7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister had time to ascertain whether the Defence Department has dealt with a matter to which I referred yesterday, the remission of soldiers’ fines?
– I have not yet got the information for which the honorable member asks, but I may be able to get it later in the day.
– Is the Acting
Minister for the Navy able to give us the names of the Inter-State traders which are to be taken over by the Commonwealth, and the terms on which they will be taken over?
– I shall obtain the information and let the honorable member have it next week.
– In the Argus of Tuesday, Admiral Clarkson is reported to have said that there are 277,460 tons of coal in Victoria - I presume imported from New South Wales - and that the present cost of the coal is 35.46s. With the appliances which he intends to erect, the cost will be reduced to 28.77s. Do the figures refer to the cost of coal delivered in Melbourne? At Newcastle the coal costs only 15s. per ton f.o.b.
– I do not think that the figures refer to the price of coal delivered in Melbourne, but I shall obtain the information, and let. the honorable member know next ‘week.
– Yesterday, in asking a question on a subject which was referred to by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) last week, I referred to a telegram which had been sent to me. I was unable to get the telegram at the time, but I have it now. Its text is as follows : -
About thirty Victorians, nearly all married men, stranded on Richmond Main Collier)’, New South Wales. Would like you to do something to bring us back by Friday.
Thos. Henderson, Mulbring.
I sent a reply-paid wire to this gentleman yesterday morning, asking him for several particulars, but I have not received an answer to it, and I am informed that telegrams are not delivered from the office to which mine was sent. I ask the Acting Prime Minister if he will see if anything can be done to ascertain whether the men referred to went to New South Wales in response to the advertisement, which, according to the honorable member for Hunter, appeared in the Age on the 2nd September. It is a serious thing for thirty men, practically all of them married, and some of them returned soldiers, to be stranded in another State.
– I shall take immediate notice of the question, and see what can be done to obtain the exact facts, and, if necessary, give relief. I have glanced at the papers which were furnished as the result of my former inquiry, and have asked for further information, “ because they do not make it clear, how far, if at all, the Victorian Government is interested in the matter. I hope to ascertain the exact position to-day, and to find out whether the removal of the men to New South Wales- was authorized by any Government.
– It is stated in the papers, regarding the Blythe River Mining Company Limited, which were laid on the table the other day, that the matter of securing an option over the property of the company was considered by a subcommittee of the Cabinet, and by the Board of Trade, and that both bodies recommended the securing of this option. Will the Acting Prim© Minister lay on the table those recommendations?
– I do not know whether the recommendations referred to are in the form of papers, or merely - minutes, on the references submitted to the subcommittee of the Cabinet and the Board of Trade, but I shall ascertain.
– The papers do not make sufficiently clear the purport of the taking over of this property.
– If my honorable friend will ask distinctly the questions which he desires to have answered, I shall endeavour to answer them. I thought I was giving the House the fullest information in the possession of the Government when I laid these papers on the table.
Publication of Debate
– Has the Acting Prime Minister noticed that both the morning newspapers of Melbourne have not abided by the honorable understanding that last night’s debate, regarding military punishments, was not to be reported? Does the Government propose to take stringent action against the disloyal newspaper that has published the report of .the debate?
– Newspapers are not bound by any honorable understanding between members.
-. - Besides, there was no honorable understanding; it was rather a dishonorable one.
– Before replying to the question of the honorable member foi Wentworth, I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the observation of the honorable member for Batman, to the effect that members last night arrived at a dishonorable understanding.
– I ask the honorable member for Batman to withdraw his reflection on the House.
– I withdraw anything to which objection may be taken, realizing the limitations imposed by the standing orders.
– The understanding last night was arrived at primarily between the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) and myself. It was not in any way dishonorable, but was in the highest interests of the A.I.F., and of the nation.
– I was hot a party to it.
– The honorable member was not a party to it, and may not have been in favour of it, but it was not, therefore, dishonorable. I noticed that the Age has published a report of portions of the debate, and I made inquiry of the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) to ascertain what steps were taken to see that the understanding in regard to non-publication, which was to apply to Hansard, would be observed by the press. I was informed by my honorable colleague that the censor was directed to instruct the newspapers to submit any report to him, and, apparently, the Age did not obey the instruction. I shall confer with the Minister for Defence as to what action may be necessary or advisable.
– In view of the published accounts of the debate which was initiated by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) last night, is it the intention of the Government to enforce a consorship of speeches delivered by honorable members on that subject?
– In accordance with an understanding I arrived at it was my intention to submit a motion in regard to the matter to-day, but in view of the fact that certain of the arguments used, and that some of the facts elicited last night have been published by the press, I shall confer again with the honorable member for Ballarat before taking any action in’ the matter.
– In view of my question to the Acting Prime Minister recently regarding the sale of copper, and in view of the fact that copper is now worth in America £140 a ton, I ask the honorable gentleman if he will cable to the British Government asking for permission for the mining companies that are producing copper in Australia to enter into negotiations with any of the Allies for the sale of their product after the present contract has expired.
– I should not like to promise offhand to do that. The sale of important munitions of war has, since the war started, caused the Governments of the Commonwealth very grave concern. We think that we have been acting in the best interests of the Allied forces and nations in selling in bulk quantities, for a given time, our output of such metals as lead, zinc, copper, and certain others. We have all the time been conscious that in certain nations amongst the Allies what is known as the war price has been higher than the contract price, but it has been thought better to sell all our raw material to Great Britain than to gain a slight temporary advantage for our producers by selling elsewhere. I could name other metals in regard to which the American price is much higher than the. price for which we have been selling to the British Government. As honorable members know, the Americans dominate the copper position. That is not so with -regard to other metals, at any rate, not so conspicuously the case as with regard to copper. The Prime Minister has recently had the greatest difficulty in securing a renewal of the contract for even six months. I shall - communicate with him, as I have done on many occasions with regard to the copper position, to see if it is not possible to extend the contract in some way, and to get more beneficial terms, but I cannot undertake at the present time to get the privilege to sell amongst the Allies the Australian metal production.
– The copper production of the Commonwealth will cease in January or February if something is not done.
– I have recently discussed with those best qualified to judge the prospects of a termination of the contract on the 31st December. I am informed that many men will be affected at the end of October, because the copper will be in a refined and exportable state by the end of December. I had to undertake operations for financing during an interregnum of a month. A great many men might have been thrown out of employment if we had not provided for that. I recognise the gravity of the situation as it affects the copper industry of Australia.
Lieut.-Col. ABBOTT.- In view of tha difficulty of the Government in obtaining a supply of chaff bags from India, will the Minister in charge of the matter consider the advisableness of the Government taking control of the distribution of o second-hand chaff bags in the different States, in the interests of the chaffgrowers during the coming season?
