific cable which was going to help us so much is nothing but a sham, because my cable message goes from here to Vancouver by that service, and then it is handed to the Canadian Pacific Railway, by whom it is handed to the Atlantic Cable Company. So that my message from this country is delivered in London by the Atlantic Cable Company, which is a private concern, whose interest it is to damn any State-owned business. So that this Pacificcable is merely one link in the necessary chain. You gentlemen cannot do a thing that will help us pressmen so long as you have only one link in the Imperial cable service.
That is clear and definite enough, and goes to show that even if the Government give these newspapers this subsidy-
– No newspapers get any subsidy.
– I do not mind accepting that statement for what it is worth. Shall I say that an association is to get it?
– An association may be a proprietary concern, lt does not necessarily consist of newspapers.
– I am referring to the Newspaper Press Agency, which is at the very bottom of this matter, and has argued it through from start to finish.
– There are no newspapers at all in one of the present associations.
– To which does the honorable member refer?
– The Independent Press Cable Association.
– Every member of that Association is a newspaper proprietor or manager or editor. Every man upon it or connected with it has something to do with newspaper enterprise.
– Yes, but there is to be no subsidy to any newspaper.
– Then, shall we say a subsidy for the benefit of newspapers, and to provide a cable service for newspapers? What is the difference, so far as our purposes are concerned ? Is the honor- able member going to subsidize an association if he should find that it does not provide another cable service at all? The very purpose of the motion is to get an additional cable route for certain newspapers which are now supposed to be put out of court by the monopoly which it is said the existing newspaper proprietors have. The whole intention of the proposal is to break down the existing route, the existing service, and the existing newspaper monopoly. Does the Minister deny that? I do not think he will Or can, for he has said it himself, and every speaker on that side so far has said the same. I am merely pointing out that we are going to subsidize a service which, on the authority of those who are agitating for it, will be of no use unless a great deal more money is spent on it. The witnesses point out that to make the Canadian Pacific service useful it would be necessary to expend another £500,000 on the Canadian land line, and at least another £500,000 on the Atlantic section of the cable. In other words, before it is worth anything to the newspapers as a reliable and independent source of information, you must spend a million more in completing the service. According to the evidence of persons concerned, the proposed subsidy will not be worth much to them. They say that they could not rely on messages coming over the Pacific Cable, and that £1,000,000 should lie spent in making that line safe and secure, and providing an alternative route. I cannot find that a subsidy was asked for.
– It was recommended bv the Select Committee.
– That recommendation is not in accordance with the evidence. The witness whose evidence I just quoted did not suggest a subsidy, nor did any other important witness;
– The Country Press Association has asked for a subsidy.
- Mr. James Ryan, its president, to whose words, on a subject of this kind, every one who knows him will attach the utmost weight, does not suggest the granting of a subsidy. This proposal has been rushed forward in such a way that I have not been able to thoroughly examine the evidence of the Committee, but I cannot find that witnesses have done more than suggest a cheaper cable service.
– Is Mr. Ryan against the granting of a subsidy?
– Why should he be? Would the honorable member be against the granting of a subsidy to him?
– Then a subsidy would benefit the Country Press Association?
- Mr. McMillan says that it would not, unless £1,000,000 was spent in making the service efficient.
– The Country Press Association is not a private concern.
– lt represents private enterprise.
– How would it be for the Government to run the whole concern itself ?
– I have always been in favour of the Empire owning the whole of its cable connexions.
– Is not this a step in the right direction?
– We are beginning in the wrong way, by subsidizing a service which, we have been told, will not assist the country press until we have spent £1,000,000 in securing efficiency.
– Perhaps the honorable member is not aware of the mismanagement that is caused by the international rules by which the Pacific Cable is governed?
– I knew of it before the honorable member entered Parliament, and constantly pointed out what was necessary to put matters right.
– Then why does not the honorable member admit the need for help?
– I do admit it. But this is not the best way to assist the newspaper proprietors of Australia.
– The honorable member objected to it on the ground that it would assist the Pacific Cable.
– No; my only desire is to see the Pacific Cable a success. What is first needed is an efficient service. Some years ago I begged Sir Edmund Barton, who was then Leader of the Government, to modify the present terminal charge of 5d. a word. A cable message is conveyed across the Pacific for a very small sum.
– Ninepence a word.
– I believe that the Atlantic Company gets sd.. a word, while the message is conveyed across the huge stretch of the Pacific for 2d. or 3d. a word, the Canadian land lines and the Canadian Government also being paid. At this end, we charge 5d. a word.
– The way in which to assist both the Pacific Cable and the newspapers is to reduce the terminal charges.
