5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, if the following statement regarding the correction of Hansard, which appears in to-day’s Age, is correct : -
The Hansard reporters take down the literal truth, it is true, but the literal truth is never published. Before Hansard goes to press a roof of every member’s speech is presented to im, and he is permitted to revise it in secret, and to alter it in any manner that pleases him.
– I had intended to refer to that matter. The newspaper statement just read is certainly not correct. The following memorandum is attached to every proof issued to honorable members : -
CORRECTION OF PROOFS.
The attached proofs are issued by direction of Mr. Speaker for the correction of errors in the report.
Honorable Members are respectfully requested to note that emendations which alter toe sense of words used in debate or introduce new matter are not admissible.
That memorandum contains the instructions governing the correction of proofs, and clearly shows that honorable members are not entitled, in revising their speeches, to make unlimited corrections. The Speaker in this House, and- the President in the Senate, are responsible for seeing that nothing of an objectionable character appears in the pages of Hansard, and must exercise that discretion in the interests of the two Houses, the Hansard Staff being responsible to the President and the Speaker just as the presiding officers are responsible to the two Chambers of the legislature. In regard to a -matter that cropped up yesterday - the mutilation of certain proof reports by the cutting out of them or a number of interpolations - that mutilation occurred apparently through a misunderstanding at the Printing Office. I asked the Principal Parliamentary Reporter if the ordinary practice had been departed from in connexion with the issue of proofs to members by giving proofs of speeches to members other than those who had made the speeches, without the consent and authority of the latter. He told me that he had not . given permission for that to be done, but apparently something had been done, perhaps inadvertently. My instruction to him was simply that the practice that had hitherto prevailed should be reverted to, and that the proofs of members’ speeches should not be given to other honorable members until those who had made the speeches had had an opportunity to revise them, and to correct any errors that might be in them. Of course, that rule applies to the proofs of my remarks as well as to the proofs of the speeches of honorable members generally. It appears that whoever was responsible for dividing up the proof records for distribution to members misunderstood the instruction given, and cut out of the report of speeches even interpolations of one line, and, in one case, containing only the word “Order!” Consequently, when honorable members received their proofs yesterday, they were surprised at the mutilation, and I was as astonished as any of them when I was shown a galley proof that had been sent to the honorable member for Yarra.
– The galley to which you refer, sir, contained the report of the remarks made by me last Friday.
– No instruction was issued for the cutting’ of it up as it was cut up. That came about through some misunderstanding at the Printing Office. To show the necessity of giving to honorable members (he right to correct and revise the report of their remarks, I might mention that the very first utterance I made yesterday was wrongly reported. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie was making a personal explanation, and there was a little disturbance at the time. In a low tone of voice I called for order. The honorable member had in front of him what appeared to* me to be a newspaper cutting, a clipping of a letter which had appeared in one of the newspapers. He was not reading from the newspaper extract, but was trying to guide his remarks by it, without actually quoting it, and was giving the purport of what was in print. He looked at me, as I thought, somewhat doubtfully as to his right to quote, and without intending that my words should reach Hansard or any one else but the honorable member, when I saw that he appeared to be in doubt as to his right to read what he had before him, I told the honorable member that he would be perfectly in order in reading an extract from a newspaper in making a personal explanation. I said that in a low tone of voice, and apparently it reached Hansard, but this is the way in which it appeared in the proof, “The honorable member is not entitled to say that in connexion with -a personal explanation.’” What I said was, “ The honorable member is entitled to read the extract in connexion with a personal explanation.” I differentiated between a personal explanation and the asking of a question. The Hansard Staff is not responsible for the mistake, the person at fault being really myself. I had not intended the remark to go into Hansard. It was just a private intimation to the honorable member who was speaking that he was proceeding on regular lines. But evidently a portion of it reached Hansard, though not all the words that I had used. The mistake made by the reporter was a perfectly natural one, the word “ extract “ sounding like “ said that “ at a distance. Had I not the opportunity to set the matter right, the original report would have been pointed to as a rule, and might have been cited at some future time against an honorable member who was making a personal explanation as a rule which I had laid down, although I had laid down something quite the opposite. The Principal Parliamentary Reporter exercises the greatest care in going through honorable members’ proofs, and sees that nothing which is not permissible, in the way of an alteration or emendation, gets into Hansard. In that matter he is responsible to me as the presiding officer of this Chamber, and I am responsible to the House.
.- I rise to a question of privilege, and I propose to conclude with a motion in the terms of standing order 285. I have a complaint to make against the Age newspaper, and produce a copy of to-day’s issue, dated Thursday, November 13., in which it is asserted that the newspaper in question was printed and published by “ Thomas Prosser , for David Syme and Company, at the Age office, Collins-street, Melbourne.” Some few weeks ago the Attorney-General had full provocation for referring to the Age newspaper as a mendacious liar.
– If the honorable gentleman desires to refer to anything that I said, I suggest that he should ‘use my exact words, which appear in Hansard.
– The honorable gentleman characterized what appeared in the newspaper as a mendacious lie. Will that suit the honorable gentleman ?
– The honorable gentleman should quote my words from Hansard.
– In my opinion, what appears in this morning’s issue of the Age sustains the reputation of the newspaper in that direction. There has been published an article, portion of which reads as follows: -
Mr. Speaker rendered the_ people of Australia yesterday a service of no slight significance. He destroyed an illusion that for many years has misled and deceived us, and he ‘ has let us at length into the secret of how Hansard’s reports are prepared and its infallibility maintained. The Hansard reporters take down the literal truth it is true, but the literal truth is never published. Before Hansard goes to press a proof of every member’s speech is presented to him, and he is permitted to revise it in secret and to alter it in any manner that pleases him. After this, the “infallibility” of Hansard will live as a term of flagrant mockery. We know the publication, now, for what it really is.
First of all, I point out that the writer of this article has dragged you, sir, into it for the purpose of covering up what he knew to be a deliberate lie. In doing so, it seems to . me that he has insulted the whole House. It is clear that he did not consider it sufficient to state the lie, but in order to emphasize it, and give colour to the infamy, he dragged in Mr. Speaker, and gave his statement an atmosphere which otherwise would have been impossible in this newspaper, and thus gave it an importance which otherwise could not possibly attach to it. The writer has used the name of the Speaker, and by so doing has cast a reflection upon every member of the House, and has deliberately deceived the whole of the community. Honorable members in the execution of their public duty are not safe from persons who will write articles of this description, particularly if not content with making deliberate misstatements they cover them up by asserting that the Speaker has admitted it. Nothing that Mr. Speaker said yesterday admitted this or any other misrepresentation so far as Hansard is concerned. The first portion of this offence is committed directly against you, sir, and indirectly against every member of this House by dragging the name of the Speaker into the article, in order to give some colour to the falsehood. The article says -
The Hansard reporters take down the literal truth, it is true, but the literal truth is never published.
There, again, gross misrepresentation is indulged in, such as ought not to be tamely permitted by members of this House, quite, apart from party considerations, or considerations as to whether this newspaper generally supports one side or the other. The truth is sent out to the public in Ilansard. It appears to me that the reason for the anger displayed in certain directions is that we have one publication, namely, Hansard, wherein the truth is told, and which takes the truth to the public. So far as I am aware,’ it is our only protection against malicious misrepresentation; it is our only protection, indeed, against venality. It is essential, quite apart from considerations as to whom this newspaper may be supporting to-day, that members of this House should protect themselves against liars and venal scoundrels, who, for political purposes, will make statements of so gross and misleading a character. The article goes on to say -
Before Hansard goes to press a proof of every member’s speech is presented to him, and he is permitted to revise it in secret and to alter it in any manner that pleases him.
The writer of this article is’ not content in the first place to insult the House as a whole by dragging the name of the Speaker into it, but he insults each individual member of the House by alleging that he is permitted to revise Hansard proofs in secret. Honorable members will understand the importance of adding the words “in secret.” They suggest that something is done which ought not to be done, that it is something of an underhand character, and that the public are misled, even by the official reports of Parliament. If the public of Australia cannot rely upon the official reports of Parliament, if their confidence and faith are shaken in those official reports, Parliament is not free to carry on its work in an honorable and upright way. The writer of this article must have had motives of a peculiar character to make such serious allegations against you, sir, the House as a whole, and individual members. As a matter of fact, and as was pointed out by Mr. Speaker only a moment ago, we are not permitted to alter or amend the reports of our speeches, either in secret or in public. We have no power whatever to alter the literal truth. We have no power to take from or add to the official report, namely, Hansard. All that is permitted to honorable members is to make such verbal corrections as do not in any way alter the sense of what has been said. They are not permitted to add to or alter the report of their speeches. In the circumstances, it seems to me that very gross misrepresentation has been indulged in, and an attempt has been made to deliberately misrepresent the proceedings of this Chamber. The name of the honorable the Speaker has been dragged into the article for the purpose of giving an appearance of truth to the statements made, and honorable members have been put before the public in an altogether unfair and untruthful light. What the purpose of the newspaper may be in publishing this article I do not know, but it seems to me essential that honorable members should protect themselves, if we are to prevent this House being so grossly misrepresented as it has been by the publication of «this article. . Misrepresentation of individual members goes on apace. It is, indeed, the regular thing. Misrepresentation, of party is indeed the regular thing in these newspapers, but on this occasion the Age has gone further. It has deliberately misrepresented the whole House by dragging the Speaker into ah article, and has deliberately attempted to shake the confidence of the public in our official reports by about as infamous a lie as it is possible for any newspaper to publish. Why this has been done I cannot say, but it has been done, and in the circumstances it is necessary, in my opinion, that more than ordinary notice should be taken of it. I therefore move in terms of standing order 285-
That the writer of that article be declared guilty of contempt, and that no representative of the Age newspaper be allowed access to the Federal Parliamentary Buildings until an apology of equal publicity to the article be given.
– Is the motion seconded %
– I second the motion, sir. If I may utter a word or two-
– May I state the motion to the House first?
– I am seconding the motion, sir.
– That will not prevent the honorable member from speaking.
– All right, sir.
.- I shall not take up much time. I have been somewhat anticipated by the honorable member for Wakefield and also by the honorable member for Adelaide. When I read the article this morning I was struck with amazement. It was not alone a reflection upon the integrity of honorable members, but undoubtedly a deliberate insult to the Hansard Staff. When I read the attitude which the Age takes up in connexion with the reports of our speeches, involving’ as it does the undoubted honour and integrity of the Hansard Staff, I can only look upon the writer of the article as a fool or a liar. I prefer to call him a fool, because I do not think that any man who knew what he was saying could possibly make a statement in the terms which have been used. I appeal to honorable members as to whether at any time they have had, not the right, but the privilege from the Staff of this House to alter their statements, to amend them from time to time, to give to their utterances a sense different from that which was conveyed to the House? Speaking from my own few years’ experience here, I can say at once that, while from time to time little errors have occurred in the parliamentary reports, in the main the reports have been perfect. I know of no honorable member who has ever had the right or the opportunity to alter or amend his utterances to the destruction of the sense and the spirit of the attitude he took in the House. I think that the action taken by the honorable member for Adelaide is a correct one, because that which is complained of is undoubtedly a most disgraceful attitude for any writer to adopt in a sub-leader. I therefore cordially support the motion, and sincerely trust that this House will support the honorable member for Adelaide in the position he has taken up.
.- I have been waiting to hear what is the gravamen ‘of these alle gations to-day, and I confess that in the article I can discover no reflection upon honorable members at all.
– Well, well, well!
– Do you read through green or blue glasses ?
– Let him go on.
– Mr. Speaker,” may I be permitted to go on? These comments in the Age do not, in my judgment, reflect upon any member of the House. If they reflect at all, they reflect upon a practice which honorable members know full well has obtained here for many years.
– Yet you expelled an honorable member for saying the same thing.
– I can see not the slightest parallel between the two cases.
– I can see not the slightest parallel between the two cases. The statement in this article is that Hansard is- revised. Everybody knows that that is true.
– But there is not unlimited revision.
– Everybody knows that that is true.
– To what extent?
– I presume that the revision differs in accordance with the inclination of honorable members, very largely.
– You are only adding to the thing now.
– You are admitting that you alter your proofs, and alter the sense of them.
– I admit that I alter my proof, as every other honorable member alters his.
– That is not true.
– Order ! ‘ The honorable member must withdraw that expression.
– I withdraw it, sir. The Prime Minister has said that every honorable member alters his proof. I, for one, do not.
– The honorable member can say that afterwards.
– The Leader of the House was reflecting upon the House.
– Do honorable members on the other side say that they never revise their proofs?
– We never alter them.
– I have never altered a. proof.
– What does the honorable member mean by “ altering “ ?
– Altering the sense of any remark I made.
– Let him be reported verbatim for a week or two.
– Yes, verbatim. It would not do to report the honorable member in that way.
– Order ! These interjections across the chamber are disorderly.
– Whatever else this article does, it does not reflect on honorable members.
– What! Is it not a reflection to say that the literal truth never appears in Hansard?
– In the opinion of the newspaper, the result of this practice in regard to Hansard is that the words as actually spoken are often altered. That is what I take to be the meaning of those words.
– That the member may alter the report in any way he pleases.
– Here are the words, if I may be allowed to make a statement in my own way. I am sure that I cannot talk against ten or a dozen on the other side.
– Order !
– The article says -
Mr. Speaker rendered the people of Australia yesterday a service of no slight significance. He destroyed the illusion that for many years has misled and deceived us, and he has let us at length into the secret of how Hansard’s reports are prepared, and its infallibility maintained. The Hansard reporters take down the literal truth, it is true, but the literal truth is never published.
– What do you think of that - “ never published ?”
– That, in most cases, is true.
Mr.Fenton. - The statement is not correct.
– That is quite true.
– The article continues -
Before Hansard goes to press a proof of every member’s speech is presented to him, and he is permitted to revise it in secret, and to alter it in any manner that pleases him.
– Is that correct?
– The last statement is not correct.
– That is the gravamen of the charge.
– It is a wonder that you will admit even that.
– Do my honorable friends really think that because that statement is made by the Age it contains a reflection upon honorable members of the House?
– It does.
– The article goes on to say that we are allowed to do this. Where, then, is the reflection? The writer is only pointing out that the public outside may be deceived as to the literal accuracy of Hansard.
– The reflection lies in the fact that the statement is not true.
– Will honorable members be quiet for a minute and follow the article while I read it.
Before Hansard goes to press a proof of every member’s speech ispresented to him-
That is true, I presume - and he is permitted to revise it in secret, and to alter it in any manner that pleases him.
– That is not true.
– I say that that is not correct. But he is allowed to alter it, for all that, though not “in any manner that pleases him.”
After this, the “ infallibility “ of” Hansard will live as a term of flagrant mockery. We know the publication now for what it really is.
– Is that right?
– The newspaper makes a slight mistake.
– A slight mistake?
– I have no reason, I hope, for defending the Age.
– Just now you have.
– You have every reason.
– If I may be permitted-
– Order! There is a chorus of interjections.
– I am yet to be made aware of it.
– You are well aware of it.
– I am yet to be made aware of any reason why I should defend the Age.
– So has the honorable member for Wentworth.
– I am afraid that we are now getting to some of the venom which honorable members have against the press generally.
– You throw our members out.
– You have only to note the viciousness with which honorable members make this criticism to understand what really is the trouble now.
– Suspend our members ; do not censure the press.
– The honorable member is out of order.
– Now that my honorable friends opposite are so very touchy about these matters, may I quote from one of their own newspapers to-day a statement about this House?
– Why get away from the point?
– That is the point.
– It will not make the statement in the Age any better.
– Listen toa criticism of this sort.
Mr.Fenton. -From what newspaper are you about to quote?
-From the Ballarat Echo.
– Of which Mr. McGrath is a director.
– Listen to this criticism -
The Fusion Ministry gagged McGrath.
– I rise to a point of order. My point is thatthe quotation which the Prime Minister is about to make is totally irrelevant to this question. I have not the slightest objection to the honorable gentleman bringingthe matter up later, but I wish to keep him to the point.
– I submit that I am entitled to show to what we shall commit ourselves if we adopt a motion of this character, and I can only do that by quoting other newspaper comments on this House which fall within the same category
– The honorable member isquite in order.
– I will omit the quotation which I was going to make, and come to another, which reads -
With the aid of its “ majority,” the partisan Speaker, the Ministry was able to “ gag “ Mr. McGrath, and consequently sixteen thousand Ballarat people, on the floor of the House. That is a theory of the freedom of speech enjoyed under the Liberal banner, and carried into effect by the self-appointed champions of freedom of speech, a Liberal Government. Mr. McGrath, backed by 16,000 Australian electors, then said, “What the Government’s majority (the Speaker) prevents me from saying in the House I will say outside.”
– What is wrong with that?