– I shall give the matter consideration.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether there is any prospect of the tanning industry being given immediate relief by allowing the export of leather aud basils.
– In the Budget I referred to a good many facts connected with this matter, and expressed the hope that we might secure a better arrangement before the Prime Minister left Great Britain. I have no later information.
– There is a great deal of confusion in the public mind as to the intention of the Government regarding war loan subscriptions. Are those who have already invested largely in the war loans to be compelled to invest in the present and subsequent issues, or be liable to a penalty for failing to do so ?
– I realize, the natural concern, surrounding . a measure of this kind, and I hope to be able to clear it up next week on the introduction of the Bill. A piecemeal explanation at this stage would not be advisable.
– I am in possession of certain news which the press have received by cable this morning, and I hope to be able to get it verified before lunch, when I shall give it to the House. Broadly speaking, however, there is apparently a big new offensive in progress, covering a section of 50 miles, on the Western Front, and all I can say at present is that the results have been swift and encouraging.
– Very rightly the control of the supply of tins or containers required by various industries has been placed in the hands of the Minister for Munitions, but so far no allotment of tins has been made to the honey industry. Will the Minister in charge of price fixing look into the matter for the benefit of the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) and myself, and see whether a proper quota of containers cannot be obtained for the honey industry, seeing that extracting has already commenced?
– The matter comes directly under the control of the Minister for Customs, under whom the Director of Munitions is working, and I will bring it under his notice, and ask him to furnish a reply by Wednesday next. However, I am in possession of information which goes to show that the. Director of Munitions has made special arrangements to enable honey producers to secure tins during the coming season.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, Upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Paragraphs 1 and 2 are as follow: - 1. Captain J. W. M. Carroll, of the Permanent Staff, Queensland Defence Force, was appointed to the 4th Queensland Contingent for service in South Africa, which embarked at Pinkenba (Brisbane), on the 18th May, 1900. On the return of the greater portion of the officers and soldiers of the Contingent to Australia, Captain Carroll remained in South Africa for further service, and, on 12th October, 1901, the following was published in South African Army Orders, signed by MajorGencral W. F. Kelly, the AdjutantGeneral of the Forces in South Africa: -
No. 797. A despatch has been received by His Excellency the LieutenantGovernor fromLord Kitchener, CommanderinChief in South Africa, intimating that the following promotion had been made, subject to the approval of the Queensland Government: -
Captain J. W. Carroll, Queensland Permanent Staff, to bo major in the 6th Queensland Imperial Bushmen, supernumerary to establishment, as from 7th July, 1901. The Queensland Government has approved of above promotion.’ “ On the 1st March, 1901, the control of the Defence Forces of Australia was taken over by the Commonwealth Government, and all appointments and promotions of officers, &c., in the Australian Forces became vested in the Commonwealth Government. “Under section 70 of the Constitution, the consent to promotion in the Commonwealth Forces should have been given by the Commonwealth Government, not by the Queensland Government, notwithstanding the control of the Contingents raised by the State Government continued in the State Government. “ Instead of consent - by paragraphs 4 and 5 - it appears the Commonwealth Government distinctly refused to consent to any such appointments, so far as the Commonwealth Forces are concerned. “ I am of opinion, on the facts submitted in the precis (containing over four pages), that Captain (Honorary Major) J. W. M. Carroll is not legally entitled in law to the full rank of major in the Commonwealth Forces owing to his having received promotion to the rank of major in South
Africa - under the circumstances and subject to the consent mentioned - until the Commonwealth Government consent to, and approve of, the appointment as major.”
Gallipoli Star - Broadmeadows Camp
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence have prepared, for the information of honorable members, and have placed on the table, at an early date, a return showing how many men are now in the Broadmeadows Camp, how many have passed through that camp since the commencement of the war, andwhat has been the tonnage and cost of the carting of equipment, clothing, foodstuffs, and goods of all sorts to and from the camp?
– The Minister for. Defence hassubmitted the following reply : -
In view of the cost of preparing such a return, and the fact that no useful purpose would be served by its compilation, I do not approve of such return being prepared.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the- honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice - 1
Can a statement be furnished, without undue labour or expense, showing the total number of temporary clerical employees in the service of the Commonwealth as on the 30th June, 1018?
– The information desired by the honorable member is being prepared, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Mr. GREENE (for Mr. Jensen).The desired information is being obtained, and when available will be communicated to the honorable member.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he say when the information -will be available in regard to advertisements in newspapers in connexion with a war loan, which he stated, in reply to a question by the honorable member for Yarra on the 31st May last, would be laid on the table of the House in the form of a .return?1
– The information is being prepared, and when available will be laid on the table.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Mr. GREENE (for Mr. Jensen).The desired information is being obtained, and when available will be communicated to the honorable member.
Omissions prom “Hansard.”
– I move -
That, during the progress of the present war, Mr. Speaker be, and is hereby authorized, at his discretion, to direct the omission from Hansard of any remarks made in the House of Representatives in the course of debate, or in any other proceedings in the House of Representatives, to which his attention may be directed by the Law Officers of the Crown as being calculated to prejudice His Majesty’s relations with a foreign Power, or the successful prosecution of the war, or to imperil the safety of the Comonwealth.
The Government is desirous of laying down some clear and definite procedure to replace the present unsatisfactory method of dealing with statements made in the House and recorded in Hansard which are calculated to prejudice our relations with foreign Powers or seriously impair the prosecution of the war or are likely to imperil our safety. At present a Minister, or Mr. Speaker, approaches an honorable member and secures his consent to the deletion of any portion of his speech from the records, but, unfortunately, sometimes statements are made in the House and allowed to , stand in the records which are prejudicial to the interests of the Commonwealth, and the honorable members concerned may be quite unaware of their effect. It is better to have some definite procedure by which such remarks may be noted by officers whose duty will be to direct the attention of Mr. Speaker to them, whereupon the course outlined in the motion will be followed. It must be borne in mind that statements made in this Chamber carry more weight than those made by ordinary individuals. As a rule, honorable members realize the responsibility and importance attaching to their utterances. Statements made here carry considerable weight when circulated throughout the Commonwealth, and therefore it is very necessary that remarks made by honorable members which may be calculated to imperil our safety should not be so circulated. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has drawn attention to to a question which was asked by an honor- able member relating to two cruisers. The question as framed incidentally disclosed the actual locality on a given date of a British cruiser and a Japanese cruiser on the east coast of Australia, and at that time the Government were in possession of information leading them to believe that a raider was operating on the coast of this continent. The honorable member who put that question was no doubt perfectly innocent of any desire to improperly disclose information; he asked the question in perfect good faith.
– Was it the question or the answer that disclosed the information?