– Exactly. Our charges are exorbitant;and, before proposing a huge subsidy, we should cheapen them. A terminal charge of1d. a word would be enough. That is all, or more than, the service is worth. If we reduced the total cost of cable messages by 4d. a word, no newspaper would need assistance.
– Is it practicable to make such a reduction under the agreement with the Eastern Extension Cable Company?
– I think so. If the same reduction had to be made in regard to messages transmitted by the Eastern Extension Company, the users of the cable service would benefit. This is the evidence of Mr. McMillan, when examined by Senator Findley -
Why do you say that 5d. a word charged by the Government of the Commonwealth is too exacting? - Why should they exact 5d. when 1d. would pay?
You have “gone into this matter? - Yes. I cannot understand why the Government should charge sd. a word on every word coming to us. It is totally inconsistent.
I say that it is totally inconsistent. No Government, believing in the Stateowning of cables, should impose these high charges. I speak warmly, because I had to fight this matter for years. In New South Wales, I strove to prevent the taking of the very foolish action which put the Pacific Cable on a non-paying basis, and has prevented it from overtaking its losses since. To-day the Government do nothing to make the cable a success and encourage its use by the public. Let me now quote from the evidence of Mr. James Ryan, the President of the New South Wales Provincial Press Association. He says, referring to evidence by Mr. Shakespeare, which I have not had time to read -
In some portions of his evidence, Mr. Shakespeare gave his individual opinion, while other portions represented the opinion of the Association? - I may say that the policy of the Association in recent years is embodied in resolutions that were passed at the Conferences held in 1908 at Melbourne, and in 1909 at Brisbane. I think you have copies of those resolutions.
It is practically the completion of the AllRed Route, and the reduction of press transmitting charges to one penny ; also the present scheme of cabling Australian news to the Mother Country is expensive, and to permit of news of similar importance being cabled to London? - That was the resolution passed in Melbourne last year.
The Association asked the Government, first of all, for the completion of a cable through to London which will be entirely State-owned and State-controlled. They also desired that the charges, in respect of land lines, I presume, should be reduced to id. per word, and wished to have some further concessions, which are set out in this report. The Chairman asked this witness -
That is to say, the Commonwealth should collect news in London, and transmit it to Australia for dissemination through the local press? - Yes.
Would you suggest that should be done through the High Commissioner’s office? - We have no High Commissioner yet. The resolution is not one which embodied a scheme. It. was merely an expression of opinion.
The further question was put to him -
Have you any suggestion to make that theCommittee might recommend to Parliament, which would assist the press of Australia toget a better or more comprehensive service?
Here was the President of the New South Wales Provincial Press Association invited by the Committee to make suggestions, and his reply was -
Excepting that Parliament could provide for a substantial cheapening of cables, I do not know of any other. Of course, the question of a subsidy is comparatively a new one, and has only been raised quite recently. I doubt if Parliament would sanction a subsidy. That is my personal opinion. If a subsidy weregranted, there is no doubt whatever it wouldbe easy to start a second and independent service.
Mr. Ryan, who went to London some time ago and made special inquiries into thisparticular matter, was then questioned about: the cost of starting a new service. Senator Findley asked -
If your Association had a guarantee of a subsidy for five years of £2,000 to ^3,000 a year, would you, as President, be prepared to recommend your Association to accept it?
His answer was -
That guarantee would enable the Association at once to establish a supplementary service.
– Did he mean to say that an expenditure of £2,000 or £3,000 was standing in the way 01 the united country press of Australia securing such a service?
– As a matter of fact, he went on to say that at a cost of £2,000 or £3,000 they could get a supplementary service to the present one which would give them from 200 to 300 words a day. Therefore we are actually going to give a subsidy to the extent of providing a free service of 200 br 300 words a day. Mr. Ryan said that that would be the cost of a supplementary service, but that a. completely independent service would cost much more. He figured out the cost of a service, giving 300 words a day, at over £5,000 per annum on the basis of cable messages being transmitted at the rate of is. per word. Since then the rate has been reduced to 9d. per word, so that a purely independent service would now cost about £4,000 a year. In other words, we are to give a subsidy equal to about 60 per cent, of the total cost of an independent cable service. The Government are going to give a supplementary service to the extent of 200 or 300 words a day to the press of the Commonwealth, and the press are not asking for it. All they ask for, according to his evidence, is an efficient Pacific Cable and reasonable land line charges.
– It would cost a great deal more than £2,000 a year to give all for which they asked.