– There is nothing wrong, so long as these newspapers confine their attention to the majority in this House. But if they go further, and say anything about the House itself, they must, in the opinion of my honorable friends opposite, be immediately dealt with. Yet those journals which vilify, and abuse, and lie about the majority do only what is correct, and proper, and fair. The report continues -
With the aid of the casting vote of the Speaker, who, until the Fusion Government demonstrated the contrary, was regarded in every Parliament in the British Empire as impartial, the Opposition has been denied the right of speech on the floor of the House.
– That is absolutely correct.
– It is an absolutely incorrect statement to make. If 1 were to quote the elegant language which has just been used by the honorable member for Adelaide, I should say that it is a lying and vile statement to make. Anything which these newspapers - which libel honorable members on this side of the Chamber every week of their existence - may say in regard to them, is perfectly right and fair. It is only when the press which is not at the moment supporting my honorable friends opposite says that the reports of our parliamentary proceedings are altered in a way in which it did not think they were altered, that it is guilty of this tremendous outrage. I submit that we should be consulting our own self-respect and decency as a Parliament if we did not take so much notice of statements made by the press outside concerning these small, unimportant, and minor matters.
Mr.Fenton. - The honorable member is a lovely Leader of the House after that.
– Of course, I am a lovely Leader of the House. I am not the honorable member’s leader, anyhow.
– I am glad that the Prime Minister is not.
– May I say that the gladness is perfectly mutual? There is a mutuality of feeling in that regard.
– Order ! I would ask honorable members to cease these personal interjections.
– I would suggest to my honorable friends that, before they come here and endeavour to take the motes out of other people’s eyes, they should pluck the beams from their own eyes.
– Probably one of the most remarkable speeches ever delivered by the Prime Minister is that to which we have just listened. If there is one honorable member to whom we should look to lead and protect the House in a matter of this kind, it is the Prime Minister. The honorable member for Adelaide, in introducing his motion, did not introduce it in any party spirit. . He made a clear and definite statement in regard to an article which has been published in a certain newspaper in Melbourne. If there be one man in this House to whom we should look to uphold its dignity, it is the Prime Minister.
– Quite so.
– What did he do? Instead of rising and offering even a courteous dissent from the statements contained in that article, he rose in the most biased and venomous party spirit to hurl certain charges-against whom? Against an honorable member who has been suspended from the service of this House, and against some other newspaper.
– What charge did I make against the honorable member who has been suspended ?
– The honorable member talked about venomous lies.
– I merely quoted the’ temperate language of the honorable member for Adelaide.
– That was not the language which was used by the honorable member for Adelaide. Then the Prime Minister dealt with another newspaper. If that newspaper has done wrong it should be punished just as the newspaper of which complaint has been made should be punished.
– The honorable member says that it has not done wrong.
– I have not said anything of the kind.
– Honorable members opposite have said it.
– They have not. The honorable member for Adelaide did not say it, nor did the honorable member for Dalley.
– I say that the cheers which came from behind the honorable member for Adelaide show that what I said is correct.
– Then may I interpret the cheers which come from the other side-
– The honorable member may say anything that he likes.
– I do not wish to say anything against the Prime Minister. But he has never assumed the dignity of his position, and he has not dealt with this matter in the way in which he should have dealt with it. The impression sought to be conveyed by the article contained in the Age newspaper is that the whole of the money - some thousands of pounds every year - which is spent upon the official report of our proceedings in this Chamber is absolutely wasted, because that report, so far from being an accurate one, is a deliberate lie and an attempt to deceive the people. The writer of the article says that’ the truth has been taken down by the official reporters, but that it never appears in Hansard. If any charge can be made of a more definite character I should like to hear it. Here is a distinct accusation that the official report of the debates in this Parliament, the production of which costs us £10,000 a year-
– Much more.
– The writer of this article states that this Parliament is paying many thousands a year for a document which is a deception and which is intentionally made a deception - by whom? By honorable members of this House. That statement will be copied in the provincial press throughout Australia, and yet the Prime Minister rose in his place and practically told the House that, with one exception, the allegations contained in the article are correct. I speak with some little authority on this matter. For three years I occupied the position which you, sir, now occupy, and I say that
Hansard is a truthful record of what takes place in this House. No honorable member, from the Prime Minister downwards, is permitted to alter the sense of one solitary statement that is contained in the Hansard proofs. If such a thing has been done, it has been done in some way of which even the Principal Parliamentary Reporter and the other members of the Hansard Staff know nothing. Hansard is a truthful record of the proceedings of the House, and your experience, Mr. Speaker, during the short time that you have held your present office, will enable you to vouch for the accuracy of my statement. We have in this article, however, not merely a condemnation of the publication itself, but an accusation levelled against honorable members that they falsify this record. The Prime Minister defends the newspaper that publishes such an article. What did he wish us to infer when he said that honorable members were permitted to make corrections in their Hansard proofs? Did he mean to suggest that honorable members are permitted to alter the sense of any particular sentence in the official report of their speeches? If he did not want to infer anything of the kind, then he ought to tell the House what he actually did mean. I can hardly think that the honorable gentleman would allow such an idea to cross his mind.
– I can only conclude that the honorable member was so full of nastiness that he did not listen to my speech.
– I listened patiently to what the honorable gentleman said.
– The honorable member made a statement just now in support of which there is not a tittle of evidence - the statement that I defended the newspaper. I did nothing of the kind.
– If the honorable member did not defend the newspaper, save in regard’ to one particular point, what did he do? If he will say that he disapproves of the article I shall make no further reference to him. But his speech distinctly conveyed to my mind the impression that, in his opinion, there was nothing in the article worth talking about. The article contains two serious statements. The first is that Hansard, which is an official record of the proceedings of Parliament, is a deception, and the second is that honorable members are responsible for the deception. If honorable members are guilty of falsifying the Hansard reports, then the country should be made aware of it, anil allowed to express its opinion in no uncertain way. If honorable members were prepared, merely to meet their own selfish ends, to falsify what is supposed to be an official and truthful record of the proceedings of this House, then they would be prepared to commit a very serious crime in respect of which some punishment should be meted out. This is not the first article of the kind that has been published. Honorable members - may have their personal differences, and may fight each other on party lines, and say nasty things concerning each other; but it is the duty of. every honorable member, as far as possible, to uphold the dignity of Parliament. There is too great a readiness - and I regret to say that the press has given the strongest lead in this direction - to belittle Parliament. Parliament is the machine by which the laws of the country are made, and if the press is permitted to belittle it on every possible occasion, and the Leader of this House is prepared practically to agree with such attacks, it is time that some action was taken.
– Absolutely incorrect again.
– The honorable member, will have an opportunity to explain what he did say, and I shall be prepared to apologize if I have misrepresented him.
– The honorable member is always impartial !
– I do not wish to misrepresent the honorable gentleman. I repeat that there is a tendency to belittle members, and I remind the House that that cannot be done without belittling the Parliament itself: It is about time that some one took exception to the statements that are made in the press in regard to this Legislature. One has only to read the newspapers from day to day to see what is done in the direction of misrepresentation and deliberate, wilful, and wicked lying. These misrepresentations, however, do not affect me. During the last twenty years I have had all sorts of things written of me in the press. If I had been the greatest criminal unhung, nothing worse could have been said of me than has appeared in newspapers in reference to myself.. I have been able to live down such statements; but after all we cannot help feeling these attacks. Apart altogether from our position as individual members, we have a right to consider our duty to Parliament as an institution, and when it is attacked in this manner we should make it clear to the persons responsible that they cannot insult Parliament with impunity. I think that the honorable member for Adelaide deserves the thanks of the House for having brought forward this matter,- and I trust that the motion will be carried.
– I think that all sides are concerned in maintaining the honour of Parliament, whether that honour be attacked by reflections upon honorable members in the House itself, or by reflections upon Mr. Speaker, the elected spokesman of the House. I certainly shall not be accused of holding a brief in this case, either for the Age or any other newspaper; but, having carefully read the whole of this article, I must confess that I cannot find in it anything that deserves the serious attention of the House. The article is an argument directed to show that the claim which is sometimes made that Hansard is a literal, accurate photograph of that which honorable members say, as compared with the alleged inaccurate reports which appear in the press, is not a true one. That is the position taken up. In order to be fair, one ought not to pick out one or two sentences from an article any more than one should select one or two sentences from a speech by an honorable member.
– But’ the last paragraph is a distinct subject.
– No; the whole matter is dealt with as one subject. This is a serious matter, and should therefore be considered carefully. In the circumstances I shall ask the indulgence of honorable members while I read that portion of the article which relates to the motion. After referring to what took place in this House, the article proceeds -
Hitherto the theory has been entertained by the public that the raison d’etre of Hansard is to publish to the world a true and faithful record of the speeches of members and of the proceedings in Parliament. For decades it has been dinned into our ears by politicians of all parties that Hansard is a vitally necessary institution, because Hansard alone can be trusted to give absolutely fair and strictly accurate and unbiased reports of what is said and done in Parliament. And the people have tolerated the great annual expenditure involved simply on that assumption. Members originally demanded it as a protection against the ‘“garbled “ reports of party organs -
– And a very necessary protection.
– Yes; but I remind the honorable member that what the writer of this article is endeavouring to prove is merely that it is not an effective protection, because it is to some extent subject to the criticism that it is not a literal and faithful photograph of what is said by honorable members. The article continues - and ever since they got it they have kept up the pretence that Hansard reports are impeccable. Hansard is the supreme and final authority - the infallible authority, ready at all times to be quoted by honorable members to the confusion of luckless newspaper reporters, who, not being infallible, merely report what their human senses see and hear. And how often has not this been done? On innumerable occasions members whose speeches were reported in the daily press have arisen in their places in Parliament and hurled indignant accusations of misrepresentation at the “men in the gallery.”
Now comes the part to which objection is taken, and it must be read in connexion with the particular point and object of the whole article -
Mr. Speaker rendered the people’ of Australia yesterday a service of no slight significance. He destroyed an illusion that for many years bas misled and deceived us, and he has let us at length into the secret of how Hansard’s reports are prepared and its infallibility maintained. The Hansard reporters take down the literal truth, it is true, but the literal truth is never published.
That is perfectly accurate.
– What does the AttorneyGeneral mean by that?
– The article proceeds -
Before Hansard goes to press a proof of every member’s speech is presented to him, and he is permitted to revise it in secret, and to alter it in any manner that pleases him.
That is not true ; but how is it a reflection on the honorable members of the House? It is an inaccurate reflection on the reliability of the system of parliamentary reporting.
– The Hansard Staff would not like to employ the Attorney-General to defend them !
– I may tell the honorable member that, in the course of my remarks, I seldom, if ever, make personal references to honorable members on the other side, and arguments based on personal interjections’ usually carry very little weight. Here we have clearly an inaccurate statement - a misleading statement, if you like - of what is done; .a statement which this House may well, through its representative, Mr. Speaker, take an early opportunity of emphatically denying. But what I venture to question is whether there is in the article anything that can he fairly construed into an attack on the honour of the House or of members constituting the House?
.- The statement by the Attorney-General seems to me, not only one of the most peculiar, but one of the most incomprehensible, that could possibly have been expected from any honorable member on the other side. The Attorney-General cannot plead ignorance in matters of this kind. He is used to analyze and dissect, and to extract the very essence from any question that may be submitted to him for consideration; and yet he tells us, in effect, that the article, as a whole, does not throw a different light on the point at issue from that which is thrown by any particular paragraph singled out. The Attorney-General may regard the last paragraph of the article as being the gravamen of the charge against the newspaper, but I ask him to consider the words -
Mr. Speaker rendered the people of Australia yesterday a service of no slight significance. He destroyed an illusion. . . .
What is that illusion? The illusion is that honorable members are not supposed to alter their proofs; and, according to the newspaper, Mr. Speaker’ removed that illusion by proving that members have the right, not only to revise their proofs, but to alter them as they may think fit, without any restriction whatever. I point out, however, that each day the proofs issued to honorable members are accompanied by an instruction, the sense of which cannot be mistaken -
Honorable members are respectfully requested to note that emendations which alter the sense of words used in debate or introduce new matter are not admissible.
Does the Attorney-General mean to tell the House and the country that that instruction, which comes every day with the proofs, is a make-believe and a mockery ?
– I have said that the statement in the article is inaccurate.
– But the honorable member also said that he does not see where the statement reflects on the honour of any honorable member, on the position of the Speaker, or on the character of the House. He admits that an offence has been committed - that this newspaper has stated something which is not true - and yet he says there is no reflection on any honorable member of the House. What constitutes a reflection on any person, any body of people, or any Parliament? If a person or a newspaper publishes that which is untrue, thereby degrading the people or institution to which it refers, I ask the Attorney-General, as a lawyer who knows what the law is, whether, under other circumstances, he would not hold it to be one of the gravest libels that could be uttered. Yet the honorable gentleman says that there is no offence; and the Prime Minister begs the question by saying that he does not think any man in the House would charge him with holding a brief for the newspapers. Let me tell the Prime Minister that this question is above treatment of that kind. This affects the whole character of the proceedings of the House; and, yet, immediately any one seeks to protect the honour of the House, we find the Prime Minister dragging the question into the mire of party politics on purpose to cloud the issue and make the people misapprehend the intention of the reports. The Prime Minister, further, referred to other newspaper utterances, and tried to justify what has been said in the paper immediately under notice. What have those other newspapers to dp with the case? Two wrongs do not make a right. If the Bendigo Argus or the Ballarat Echo have said anything that the Prime Minister holds to be untrue - and he has no hesitation in saying that what was published was a slander on the party opposite - he knows he has his remedy.
– Of course !
– He has every opportunity to test the veracity or otherwise of the statements made.
– I have the remedy of wasting the valuable time of this Parliament, and I cannot afford it.
– We get the same old “ SaS “ all the time. The answer to every question is that honorable members are wasting time.
– Hear, hear !
– If we try to defend the honour of the House, we are, according to the honorable gentleman, wasting the time of the country. Are we not entitled to defend the honour of this House? This article says -
The Hansard reporters take down the literal truth, it is true, but the literal truth’ is never published.
What is meant by “ literal truth “ ? I fancy I can hear the Attorney-General arguing its meaning in a Court of law. The alteration of a verbal error does not interfere with the literal truth. An alteration of the construction of a sentence in order to enable it to be properly read or understood is not an interference with the literal truth. The truth can only be stated in definite language, forming a sentence of its own. In defiance of the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General, I say there is not one member of the House who has been allowed to eliminate the truth, or make it appear otherwise in the Hansard reports of the debates of the House. I have been in the Commonwealth Parliament for some ten years, and I say, to the great credit of the Hansard Staff, that there is no possibility of any one finding fault with the character of the reports that they make of the speeches of honorable members. Further, I venture to say the Hansard Staff can easily prove that during my period in this House, though I may have sometimes indicated any little error of a letter, or a word, or the need for some little verbal amendment, I have never eliminated or inserted a sentence in’ any speech that I have made. There has been no need for me to do otherwise, because, in my judgment, the Hansard reports of my speeches have been as near to being perfect as it was possible to be. But let me revert to these words “the literal truth.” The AttorneyGeneral treats the matter as if it were nothing at all to deal with the literal truth, or for members to make it false, as this paper implies, or for members to have encouraged for many years the publication of a document for the guidance of the public which is literally altered from the truth, when really it is one of those things that the Attorney-General, if he were on the floor of a Court of law before any jury, would be able to prove to the hilt to be a slander that was punishable in law, and one that should be punished. Then we come to the words in the article -
Before Hansard goes to press, a proof of every member’s speech is presented to him.
That is true.
And he is permitted to revise it in secret and to alter it in any manner that pleases him.
As the honorable member for Adelaidesays, there is something underlying the two words “ in secret “ that conveys more than the mere words themselves. They indicate to any unbiased mind that members of Parliament are allowed in secret to doctor their speeches.
– What they demean is simply that you may take your proofs home, if you like.
– There is an implication. Why, then, could they not havemade that statement without putting ia the words ‘ ‘ in secret. “ I am quite willing to listen once more to the voice of the honorable member for Parkes, which has been so long lost to the Chamber; I am quite willing to let the public know that the honorable member does attend the House and to his duties; I am quite willing to allow him to speak on a question which he evidently considers himself eminently fitted to discuss; but I ask why this newspaper could not have written the paragraph to -say that members are permitted to revise their speeches and alter them without asserting that ,it is done “ in secret.” We all know that every honorable member gets his proof and revises it, but he has no right, in the words of this article, “ to alter it in any manner that pleases him.” What do those words mean? The Prime Minister has admitted that the statement is not true; the Attorney-General has admitted that it is not true ; and as what is not true is a lie, therefore the Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral admit that this paper has wilfully lied. Yet, although the paper has wilfully lied, they are not prepared to deal with it, and inflict punishment, as they dealt with an honorable member of the House, who, they alleged, also wilfully lied. That is the point at issue. Here is the glorious consistency of these custodians of the public welfare! They are prepared to hound a man out of public life for party purposes - not on principle - because they allege that he has stated something that is not true. If he has done so, I do not think the punishment was unmerited - the proof is not yet produced - but if it was right to put the honorable member for Ballarat out of the House because honorable members alleged that he had said something that was not true, is it not equally right to claim an apology from the newspaper which., as the Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral admit, has libelled the House by stating what is not true?