– The question itself. Inanother case, a statement forming part of propaganda of German origin was being repeated in Australia, and it was felt necessary to issue a prohibition with respect to it. The prohibition itself had to be treated as secret and confidential, because to publish it would be tantamount to a publication of the objectionable statement itself. I am informed, however, that the very prohibition which had been marked “ secret and confidential “ was read in the House of Representatives, and is to-day recorded in Hansard.
– Whoever he was, he got it from a German agent.
– Honorable members might easily and unconsciously repeat in this House statements that, were a part of German propaganda.
– If a regulation of the kind mentioned by the honorable member is issued, should not honorable members be informed of it ?
– Where action is taken to prohibit the making of a statement which is regarded as German propaganda, it is impossible to give every person in the country all the particulars with regard to it. Honorable members no doubt realize their responsibility in these matters, and where they have any doubt as to the wisdom or otherwise of repeating a statement they have heard, they will exercise their own discretion.. I repeat, however, that an honorable member, owing to his failure to realize the conditions actually operating at the time, might quite innocently make statements which are prejudicial to the best interests of the country. This motion is designed to prevent the possibility of such a statement, made quite innocently, going abroad and doing an injury that was never intended by the member making it.
The procedure proposed to be laid down is very simple. Where a statement made in this House is considered by the Crown Law officers to come within the definitions set out in the motion, they will report to Mr. Speaker, and it will be for Mr. Speaker to exercise his discretion as to whether the statement should be expunged from the records.
– Does not the honorable gentleman think that this motion will place too great a responsibility on Mr. Speaker’s shoulders?
– Not at all. Mr. Speaker will not be called upon to act until he has received a report from the Crown Law officers.
– The Crown Law officers are to have the authority.
– And are expected to act . on the direction of the Government.
– No. Mr. Speaker is to have conferred upon him this authority to take action. .Even if, in the exercise of his discretion, he decided that the statement complained of was not harmful, that would not relieve the Government of its responsibility in administering the affairs of the Commonwealth.
– So that the matter will still rest with the censorship.
– Surely the honorable member realizes that the Government must remain the supreme authority, unless its responsibilities are to be wholly abrogated.
– The Government should not use the “ gag “ for party purposes.
– This is not an attempt to exercise the “ gag.” If the motion be adopted, honorable members will still be free to say what they please, and to criticise the actions of the. Government to their heart’s content. Their freedom to speak as members of Parliament will not be impaired in the slightest degree.
-But their criticisms will not be published.
– Not if they contravene the principles laid down in this motion.
– If I criticised the action of the Government with regard to the fixing of the price of meat, my criticism, under this proposal, would be omitted from Hansard.
– Not at all. I wish the honorable member would read the motion.
– I have read it, and know what it means. It simply means handing over to the censor the power to do what he has already been doing.
– I ask honorable members to cease these continuous interjections.
– I invite the attention of the House to the character of the statements to which this motion is to apply. In the first place, the procedure which it lays down is to be adopted in regard to any statement “ calculated to prejudice His Majesty’s relations with a foreign power.” Surely the House will approve of that principle. Does any honorable member desire that there should be circulated throughout the Commonwealth statements calculated to prejudice our relations with any foreign power with whom we may be in alliance at the present time ? Then, again, this procedure is to be applied in respect of any statement calculated to prejudice “ the successful prosecution of the war.”
– What bosh the Minister is talking.
– The purpose to be served in the motion is a purely party one.
– I have already appealed to honorable members to cease their interjections. If they continue, I must have recourse to the powers conferred upon me under the Standing Orders.
– The third class of statement in respect of which this action is to be taken is any statement calculated to “ imperil the safety of the Commonwealth.” Any one of these three classes of statements, if made in Parliament, ought to be censored from Hansard. Would we allow any newspapers to publish any such statements?
– Is that to be the standard ?
– No. The standard is that of loyalty to our country and its defence.
– To suppress the facts?
– I ask the honorable member for Batman to cease his interjections.
– The Government at present possess exceedingly wide powers under the War Precautions Act, but instead of availing ourselves of those powers in this instance we are asking Parliament, in accordance with the principles of Parliamentary government, to lay down the procedure to be followed. The motion has been carefully worded, and is framed in the interests of the safety of the nation.
– Carefully, even adroitly, worded.
– It certainly has not been adroitly worded. One can see at a glance what its purpose is.
– It is a cleverly concealed machine gun.
– That insinuation is unworthy of the honorable member. The motion is so clearly worded that its intention cannot be misunderstood, and I invite the House to affirm it.
.- The word “ camouflage,” which has a wide vogue at the present time, aptly describes the motion which the Government now invite us to pass. It is in reality a purely party move. The power which it proposes to confer on Mr. Speaker will not rest with him. The Crown Law officers who are to report to Mr. Speaker will not take action unless the censor directs attention to any statement made in the House, and those who have had any experience of the censorship during the last two years - since the beginning of the first referendum campaign - know full well that the censorship has been directed against one party and one party only.
– Mr. Speaker himself took action against the censorship to protect a member of the Opposition when an attempt was made to remove from his locker in the parliamentary buildings printed copies of a speech made by him in this House.
– I was about to refer to that incident. The Defence authorities raided Parliament House and seized these printed copies in direct opposition to Mr. Speaker’s orders.
– It was a very silly thing to do.
– Undoubtedly, but when the action of the Defence authorities in that matter was brought before the House:’ I do not think many honorable members opposite voted with us by way of protest. The Acting Attorney - General (Mr. Groom) admits that if Mr. Speaker will not be amenable to the Crown Law authorities the Government will take the responsibility upon themselves of dealing with these matters. Why do they not here and now accept that responsibility? Why do they desire to shelter themselves behind Mr. Speaker? Let them say at once that they will not allow any member of the Opposition to indulge in any criticism of the Ministry. It is a well-known, fact that the censorship associated with the Defence Department in Western Australia prevented any criticism of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce). Even the Returned Soldiers’ Association was prevented for three weeks. from publishing certain statements with regard to that honorable gentleman. I make this statement on the authority of the Returned Soldiers’ Association, and it was only because they were at the back of the criticism that it was eventually allowed to be published.
As to the seizure of printed copies of a speech made in this House by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts), I would remind honorable members that the censor, accompanied by military officers, went to the Government Printing Office and seized the stereo, blocks of that speech. There is no more reputable citizen than the Government Printer, and if the Treasurer, who controls that Department, had told him that the stereos, were not to be used he would at once have put them aside. The Defence Department, however, in their might, took action.
– “ In their spite,” the honorable member should have said.