– That may be; but the Government must remember that when they have granted the subsidy they will still have this further liability to face. The representatives of the country press distinctly say in their evidence before the Select Committee, that unless they can get an efficient service they cannot undertake the work. The Government will, therefore, be met with this additional charge over and above the subsidy they have in contemplation. That is not the way to help the Pacific Cable. I do not think that, as a National Parliament, we have any right to subsidize individuals without at the same time paying some attention to the success or otherwise of the Pacific Cable service. That ought to be our first care. If we make that efficient, then, on the authority of these representative men, who are well qualified to speak, they want nothing more. At page 72 of the report we find that Senator Dobson asked Mr. Ryan -
Are you, then, in a position to say, from your general knowledge, how the Cable Association work their service on the whole?
His reply was -
Speaking from hearsay, so far as I am aware, there is no substantial grievance at present by the country papers of this State.
That was the statement of the witness who appeared before the Committee specially to represent country newspapers -
Opinions will be expressed here and there, which are purely individual, that the service might be improved, or that the cost is too high for country papers.
When before the Committee in his responsible position as President of the Association, Mr. Ryan said that the country press had no substantial grievance. We come now to the question whether this scheme, which is intended to benefit the country newspapers of Australia, will come into operation with the payment of this subsidy. Adverting to this question again, Senator Givens asked - question 1540 -
Do you think, without the establishment of another daily in Sydney, the country press would have the means to pay that amount?
That is, £5,560, less 25 per cent. The reply was -
I think the only financial basis on which the scheme could rest in that event would be for the proposed metropolitan paper, or papers, to shoulder the burden, and afterwards to dispose of the service to the various provincial papers as best they could.
Here we have a suggestion that the new Association should do precisely what the old one is doing to-day. It is a suggestion that a daily newspaper should take upon its shoulders the whole of this business, and sell cables to the country ‘ newspapers. That is really the complaint made by newspapers at the present time with respect to present arrangements. The witness was questioned further with regard to the figures at present obtaining in connexion with the Pacific cables, and he set out now the total amount is apportioned. Senator Givens, commenting on a previous question, said -
Although formerly the Commonwealth got 2d., Canada 2d., the Pacific Cable 3d., and the
Atlantic line 5d., now the Commonwealth get 1d., Canada1d., the Pacific Cable 2d., and the privately-owned line 5d.
Those, of course, were the rates on press messages.
Under those circumstances, do you think the State would be justified in reducing the price to 3d.?
The answer of the witness was -
I can see no comprehensive way of settling the whole question, except by the establishment of an Imperial cable right across the Atlantic, which concerns Australia as an important part of theEmpire more than any other part, because of the distance intervening.
I subscribe entirely to that doctrine. That is the point at which we ought to begin. Let us give, first of all, a complete, efficient service, and then reducethe terminal charges. If we did that, the newspaper proprietors would not ask for a fraction more, and we should have, at an early date, another independent competing service. It does seem to me that the Government are forcing this subsidy on the people concerned, instead of doing what the people themselves suggest as an alternative. There are some further references in the report with which I do not wish to weary the House; butI suggest that honorable members should caretully examine it. If they do, they will find that the proposals of the Government set aside this report, which was framed by four of their own party. Why the change has come over the scene I do not know. I can only suggest that those in powei are now expected to do something in return for the support they have received from newspapers outside the Association, and Labour papers in particular. Our cable services are not completely satisfactory. I am not here as an advocate for the present condition of affairs. It’ might be improved. There is nothing so important in these outposts of the Empire as a full and free circulation of news in relation to all that affects Imperial interests. I have before to-dny suggested that the Government might very well arrange for a column of news concerning the doings of the Empire, to be sent every day over the Pacific Cable for dissemination in Australia. But whaf are the Government doing here? They are imposing no condition as to the kind of news that is to be transmitted. Are honorable members going to agree to a subsidy of £2,500 a year, and to the transmission of messages over the Pacific Cable practically free of charge for these newspapers, without our having some voice in determining the class of news that is to be received? For instance, are we going to subsidize cable messages such as those relating to the Jack Johnson light, and other matters, to which the Leader of the Opposition has alluded to-day? The logical corollary to a proposal of this kind is that we should use the High Commissioner’s office in London to supervise the news that is to be sent, and restrict messages to matters relating to the interests of the Empire in its world-wide relations and the interests of Australia in particular. If the Government do that, I shall be disposed to look with approval upon any such proposal.
– A newspaper is a commercial venture.
– Of course it is, and so long as it pays for its own news in its own way, the matter has nothing to do with any one else. But it has to do with these newspapers when they find themselves confronted with Government charges, which, as I have said for many years, are extortionate, and ought not to be imposed. If we put down the terminal charges from 5d. to1d. or 2d. per word, we should have such an accession of business over the Pacific Cable portion of the line as would convert it from a nonpaying into a highly payable undertaking. We owe a duty to the Pacific Cable, irrespective altogether of the way in which the enterprises of newspaper people are going to be affected. I can find nothing in the evidence which suggests that a subsidy should be paid ; but I find suggestion after suggestion that an efficient service should be given at a cheap rate, and then the newspapers will be able to “ gang their ain gait” without special consideration.