– But do you not see the difference ?
– There should be no difference. The honour of the House, the honour of members as a. whole, the honour of individual members, the honour of the Speaker, and the honour of the Hansard Staff are nothing to members opposite so long as there is no reflection or any discredit upon those upon whose support they depend. Here is a party that boasts of liberty, right, and justice - here are men who profess to take umbrage at an honorable member who happens to repeat what has been said elsewhere, and punish him with the utmost rigour of the law, and yet, when there is an admission that a libel has been uttered, when & serious offence has been committed, when ‘ the House has been insulted and libelled, when the Speaker has been practically reflected on as being unworthy of his position, and the Hansard Staff is stated to wilfully allow lies to be published, and not the literal truth for the guidance of the people of this country, the newspaper that has done all this is to go unpunished. Honorable members opposite put their tongues in their cheeks, and wink the eye, and say, “It is the Age, the paper that is supporting us, do not forget.” The King can do no wrong; no more can the newspapers that support honorable members on the other side. Here we have their sense of justice, their standard of law and of moral character. By their conduct they are humiliating themselves to such an extent that the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General dare not remain in the chamber to hear their action reflected on. Both make the admission to which I have referred, and immediately walk out of the chamber. There was one character in history who did’ the same thing. When once he was charged, he was no longer visible, because he was ashamed of what he did. The cock crew-
– He had the common decency to do something afterwards.
– Yes, he went and hung himself when he was found out! This is the last sentence of the article: “ After this, the infallibility of Hansard will live as a- term of mockery.” Is there nothing to object to in that? Has the honorable member for Parkes, that great monument of moral conduct, nothing to say to that? ‘
– He may speak if the honorable member does not take too long.
– I am talking too long for the honorable member for Henty. This paper is a particular pet of his, and he wants to protect it from attack. Is it not an insult to the House to say that its official records will be a flagrant mockery in the future? The Age publishes this article because it seeks to damage the Hansard records of this Parliament, so that it may be able to publish what lies it likes with regard to the ‘ proceedings. It seeks to bring down Hansard while it builds itself up. It endeavours to show the people that Hansard is not reliable. It knows that its own statements are not reliable. The public can judge of the reliability of the Argus, and Age, and other newspapers that publish biased statements of the other side. These papers want to convey to the public mind the idea that Hansard is not a truthful record, and can no longer be relied upon.
– They will give you a fourcolumn report to-morrow.
– I care not what they give me. Like the honorable member for Kennedy, I have never had to look for my advancement to any eulogy from the press. I never seek it. Eulogy from one type of newspaper would be degradation in every sense of the word to any honest man. We can live without it. We have grown as a party to our present position without it, and we will continue to grow on proper lines, upholding that which is true, right, and honorable, in face of the opposition . of a crowd that will overlook and excuse that which is wrong if it affects their political interests.
– Address the Chair, and not the gallery.
– The honorable member does not know what the honour of this House is. He does not understand the atmosphere into which he has been suddenly projected. The honorable member will learn better in time. The Age says that Hansard is a flagrant mockery, and that they know the publication now for what it really is. That last sentence exhibits the real, malicious intention of the article. .They want to mislead the public. They say it is an untruthful record manipulated by members to suit their own interests from time to time. They assert that it is an abortion of truth and justice, and not worthy of being accepted for public consideration or guidance. Why should we pay £10,000 a year for the Hansard reporters to take down verbatim the utterances of honorable members? If what the Age says is true, we should sack the whole of the Hansard Staff at once, and let the Age and the Argus, with that marvellous truthfulness which has characterized them from time immemorial, run this House and report its proceedings. Their aim is to become the sole protectors and upholders of our rights. I feel humiliated by the attitude of the Attorney-General on this occasion. I thought he was a bigger man than he is. I thought he could rise above party considerations when the honour of the House was at stake, and show the people that, underlying the characteristics which he has exhibited for so long, there was a spirit and sense of justice that would impel him to help members to protect themselves from the invasion now made upon their rights by this newspaper. But lo, another idol is shattered, another hope is gone. He can have no excuse, because he has Been in Parliament for many years; he has been the Leader of a Government in another place, and he holds now the high and responsible position of Attorney-General. He is the protector and legal guardian of the rights and liberties of the House, as well as of the Government, and we should be able to look to him for protection against slanders of this kind. But when we appeal to him he says, “No; when you read the whole article you will” not find much in it; it is not fair to pick out a sentence and judge the article by it.” If the honorable member were as keenly analytical of this matter as he has been in some other cases, there is no doubt that he would have decided that the Age should apologize to the House for the slander it has uttered, and that until it did apologize its representatives should not be allowed to report the proceedings of this Chamber.
– The Government only do that with members, not with newspapers.
– That would be mild treatment compared with that which they meted out to the honorable member for Ballarat, who had to suffer indignity, not on a proved statement, as this statement is proved, but on the allegation ia some newspaper of what he may or may not have said. I feel that in a way w» have nothing to complain about, because* when we show the people how the Government treat the individual who is opposed to them for daring to speak that which has been uttered in other places-
– Order! The honorable member will not be in order in going: into that matter.
– We shall be able to. compare their merciless treatment of an. individual with their merciful treatmentof a newspaper. They take up thisstand, not because of the justice of the case, not because of the honour attached to their position, and not because of a desire to protect the rights and libertiesof the members of the House, butbecause party interests are supreme. No matter what happens, their party must prevail. Power must be kept where it is, even at the sacrifice of every principleand every right, and of all that is worthholding in honour. We have these twomen refusing to-day to protect the House,, and to support the motion which has bee» moved by the honorable member for Adelaide - a motion which, in my judgment,, is warranted, and should be carried and! put into effect.
– This is- not a question to besettled by noise or by windmill-like gesticulations. The honorable member for Gwydir seems to think that all honorable members should be on the samelevel as himself. He says that he is perfectly satisfied with Hansard, never having been misreported by it, and he doesnot know what others have to complain of. Could I use the stately diction, thefine phrases, the Addisonian periods,, which he employs in his oratorical efforts,. I, too, should have nothing to complainof. But he must remember those unfortunates who put the “ h “ where it should’ not be, and omit it where an aspirate isrequired. If he would show more consideration for those less cultured than, himself, we should have no fault to find with him. This is really a storm in ateacup. I do not think that the mattercan be dealt with in any other way than by going carefully through the Age article- and analyzing it. If that is done, it will be seen that any reflection contained in the article is a reflection on the writers for the Age for having been ignorant hitherto of the principles on which Hansard is conducted and revised. A little calm consideration will show that the matter is not very serious, and that the article contains no reflection on the House, the Speaker, or the Hansard Staff. The paragraph complained of commences -
Mr. Speaker rendered the people of Australia yesterday a service of no slight significance.
No fault is to be found with that state- ‘ ment. It compliments you, sir, on what you said yesterday, and that, I am sure, we can approve -
He destroyed an illusion which for many years has misled and deceived us.
Iu whose mind did the illusion exist ? Not in my mind, nor in that of any honorable member. The “us” refers to the Age. It is the Age editorial staff that has been under the illusion. The Age staff has apparently been working- blindfold for a number of years. At any rate, for the sake of a fine article, the writer professes to know no more about the production of Hansard than is known by the most ignorant man in the street. He tells us that the Age staff did not know until yesterday that Hansard is revised under certain limitations, to which you, Mr. Speaker, drew -attention earlier this after- - noon. That is no reflection upon the House, upon you, or upon Hansard -
And he has let us at length into the secret of how Hansard reports are prepared, and its infallibility maintained.
What secret? It is no secret to us that members are allowed to revise the reports of their speeches, subject to the limitations to which I have just referred. We are allowed to alter the wording, so long as we do not alter the sense of the report. Very often an honorable member finds it necessary to substitute for a word in a report another word which will better convey his meaning, and we all do that at times in our revision of proofs. The honorable member for Gwydir, some two or three years ago, carried the privilege of altering the Hansard report so far that he attempted to insert headings between different portions .of his speeches, and a stop had to be put to the practice.
– He did not do that.
– I could substantiate my statement by reference to the record itself. It is the Age staff that has been “let into the secret.” That they did not know years ago how Hansard is prepared is no fault of ours. Apparently, they have hitherto been ignorant of our practice, and this article is published to explain what a tremendous disappointment it is to them.
The Hansard reporters take down the literal truth, it is true, but the literal truth is never published.
That is so. The literal truth of my speech, or of any speech, is never published; and, unless an honorable member is too lazy to put the report of his remarks into shape, speeches are revised within the limitations mentioned by Mr. Speaker. What does literal truth mean ? It means the truth in every letter. If you alter a single word in a correct report, you destroy its literal accuracy; but the rules of the House allow us to alter the literal truth of the reports by changing words here and there when we think that other words would better express our meaning. Remembering the turmoil that occasionally arises in this Chamber, it seems to me indispensable that honorable members should be allowed to make these slight alterations. So far, there is nothing in the article reflecting on us, or on the Hansard Staff.
Before Hansard goes to press, a proof of every member’s speech is presented to him, and he is permitted to revise it -
This is quite true - in secret -
That, again, is quite true. What does “in secret” mean? It means that an honorable member can take his proof home if he likes, and revise it there, or he can revise it in a quiet corner of the Library, when nobody else is present, as many often do - and to alter it in any manner that pleases him.
That statement is untrue. But, after all, it is the newspaper staff that is under a misapprehension. Honorable members have never been under any misapprehension, nor has the intelligent public. Hundreds of persons are aware of the limited revision of Hansard that is allowed. It is well known, too, that literal reporting is impossible. On one occasion, when a prominent member of the New South Wales Parliament - he was a Minister of the Crown - was reported literally, he was so offended that he brought the matter before the Blouse. Mr. Cooper, the editor of the Scotsman, one of the big newspapers’ of Great Britain, told me on one occasion that the speeches of men like Sir William Vernon Harcourt and Mr. Goschen, if reported literally, would be unreadable, and that it was the duty and practice of the reporters for such publications as the Times and the Standard to remove repetitions and redundancies, to punctuate the remarks, and to give them a literary form, before publication. Honorable members of this House have the right to alter the reports of their speeches without altering the sense.
– Does that make the reports unfaithful ?
– That is almost a metaphysical or psychological question. The Age is certainly under a mistake in saying that an honorable member may alter the reports of his speech in any manner that pleases him. There are limitations on revision. The statement in the newspaper is a reflection on the knowledge of its staff, and affords only another illustration of that staff’s ignorance.
After this, the “ infallibility “ of Hansard will live as a term of flagrant mockery.
Hansard never has been looked on as infallible. The public do not think it so. The public know our practice, and know that honorable members, in revising their speeches, can alter the phraseology.
We know the publication, now, for what it really is.
So the A ge has found out the truth. This is a sort of apologia for having been ignorant for so many years of the way in which Hansard is put together. If we were reported literally, word for word, as we speak, with our repetitions, we should be ashamed of the reports. But if, instead of making a great noise about this Age paragraph, and trying to make it the subject of a party vote, we analyze it, we find that it is nothing more than a confession, perhaps an unconscious one, by an Age writer that he has been in a state of absolute ignorance for many years as to the practice followed in the publication of Hansard.
.- Unfortunately, the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General have not read all that the Age publishes to-day regarding the correction of Hansard. On page 9, the following statement appears: -
There were several complaints about the alterations of Hansard proofs. In the fierce squabbling on . Tuesday night many things were said which did not appear in Hansard. Prime Minister and leader of the Opposition were for once in agreement. Both said that, owing to omissions, the reports of their speeches made nonsense. Who was to blame? Was it the Speaker who had authorized this practical’ Bowdlerising of Hansard f Every one wanted to know. The Speaker made an interesting admission. “ My desire is,” he said, “ to protect members from having the unrevised proofs of Hansard brought up in evidence against them.” The Speaker was candid. The practice is “ to protect members “ - from what ? From having true reports of their speeches put into circulation. There is still a vague impression that Hansard purports to tell what members really do say. The idea is scouted bv the Speaker himself. The unrevised report - in” other words, the correct report - is the very thing from which members are “ protected.” They are allowed to have embalmed and printed at public expense, not what they said, but what they_ think they ought to have said. It would be interesting to know where the advocate is who can find one single intelligent reason foi perpetuating a farce like this.
The misfortune is that the Melbourne Age has a circulation of about 137,000. That is certified to by a public accountant. It goes into probably 137,000 homes. Members of Parliament, generally speaking, have to face the situation that some writers of these large newspapers wish to destroy parliamentary influence, and wish themselves to govern the country. It is paragraphs like that which I have quoted which, in my opinion, will succeed eventually in destroying the influence of members of Parliament.
– I am afraid that it is destroyed now.
– The honorable member for Parkes considers that the influence of members of Parliament is destroyed now. That is to be regretted. I know that some of the public complain that the most intelligent, best educated, and most pureminded men are not to be found in Parliament to-day. If that be true, why is it true ? It is because certain individuals on the staffs of the press have succeeded in destroying the public reputation of members of Parliament, and of Parliament itself as an institution. In my opinion, members of this House, and members of Parliament generally, have not combated the statements that have appeared in the press as they ought to have done. They have been, generally speaking, too timid. They have feared the press.
Any one who holds the view that the press have not an extraordinarily large influence in the community makes a very great mistake. They can destroy a man. They have succeeded in destroying the reputations of many men, and in driving them out of public life. It takes a little bit of courage to attack the press. I think that,in the paragraph I have read, and the sub-leader which has been quoted, the Age has gone beyond the limits of fair criticism, and the fair representation of what takes place in this House. The unrevised proofs which we get are the proofs as they come from the compositors. They have not been read by the Hansard reporters who have reported the speeches. They come direct from the men who set up the report on the linotype machines, or by hand. Would the writer of the Age sub-leader which has been complained of be prepared to take a proof as it came direct from the compositors and have it put in the forme for publication without revision? Proofs of their work are read by writers on the press.
– Why do they keep proof readers ?
– Yes, why do they keep proof readers? It is to read the proofs. The writers correct them themselves, and they are revised after correction. Sometimes a leader is revised two or three times before it is allowed to appear in the columns of the newspaper for which it is written. Are the members of the press going to ask that reports of speeches by honorable members as they come direct from the compositors shall be published in Hansard without correction ? There are very few compositors - I do not think I ever met one - who could set up matter so correctly that it could be at once printed in the columns of a newspaper without correction. It would not pay compositors to do that. If a compositor were compelled to set up matter absolutely correctly, the1s.1d. per thousand which he gets for hand setting, or the 3d. or 4d. per thousand for linotype setting would not pay him. It must be understood by the public that, the proofs we get are uncorrected proofs, which come direct from the compositor.
I do not think we can emphasize too much what you, sir, have pointed out, and what the red slip attached to our proofs also points out, that we are not allowed to alter the sense of the matter which appears in the report of our speeches. In these articles which have been quoted from the Age 1 think there is a great reflection on the Hansard Staff, and, but for the interruption, it was my intention to put a question to you, and to ask whether you had received any complaints from members of Parliament as to the accuracy of the Hansard reports, or the efficiency of the Hansard Staff, and whether the members of the Hansard Staff do not fulfil their high office in a very competent way. My opinion is that the Hansard Staff is a very competent staff.
I am sorry that the Prime Minister has taken this attitude, because I believe the passing of the motion would do good. It would have this effect, at any rate : It would make members of the press who write in this way about our parliamentary institutions a little more careful in the future. Possibly they would not deal any less severely with members of Parliament who criticise them in this House. I often feel sorry that some of the pressmen who write about members of Parliament could not be called upon to take their positions in this House for a period, make speeches, and have other individuals applying a little of the acid of criticism to them that they put upon the remarks of other people. If, after a brief sojourn in the parliamentary arena, they again took their place “up aloft,” I venture to say they would be a little more lenient, and, at all events, a little more fair and just in their criticism of members of Parliament.
– They very soon squeal if you criticise them.
– I know how an editor feels, because, at one time, from an editorial chair I criticised everybody in vigorous fashion, as honorable members can very well understand. When somebody ventured to criticise me after I had got out of the editorial position, I knew how it felt.
– The honorable member has not lost the habit yet.
– I am sorry that the Prime Minister has taken up this attitude, because there will, I suppose, be a party vote on the motion.
– Why should honorable members want to vote upon it at all?
– The Minister of External Affairs is in the happy position that he has no enemies at all.
– I wish I could say so.
– The honorable gentleman is of a very genial disposition. He is of a philosophic turn of mind. He never criticises anybody, and his speeches are of a high literary character.