– The honorable member may so describe their action if he pleases. The military authorities took action and a procession, consisting of a military officer, the censor, the Government Printer, and ‘an office -boy, marched through the Government Printing Office. . The office boy dragged behind him a truck .on which the stereos, were placed. The stereos, were taken in the lift down to the , basement. and put in the melting pot, so that nothing more could be done with them. Some honorable members have interjected that we oppose this motion because we are disloyal; at any rate, that is the inference. But what happened during the last conscription campaign? In October, about ten days before the Government decided on the referendum, Senator Pearce made a speech in Sydney in regard to the number of men who had left Australia, the number who had returned, and the number in the field, in order to show how reinforcements had been kept up. When I quoted this speech of Senator Pearce, during the election campaign, from the Age and the Daily Telegraph, it was disallowed by the censor; and it is because I know that the administration under this motion would certainly be in the hands of the military censorship that I oppose it. When the Daily Telegraph published a speech of mine, or parts of it, the censor did not say one word; but he would not allow the Sydney Worker to publish a report of the same speech. The Sydney Worker was prosecuted under many charges, and during the proceedings in Court the censor in Sydney, Mr. Nicholson, admitted that the Worker was not allowed to publish matter that was permitted in the Daily Telegraph. Then, again, the Labour Call in Melbourne was prevented from publishing something that had appeared in Liberty and Progress, which I understand i3 the organ of the Employers’ Federation of “Victoria. This is the same organization that not many years ago employed a secretary and organizer who publicly declared that marriage was a luxury, for the worker.
– What about the reference to “ breeding cows “ ?
– That was a South Australian matter, and the anti-Labour party there circulated a leaflet so describ-ing Australian women. However, I am not concerned with that matter now, but with the unfair discrimination shown by the censor. If it was wrong for the Labour Call to publish such matter, why was it deemed right for Liberty and Progress to publish it?
– What about the Prima Minister’s famous interview with tha manager of the Sydney Sun?
– I can -remember tha Prime Minister, one day, across this table, interjecting, “ That rag,” when a quotation was made from the Bulletin, and from a letter .sent to me by the editor of that journal. The Prime Minister at that time was very much annoyed, and made use of the words I have quoted, the inference being that the publication ought to have different treatment from that given to other papers. I have had some experience of the operation of the censorship during the past two years, and I should like to know why it is deemed right for the press to publish certain statements, and wrong for me to make them, seeing that I -was only quoting cables which are all supplied from the same source to the Age and other newspapers. Of course, I know that the Ministerial party will carry this motion, realizing as they do that this is another “ gag “ for the Labour party.
– It is not a “ gag “ in any sense of the term, and the honorable member knows it.
– I really do not know it.
– Then I am surprised.
– No honorable member opposite can contradict my statements in regard to the treatment of labour newspapers.
– Taking, the motion as it stands, does the honorable member think that the classes of statements there referred to ought to be circulated?
– I have not my own censored speeches here, but I have matter which has been struck out of labour newspapers. During the last Parliament’ I gave illustrations and examples of the way in which the censorship is operated, and this censored- matter I handed to the Minister in charge of the. House. The Labour Call desired to publish something that had appeared in Hansard, and, although there was nothing disloyal in the matter, the paper was not allowed to publish one word, because it was a criticism of the Defence Department and of the censorship. I do not desire to cast any reflection whatever on Mr. Speaker, but I am certain that action under this motion will not lie with the Crown law authorities, who have not time for such work, but with the censorship department.
– Under the motion, if Mr. Speaker declines to strike something out of Hansard, there is no power given to any one else to strike it out.
– The honorable member may not have been in the House when the Minister spoke.
– I was here, and I followed the Minister very closely.
– It will not end with the Crown law authorities, but the Ministry will take responsibility under the motion.
– It could not end there; if the Government believe the publication of any matter inimical to the interests of the Commonwealth, they would be unworthy of their position if they did not stop publication.
– That is what I say; the matter will really lie with the Defence Department and the censorship - will be in the hands of men who are biased. We all know that Major Smeaton, the Chief Censor in South Australia, is politically biased against every man on the Labour side; and no honorable member could defend that gentleman’s action, so far as the censorship of speeches is concerned. I have nothing to say personally against Major Smeaton, but there is no doubt that he is politically biased; as a matter of fact, he appeared in a group photograph of the Prime Minister’s principal supporters. Surely a man who is practically in the position of a Judge, ought to have had the common decency to avoid appearing before the public in that way.
– Why do you not deal with the proposals in the motion? Do you think we ought to pass this motion, or do you not think so?
– I do not think there is any necessity for the motion. Can any honorable member show me statements in Hansard, during the past four years, which point to the necessity for this tighter- rein - for this tighter rope around honorable members?
– What about the speech of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) ?
– No member of the Ministry took exception to that speech.
– The honorable member is wrong. The Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) referred to it at the time.
– He did; but if it was wrong for such a statement to appear in Hansard, then it was his duty to go to the Speaker, or Acting Speaker, and make a representation to that effect on behalf of the Government.
– Do you not think it would have been better if the speech had been struck out?
– I have not the speech with me; indeed, I do not know whether it appears in the Hansard volumes to-day. I suppose, however, that it does appear, and that the- parts objected to were merely cut out of the pamphlets which the honorable member for Cook was having printed for circulation. But those parts appeared in the 7,000 copies of Hansard which are circulated broadcast in Australia and other parts of the world ; and if there was anything wrong in the publication of the speech in this way, the Ministry themselves are to blame.
– How could, it have been stopped?
– By Mr. Speaker, who has absolute power.
– Mr. Speaker has no power to strike anything out of Hansard.
- Mr. Speaker could have gone to the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) and got him to agree to the elimination of the part or parts objected to. At any rate, I know that the honorable member for Cook did not do as the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) deliberately did, namely, alter in Hansard the conditions attached to an offer which he made to me in this. House. The motion is pure camouflage, and should properly be described as a further motion to “ gag “ members of the’ Labour party, and prevent them from criticising the Government in any way that they desire. The Government in putting forward this motion are posing as loyalists; but I shall vote against it, believing that the object is to prevent members on this side from giving fair expression to their opinions.