– I join with other honorable members in protesting against this motion,or new business of any kind, being sprung on Opposition members without the slightest warning, while important measures, which we have been led to believe would be dealt with as nearly as possible in their order on thebusiness-paper, are set aside. We have a right to protest against thus being taken at a disadvantage, precluded, as we are, from giving any consideration to the proposal submitted. This motion has heen flung nn the table, nobody knowing until this morning that it was to be submitted. The Government, after professing to be most anxious to proceed with measures of primary importance, have, without any request or desire on the part of the Opposition, voluntarily thrown these aside for the purpose of introducing proposals which are certainly not of an urgent character. Honorable members on this side are thus called upon to deal with questions at a moment’s notice which they have had no opportunity of looking into. Of course, there is a reason for this course of action ; hut that reason does not appear on the surface; it has not been mentioned by the Minister, or by any honorable members opposite, but has been carefully kept in the background, although it is well known. This motion is an absolute contradiction of all the professed principles of the Labour party, and is a flat negation of their Socialistic platform. It is a proposal for insuring against financial loss a private Capitalistic company engaged for its own profit in catering to supply a commodity for other private Capitalistic enterprises run also for their own profit; in short, the primary purpose is to insure that Capitalistic syndicate against loss in a new venture in opposition to an established venture. Here we have a professedly Socialistic Government, representing a Socialistic party, proposing to subsidize with public moneys a private Capitalistic syndicate which is being formed, or . has been formed, purely as a private profit-making speculation. This is further evidence of the inconsistency so characteristic of the Government since the 13th April last; but they, of course, will have to answer to their constituents. It cannot be alleged’, on any ground of public necessity or policy, that a proposal of this kind is needed. Thu only pretence in its favour is so farcical p.rid transparent as to deceive nobody. It is said that the object is to have cable news disseminated under a subsidy for the purpose of educating the public ; but, as a matter of fact, the country press argument is a mere stalking horse. The real intention was disclosed first by an interjection from the honorable member for Calare, secondly, in a speech by the honorable member for Robertson, thirdly, in an extract which appeared in the Standard of Empire, to which I called attention in the form of a question some days ago, and, fourthly, by a statement in the evidence submitted to the Select Committee. All these point to one reason, and one reason only, why this proposal to subsidize a private venture is brought forward in this hurried way.
– That is like the honorable member’s statement about the labour party and the navy.
– That alleged statement was never made, and has no foundation in Fact, as the honorable member well knows, for it was contradicted as soon as it was published, and has been frequently contradicted since, and the Minister knows it. The interjection, which is entirely out of order, is only for the purpose of actual misrepresentation. I have had occasion to draw attention to an extract from the Standard of Empire in reference to “ Australia’s new cable service,” containing the following : -
The Commonwealth Government has definitely announced its decision to grant a subsidy of £6,000, extended over three years, to the recently created Independent Press Cable Association of Australia.
This proposed Cable Association is a private Capitalistic business speculation, and it is most significant that, immediately this cable is sent Home, we have this proposal. Is this a public purpose? As a matter of fact, there is every reason to believe it is simply a proposal to use public money for party and political purposes, and nothing else. That is the only inference we cangather from the statements made to-day, from the evidence before the Select Committee, and from the report I am quoting. The paragraph goes on to say -
The subsidy is expected to begin from next month -
That is the reason for this sudden interruption of public business to rush a private subsidy through - it is that the subsidy may begin at once. and is intended to stimulate the cable service of news published mainly in the organs of the Labour- party, and in various rural newspapers. Complaints had been made that the existing cable news service did nol cater sufficiently to Labour interests.
When I asked the, question the other day, the statement that such a cable had been sent was denied,’ on the authority of a gentleman connected with the press.
– I read the exact cablegram to-day. Did the honorable member hear it?
– No. Will the Minister deny that the Labour party is going to benefit by this service? It is all very well for the Minister to try to side-track us, but we all know what isunderlying the proposal, which is made not in the interests of the country press, but in the interests of starting a certain daily city Labour newspaper, more than in the interest of any other section of the community. Had such action been taken iti the interests of any other party, honorable members opposite would have been the first to denounce it as “political jobbery.” I ask leave to continue my speech on a future occasion.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
House adjourned at 6.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 August 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19100817_reps_4_56/>.