– We gave him a walkover for his district.
– - Yes, we gave him a walk-over for his district, and we invite him to come into the bosom of our party. I never saw a severe criticism of the honorable gentleman in any journal in Australia. In the circumstances, I can well understand that he thinks this article does not matter a little bit. I think it does matter. Unlike the honorable member for Gwydir, who says that he does not care what the press say, I will admit that I do. They make me writhe sometimes. I think that honorable members should vote on this motion. We must bear in mind that the editorial “us” and “we,” to which the honorable member for Parkes has referred, is not comprised of one or two men. I suppose that the staff of the Melbourne Age - leader-writers, reporters, journalists, and so on - numbers some thirty or forty- All the pressmen employed on the Age would not write such articles as have been referred to. I venture to say that nine out of ten men on the Age staff would not write these paragraphs. If the man who wrote the paragraph which I have quoted also wrote the sub-leader which is the subject of the motion, I think we ought to ask that he should make an apology to this House, or should make a correction in the newspaper retracting the statements made.
– The honorable member for Capricornia has, I understand, asked me certain questions in the course of his speech, which, I think, it would be advisable for me to reply to at this stage. I understood him to ask me whether an unrevised report was necessarily true. I point out that an unrevised report is not necessarily true. It may actually contain singularly inaccurate statements of essential matters. This may be due to no fault on the part of the reporting staff, owing to disturbing influences preventing what is actually said from being heard. It may be due to printers’ errors, and a variety of circumstances, in which the efficiency of the Hansard Staff is not in the slightest degree impugned. With regard to the honorable member’s inquiry as to whether I have received any complaints of the efficiency of the staff or of inaccuracy in the reports, I can truthfully say that no such complaints have ever been made to me by honorable members. So far as any expressions of opinion on the matter have come under my notice, I must say that from honorable members on both sides they have been of a most complimentary character so far as the Hansard Staff are concerned.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
.- I should not have troubled to speak to this motion but for a suggestion or hint in the speech delivered by the honorable member for Capricornia, to the effect that this motion is in some mysterious way to become a party question. I never heard of a question of privilege being made a party question, un- less it was introduced purely and solely in order to inconvenience the Government of the day. Where a real question of privilege affecting the position of the House and honorable members of the House is raised, honorable members can be satisfied that all their colleagues will give it the same impartial consideration that they claim to give it themselves. So far as this matter is concerned, I regard it solely as a question of privilege, and as entirely outside the scope of party politics. Every honorable member must think for himself upon these matters. I have been doing some thinking for myself during the last hour or two while listening to this debate.
– Did it hurt?
– Is that a novelty?
– My honorable friends opposite are beginning to be bothered because I have done some thinking for myself. I have come to the solid conclusion that this motion, which was introduced a little after Mr. Speaker had given his denial to the only incorrect statement appearing inthe paragraph which has been complained of, was introduced by the honorable member for Adelaide in an almost superfluous way. It was debated by the honorable member for Gwydir as a man who had never altered a line of Hansard, although we know that considerable time was once taken up in resenting the honorable member’s attempt to make his speeches readable by the introduction of entirely novel cross-headings. It was ultimately dealt with in the inimitable manner which the honorable member for Capricornia can always assume when he realizes that there is no particular hurry about the discussion of a motion under review. I am not concerned, of course, with how honorable members may vote on this question, but I do ask them to come to a vote early. The Government is only concerned with the motion of privilege, in so far as -it affects the conduct of Government business. We -have already discussed for a considerable period whether or not we shall drag to the bar of the House a writer for the A ge for having ventured to go a little beyond the truth, for having neglected to do what many honorable members, no doubt, have, in their time, neglected to do, and that is, to read the little slip of pink paper which is sent out with the Hansard proofs. An error, or an inaccuracy, or, if you like, something worse, has been committed by the Age writer in that manner. But if we are to drag to the bar every press writer who commits an indiscretion of that kind, not only shall we have no time left to transact any public business, but we shall be making ourselves supremely ridiculous in the eyes of the outside world. Therefore, I shall vote against the motion.
– If you punish one, there may be no necessity to punish another.
– Punish ! Surely, in the name of common sense, has not the writer of the article in the Age been sufficiently punished by being called a liar by the honorable member for Adelaide? *
– And nobody has laughed.
– I have to make a complaint- - though not perhaps in such vigorous language - similar to those that have been made by other honorable members on this side. In what I am going to say, sir, I do not intend to reflect on you. Seeing that the contents of the sub-leader in the Age were so distinctly inaccurate, and that the writer has specially summoned you as one of the chief witnesses to prove the case of the newspaper, I anticipated that, on the assembling of the House this after noon, you would have demanded a retraction of the assertions made in the article. And if you had requested the writer to make an ample retraction, or an apology, in an equally prominent position in the same paper, I think that every member of the House would have been satisfied with your conduct. I do not know that the terms of this motion, if carried, mean that we shall have to pub the bar in its place, and bring the writer there to be interrogated by you, sir, and instructed by a lawyer to read a statement which may be considered by the House as an ample apology for the great offence that has been committed. I trust; however, no party feeling will be imported into the consideration of this motion. I believe that on the other side of the House there are honorable members who resent just as strongly the contents of the article as does any honorable member on this side. Let the journal advocate what policy it may. If it is to be permitted from the editorial chair to malign members of this representative institution, we shall be allowing, not a certain liberty, but licence. We shall not know, from day to day, when an honorable member may be so maligned that his words uttered here may be discredited throughout the country. I believe in pure journalism. Reports ought to be a fair statement of the utterances of the speakers, and the criticism certainly should be within bounds. The statements in the Age sub-leader are not within the bounds of fair criticism; in fact, the AttorneyGeneral, the Prime Minister, and even the Honorary Minister have declared that portions of the article are nothing more or less than lies. Are .they going to become the advocates, or, shall I put it, the condoners of offences of that kind ? Because if they are, the credit of this Parliament and the honour of its members will be entirely gone. Some years ago it happened to be- my lot to be in Launceston, when a public meeting was held in the Albert Hall to discuss certain things which were being done in the State Parliament. Some speakers complained very bitterly that certain things had been done. I happened to be present as a stranger, and, by the courtesy of the chairman, I was allowed to utter a few remarks. While I was largely with the people in the complaint they made, I said to them, “ Why did you allow this matter to go so far as it has done in Parliament?” They found out where I had come from although they did not know my name. The complaint was made by a prominent citizen, who is now Premier of the State - the Hon. A. E. Solomon. He said, “ It is all very well for our friend from Victoria to say that we should have taken this action earlier, ‘but he does not know the unfortunate position in which the people of Tasmania are. He does not know that no Hansard is published in connexion with our Parliament. We have absolutely to rely upon newspaper reports, and we do not get reports issued as is done in Victoria.”
I do not know that it touches this motion particularly, but I would go a good deal further in respect to the publication of Hansard. People are becoming interested more and more in public affairs. Owing to the extreme party bias displayed by the metropolitan journals, people are coming more and more to the view that it is of little use for them to turn to the press for a true reflex of what occurs in the Parliament. They feel that the only way in which they can get correct information is by having in their possession, or within their reach, Hansard, which, notwithstanding the apologies made on the other side for the A ye, does contain a true reflex of the occurrences here, and to the credit of those who report the proceedings. I am glad to say that I am inundated with requests for Hansard.. Every member has now the right to distribute thirty-five copies amongst his constituents. I would want 200 copies to satisfy every demand that is made .upon me in my constituency. The honorable member for Henty smiles, and wonders what kind of literary taste my constituents have. The requests for Hansard come in so thick and fast - I do not profess to be extra generous, having some Scotch blood in my veins - that I am contributing out of my own pocket, in order that some of my constituents may have more Hansards to read. During a recent visit to the country, when I intimated to a public meeting that Hansard was obtainable at a certain price per annum, I was rushed at once, as though I was a traveller for Hansard, with halfa.crown from a man. here and halfacrown from a man there. It afforded me pleasure to send the addresses of these persons, with a cheque, to the Government Printer, requesting him to send Hansard to them. The Age knows that Hansard is the only defence which honorable members have at their command ‘ when unfair accusations are made against them in the press. I do not wish to be offensive, but it is evident from their utterances that some honorable members opposite indulge in considerably more alterations of their proofs than do other honorable members. As a rule, I am fairly content with the work of the scribe who “ takes down the notes.” At one time, I was employed in the Government Printing Office. While I have not had an experience of what Federal members do with their proofs, I have had some experience of what State members have done. I know that there were State members who did alter their proofs very considerably indeed; but never did I know - and I have corrected many and many a proof - any man in the Victorian Parliament to absolutely alter the sense of a speech he had delivered.
– No man in the Victorian Parliament gets a proof of his speech.
– At any rate, so far as I know, the practice was never altered.
– State members do not correct proofs.
– The practice must have been changed since I was in the Printing Office.
– 1 was in the Victorian Assembly for eight years and a half, and we never got a proof of a speech made in the House.
– The practice must have been altered by a new Speaker, for many a time I have corrected proofs of the late William Shiels, and Mr. Deakin - not only their speeches, but many other speeches delivered by honorable members in the State Assembly.
– When you say “ corrected speeches,” you mean “ altered the type” ?
– I mean that the proofs had been sent out to the member, and he, in his own handwriting had altered them. That was done to my knowledge, and if the practice has been abolished, I was not aware of it.
– It is done everywhere; the thing is not discussable.
– The Minister of Education told me a few days ago that he had never corrected a Hansard proof, nor had he had one sent to him for correction.
– That may be. I am speaking of the experience I had at the Printing Office a number of year’s ago. It was my lot to make corrections in speeches there. Judging from his remarks, the Prime Minister is not particular as to proofs being altered in a very considerable way. I feel very strongly on this point, and would be prepared to go further. People may smile at Hansard, but I know that some of the newspapers, especially in Melbourne, would very much like to see that publication abolished. In South Australia, I understand, one of the newspapers produces Hansard.
– Two are subsidized.
– When one opens an Adelaide newspaper - either the Register, or the Advertiser, or even the Herald - one is surprised to see the report it contains of the proceedings in the State Parliament.
– The morning newspapers are subsidized by Parliament.
– Yes; and the reports are afterwards made up into Hansard.
– They are paid for putting the reports in their columns.
– I presume that the reports are made up into a volume afterwards.
– Not in Tasmania. There they chop the reports out of the newspapers.
– I have already pointed out how, years ago, the present Premier of Tasmania complained at a public meeting of the conduct of the press. He said to me, “ Things are all very well with you, because you can read your Hansard and find out exactly what Bills are submitted to Parliament, and what discussion takes place; but, in Tasmania, we are. completely at the mercy of the daily press.”
– The press always state accurately what Parliament is doing.
– That is the opinion which Mr. Solomon expressed to me years ago, before he became a member of the State Assembly. He was agitating for the repeal of a certain measure, and he complained that the people were not well posted by the press in regard to the transactions of Parliament. My own opinion is that Hansard is not sent out in the best form that could be adopted. Some very serious propositions were put forward in this State several years ago in favour of the combination of the Gazette and Hansard - and I believe of another journal or two - and of its issue in the form of a newspaper. I believe that if Hansard were-published in an attractive form, and published more frequently, we could effect a considerable saving of money, because we should then be able through that medium to circulate all the Government advertisements, and thus avoid advertising in the daily press. Instead of curtailing the influence of and ridiculing Hansard, every honorable member should stand by it, because it constitutes his only safeguard, and is the only weapon with which he is able to defend himself against the malicious treatment which is sometimes meted out to him by the press of this country.
– In New South Wales there is ‘ a daily Hansard.
– Our Hansard is issued twice a week in book form. If it were made up more attractively, I believe that it could be made to pay for itself in advertisements alone. It could be made available in every post-office and library throughout the Commonwealth, and contractors and others would thus be able to see the advertisements it contained in regard to necessary services. By this means, and with the aid of subscriptions to it, I believe that we could save in a very few years hundreds of thousands of pounds in advertisements alone. I shall always be a stout fighter for the maintenance of Hansard, and I shall never listen to the wiles of any newspaper which desires its abolition. Neither will I pay any regard to ridicule of that publication by newspapers which would like to ridicule it out of existence. Let us main- tain it, and let us repulse every onslaught which is made upon the faithful record of the proceedings of this House. I am certain that the honorable member for Wimmera, and other honorable members with a journalistic training, will realize the necessity for taking some stand in regard to this matter. In order to stop such behaviour on the part of the press, it is absolutely necessary that a salutary lesson should be taught to some individual. Thereafter, I venture to predict that the conduct of our daily press towards Parliament will be much better than it has been. As far as I am concerned, I would be content to adopt a motion less drastic than that which has been submitted, but I certainly think that the House should demand the retraction of the article of which complaint has been made, and that that retraction should appear in just as prominent a place as did the article itself.
– That is all I asked.
– Then I see no objection to the motion. We are merely asking the conductors of a great public journal to do a fair thing. In this House, if an honorable member makes a wrong statement - as we sometimes do in the heat of debate - he is only too ready to withdraw it in his calmer moments. Otherwise he is lacking in manliness. Such a course of conduct is necessary in order that the business of the House may be transacted with decorum, and that Parliament may retain the respect of the people. Surely the code of honour which we insist shall be observed here should be equally observed by the great public journals which profess to report our proceedings. The Leader of the House should have been one of the first to have defended the rights and privileges of honorable members. I candidly confess that I did expectither you, sir, or the Prime Minister to have taken action in that connexion immediately we assembled today. Had that been done, there would have been practically a unanimous House.
– I quite agree with the statement that this is a matter which affects every honorable member, and one which can scarcely be passed over in silence by this House. I do not intend to enter into any dialectical analysis of the phraseology of Hansard. The point with which I am concerned is : “ Is Hansard a faithful record of the proceedings of this Parliament and of the speeches of honorable members?” I think we are nearly all agreed that the comments contained in the newspaper article to which exception has been taken convey the impression to the people of Australia that the reports of the speeches of honorable members, as they are set out in Hansard, are not faithful reports. That is a very bad impression to create, because it at once destroys the whole value of Hansard as a record of the speeches which are delivered in this Parliament. It is perfectly true that honorable members, within certain limitations, have a right to revise the Hansard proofs of their own speeches. I do not know what is the experience of honorable members generally in this regard, but my own experience is that the Hansard Reporting Staff is so efficient that very little revision is necessary, even if one has the inclination to make any serious alteration or to suggest any omission from the unrevised proof. I think this House ought to know whether alterations have been made in the Hansard proofs of the speeches of honorable members to the extent of altering the sense and meaning of those speeches.
– I have made three speeches here, and have altered only one word.
Mr.SAMPSON.- Where an honorable member strikes out a word from his proof and substitutes for it another word which is more explicit, or which possibly makes his meaning clearer - as was mentioned by the honorable member for Parkes - that is not a real alteration of the speech at all. I presume that that is all that honorable members are allowed to do in accordance with the terms of the memorandum which is attached to every unrevised Hansard proof that is issued. I should like to know from you, sir, whether the corrections of the Hansard proofs by honorable members have at any time exceeded the terms of that memorandum? The memorandum in question reads -
The attached proofs are issued by direction of Mr. Speaker for the correction of errors in the report. Honorable members are respectfully requested to note that emendations which alter the sense of words used in debate or introduce new matter are not admissible.
That is perfectly clear. I think we are all agreed that any alterations in the phraseology of an honorable member’s speech, within the terms of that instruction, will not alter the faithfulness of the Hansard reports as they are sent out to the public. If we can be assured by Mr. Speaker that no further alterations have been made in the Hansard proofs, we have at once an ample refutation of the statements contained in the newspaper article this morning, which conveys an entirely false impression to the people of Australia respecting the reporting of the speeches of honorable members in this Parliament.
– In regard to the question asked by the honorable member for Wimmera, as to whether any material alterations have been made in the Hansard proofs, I am not able to make any authoritative reply, because I have not seen all the proofs of Hansard, either for this or for previous Parliaments: In the circumstances, what I think I had better do is to call for a report from the Chief of the Hansard Staff in regard to the matter - and, as he is responsible for seeing that the instructions contained in the memorandum referred to are carried out, and as he occupies a confidential position, I have no doubt that the House will be very glad to accept any report that he may submit. I will ask him to furnish a report on the subject, and then I shall be able to make an authoritative statement in regard to it.
.- I would like to say a few words on this matter. I am of opinion that altogether too much notice is being taken of the article which appears in to-day’s Age, for the simple reason that that journal carries no weight in the community to-day.
– Notwithstanding that it has a circulation of 137,000?