.- I desire to say a few words in opposition to the motion. It is greatly to be regretted that we agreed to permit this proposal to come on for discussion at this stage. The object of its being brought on now is clearly that speeches which are made, or are likely to be’ made, on a previous motion not yet decided, may be suppressed and struck out of the parliamentary records. It -is perfectly clear to me, as it must be to most honorable members, that that is, I was going to say, a pure party move, but I am sorry to have to add that -it lacks all the elements of purity, and approaches, to my mind, as close to a corrupt practice as it is’ possible for a Government to go without actually staining their characters in that regard. One wonders what will be the practice in regard to members’ speeches if this motion is carried; and carried it will be, no doubt. A majority, brutal or otherwise, in this House may go the full length of stifling debate, and by so doing actually misrepresent to the public the sense of this Chamber. What will happen? The words to be objected to will flow like soft music from, the lips of the orator; they will pass to the alert brain of the Hansard reporter, and therefrom to his alert and nimble fingers. Then they will be carried from the chamber, and after transcription will be sent to the Government Printing Office, where, I suppose, they will take on a quite illusory appearance of permanence. From that building, again by trusty messenger, the speeches will be returned to you, Mr. Speaker, and I am concerned to know whether those which are to be suppressed will be retained among the archives of this Parliament, whether they will be handed over to the common hangman for destruction, or whether it will be your painful duty to discharge the ignominious and lowly duties which usually fall to that officer. At all events, I suggest that the utterances which the Government propose to suppress might well be. kept, even secretly, amongst the records of the House, so that future Parliaments and generations may judge who at this time stood for a free Parliament and free speech, and who, on the other hand, were responsible for taking away the immemorial rights of British Parliaments. There is nothing in the history of British parliamentary practice to justify the course proposed to be followed by the Government. The Minister who moved the motion did not dare to suggest that he had the benefit of even some poor precedent to guide him. Anybody who has studied the policy of the present Government, and has noticed their attitude towards the immortal and cherished principle of free speech, must see that their object is not alone to stifle public opinion outside by a futile policy of suppression and misrepresentation, but also to deceive the people in regard to what is said and thought in the National Parliament.
– I remind the honorable member that it is a contravention of the Standing Orders to impute unworthy motives to any honorable member. I ask the honorable member for Batman not to proceed along the lines he is now following.
– The motion reads-
That during the progress of the present war, Mr. Speaker, be, and is hereby authorized, at his discretion. . . .
The Acting Attorney-General has said that you, Mr. Speaker, are not to have discretion in this matter. He has given the show away by admitting that if your discretion is not used in a way that suits his judgment your decision will be overruled.
– I did not say that. I said that, the action of Mr. Speaker would not relieve the Government of their responsibility.
– If that means anything at all it means that though you, Mr. Speaker, may pass some utterances to which objection has been, taken, the power will still reside in the Government to suppress them. Do the Government consider for one moment what this Parliament is? Do they take the trouble to remember that ‘ every member in this Chamber, no matter with what contempt he may be regarded by Ministers, is here as the chosen representative of a large body of electors ? Ministers may not care to reflect upon that fact, but it is perfectly obvious that every honorable member is present, not only as the representative of a large body of electors, but as the result of elections that have taken place since the war began. However distasteful my presence may be to the Government and members opposite, I am here as the result of an election which took place long after the commencement of the wai1, and long after my views with regard to the war were known to my constituents. That is equally true of the other members with whom I have the honour to be associated on this side. “We are here as the spokesmen of the people, and we claim, upon pretty sound grounds, to be the spokesmen of a majority of the people, because, at the only - appeal made to the electors since the last general election on the vital question of the war, our policy, and not the policy of the Government, was indorsed. ‘ Yet when we go upon the public platform to express our views we see before us the notetakers of the Government, the men who are sent out with instructions to “ catch Brennan “ or “ catch Considine,” or other Opposition speakers. -It is the Government’s noble Imperialistic war policy to see if they can catch an Opposition member in anything that would justify a prosecution and fine under the War Precautions Act. Those are the conditions which prevail outside this Parliament. A man writes a pamphlet upon peace - a pamphlet unexceptionable in tone, matter, and argument, and expressing the eternal doctrines of Christianity. It is suppressed, and the author is brought before a Court and acquitted. Then further steps are taken by the Government in another Court in the hope that the judgment; may be reversed. Others are dragged before the Court for the same reason, namely, that, in the discharge of their public duties and in obedience to the clamant demand of their conscience they have expressed in regard to the war views which they think ought to be expressed. One dare not speak outside Parliament in discharge of a public duty, except at his peril. One dare not write, except in imminent danger of a prosecution, of things of which he thinks he ought to write; one dare not move except in peril of the petty persecution of the present Government. Now, the one remaining stronghold of freedom is invaded by means of the miserable motion that is before us. The Minister who moved it, not long* ago, was so eager to hear the chatter of his own voice that he broke in upon me when I was discussing a matter of public importance, and to satisfy his insensate vanity, and receive the advertisement that would attach to his action, moved that I be no longer hoard. It would please him to move the same motion now, but I shall be heard here and elsewhere in condemnation of a proposal of this kind as long as I remain in this Parliament. And if the Government, secure in the number and obedience of their followers, and in the power which numbers always give, take other steps to drive us out of Parliament altogether, we shall still be heard, and the retribution will come upon the Government.
The motion continues - to direct the omission from Hansard of any remarks made in the House of Representatives in the course of debate) or in any other proceedings in the House of Representatives, to which his attention may be directed by the law officers of the Crown as being calculated to prejudice His Majesty’s relations with a foreign Power, or the cause for which the Allied Powers are fighting, or to imperil the safety of the Commonwealth.
Who will be the judge of what is calculated to prejudice His Majesty’s relations with a foreign Power? He will not be an honorable member of this Chamber. The person who will be invested with the power of determining what may be said in this House will be a subordinate military Johnny outside this House. He will sit in his little office, with his red and” blue pencils, and in the amplitude of that extraordinary ignorance which characterizes these persons, will sit in judgment upon the speeches of honorable members of the Federal Parliament. There is connected with the Defence Department an “ intelligence staff.” Some of its intelligence was shown at an inquiry at which I was present iri Sydney not long ago, when the Chief Intelligence Officer declared his opinion that Robert Emmet had met his death by being thrown from -a motor car during the last few months. That gentle.man represents the class of intelligence officers who will determine what may, and may not, be said in this great National Parliament. He will decide what is calculated to prejudice His Majesty’s- relations with a foreign Power. He will decide what is calculated to hinder the successful prosecution of the war, dr to imperil the safety of the Commonwealth. He has only to say that an utterance will imperil the safety of the Commonwealth, and the Government, rich in its party malice, will see that that view is upheld. As they have interpreted their duties as censors in the past, so will they interpret them in the future. But there is in this motion more than mere party rancour. There is the shame and sorrow incidental to the fact that the liberty of Parliament is being invaded in this way for the first and only time. As was said by the Leader of the Opposition, the war did not start yesterday or the day before; it has been in progress- for four years, and this happy thought did not occur to the Government before to-day. Was this power necessary earlier? Have the Win-the-war Government, who were returned with such a blast of trumpets on the 5th May, 1917, just become seized of their duty in regard to the suppression of utterances in this House ?