Mr.TUDOR. - It has no real weight in the community. At the last general election the Age and the Argus were agreed upon all candidates, with the exception of a few, and of the candidates which the Age supported alone, at least one lost his deposit. The best thing that can happen to anybody in the metropolitan area is for the Age newspaper to denounce him. The name which has been used to describe it for years is well known. It is called “Ananias.” Everybody possessing biblical knowledge is familiar with the fate which overtook “ Ananias.” It is set out in the Acts of the Apostles. The Age is known to be a deliberate perverter of the truth. It is continuously and deliberately misrepresenting the statements of honorable members. If any person happens to say anything against it, it will at once have its knife into him.
– The honorable member is making sure that it will oppose him on the next occasion.
Mr.TUDOR. - It has always opposed me. For the Age to support me would be the worst thing which could happen to me. I have never had any doubt as to my attitude towards that journal. At about the end of the general election campaign in 1903, I issued a little diagram which I called “Fair play according to the Age.” On that occasion it gave me a report of my speech at only one meeting which I addressed. That report oc cupied only two inches, whereas it reported nine meetings of my opponent, to whom it gave space to the extent of four and three-quarter columns.
– Lucky man.
– He was lucky. He polled about 6,000 votes, whereas I polled 14,000. I think that the honorable member for Adelaide is taking altogether too much notice of the Age newspaper. People do not look for truth in its columns. That journal is probably anxious to see Hansard abolished, because honorable members would then have no proof of its mendacity. Personally, I am in favour - as is the honorable member for -Maribyrnong - of the issue of a daily Hansard. I am in favour of inserting in that publication Commonwealth advertisements, such as we saw published in the morning newspapers of this city last Saturday - advertisements for the carriage of mails which occupiedalmost a page of the Age and the Argus. I suppose that those advertisements in each newspaper cost £70 or £100..
– £100 is the price of a fullpage advertisement.
Mr.TUDOR.- I do not think that the advertisements occupied quite a full page in either newspaper. I am of opinion that that money might well have been saved to the Commonwealth. The same advertisements appear in the Labour weekly of this city to-day. I take the same exception to that expenditure. There is no need to spend this money with newspapers. The Gazette and Hansard might be published in the form of a journal, which would be eagerly scanned by contractors desirous of tendering for the various services of the Commonwealth.
– If we published tips in Hansard, and guaranteed their accuracy, that production would be well read.
– The honorable member is speaking of something of which I do not know anything. But I understand that the evil lies, not so much in giving tips as in taking them. The honorable member for Parkes said that the honorable member for Gwydir had endeavoured to introduce headings into Hansard. Speaking from memory, I think that the honorable member is quite mistaken. What the honorable member for Gwydir desired to do was to insert headings, not in Hansard, but’ in a reprint of the Hansard report of his speech - a reprint for which he paid, and which he intended to circulate amongst his constituents.
– The present Treasurer has published reprints of the official reports of his last two speeches, and has inserted headings in them.
Mr.TUDOR. - I was about to refer to that point. The right honorable gentleman was the first to do that sort of thing this session. Some time ago a resolution was carried in this House that reprints from Hansard should not contain headings. It was held that a speech which was circulated as a reprint from Hansard must be an exact replica of the official report, nothing being added to or taken from it. That decision was arrived at about 1909, when the Fusion Government were in power. Notwithstanding that determination, however, the present Treasurer has published a reprint from Hansard of his Budget statement, in which he has inserted headings. As a matter of fact, I entirely approve of the introduction of headings. If we can brighten up Hansard, there is no reason why we should not do so. It was published originally once a week, but it is now issued twice a week, and I should like to see it published daily. I heard the honorable member for Henty make a remark which suggests that there is, apparently, no demand upon him for the extra copies of Hansard with which he, in common with every other honorable member, is supplied.
– His presence here is a proof that the people of his electorate do not read Hansard.
Mr.TUDOR.- The same thought crossed my own mind. If the honorable member for Henty, or any other honorable member, has no call for the copies of Hansard with which he is supplied, I shall be glad to tell him of plenty of places where they can be put to good use. I regret that the Prime Minister should have endeavoured to make this a party question. I do not know that the article was worth taking notice of, but, since it has been brought forward, the question should not be made a party one. If the motion goes to a division, I shall vote for it; but I think that altogether too much has been made of the matter.
– I should like to indorse some of the remarks that have been made during this debate in regard to Hansard’. Ever since I have been in the House, I have found Hansard a faithful record of our proceedings, and honorable members must admit that the reporting of the Hansard Staff is excellent. No fault can be found with Hansard on that score. The question we have to consider, however, is, not whether Hansard should be retained in its present form, or whether it should be published daily, but whether the Age newspaper has cast such a reflection on you, Mr. Speaker, and on the honour of the House, as would, justify us in excluding its representatives from the press gallery until an ample apology has been made, and a contradiction of the article published in its columns. It seems to me that we should not be justified in going so far. In my opinion, the newspaper has done nothing more than publish an inaccurate statement. If I thought that it had wilfully published an inaccurate statement, with the object of reflecting on this House or upon the institution of- Hansard, I might, possibly, be inclined to support the motion. But I do not think there was any such intention. If it is pointed out to the editor either by yourself, Mr. Speaker, or through some other source, that a mistake has been made, I do not think that any hesitation will be shown in giving the correction as wide a publicity as that given to the misstatement.
– Would the honorable member suggest that we send a deputation to the Age to ask that a correction be made?
– Certainly not.
– Then, why be so apologetic ?
– Inmy opinion, no offence has been committed. It would be sufficient to have from the Age an undertaking to publish a correction of its own mistake. I do not regard the article as anything more than a purely innocent mistake. I read it before the honorable member brought it forward, and that was the conclusion to which I came; so that I feel that it would be altogether unfair to take such a drastic step as that now proposed. I wish to give the press a fair chance to criticise us, and, so long as its criticism is reasonable, and liberty is not allowed to develop into licence, I shall not complain. The press very often misrepresents us unintentionally; but newspapers, like individuals, are liable to err, and we have to put up with that- sort of thing. I see nothing in the article that shows an intention on the part of the writer to reflect upon the honour of Parliament. The Age has merely published an inaccurate statement. I regret that this matter is being- pressed, more especially as you, sir, have made an announcement from the Chair informing the House, and the people, that the statement contained in the Age is an inaccurate one. I shall not support the motion as it stands.
– I think that the honorable member for Wilmot has failed to recognise the importance of the question now under consideration, and I also deeply regret the attitude which has been taken up by the Prime Minister. That honorable gentleman ought to recognise, as does the Leader of the House of Commons, that, as Leader of the House, he is required to dissociate himself entirely from his position as leader of a particular party. I do not say that he has taken up this position with any unfair intention, but he has certainly failed to grasp the seriousness of -the situation. The honorable member for Yarra referred to the opinion held by many people in Victoria regarding the veracity or otherwise of the Age; but we have to remember that the article may be copied by newspapers in other States, with the result that, unless it is contradicted in an emphatic way, there may go abroad the impression that Hansard is not an accurate record of the proceedings of this Parliament. That would be a very dangerous idea to get abroad amongst the people. Setting aside all party considerations, we must recognise that it is absolutely essential that we should have a record of the proceedings of Parliament to which the people can with confidence refer, as containing a faithful account of what is said and done here. This is a matter of vital importance, in view of the tendency shown by the large commercial newspapers to hunt for good copy and for sensationalism. Some people say that the newspapers create a demand on the part’ of the public for sensations, while others, defending our newspapers, assert that the people at heart dearly love sensations, and that the press simply tries to cater for the fancies of its readers. The newspapers of to-day are very different from what they were thirty or forty years ago. Our daily newspapers have become large commercial undertakings, and .are run simply as such. Questions of morality never enter the heads of those who control them. They are out to make money, just as the promoters of all commercial undertakings are; and, just as a merchant makes money by selling his goods, so the newspaper proprietors are out to make money by selling news. Whether that news is true or false is a matter of no concern to these people, as long as it is readable, and such as is likely to interest the public. The newspapers, purely in the interests of the pockets of their owners, create a morbid taste on the part of the public. That is all very well from a business point of view, but the time must come when all the Parliaments of the Empire will have to look into this matter very carefully. It is utterly absurd to say that so powerful an engine for good or evil, as the press undoubtedly is, should be let loose, and that the question of how it should be conducted is a matter of indifference to the public. That is an attitude that I am certain the Australian people would not tolerate. This is not a party question ; the morality of the people is of far more importance than party considerations, and we have to guard against statements of the kind now complained of in regard to the National Parliament. What are the facts so far as they have been submitted to us? A statement has been made by this newspaper impugning the veracity and accuracy of the Hansard reports, and I say that, we ought to take the strongest measures possible to prevent unjust accusations of the kind. We must let it be understood by the people of this continent that, in regard to tie proceedings of this Parliament, we have set a standard of accuracy ; and I am surprised that the honorable member for Wimmera should ask Mr. Speaker whether alterations of the kind suggested have occurred. In South Australia reporting for Hansard is let under contract to the two leading newspapers in Adelaide, one of which reports the Legislative Assembly, and the other the Legislative Council. In this way the State Parliament certainly gets the advantage of a report more or less accurate, but, without casting any reflections, I unhesitatingly say that there could not be better reporting in any part of the world than is done by our own
Hansard Staff here. The corrections that are made are merely the alteration of a word, or statistics, or some error of a similar nature which may have crept in ; and I should not think of asking the Hansard Staff to go beyond the announcement that accompanies the proofs .supplied to honorable members. Indeed, from what we know of the gentleman who presides over the Staff, I certainly think he would not allow anything further to be done. It is only a matter of fairness to the gentlemen of the Staff to say that it is a startling surprise to find the reporting so accurate. So far as my own speeches are concerned, there may be occasionally need for the correction of a word here and there, but nothing more; and it is simply marvellous that the reporters are able to follow honorable members so accurately, and know the real trend of their minds. It is very often in this regard that our press reporters are not so satisfactory. Without casting any reflection on those latter gentlemen, I am afraid that a number of them who report the speeches of members and others really do not know what the speakers aTe talking about. Unless a reporter is sufficiently well educated and informed - I aru not talking of a university education - to know what a speaker is talking about, I defy him to have any idea at all of reporting. In the very nature of things, a reporter must be an average -well-informed man to thoroughly understand those whom he is reporting. In speaking as I have of our Hansard reporters, I have no desire to pay them fulsome compliments; and I am sure that every honorable member knows that I am only stating the fact in regard to them. I appeal to my honorable friend the Leader of the House to put aside altogether any reference to the Ballarat incident. In regard to that there is much party spirit, and, perhaps, a little bad blood, which may warp our judgment; but doubtless we shall be able to regard the question more clearly in a month’s time. The honour and integrity of this House should be our first care. We, as members for our various districts, have succeeded others, and will be succeeded by others, but we should guard against the idea getting abroad that our Hansard is not a faithful and true report. . By way of illustration, of the position I am taking up, I urge that the sooner the Seat of Government is removed from Melbourne, the better it will be for this National Parliament. Honorable members who represent Victoria may think differently, but this debate shows that it would be much better if we were away from a place where, day after day, we are subjected by the metropolitan press to so much criticism which is certainly unfair. Personally, I am indifferent to this criticism, which has no effect whatever in my constituency or in my State. I should be blind, however, if I did not see the influence, which is not an influence for good, exercised by the two daily newspapers of Melbourne on the National Parliament. This is an argument that has always had considerable weight with me in regard to the establishment of the Federal Capital. I have no desire to “delay the business” of the House and the country by any further remarks; but I ask the Prime Minister to reconsider his position, and see whether he cannot agree with the proposal of the honorable. member for Adelaide. We are not proposing that the proprietor, publisher, or printer of this newspaper shall be brought to the bar of the House. That procedure has been adopted in some instances, but I have always looked on it as a huge joke.
– It always results in a fiasco.
– Undoubtedly, and the public, I think, take a very proper view when they regard it as a comedy. All we ask is that the representatives of this particular newspaper in this chamber shall be requested to retire. They know that this proposal is not intended as offensive to them personally, but is directed to the newspaper itself. We further ask that those who have the conduct of this journal shall give to a denial a publicity corresponding with that given to the false charge. When that has been done, then, of course, the representatives of the newspaper will be allowed to resume their place in that portion of the chamber allotted to them. Is there anything drastic or outrageous in such a proposal ? The honour of this Parliament is too important to be associated with the mere squabbling’ amongst ourselves, or to depend on who may happen to be for the time being on the Treasury - bench; all that is the mere ebb and flow of the political life of a free country. Above all, there must be on our part a determination that there shall be no trifling on the part of the big commercial journals in regard to the standard of accuracy observed in the official report of our proceedings.
– There is nothing in the proposal to which an honorable press could object.
– I shall not go into that question, but I do urge the Prime Minister to agree to the proposal of the honorable member for Adelaide.
.- I agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, with one exception. That honorable member has expressed the opinion that the sooner the Federal Parliament gets away from Melbourne, the better it will be for the country, and the reason he gives is the damage that this particular metropolitan journal is doing in the constituencies in Victoria. There is not one man in the Labour party whose seat is influenced by anything the Age writes, nor is there a man on this side, that I know of, whose seat is affected in that way. Indeed, all the candidates that the Age supported at the last election lost their deposits.
– The honorable member will suffer for this later on !
– The Age has no more influence in my constituency that it has in the constituency of the honorable member.
– It has not much influence there, I confess.
– And the same applies to the constituencies of Victorian members on both sides. I agree thoroughly with the honorable member for Yarra when he declares that we are making too much fuss of this particular criticism. This discussion will only help this journal to advertise itself, and, perhaps, add another 2,000 to its circulation. We ought not to be too thin-skinned in regard to press criticism. The best thing that can occur to a Parliament is free, healthy criticism by the press of the country.
– It ought to be truthful.
– Exactly, it ought to be truthful. The Age says of honorable members -
They are allowed to have embalmed and printed at public expense, not what they said but what they think they ought to have said. It would be interesting to know where the advocate is who can find one single intelligent reason for perpetrating a farce like this.
I am one who can find a reason; and I hope honorable members will agree with me in my fancy that I have a little intelligence. The liberties of members of this House would not be safe if we had to trust our remarks to the metropolitan press; we have to rely on our unimpeachable record. The notice that is sent out with the proofs tells honorable members that they are permitted to make only verbal, and not structural, alterations in their speeches; and not only is the statement untrue, that Hansard or honorable members send forth remarks that are not made, but the journal that makes it knows that it is untrue.
– Honorable members are only permitted to suggest verbal alterations, because the alterations need not be accepted by the Hansard Staff.
– That is perfectly correct. The honorable member for Parkes spoke of the possible ignorance of the writer’ of the article. The article, however, was not written in ignorance; it is simply following out the policy that the Age has followed for years, of trying to minimize the influence of Parliament and to magnify the influence of the press. If there is one reason stronger than another why Hansard should be kept intact, it is that the press dare not print lies when it is known that they can be “ bowled but “ by a reference to the official record.
– They take the risk sometimes.
– They do take the risk, but I suppose the honorable member, like myself, has too much to do to bother about contradicting the press. Even if we did bother about contradicting their remarks, it is a million to one the corrections would not be printed. I say it would be a wise thing if all political comments had to bear the indorsement of the men who put them in the press:.
– What? Signed articles ?
– Now we know what has become of the Electoral Bill.
– L am quite as good a party man as the honorable member, but I am not afraid to express my opinions. I say unhesitatingly that when a member of Parliament has to take the responsibility of the remarks he makes, the criticisms that appear upon his action in journals that seek to influence public opinion, should carry the names of the men whomake those criticisms. I not only express that view now; I also expressed it during the recent elections. I am not going back on any statement I have made. Right through my constituency I said that criticisms of public journals upon public men ought to bear the signatures of the men making those criticisms. I still hold that view. I would be one of the last to agree to the abolition of Hansard, and allow the public journals of this country to take the full responsibility of printing the speeches of members of this House. I know the kind of treatment that would be meted out to those with whom the papers did not agree. In this particular case, while this newspaper has deliberately - not unintentionally - misrepresented the actual facts, I do not think it is worth while the honorable member for Adelaide carrying his motion through to the end which he desires; because he has accomplished all he sought when he submitted the motion, and it would be merely advertising the journal if he pushed the matter to a conclusion. The honorable member for Yarra has practically expressed my ideas in this regard. We are magnifying this newspaper more than is necessary, and I think that all that was sought to be accomplished has been accomplished by the ventilation given by’ the debate. It has been no party debate. Honorable members have been practically unanimous in condemning the article complained of, but they feel that it is not worth while going further in the matter.
– In the course of his speech, the honorable member for Wimmera asked me a certain question, and I told him that I would ask the Principal Parliamentary Reporter to supply the information, seeing that he was in a better position to know what had been done. The Principal Parliamentary Reporter has submitted to me the following report -
In compliance with Mr. Speaker’s request, I have to report that no alteration has been made in the system of proof revision by honorable members which was instituted at the commencement of the Commonwealth Parlia- -t. r ..
The corrections made by them are carefully examined before they are accepted, and I am not aware of any instance in which there has been an infringement of the well-known rule which prohibits an alteration of the sense qf words used in debate. If, however,, it should be thought that in any instance this has occurred, the facts can be immediately ascertained by Mr. Speaker, the whole of the corrections made by honorable members from the first session of the Parliament until the present day having been retained by the Department.
To supplement that report, I may mention that there was one occasion that I recollect when the question of the accuracy of a report was raised. It was a question of whether an honorable member had improperly altered the sense of his speech. When the proofs were produced for the perusal of the then Speaker, Sir Frederick Holder, in June, 1906, an examination of those proofs disclosed that the suspected improper alteration referred to by another honorable member had not taken place.
– I am not so much interested in the prosecuting or defence of the Age in this matter, as I am concerned with the attitude of the Government, particularly the head of the Government, towards this breach of privilege and this most discreditable attack on the honour of the House, which, apparently, appears to be condoned by the Government and. the head of the Government. I am not one of those who would put any limitation upon the widest and fullest freedom of speech. I have always favoured that, as I have always favoured the press having the most complete rights in that respect, the same as individuals enjoy in this House.
– Sometimes, but not recently; that is true. I agree with what the honorable member for Yarra has said with regard to the standing ‘of the Age and the credit that is given to its utterances.. My feeling towards the Age is rather one of pity than resentment, in view of the public reprobation that visited it, and resulted disastrously to it, over its most discreditable conduct during the recent elections, an offence - or, rather, a series of offences - not likely to be repeated by it. The pockets of the proprietors, of the Age were touched too intimately, and too deeply, for a repetition of it. I am concerned very much with the privileges of honorable members and the honour of the House, more particularly aB the question of the honour and credit that is due to Mr. Speaker, as well as to the House, was tested in a very striking and dramatic manner only recently in connexion with the honorable member for Ballarat. In regard to this matter, I would like to adopt the standard then laid down by the AttorneyGeneral as to -what the House- should take notice of, and as to what it should not take notice of. I mention this only for the purpose of my argument upon this subject, and not for the purpose here, at all events, of reviewing the matter upon which the honorable member for Ballarat was suspended. The Attorney-General said that Mr. Speaker was practically charged with fraud, and that the House must take notice of it. I say that here, in this article, Mr. Speaker has been charged with fraud, with bias, and with infidelity to his trust, yet the head of the Government proposes to take no notice of it.
– In which particular passage do you find that in the article?
– If honorable members opposite will wait I shall show them. I refer again to the words of the AttorueyGeneral. He has said to-day that we should take cognisance, not of an isolated sentence here or there, but of the context, and of what was intended to be conveyed by the whole article. Now, what does the article say? I shall not read it all again, because the AttorneyGeneral has been good enough to read it, but I shall read some sentences -
Hitherto the theory has been entertained by the public that the raison d’être of Hansard. is to publish to the world a true and faithful record of the speeches of members, and of the proceedings in Parliament.
Hansard alone can be trusted to give absolutely fair and strictly accurate and unbiased reports of what is said and done in Parliament.
Later on they say that Hansard reporters are supposed to take down the literal truth of what is said. They add to that, these words -
Mr. Speaker rendered the people of Australia yesterday a service of no slight significance. He destroyed an illusion that for many years has misled and deceived us.
What was the illusion? The illusion was that Hansard was a true and faithful record of the speeches of honorable members, that it was an unbiased, faithful, true, and honest record; and though this article shows Mr. Speaker to be unfaithful, biased, and dishonest, yet the Leader of the Government chooses to take no notice of it, because he is afraid to take notice of it; he dare not. The Attorney-General must know that it is an insult to the House, and that it is a gross offence against the House.
– I do not know how you can defend that analysis of the article.
– The article can, bear no other possible meaning. Let me say a word or two in regard to the clumsy juggling of words indulged in by the honorable member for Parkes when he spoke of the “ literal truth “ of what goes into Hansard. This paper is also juggling with the words “ literal truth “ in order to screen itself under those words ; just as honorable members opposite have jumped at them as an excuse for not taking action against the paper that is accusing Mr. Speaker of bias and fraud - to adopt the word of the AttorneyGeneral.
– Where do you find those accusations in the article? That is the difficulty.
– I have already quoted the article to show what Hansard is supposed to be in the public mind - that is, that it is unbiased, that it is accurate, that it is faithful and truthful; and I have shown where they say that Mr. Speaker has destroyed that illusion: What could be plainer? The concluding words of the article are -
After this the “ infallibility “ of Hansard will live as a term of flagrant mockery. We know the publication now for what it really is.
Flagrant mockery ! The publication containing the speeches of honorable members is a “ flagrant mockery,” is unfaithful, is untrue, and cannot be relied on as an official record of our House. That is the statement that is going abroad to the public unchallenged and with the sanction of the Government. As to the words “ altered in secret,” the honorable member for Parkes asks, “ Is it not a fact that an honorable member may take his proof to his room or to the Library, and alter it? Who can challenge the truth of the words that the proof is altered in secret?” Does not every honorable member know that it is a deliberate affront to every member of the House to say that this is done in some discreditable hole-and-corner and secret manner? Every honorable member must know it is an affront. The honorable member for Parkes must know it. Yet the only penalty we suggest is that the paper should apologize and be asked to publish the fact that these aspersions upon the honour of the House are unjustifiable and untrue. Though this slander has been published abroad, the honorable member feels he is not compelled to take any notice of it, because it is too small a thing. But I maintain that it is important that the honour of
Mr. Speaker should be guarded, and that his position as the Presiding Officer of the House should be recognised.
– Hear, hear!
– I have never done anything to bring the name or the position of the Speaker into discredit, and I hope I shall not have to sit in the House and hear the head of the Government championing the cause of a journal which seeks to affront Mr. Speaker and every honorable member of the House, because, apparently, he dare not take any action. This is not, and ought not to.be, a party matter. It was not introduced by the honorable member for Adelaide as a party matter. He introduced it in a temperate manner, making a direct appeal to the Speaker, and he had scarcely sat down when the Leader of the Government sprang forward, not only asserting [the party aspect of the matter, but actually, in a way most humiliating to the House, dragging in a wholly unrelated question regarding some other paper, in an attempt to prove that it had done something equally bad. Supposing it was proved that the other .paper had erred, and that, as the Leader of the Government said, that offence was as great as this, is that any reason why we should overlook this matter in order to follow up another matter, or take no notice of either ? Surely that is not the way the Leader of the Government should address himself to a question of this kind. Surely it rested upon him to say, “ We will deal with these papers wherever we find them, and whatever they are; but, first, we shall deal with the one brought before us in an orderly and regular manner.” I hope the motion will go to a division. I hope we shall see what lies behind the protestations of the honorable member for Wentworth. He ought to know something about the attitude of this paper. It has held him up to public contumely and reprobation, and ridiculed him in every possible way, and he ought to be a little sensitive about it. We shall learn, also, what the honorable member for Parkes thinks when he is put to the test. We shall see the attitude of the Attorney-General, who only a little while ago spoke of this journal as having uttered of him an outrageous and deliberate falsehood.
– Do you think we ought to take tins occasion for punish ing a paper for past misdeeds? That is not a very judicial attitude to take.
– I do not understand the honorable member’s point.
– The honorable, member has referred to its conduct during the last election, and to its previous attacks on honorable members, as some reason why the House should vote in support of this motion.
– I venture to say that I have not. I have, in the course of my speech, referred to what the honorable member for Yarra said in this connexion, and I merely mentioned the last election to show that, so far as it was concerned, we could well afford to treat this journal with contempt. The way it was visited with public reprobation as the result of its mendacious and utterly unworthy attitude with regard to the late elections in itself constitutes a very good ground for taking no further notice of what has gone by. I take no further notice of what has happened in the past, but I am much concerned with the matter that is now before the House, and the more concerned by reason of the emphatic way in which the privileges of the House and the honour which was due to the Speaker were asserted here last week. That was the standard’ set up by the AttorneyGeneral when he spoke of a charge of fraud against the Speaker. If Hansard is an unfaithful, biased, and faked record, as this article most distinctly asserts that it is, then I say that the Speaker is responsible for it, because he is responsible for Hansard, and, therefore, this charge is one of bias against him. It amounts to a charge against him of faking the reports and records of the House. Without regard to party, but simply to assert the dignity of the House and the respect due to it as the highest deliberative assembly in the land, we ought, not merely as a majority, but unanimously, to reprobate this paper’s conduct. As the honorable member for Henty said that this was not a party question, we may hope with some confidence to see him voting with us. As other honorable members have said that it is not a party question, let us put aside the party aspect of the matter altogether. We shall not regard it as a motion of want of confidence in the Government, but, on the contrary, we shall be pleased to be associated with honorable members on the other side of the
Blouse in asserting the rights and privileges of this, the highest tribunal in the Commonwealth .
.- Let me compliment the Opposition on, at least, proving for us the very excellent reason we had for bringing forward the motion against the honorable member for Ballarat. If they have justified one thing by their attack to-day, they have justified every man on this side in the vote he gave for the exclusion of that honorable member. There certainly was in that case a distinct and clear offence against the rules and customs of the House, but in this case the Opposition have been unable to find a parallel with what happened then. They have themselves said that there is nothing whatever in the article. Two or three honorable members have already pointed out that the Age has no influence whatever on anybody in Victoria, and, therefore, cannot, and does not, affect the ideas of a single person who reads it.
– It is not a question of the paper at all. It is a question of the House.
– The honorable member is, therefore, going to punish the paper for doing something which he asserts that it did not do.
– It tried to.
– The honorable member for Bendigo, then, is going to punish for an intention ?
– Certainly. The attempt to commit a crime.
– That is a new doctrine in law. I am surprised that anybody with legal knowledge should say that we must punish, not the act, because on their own statements the act never took place-
– Did it not?
-Honorable members have distinctly asserted that none of the 137,000 readers of the Age pays attention to any remarks that it makes.
– Do you fake your proofs? Because the Age accuses ‘you of doing so.
– The honorable member is entitled to read what has been written in whatever way he likes. When he tells me that he reads the article in that way, I must accept his statement. It would be very unparliamentary to do otherwise, but if he says that his reading is the reading of an in telligent person above the age of four years, I deny it. An intelligent child of four years old would be able to read quite another meaning into it.
– Which side of the fence are you on ?
– I. am on the right side of the fence. I am not accustomed to sit on the top of it. The Opposition have adjured us to vote on this as a non-party question, but no proof whatever has as yet been given, and they cannot expect us to vote on the matter without proof. They have given us the best of all possible reasons why no notice should be taken of the article. As regards the assertion that all honorable members should be reported literally, about an hour ago I heard one honorable member call across the Chamber to an honorable member on this side, “ Honorable members there think they know everything,” and another honorable member, on one side or the other, I shall not say which, called out, “ They don’t know nothing.” He would surely not wish that remark to be taken down literally.
– It never was said. You ought to be above that sort of thing.
– I heard the remark made, and drew another honorable member’s attention to it. I have not imputed it to any side whatever.
– That makes it worse, because you have not the courage to attribute ifc to anybody. It is a contemptible thing to do.
– I do not mind the honorable member’s remarks in the slightest. It would be ridiculous to expect everything to be put down literally. Surely what an honorable member says, and intended to say, is the proper thing to be reported. I do not pretend to. be absolutely correct in every statement I make, nor does any other honorable member. When an honorable member is on his feet, and is subjected to interruptions, he does not expect that every one of his remarks will read grammatically or sensibly. It is as well, provided that the House has been able to grasp an honorable member’s meaning, that a certain latitude - and it is a very small latitude - should be allowed to honorable members, because it must be remembered that what they wish to go forth to the country are their considered utterances, and not those little temporary ebullitions which do not express their general state of mind. Every man kno”ws that during excited periods in the House remarks are passed between various honorable members that they would be “very sorry to have recorded as their deliberate opinions. In any case they ought not to object to a newspaper exercising the right and privilege, as it does every day, of taking and interpreting the sense of what a speaker says, although it does not always put down his actual words. We find the same thing done in Hansard, and although it may look very well sometimes in a newspaper to criticise and challenge the official record, we all know that, as a matter of fact, there is no departure in the official record of the House from what an honorable member intended to say. In those circumstances I think all of us are very well satisfied with the reports given to us. If there is a complaint .that we might make against the Hansard Staff, it is that they have sometimes put into more perfect English, and expressed more clearly and distinctly, what we intended to say, than, perhaps, what we actually did say. I certainly shall not be one to complain of that, and I do not think that other honorable members will complain of it. I ‘have not the slightest doubt but that the motion was brought forward, not because it is thought that there has been a deliberate infringement of the privileges of the House, but in order to express disapproval of the action taken in regard to the honorable member for Ballarat. So far as his case is concerned, I may say that I had much less hesitation in voting for the suspension of a member who had offended against the forms of the House than I would have in voting for the suppression of debate, the suspension being merely for a period only as long as the honorable member himself likes to make it. He offended against certain forms and laws of Parliament.
– I ask the honorable member not to deal with’ that matter. ‘
– The allegation -is that a question of privilege arises in connexion with the Age article, which is similar to that which arose in connexion with the speech of the honorable member for Ballarat.
– Is the honorable member justified in referring to anything that occurred in connexion with the honorable member for Ballarat?
– As soon as the honorable member for Werriwa mentioned the case of the honorable member for Ballarat, I called his attention to the fact that he must not refer to it, and asked him not to do so.
– I was merely pointing out that at first the allegation was that the two breaches of privilege were similar. In this instance honorable members opposite ask us not to make the matter one of party concern. In the one case, the offence is proved; in the other, it is only alleged. Every honorable member who has risen to support the motion has stated that the article in the Age has had no effect on his mind, and would have no effect on the minds of the other 137,000 readers of the journal. But the honorable member for Bendigo has told us that we must punish people, not for what they do, but for what it is possible to construe to be their intentions.
– I made no such statement.
M<r. CONROY. - I accept the disclaimer, because that is the parliamentary course to follow, but I heard what the honorable member said. Now that he says that he did not mean what he said, I accept that disclaimer, too.
– I did not say what the honorable member has attributed to me.
– The honorable member said that there was an attempt to commit a crime, and that we ought to punish those who attempt to commit crimes. Unless honorable members opposite bring forward something in support of their charge, it must be evident that the effect of this discussion can . only be - I shall not say to waste time, because the expression would be unparliamentary, but to delay the proceedings of the House, and to block the business of the country by preventing the discussion of the Government Preference Prohibition Bill. .
– The honorable member for Werriwa has made the distinct imputation against honorable members on this side of the chamber, and against the mover of the motion, that the debate has been provoked in order to hinder the Government in the conduct of the business of this country.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that improper imputation.
– I have no hesitation in doing so. The moment a statement of mine is complained of as unparliamentary I have no hesitation in withdrawing it.
– 1 intend to strip the question of any party significance, and to inform you, Mr. Speaker, that I shall vote against the motion. My reason for this attitude is that I consider that what has taken place here during the last four or five sittings justifies the statements that appear in the Age. I do not say this with a view to ingratiating myself with that newspaper, because I do not desire its support. Were it to support me, I should lose thousands of votes; indeed, I feel that if any attempt of that kind were made, I should be justified in applying to the High Court for an injunction to restrain or prohibit. A newspaper that can accept the honorable member for Werriwa as a Protectionist, and proclaim me to be a Free Trader - that has been done by the Age - is utterly unworthy of credence. But, in fairness to the newspaper reporters who frequent the galleries, it must be admitted that they are just as brainy, so far as their particular business is concerned, as are honorable members, and are as well able to ascertain, by their peculiar methods, what goes on in this Chamber, or outside, as is any honorable member of the House. When they print statements in the newspapers, they know, just as we do, whether they are correct or incorrect.
– Do you think that the statement that has been complained of is a correct one?
– I think that the Age newspaper was justified in publishing the article complained of, as the outcome of what took place in this Chamber during the last four or five sittings. The gravamen of the charge against the honorable member for Ballarat was that you, yourself, Mr. Speaker, had altered Hansard in correcting your proofs. I am very sorry to have to say that what we have heard here would justify a newspaper representative, or any person outside, in believing that alterations are made in the official report. The information that has been given to the House proves that alterations have been made. I have hitherto understood that it is the practice of the Hansard reporters to take down verbatim the utterances of honor able members. Proofs of the reports are then supplied to each speaker, who, if he finds that he has inadvertently referred to, say, the honorable member for Indi, when he meant the honorable member for Wannon, or has used the figures 3,000,000 when he meant 3,000, or has made some similar mistake, is at liberty to correct it. Obviously, it would be wrong if he could not. It would be unfair to an honorable member to allow an unintentional reference to him in mistake for another honorable member to appear, or to leave figures which were manifestly and unintentionally incorrect to remain uncorrected. As to the grammar of the speeches and the reports, it is no disgrace to many of us who have not had the educational opportunities of some who have been more fortunate, that our utterances - are sometimes faulty in grammatical construction. Some have a natural gift for expression which others do not possess, or have applied themselves more assiduously to perfecting their command of language. But, in Australia, lapses of grammar count for nothing in the discussion of vital matters affecting the interests of the people. I should not feel discomfited were I to make the biggest grammatical blunder possible in addressing either the House or my constituents.