I have very strong views regarding the conduct of this war, and have expressed them here once or twice, and they are in the records of the House. My speeches may, as I have already suggested, eventually be burned by the common hangman, but at the present time they remain in our records. I come here with a mandate from my electors to express those views again, and I have been strengthened and reinforced by them in regard to every view that I have expressed. I claim to say on the floor of this House, and I should have the right to say it outside, that the present position of the war is such that it will leave an indelible stain on British statesmanship if advantage is not taken of the opportunity now presented to bring the war to an honorable end. I claim the right to say that, and to express the views of my constituents in saying it. Just now I uttered a sentiment which the Minister at the table may, in the exercise of that pre-eminent responsibility of which he has spoken, take it upon himself to delete from the record, and which he will certainly delete, or ask the Speaker to delete, if the motion is carried. I propose, on another motion, to discuss the war and the representations that have been made for peace, and the frightful slaughter that is taking place, a slaughter which must reflect on civilization generally, whatever may be our views regarding the conduct of the war. It is my duty to express the views that I have expressed. The Government propose that they shall not in future receive publication. What will the Parliament become if the views of its members are suppressed ? Is the value of parliamentary utterances only their effect on the persons who hear them? Is not their value rather in their effect on his constituents, and on the public generally by their publication through the newspapers and through other channels ? Is it not necessary that the public shall know what a member is saying, and how he is discharging his responsibilities?
– The Minister has returned to his seat, but during the time that the honorable member for Batman has been speaking there have been occasions when no Minister was present in the chamber.
– That is not a point of order.
-Nor is the statement correct. I have not been out of the chamber.
– I do not expect, nor do I ask for, courtesy from the Minister.
– But you invariably get it.
– I have had soft words from the honorable gentleman, but when he could by some concrete action show me marked discourtesy, he has not failed to do so.
– The necessities of the case demanded what was done.
– The motion is purely a party move designed to maintain Ministers in their positions. A further sinister aspect of it is that they make use of you, Mr. Speaker, to maintain them in their positions, and, incidentally, to maintain you in your position. But the most deplorable feature of the motion is that it stains the history of this young and giant Democracy with an act of oppression and suppression by a Government which, in my view, does not, and cannot, fairly claim to, represent the people. This being so, the motion will receive the wholehearted opposition of the party to which I belong. We claim to be heard in this Chamber. It is our last chance. Honorable members opposite cannot claim to represent the people of Australia in connexion with the war when they suppress the right of others to express their views on the subject. They cannot claim the wholehearted support of the great Australian public when they prevent men who speak for a large section of this public from letting its views be known. The motion is worthy of the Minister who introduced it,and of the Government responsible for it, and it is worthy of the gentleman who is touring abroad at the expense of the country which he misrepresents.
– I think that every member of the House regrets the bitterness which has been imported into the debate by the last speaker.
– The person who is to be executed must always feel a certain amount of bitterness towards his executioner.
– I call the attention of the House to the growing practice of interrupting an honorable member at the very beginning of his speech with a volley of interjections. This must be stopped, and I ask the House to support me in endeavouring to stop it.
– The first point of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) was that the motion is a party move by the Government. If it is a party move, it has been made so by the Opposition. Nothing in the terms of the motion justify the statement that it has been moved to serve political ends. It has for its object the suppression–
– Of free speech.
– Of disloyalty.
– The next honorable member who neglects to obey the call of the Chair to order will be named.
– On a point of order The motion is directed to the elimination of speeches made by honorable members of this House, and the honorable member for Kooyong has said that it aims directly at the suppression of disloyalty, thus casting a reflection on honorable members.
– There is nothing in the point of order. The honorable member for Kooyong is entitled to express his views On the subject.
– The objection just taken to the motion is an extraordinary one. Surely no. honorable member desires to justify disloyalty.
– You call us all disloyalists.
– I say without any heat that the object of the motion is the suppression of disloyalty. It is a deplorable fact that, in the present crisis of war, when the most loyal cooperation is expected of everybody, that Australia is honeycombed with disloyalty. I fain would hope that this Parliament is absolutely free from any suspicion of disloyalty, and if that be so, there can be no objection to the motion. It is a precautionary measure, justified, possibly, by experience.
– It is pernicious.
-I ask the honorable member for Barrier and the honorable member for Darling to cease interjecting.
– There is not a member of the House, who is a loyal subject, who can be affected by the motion. If an’ honorable member used language which could reasonably be construed as “ calculated to prejudice His Majesty’s relations with a foreign Power, or the successful prosecution of the war, or to imperil the safety of the Commonwealth,” such statements should be suppressed. These are days of German propaganda, which takes every insidious form, one of the worst being what we hear from the Pacifists. Enemy efforts must be relentlessly combated. If the motion is a party move, it has been deliberately made so by my honorable friends opposite.
– It is a party move; it shows which party is disloyal.
– I object to the offensive statement of the honorable member for Moreton. He says that the motion shows which party is disloyal. I object to that statement as reflecting on this party.
– If the honorable member for Moreton has said anything which is regarded as a reflection on any honorable member of the House, I ask him to withdraw it.
Mr.Sinclair. - I do not see that I said anything reflecting on any honorable member, but if my interjection is taken as a reflection, I withdraw it.
– These withdrawals would not be necessary if honorable members would refrain from interjections.
– The honorable member for Batman said that the motion would stain the records of Parliament. I ask my honorable friend which is the more calculated to stain the records of Parliament, the motion now under discussion or statements calculated to prejudice His Majesty in his relations with a foreign Power, or the successful prosecution of the war, or to imperil the safety of the Commonwealth? Will any honorable member opposite justify the publication of such statements?
– Are such statements made in this Chamber?
– If they are not made, the motion will be of no effect.
– And there is no need for it.
– If they are made, the motion will apply.
– The motion has some other purpose.
– The honorable member is reflecting on Mr. Speaker. The Government have adopted the mostimpartial course that is reasonably open to them. The motion provides that attention has to be drawn to these disloyal sentiments and statements first of all by law officers of the Crown. The suggestion has been made that they will be actuated by party motives in what they do. I am glad to say that they have always endeavoured to discharge their difficult duties with a degree of fairness and justness. When they have drawn attention to the fact that disloyal sentiments have been uttered, subsequent action devolves upon Mr. Speaker. The Speaker is the one man in whom this House reposes complete and abiding confidence. I am pleased to say that this has practically always been the case in regard to occupants of the chair, but the honorable gentleman who now presides over our deliberations certainly does enjoy the complete confidence of all honorable members. Is there any suggestion that in any action that he will be called upon to take he will be so unworthy of his office as to do something for party purposes.
– He will not be consulted.
– He must be consulted. It is he who has to take action. The law officers of the Crown have simply to draw his attention to the matter; it is in his absolute discretion to say whether the sentiments to which attention is drawn are disloyal, and if he comes to that conclusion the responsibility lies with him to eliminate those utterances from Hansard. They would stain its pages and should be eliminated. I cannot understand the attitude of my friends opposite in justifying disloyalty by voting against the motion; for practically that is what it amounts to.
– That is a miserable subterfuge.
– I am not suggesting that my friends opposite are disloyal, but they propose to vote against a motion which has for its object the suppression of disloyalty.
– Or what the honor- able member terms “ disloyalty.”