– So long as you made your meaning plain.
– Yes; that is the essential thing. Were I derided for faults of that kind, I would laugh at those who brought them against me. The Hansard reporters are good enough to correct all these mistakes; but, if they produce the substance and intention of the remarks which they report, their report is a true one. The newspaper reporters are just as well able as the Hansard reporters and the members of the House to catch the meaning of a member’s remarks; but is the article in the Age to be wondered at after what has occurred?
– Has the honorable member read the article?
– Yes, and it expresses my exact feelings. Until last week I thought that the substance of speeches was not altered in the report ; but it must now be admitted that that can be done.
– Does the honorable member say that the substance of speeches can be altered?
– Who is doing this? Surely every one is not doing it.
– Is the honorable member doing it?
– I hope not.
– It has been asked how did the copy of the proof-
– The honorable member will not be in order in going into that matter. I have already prevented another honorable member from referring to it.
– I am sorry that you have done so, because I wanted to justify-
– The honorable member is about to refer to a matter that has already been dealt with by the House.
– I am addressing myself to a motion condemning a newspaper for an article which it has published, which I am defending, in the hope of defeating the motion. If I cannot refer to a matter which, I think, justifies what has been published-
– The matter to which the honorable ‘member refers forms the subject-matter of a notice of motion now on the business-paper.
– Seven days ago I would have voted for the motion condemning the Age newspaper-
– I have prevented two honorable members from referring to the case of the honorable member for Ballarat, and I cannot now allow the honorable member to do what I would not allow others to do. ‘
– I consider that you are preventing the debate from proceeding in a direction in which it should proceed
– The honorable member must not reflect on the Chair.
– Will not the honorable member be in order in justifying the Age article by trying to show that Hansard has been altered, even though in doing so he refers to a matter that has already been debated ?
– Honorable members who preceded the honorable member for Melbourne Ports were interrupted when my attention was called to the fact that they were doing the same thing, and I prevented it in their case.
– The real complaint against the Age newspaper is that it charges members of this House with altering in secret the real meaning of the words they utter in this chamber.
– Does the honorable member say that he does it?
– The honorable member asks me whether I do it. I am in this position, that the Hansard reporters generally put my utterances so nicely for me that I have no need to alter them. I am not referring to myself. If I had to base my judgment in this matter upon what I do myself, I should have to vote for the motion.
– I ‘suggest that the honorable member should carefully read the article instead of having dinner, and he will come to a different conclusion.
– I can assure the honorable member that my digestion is in perfect order. I wish to say that we have lately had evidence in this House that, in the opinion of honorable members on the other side, an honorable member is not allowed to say what a newspaper is allowed to say.
– They are going to vote against the motion, and the honorable member proposes to do the same.
– I am, because I believe that, on this occasion, the Government are right; whereas, on the other occasion, they showed their party bias, and voted against the honorable member for Ballarat.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member not to mention that matter again.
– I alluded to it only in passing. I find it very difficult to separate the two cases. I feel sure that, in your discretion, you will forgive me if, at times, I do get a little away from the path I ought to follow on the motion now before the House. It is within your memory that, during this week, we have had many discussions upon the Hansard reports. With reference to the articles which appeared in the Age this morning - because more than one has been referred, to - we must give the pressmen credit for publishing current news, although coloured according to their own opinions, with the object of selling their newspapers. The practice adopted in connexion with Hansard has been brought before honorable members and the public generally more prominently during the last few days than ever before. I must say, however reluctantly, that, on this subject, I do not see how you, sir, can separate the question before the House from the motion which dealt with the honorable member for Ballarat, because the latter motion really brought about the position we are considering today.
– Order ! The honorable member will resume his seat. The matter now before the House has absolutely no connexion with the motion referred to, and the honorable member is not in order in referring to that motion.
– This is not the first time that you, sir, and I have had a difference of opinion.
– Order ! The honorable member must not argue with the Chair.
– I must bow to the decision of the Speaker, although I should not bow to a similar statement by the honorable member for Lang on the floor of this House. ‘ What took place here during the last few days has led up to the article appearing in the Age. I may, perhaps, be allowed to refer to it so slightly as that. During that time, when the reports appearing in Hansardhave been under discussion in this House, it has been admitted on more than one occasion that the Hansard reports have been altered in certain directions.
– This is an attempt to revive an old debate.
– I think that you, sir, are quite able to preserve due decorum in this Chamber without the assistance of the honorable member for Wimmera. Why did the honorable member for Adelaide move this motion? His reasons for doing so are known only to himself. I would not for a moment say that, in submitting the motion, the honorable member had any double intention. But much as I dislike the Age newspaper, because of its peculiar method, in true journalistic style, of distorting facts, I felt, when I heard the honorable member move the motion, that he desired to give honorable members on the Government benches an opportunity of dealing with the Age in the way in which they dealt with the honorable member for Ballarat.
– Quite wrong. I thought the honorable member’s feelings were carrying him away.
– I admit that I have very strong feelings about the expulsion of the honorable member for Ballarat, but I shall get away from that subject, as I see that Mr. Speaker is looking at me again. The Age newspaper, in .spite of all its past misdeeds, its twistings, turnings, and misrepresentations of political life, publishes some of the most marvellously written articles that a man could peruse. Many of them would lead people to believe that they are the “ real Mackay,” when they are not, so ably are they written. It is in justification of that newspaper that I take my stand today. I say that the Age is justified in the publication of the article complained of, by the facts, and by the past knowledge of members of the newspaper staff. They know, just as well as we do, what takes place here. The representatives of the different newspapers who attend this Parliament are as conversant with everything that takes place here, behind closed doors of party rooms, in the lobbies, and everywhere else, as we are ourselves. They are as conversant, also, with the usages and practice of the House, and with what is done in connexion with the publication of Hansard. In defence of the Age, I have to say that it is justified in that article, because it has been proved conclusively in this House in the last few days that the Hansard reports were altered to suit honorable members addressing themselves to particular questions.
– I have listened with some little amusement to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports.
– The honorable memher often amuses me.
– I am quite prepared to leave the honorable member in the position he has taken up of justifying the conduct of the Age newspaper, in order that he may get a kick back at the Government in connexion with a recent matter.
– The honorable member has struck it all right.
– The position taken up by the honorable member is not a very logical or generous one; but it is, perhaps, slightly more consistent than the position I have heard taken up by some honorable members on the other side who chide the Government and honorable members on this side for taking up a different attitude on this matter from that which they adopted in connexion with a recent occurrence. If we are to assume that the two cases are exactly similar, what becomes of the consistency of honorable members on the other side, who are prepared to punish the Age somewhat severely in connexion with this matter, and who wished to condone the other offence altogether?
– One was an allegation, and the other is a fact.
– I was influenced by the fact that honorable members acted upon the report of the newspaper.
– I quite understand that honorable members opposite will have to alter their position somewhat. I got up to say only one thing, and I hasten to say it, because I do not wish to occupy time unnecessarily. I was entirely in sympathy with the honorable member for Adelaide in the speech he made until he came to the terms of his motion. I have no particular love for the newspaper in question. I do not think that a kind word has ever been printed about me iu that newspaper during my whole public career.
– It is not a personal matter.
– That is so. It is not so many months ago since the A ge made an effort to hound me out of public life altogether in connexion with certain action that I took as a public man. I say that by way of explaining my position-. I am quite prepared to go as far as any one in asserting the honour and dignity of this House against any newspaper, or any individual for that matter, but I am anxious that we should not, in our desire to punish this newspaper, place ourselves in an entirely ridiculous position-. The honorable member for Adelaide proposes that we should keep the representatives of the Age beyond the precincts of this Chamber until we have an apology from that newspaper. Do honorable members really think that in that way we shall be able to prevent the Age from publishing reports of our proceedings?
– That has nothing to do with it. That is not the question.
– Does not the honorable member for Gwydir believe that the people of Victoria would laugh most con.sumedly at us if, after having decided that this newspaper should be prevented from publishing reports of our’ proceedings, it came out next ‘ morning with as full a report as it has ever given before ?
– That could be dealt with.
– I am quite sure that that is what would happen. I believe, as a matter of fact, that that is what did happen in an adjoining State in somewhat similar circumstances. I deprecate, therefore, any attempt to punish the Age in the way indicated. I feel sure that the wholesome criticism which that newspaper has received this afternoon, will be quite effective, and a quite sufficient punishment for its offence, as I regard it.
.- If these were normal times. I should say that Parliament was improperly occupied in taking notice of matters which appear in any newspaper, and I certainly should not be found supporting the motion which has been moved. But these are not normal times. The Age newspaper has said that you, sir, have rendered a public service to the people of this country. I look through the article, and ask myself what is the public” service which you are supposed to have rendered. ‘ It is stated that you have destroyed an illusion, and the illusion we are given to understand is that Hansard is a correct report of the proceedings of Parliament. It is asserted that the illusion which you have destroyed is that Hansard contains in any form the literal truth of the utterances of members. That statement is correct, or it is not correct. I ask honorable members opposite do they agree with that proposition. Is it true to say that the Speaker of this House has rendered a public service, and has destroyed an illusion ? Is it true to say that he has informed the people of this country that the literal truth is never to be found within the pages of Hansard? And if it is true, what I am entitled to claim is that, if I, in my position in Parliament, affirm that an honorable member has improperly used his position to alter his speech and to give to it a meaning which it did not originally contain, and if for making that statement I am to be expelled from the House for abusing a privilege which I enjoy as a member, then the majority of honorable members who take up that position because of me saying that minor thing, are compelled by every dictate of justice to adopt a similar attitude against a great newspaper. The House must not take up an attitude against me as a member which it refuses to take up against some other person. It has a perfect right to say that the code laid down- by the Government and their supporters shall be rigorously followed, no matter against whom the charge is made. The . honorable member for Perth has said that we are pursuing a course of inconsistency. I fail to see any inconsistency. The inconsistency consists in a number of honorable members” sitting behind the Government laying down for me a code of conduct which5 they are not prepared to apply in other cases. I have already said that the Age or any other newspaper has the absolute right of criticism. We have the platforms of our country from which to deal with newspapers. I have never hesitated, either with words or with pen, to say what I have thought of newspapers or individuals connected with them. I subrait that I, as a member, have an equal right to say that when the House metes out punishment to me for something I have said, it is bound, if it has any code of honour or any sense of justice or consistency, to mete out like punishment to others. And if it says that I shall be expelled from my place until such time as I apologize, so other persons who commit the more heinous offence of saying that the Speaker has destroyed an illusion, has proved that the truth is never in Hansard, should be punished. Why should the House deal with them apart from any question of party ? At least common consistency and the sentiments of justice demand that the Government, apart from any personal consideration, shall deal- with those persons exactly as it dealt with an honorable member the other day. Otherwise I cannot see that the House is in any way justified in occupying its time in dealing with such persons, nor has it any right to occupy its time in dealing with any particular member’s comments on its proceedings. Common decency, to say nothing of the sentiments of justice, demands that the House shall be consistent in its action.
.- I did not intend to say anything on this motion, because I think that the afternoon, in a large measure, has been wasted.
– It is always wasted according to the ideas of some persons.
– Very frequently it is wasted.
– I ask that interjections shall cease.
– The last speaker has said that, because we dealt in a certain way with an honorable member, we should deal similarly with a newspaper. Since I have been a “member of the House I have heard the daily press described as being of no account, as having no influence, and most of the gentlemen in the gallery who report our proceedings have been described - by the honorable member for Maranoa, I think - as a lot ot lying rogues. Whether that is true or not, I should not like to say. But it seems to me that- we cannot attach the same importance to irresponsible people outside the House as we can attach to an honorable member who has made certain statements.
– He did not make them in the House.
– You are not allowed to bring that matter up here.
– The honorable member will not be in order in going into that matter.
-My complaint against the daily newspapers is that they do not give a true description of what takes place in this Chamber. Not as a member of the House, but as an Australian elector, I would like to see reported, not only what honorable members say in their speeches, but all the cross-firing, and all the interjecting in which they indulge.
– With illustrations.
– That would be more useful sti.’I. We have heard a great deal about the dignity of the House. I think that no one has destroyed the dignity of the House so effectually as some honorable members have done.
– Order ! The honorable member will not be. in order in making a reflection on honorable members.
– I did not wish to say anything that was unparliamentary, but I did wish to draw attention to some of the interjections and statements which have beep made here, but not reported.
– That is not the subject before the House. Interjections are disorderly.
– I think that the first statement I was met with as a new member was that we were a corrupt crowd, and more recently we were told across the chamber that we were a lot of liars.
– That is nothing new - all men are liars.
Mr.FALKINER. - That statement has been attributed to a lady. Perhaps it is true.
– In general terms, it is no reflection against a man’s character.
– I rise to order. The honorable member has just said that an interjection or a statement was made here that other honorable members were liars, and also that they were a corrupt crowd. I am sure, sir, that had such words been uttered, you would have ordered the withdrawal of them. I assume that the words were withdrawn, and submit that the honorable member has, therefore, no right to refer to them now.
– If the honorable member for Riverina had referred to any particular member of the House as having used words which he was requested to withdraw, and which he did withdraw, he would not be in order. What he is doing is making a general statement which, so far as I have been able to discover, is not applicable to any honorable member at the present time. I was waiting to see how he was going to connect his remarks with the question before the Chair.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended the honorable member for Bendigo had objected to one of my statements, because he urged that if any honorable member had made the interjection which I alleged had been made, you, sir, would have heard it and would have ordered the offender to withdraw and apologize. That is not the position. Owing to the cross-firing which takes place in this Chamber, interjections are not always heard by you, sir - if they were, the practice would be prevented. I am glad that the honorable member for Bendigo has reminded me that the interjection was out of order, because he is generally so quiet that the difference between the representation of Bendigo past and present irresistibly reminds me of those words in the creed “ the quick and the dead.”
– Order ! I would direct the honorable member’s attention to the fact that the representation of the constituency of Bendigo is not now in question.
Mr.FALKINER. - I will not trespass upon the time of the House any longer. I think that the tone and dignity of this Chamber are within the keeping of honorable members themselves, and if they live up to its traditions, they can afford to ignore the irresponsible criticisms of outsiders.
.- It is not, often that my voice disturbs the calm, almost religious atmosphere of this chamber, or adds, sir, to. your burdens, which are almost too grievous to be borne. But as thehonorale member for Riverina has referred to my quietness, I would commend it to him and other members of his party as an example which should be followed, and one which would lead to more dignified proceedings in this chamber. In discussing this motion, I do not propose to detain the House at length. But I wish to remind honorable members opposite that Lord Palmerston on one occasion referred to the “ puerile vanity of consistency.” To that vanity honorable members upon the Ministerial side of the House can lay no claim. That remark is quite relevant to the question which is now being debated, because of the fact that two or three days ago an honorable member was accused of having asserted that you, sir, had deliberately altered Hansard to make it appear in that publication that something had taken place in this House which, as a matter of fact, had not taken place. That was the gravamen of the charge which the Attorney-General interpreted as a charge of fraud against you, sir. You have asserted - and properly asserted, if I may respectfully say so - that you have no privileges in this House which are not possessed by every other member of it. In the article which the Age had the temerity to publish to-day, we have the statement made that every member ofthe House, including yourself, is in the habit of deliberately altering Hansard so that statements appear there which were never made in this chamber.
– Where does the honorable member find that?
– In the statements in the article.
– It is the whole question.
– I admit that. If the article does not bear that construction, I have nothing to say about it. But in my opinion it does. I am not one who wishes to limit in any way the freedom of the press any more than I wish to limit freedom of discussion in this House, on the public platform, or anywhere else. But the article of which complaint has been made bears one interpretation, and one interpretation only, because it says that Mr. Speaker rendered a public service when he showed that Hansard was being altered daily by honorable members in secret-
– The honorable member is not quoting the words of the article.
– I know that I am not. I am giving . my interpretation of it.
– Will the honorable member read the first few lines of the article ?
– The article quotes the exact words of Mr. Speaker, whom it represents as saying - “ My desire is to protect members from having’ the unrevised proofs of Hansard brought up in evidence against them.”
And it adds -
That statement is illuminating. Hitherto the theory has been entertained by the public that the raison d’être of Hansard is to publish to the world a true and faithful record of the speeches of members and of the proceedings in Parliament.
Do honorable members opposite say that those statements are intended to refer to the mere revision of Hansard proofs, the correction of printers’ errors, or the alteration of a word which may have been taken down wrongly by the official reporter? Do they allege for a moment that the Age deliberately directed its thunder to that comparatively innocent matter ? The intention is too obvious. The article says that honorable members of this House may and do alter the record of their speeches in such a way that that record is not a record of fact at all.