– I have no desire to reflect upon any honorable member, but the honorable member should be the last one to make himself heard in regard to such a motion as this. I suggestto my friends opposite that the Government have the responsibility of prosecuting the war so far as Australia is concerned. When we realize the crisis through which we are passing and the responsibility upon Australia to do its utmost in the war, and when we realize our obligations to the Mother Country, we should be possessed of a spirit of loyalty and should gladly subscribe ourselves as anxious to assist in the successful prosecution of the war in every direction. The Government are justified in eliminating from Hansard any evidence of disloyal sentiments, and I have no hesitation in voting for the motion.
– The honorable member has put forward er* most remarkable argument. First of all he endeavoured to show that in order to meet some contingency that did not exist this motion had been put forward, and then he suddenly discovered that there was necessity for it because of certain disloyal statements which had been made in this Chamber and in other places.
– - The honorable member is mistaken.
– The honorable member claimed that there was no necessity for the motion if disloyal statements were not made, but that it would act as a preventive.
– Of course.
– In his next argument he sought to show that necessity for the motion arose from disloyal statements having been made here and outside. The motion has no application to any statements made outside. They are already, dealt with. Evidently the honorable member for Kooyong is no.t well acquainted with the reasons which have actuated the Government. According to the Minister (Mr. Groom), it has been found necessary to take this action in order to prevent a recurrence of the publication of certain statements made, probably quite innocently, in this chamber, but this is the only Parliament in the British Empire in which it has been found necessary to curtail the rights and privileges of the representative House. The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) interjected some time ago that a German spy had sat in the House of Commons, but, notwithstanding that fact, I have seen no record showing that the Imperial Government have adopted a censorship of the Hansard of the House of Commons. Australian politicians seem to exhibit a desire to display their loyalty to the Mother Country by showing how much better we do things out here. In that respect the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is quite notorious. He is continually advising the Imperial Government how to do things, because we, in Australia, are doing them. In the early stages of the war we were falling over ourselves in order to show our loyalty to the Mother Country by adopting the same procedure as had been enacted by the Imperial Houses. When the Defence of the Realm Act was passed we passed our War Precautions Act, and whenever the Imperial Government found it necessary to take certainaction, we automatically deemed it advisable to do the same thing. But within the last two years we seem to” have adopted another practice, and here to-day we are asked to do something which no other Parliament, certainly not the Imperial Parliament, has even suggested should be done. I have seen no proposal to apply this motion to the Senate.
– Yesterday afternoon the Senate passed a similar motion.
– I am pleased to receive that information, but it does not rob me of my argument, because I know that the Government majority in the Senate, as is the case here, will enable it to carry any motion. The Minister, in submitting this proposal to the House, said that three things had to be guarded against - prejudicing the Empire in regard to its relations with a foreign Power, preventing the prosecution of the war, and imperilling the safety of the Commonwealth. I am sure that it is the united desire of every honorable member to secure these three objects, and I resent for myself, and on behalf of my comrades on this side of the chamber, any suggestion that we are opposed to securing .any of these three ends. We are just as much concerned as is any honorable member on the Government side as to the safety of the Empire, our relations with the Allies, and the safety of the Commonwealth. We are anxious for a victorious end to the war. We are more anxious, than honorable members on the Ministerial side are to secure an honorable end to it. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair) made an interjection a few moments ago suggesting that this motion would discover who were the loyalists.
– I did not say that.
– The motion is not directed against disloyalty in the chamber or outside. Its purpose, according to the ideas of the Government, is to secure certain advantages, and the question in dispute is : Should statements made by honorable members in this House be censored? Every honorable member on this side of the chamber can claim that he is anxious that no difficulty should be created between the Empire and other Powers, that there should be a victorious and honorable end to this war, and that the safety of the Commonwealth should be assured. We start together from that point. The Government, however, suggest that ‘ to secure these desirable ends the speeches of honorable members in certain particulars, at the discretion of Mr. Speaker, should not be recorded in Hansard. I invite honorable members to carefully consider what the effect of this will be. We have adopted, in regard to the war, a system of censorship that has placed Australia in a most unenviable position before the rest of the world. Quite recently a number of Australian journalists were entertained at dinner in London, and we had in the Australian newspapers a record of some of the speeches delivered there. In the report published by the Melbourne Herald, on 18th ultimo, it is stated that Lord Northcliffe proceeded to criticise the British Government’s secrecy and censorship, whereby the world never realized the magnitude of Britain’s effort. Other speakers also referred to the work of the British censor, but Mr. Campbell Jones, who replied on behalf of the Australian pressmen, said that the British censor was a juvenile compared with the Australian. We have carried the censorship in Australia so far that there is not even ordinary liberty of the press, platform, or pulpit unless the speeches follow a certain line of argument acceptable to. the Government. Every member of the Opposition - every member of the community - who ventures in public to express an opinion different from that entertained by the Government in regard to the war does so at the peril of his liberty and freedom.
The trouble, to my mind, so far as this motion is concerned, is that the Government are not only eminently satisfied with the effect of this censorship on the public generally, but propose now to introduce it into the representative Chamber of the Parliament. I need only ask honorable members to revive their knowledge of the political history of our own Empire. I ask them to recollect the strenuous fights that had to be put up by early speakers and members of representative chambers - by members of the House of Commons - in defence of their privileges, and that the main privilege that they insisted upon, and which is still emphatically churned, is the right of free speech and criticism of the Government, particularly during war time. Nothing that comes before Parliament is of more importance than the prosecution of a war, and the House of Commons has not at any time been more careful of its rights and privileges in regard to the criticism of the Government I and its conduct of the war than it is at the present time. I admit that it is most uncomfortable for a Government to be criticised during war time. There are some reasons why the Government of the day should not be heckled and harassed. But the mother of Parliaments has shown us an example, even during this war, in persistently refusing to sacrifice its rights, its liberties, and privileges, even when the Government .have pleaded for freedom from criticism and for complete liberty of action. Here we are, in our excess of zeal, in our extravagance of loyalty, in our camouflage - because, after all, that is all this motion means - proposing to give up one of the most sacred privileges that a representative chamber can possess. I do not wish to introduce outside matters, or even to make this a party question. I desire, however, to remind .honorable members opposite that they are now forging a weapon that must ultimately be applied to themselves. They are proposing now to do something which some day will hurt themselves. As they sow.so shall they reap. If they are prepared to continue in this policy of suppression - this policy of cutting down anything and everything that is hostile to their party - if they are prepared ito take up exactly the attitude of the Kaiser and the ideals of Prussianism, and to say that they are immune from criticism, or that it is an impertinence for any one to express an opinion contrary to their own views, (then a time will come when they will suffer for what they are doing to-day. They will not always be in a majority, and the time may come when human nature will not be strong enough to resist the temptation to give them a dose of their own medicine.