– Suppose that it does. That is a reflection, on the system which permits of it being done.
– I am inclined to agree with the honorable member to the extent that the article does imply that Hansard ‘is an inaccurate record, because there is an opportunity to alter it.
– It implies that it is more than an inaccurate record. The statement is made that “ an illusion has been destroyed.” What does that mean? The honorable member for Parkes has said that it is a testimony to the ignorance of the Age. He has affirmed that the staff of that journal did not know that it was the custom for honorable members to revise the Hansard proofs of their speeches. Can such an explanation be accepted for a moment? Of course it cannot. It is nonsense to say that the Age did not know that . honorable members do what every other person would do if he had the opportunity, namely, correct, inaccuracies in the Hansard report of their speeches. The statement of the honorable member for Parkes shows that, in making it, he was doing what he so often does - speaking ironically.
– I think that the Age was speaking ironically.
– The Age did not mean that the literary form of honorable members’ speeches is altered. It did not mean that when it spoke of the “ literal truth.” What Mr. Speaker said was not a revelation to the members of its staff. The article states that “ the Hansard reporters take down the literal truth, it is true, but the literal truth is never published.” What is the “ literal truth “ ? It is not merely the form of words used in a speech, but the truth that is intended to be conveyed by those words. Consequently the Age makes an accusation that the words attributed to honorable members in their speeches, as they are reported in Hansard, are deliberately faked by honorable members to make it appear that the truth is what is not the truth. That is why I say that if honorable members opposite wish to lay claim to the “ vanity of consistency “ they must vote for this motion, because we must mete out to this responsible organ the measure which is meted out to us here. Only the other day the honorable member for Ballarat was accused by the Attorney-General in very strong language - and I may say that both the Attorney-General and myself are better in cool storage than when we are exposed to warmth, because then we are apt somewhat to spoil: - of having, charged Mr. Speaker with deliberately, wilfully, and fraudulently altering the official report of the proceedings of this House. The same charge is made in this article . against honorable members. That is my contention on the reading of it, and if my contention fails, of course my conclusion fails. If the article did not bear the construction which I put upon it - and I were convinced of it- I would not vote for the motion. But that is my reading of it. It is a common-sense reading of it, because nobody can accuse that great organ, the Age, of turning its Jovian thunder upon such a simple matter as the revision of Hansard proofs. It is the deliberate alteration of those proofs which is the gravamen of the charge. It is because the Age deliberately sets itself out to put that stigma on the members of this House - a stigma which I resent as much as does anybody - that the honorable member for Adelaide has moved his motion of condemnation, in which I heartily concur.
– If the honorable member asks us to be consistent and to vote for this motion because we voted for another motion, why did he vote against that motion, and why does he now say that he intends to vote for this one?
– I voted for the motion to which the Honorary Minister refers because I thought it was a deliberate attempt by the party opposite to exclude a member of this. House for no sufficient reason. I thought that that motion was submitted, not because the honorable member had offended against the House or Mr. Speaker, but for party purposes. I do not think that that motion should have ever come before the House. But if honorable members opposite were right in taking the course which they did, they cannot avoid the grave charge of inconsistency if they do not vote for this motion.
– That is a two-edged sword.
– It is a boomerang.
– If it is a boomerang, it is a boomerang which will recoil upon my honorable friends opposite. They will be condemned as utterly inconsistent for shielding the Age - an organ that supports them. They cannot get behind the imputation which arises from that fact. The Age is an organ which now supports them, though it erstwhile condemned them. You, sir, will remember that on the occasion of the famous or infamous coalition of parties in this Parliament, the Age attacked honorable members who now occupy seats upon the other side of the House. They” said that the Fusion was a political boaconstrictor, which would swallow Liberalism whole. This boa-constrictor has swallowed Liberalism, but instead of assimilating it, Liberalism has assimilated - in name, any way - the boa-constrictor, and the Age, in supporting honorable members opposite-
– Will the honorable member say that over again ? I have become rather mixed.
– I will not. Whenthe Honorary Minister says that he has not followed me, I do not think” that he is entirely in earnest. In conclusion, I ask honorable members not to follow the lead of the Prime Minister by treating this matter as a party one. This is not a. party question. I have no feeling against the Age. It is a powerful newspaper which, in its time, has made and unmade Ministries.
– Does not the honorable member think that it has lost its punch ?
– The question of whether it has or has not lost its punch is at present immaterial. The fact remains that the power that it wields is one that must be reckoned with. I am not setting myself up against the Age because it attacked me. I support this motion on the ground which, I think, is a proper one - that this House has been deliberately and wilfully insulted, and that it is due to our own dignity as a deliberative assembly that we should mark our displeasure and our sense of impropriety of the article. The honorable member for Werriwa urged that the motion should be rejected because the Age, on our own admission, no longer has any weight in the country, and that no one takes any notice of it. I interjected at the time that that consideration did not affect in the slightest the issue before the House. A man may be charged with shooting at another, although he has not harmed him in any way. He may simply have pulled the trigger, and the gun may not have gone off, but for that act he may be charged with and convicted of attempted murder. What we now complain of in regard to the Age’ is that, whether any weight be given to its word or not, it has done something which is opposed to the dignity and privileges of this House, and I ask honorable members to vindicate their own privileges which have been so attacked.
.- I ventured to submit in the early part of the evening a motion which would enable honorable members to protect this House from a charge of fraudulent use of the public funds which had been made against it by the Age newspaper. To that proposition several members have directed their attention, and I am permitted now to offer some few words in reply. Except “in so far as the Prime Minister is the leader of his side of the House, I need scarcely take notice of him, save to express my regret that, upon a matter of such importance involving the honour of every member, and the . ‘ standing of the House - involving also the honest discharge of our- duty as trustees of the public funds - he should havedeliberately indulged, in another regrettable party outburst. I need scarcely refer either to the Honorary Minister’s little outburst, other than to remind honorable members that he made to us the astounding statement - a statement which must cause grave anxiety on the part of his relations - that he had been indulging in a little thinking on his own account. I hope that it will not have a serious effect. However, that he was not able to think clearly was shown by his subsequent statement, which gave proof that he did not understand even the terms of the motion. It is not proposed to drag any one up to the bar of the House, as was suggested by the honorable member, after this bit of careful thinking on his part. Coming to the honorable member for Parkes, I am not disposed to give him very much attention.
– Do not give him any.
– I am not going to be discourteous to any honorable member. The honorable member’s little schoolmasterly effort was admirable.
– That is a playedout “gag.” The honorable member himself has tried it two or three times.
– I have not heard it before, but I think that the honorable member’s effort was admirable. I entirely disagree, however, with his repeated assertion that the staff of the Age consists of ignorant men. I was sorry to hear him make that statement. I think that the Age has a staff equal to any other newspaper staff in Australia. I regret that the honorable member, in attempting to minimize the effect of the vote that he intends to cast, should allege that the Age staff has been guilty of ignorance for some years, and that it has only just awakened to what transpires in this Chamber. Outside of these references, I do not think the remarks made by other honorable members call for any comment, except in the case of those made by the Attorney-General. May I be permitted, although I disagree with his conclusions, to offer him my congratulations on having approached the subject in a manner befitting leadership, and setting an example to others on his own side. The situation I submit, for the consideration of honorable members who can think, is that the Age newspaper has knowingly charged honorable members with doing something that they donot do. It has knowingly charged honorable members with sending out, in the official reports of the proceedingsof this House, statements which are not true, and which are not a faithful account of what takes place in this Chamber. I am not going to cover ground that has already been traversed by others ; but it seems to me that the statement complained of is not confined, as alleged, to the editorial “ we,” or “us,” because the portion of -the article so caref ully read by the Attorney-General, contains this statement - -
Hitherto the theory has been entertained by the public-
The Age says that the public has held this theory - that the raison d’être of Hansard is to publish to the world a true and faithful record of the speeches of members and of the proceedings in Parliament. For decades it has been dinned into our ears by politicians of all parties that Hansard is a vitally necessary institution, because Hansard alone can be trusted to give absolutely fair and strictly accurate and unbiased reports of what is said and done in Parliament.
It then proceeds to state that Mr. Speaker has spoilt that illusion. In other words, it says, as clearly as it is possible to say, that Mr. Speaker has told the public that Hansard ‘doesnot give a true and faithful account of our proceedings, and that it is not an accurate, unbiased report of what takes place in this Parliament. Not content with making these statements, it actually alleges that the Speaker has done so. It says that-
Mr. Speaker rendered the people of Australia yesterday a service of no slight significance. He destroyed an illusion that for many years has misled and deceived us.
What is the illusion ? It is that the Hansard is a true and faithful record of what takes place here.
– Suppose it . said that Hansard was not a true and faithful record, would the honorable member suggest that that was contempt of Parliament?
– I shall come to that point in a moment. The Age goes on to state that -
The Hansard reporters take down the literal truth, it is true, but the literal truth is never published.
There, again, is a distinct reflection. Some honorable members seem to try to find a loophole of escape, just as the Age writer has done, by the use of the words “literal” and “ infallibility.” But the Age has conveyed to the public, as clearly as possible, the statement that Hansard is not a faithful record of the proceedings of this House; and, in so doing, it has done an injustice to honorable members. It has conveyed a wrong impression to the public, and has done so knowingly, and with some intent. The writer of this article knew that, in so writing, he was carrying out the designs of his paper, and not stating the truth. He knew that, in that way, he was holding the House up to public ridicule. But this is not the full charge made by it. It goes further when it says -
Before Hansard goes to press a proof of every member’s speech is presented to him, and he is permitted to revise it in secret, and to alter it in any manner that pleases him.
There, again, is a deliberately incorrect statement.
– A deliberate lie.
– Nothing could be more diametrically opposed to the truth, and the writer of the article knew it.
– It is not shown in the article that he knew it.
– The honorable member wishes to escape the consequences of the vote he proposes to give by alleging that the writer of this article is a shockingly ignorant person. I say that he is not. He knew that he was writing this article in accordance with the desire of his newspaper, which is that the public shall not place any confidence in Hansard, and shall not regard it as giving a true ‘ account of the proceedings of this Chamber’. Then it goes on -
After this, the infallibility of Hansard will live as a term of flagrant mockery.
In other words, the writer of this article says that the official records of this Parliament are a flagrant mockery. Could a more serious charge be made against honorable members? Would it be possible to allege anything of a. more damaging character than this? The. statement is that the official record, not of a party, but of the Parliament, is- a flagrant mockery. Had the article merely referred in this way to any party, I should have allowed it to go unnoticed, because it regularly misrepresents our party, and we take little or no notice of it. Its misre presentations are of no immediate moment to us. It is its regular custom to misrepresent our party in a shocking manner; but we can afford to let that go for the time being. It says here, however, that the official records of the whole Parliament are a flagrant mockery. If honorable members are prepared to allow such a statement to pass unnoticed, then I have misunderstood them. , If they do let it pass, it seems to me that they will be neglecting their duty as members and as trustees of the public funds. Look how the situation is strengthened and emphasized. In the next page of the same issue the Age proceeds to drive home its own falsehoods. It says -
There is still a vague impression” that Hansard purports to tell what members really do say. The idea is scouted by the Speaker himself.
Mr. Speaker has never scouted the idea; and this is a false assertion so far as the Speaker is concerned. In the two different articles the Speaker is deliberately dragged in in order to cover up what the writers knew to be a falsehood. A day or two ago honorable members were much concerned about the honour of the Chair, its impartiality, and so forth- and I ask whether they ought not to protect the Chair from the deliberate misstatements of the Age. Is the Age, whenever it likes, because it happens to be a powerful organ supporting honorable members opposite, to impugn the honour and truthfulness of the Speaker? Surely honorable members will neglect their duty if they do not take some action. The great stand that honorable members ‘opposite took a few days ago in protection of the Speaker seems to have faded away - their strength, as it were, has evaporated. The article goes on -
The unrevised report - in . other words, the correct report - is the very thing’ from which members are “ protected.”
I ask honorable members’ careful attention to the next sentence, in which the newspaper proceeds to drive home its own wicked misstatement in these words -
They are allowed to have embalmed and printed at public expense, not what they said, but what they think they ought to have said. It would be interesting -to know, where the advocate is who can. find one single intelligent reason . for perpetuating a farce like this.
If ever there was ground for asserting that this newspaper deliberately charges us with a misuse of the public . funds, it is to be found in those words. It is asserted that honorable members “fake” reports which are printed at the public expense. ‘ Will honorable members sit quietly under such an affront ? Will they take some action, or will they allow a party organ to make a charge of so serious a character against every honorable member? It is so serious a charge that, at least, some notice must be taken of it, in order to protect honorable members. Just a little while ago this Chamber was so concerned about its honour, and about the necessity for truthfulness, that it expelled an honorable member who conscientiously believed-
– It is only a passing illustration. The House was so concerned, as I say, that it expelled an honorable member who conscientiously believed he was speaking the truth. I do not propose to debate, at the present time, whether or not that honorable member was speaking the truth; but honorable members opposite now suggest that this newspaper ought to go free when it knowingly charges every honorable member in this Parliament with a misuse of the public funds. If that suggestion is acted on, I ask honorable members what the position must be. If honorable members vote in favour of the Age being permitted to make such statements, the very first time that an honorable member quotes Hansard against another, the retort will be, “What is the use of Hansard, when honorable members, or a majority of honorable members opposite, apparently agree with the Age when it says that Hansard is a farce and a ‘ faked ‘ and biased report?” We do not desire to look at this question from a party point of view; and I point to the possibility that to-morrow some other newspaper may follow the lead of the Age, so that throughout the Commonwealth statements will go abroad that honorable members are’ misusing public funds in order to deceive the people. I hope that, under the circumstances, we shall not vote’ in that direction. - The terms of the motion are not of a severe character, but merely ask that there shall be an apology for a direct misstatement. The Attorney-General admitted that the statement that honorable members had power to alter their speeches in any way they choose is -incorrect, but the question with him was whether it merited serious condemnation. If this incorrect statement asserts that we misuse the public funds and “fake” the reports - that our official records are a “flagrant mockery” and a “ farce “ - it seems to me that it merits condemnation. However, I am not “out” for vindictive punishment, or punishment of any description, but merely desire to prevent ourselves being so grossly and gravely misrepresented by any newspaper. The motion asks no more than that there shall be an apology for a misstatement knowingly made, and that the apology shall be given publicity equal to that given to the original allegation; or, if honorable members opposite please, I should be satisfied with a retraction - an indication that the statement is wrong, and that there is no justification for the reflection on honorable members. As I say, I am not “ out “ for punishment of any description, but, in the interests of Parliament, and of the people generally, there must be a retraction of so grave a reflection, made for purposes that the Age alone understands.
– Does the honorable member desire to have the motion submitted in the original form, or in its corrected form?
– In . the corrected form, Mr. Speaker.
– I . desire to inform the House that since the motion was stated from the Chair’ there has been an alteration in its verbiage.
– Is that allowable?
– Order ! The amendment does not alter the sense in any way, but only makes the motion clearer. The original motion was -
That the writer of that article be declared guilty of contempt - and so on. The alteration that has been made is thus shown -
That the writer of the article complained of be declared guilty of contempt, and that no representative of the Age newspaper be allowed access to the Federal Parliament Buildings until an apology of equal publicity to the article be given.
There has been a slight alteration in the arrangement of the words, but the motion is practically the same as before. Is there any objection to the motion being altered ?
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the motion in either case is, not. iu order, inasmuch as it does not identify the article, and say what article it is. There is no date placed to the article.
– The motion is perfectly in order. The, article . is identified by the reading of it ; this amended motion refers to the article complained of, meaning ‘the. article that was read.
Mr.Kelly. - I rise to a point , of order. The honorable mqmber for Adelaide, in reply, referred, I think for the first time, to a second article in the Age, on which an argument as to ‘the misuse of the public funds was based. Now that it . is proposed ‘to alter the motion, I should like to Know whether the “ article complained of “ is the article referred to when the motion was originally submitted, or whether it is this second article, which, I may say, hardly appears to me to bear the construction placed on it by the honorable member for Adelaide.
– In my. opinion, ‘the motion is quite inorder. The honor able member for Adelaide cited the standing order under which he submitted the motion, referred to the >paper “by name, and to the printer and publisher, and also read the article.
– There is no doubt whatever in iny mind that the motion is quite in order. The only point how, before the question is put, is whether the House consents to the amended motion “Being substituted for tlie^ original motion.
– Yes. . We “will treat honorablemembers opposite better than they treatedus !
Amendment agreed to.
Question - That tlie motion as amended be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Aye’s … … … 29
Noes … … … 38
Majority … … 9
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
SirJOHNFORREST.- The Governor ofthebankhasfurnishedthefollowing replies’: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 November 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19131113_REPS_5_72/>.