Let me give the House an illustration. When the War Precautions Bill was introduced, I was on the Government side of the House. I was a supporter of the Government that introduced that Bill, but I very strongly protested against it.
Members of the present Government party, who were <then in Opposition, including the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), Sir William Irvine, the present Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Groom), who is in charge of this motion, protested against the provisions of the War Precautions Bill, although it was a feeble, tiny, modest little measure compared with the powers exercised under it to-day. The timid cat has become a vicious. tiger. The War Precautions Bill, which was originally intended to accomplish a salutary and proper purpose, has developed into something very different. In introducing it, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), who was then AttorneyGeneral, said, as reported in Hansard, volume LXXV., page 369-
Its aim is to prevent the disclosure of important information, to give power to deport, and otherwise deal with aliens. . . .
Everybody protested that that was quite reasonable and proper, so long as the Government did not exceed a fair exercise of their powers under that law. Sir William Irvine strongly and cleverly pointed out that it was a very wide power that was being given to the Government, and the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Groom) also had much to say about it. As reported in the same volume of Hansard, page 378, he said that the Bill was conferring on the Government the right to give to courts martial a power that the civil Courts did not possess. He said the power was a very dangerous one, and was allowable only if it was to be exercised with’ discretion. Replying to him, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said, as reported at page 384 -
I put a German in Australia on exactly the same footing - as an Australian in Germany -
His sympathy is for Germany in this struggle. … So long as lie expends his patriotism in mere desire, or hopes more or less blatantly expressed, I say nothing; I care not what people say; it is a mere, matter of taste; let speech run free. . . .
Can it be said by any stretch of imagination that that statement by the present Prime Minister has been observed; or that under the War Precautions Act we have in any sense the freedom that Australians should have, to say nothing of the freedom that he suggests. Under the War Precautions Act we have had outside a censorship of the most unreasonable and extravagant kind. No matter what the purpose for which the Bill was originally introduced, no matter what the purpose of the regulations which have been issued from time to time, the fact remains that the censorship, particularly as affecting the conduct of affairs by the Government, has been most rigorously applied, and always in the one direction.
– Surely the” honorable member will agree that people should not be allowed to make statements likely, to prejudice our relations with the Allies.
– I said at the outset that I did not accuse any honorable member of being unwilling to safeguard the three points covered by this motion. I do not think any honorable member would attempt to do anything prejudicial to the Empire, the Allies, the safety of Australia, or to securing a victorious end to the war.
– If any honorable member did, he ought to be punished.
– This motion does not propose to punish such a man.
– It limits the injury he can do.
– It does not.
– The honorable member will admit that, even if this motion is carried, members of Parliament will still be free to express themselves as they think fit in Parliament.
– But this motion is a proposal to interfere with the right of honorable members to so express themselves in Parliament that the country may know what they say here.
– It is to prevent the circulation of statements of the character mentioned in the motion, all of which the honorable member says should not be allowed.
– It is to prevent the country from knowing what is said in Parliament along certain lines. It has always been urged that Parliament is, of all institutions, the one place where the interests of the people may be urged without let or hindrance; where even attacks upon the most sacred things may be freely made. It has always been urged that the fact that a man is sent here by the people invests him with authority to attack any institution or individual in the interests of the country. In the carrying out. of the advantageous and proper proposals included in this motion, there may be differences of opinion. Honorable members opposite may differ from us as to what may be prejudicial to the Empire’s relations with the Allies, or as to the successful prosecution of the war. We may differ materially as to what may imperil the safety of the Commonwealth. As a matter of fact, we do differ.
– We did not do so at one time.
– We shall always differ on that point. If the position of parties were reversed - if we were in power - honorable members opposite would be perfectly entitled to differ from us as to the best way to successfully carry on the war and to secure the safety of Australia. The fact that they are here as representatives of the people, not only entitles” them to differ from us, and to express their differences of opinion, but it entitles their constituents and the public generally to know the grounds of their objection to our policy, and the reason for their differences of opinion. Every honorable member should be at liberty to express himself for or against the Government. But if our constituents and the country generally are not to be allowed to ascertain the opinions of members of Parliament in regard to the war or anything else, then there will be enforced on this representative Chamber something that has never been attempted in the case of any other Parliament. I venture to suggest that the Government cannot by this motion be aiming simply at the censorship of Hansard.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I take the ground that every member of the House is quite willing and ready to accept the responsibility for his statements. Whatever his opinions may be worth he expresses them and takes responsibility for them, and there can be no reason whatever, in my judgment, for any limitation when it is known what his opinions are. There is no reason why his opinions should not reach his constituency, although honorable members are not here solely as representatives of one constituency, but here as a collective* body representing the whole of Australia.
– To counteract the results is the trouble.
– I think the PostmasterGeneral is really anticipating, because, after all, the censoring of members’ speeches in Hansard is only a very small matter in comparison with statements made on the platform or in the* press and published outside. As a censorship already exists for these outside utterances, the limitation of speech so far as Hansard is concerned accomplishes very little. It. can affect only the circulation of Hansard, which, at the best, is comparatively small; indeed, I think it most unfortunate that Hansard is not more widely read so that honorable members’ statements may be taken for what they really are instead of what they are often misrepresented to be. However, honorable members accept responsibility for their speeches, be they right or wrong. If they are wrong, and sometimes even- if they are right, they rise like ghosts and haunt most of us. “We are all subject, and, I think, have had the experience of having our speeches misquoted against us, speeches that may have been made under entirely different circumstances from those obtaining when the quotations are published.
I suggest to honorable members opposite that they must not be surprised or annoyed if we, on this side, look on a motion of this kind with a considerable amount of suspicion and distrust. Our experience during the last three years has made us suspicious of what this Government and its predecessor attempted and are attempting to do. Whatever virtue there may have been in the censorship in its original intention, namely, to prevent the leakage of news of importance to the enemy - and I do not think the value of such a censorship5 would be denied by any honorable member - we have the unfortunate experience that every exercise of the censorship under ordinary circumstances has been that of a political censorship. We have been singled out as individuals, and the press representing the Labour party has been singled out particularly, for prosecution and even for-persecution under the censorship laws; and the motion before us seems to be like’ another turn of the screw. The Daily Standard, of Brisbane, was prosecuted recently and the management fined £20 because of the publication of an article which had not been submitted to the censor. . In the Court, the censor himself, when giving evidence, admitted that other newspapers in Brisbane had published articles dealing with the same matter without submitting them to the censor, and that no action had been taken. I have almost got tired of quoting instances of Labour papers being singled out, even for publishing matter that had appeared in other newspapers which support honorable members opposite. We therefore look with suspicion on the introduction of a motion of this kind. From the interjections of some honorable members I think we are justified in thinking that this motion has something more behind it than the mere purpose which appears on the surface.
May I invite honorable members opposite, to look at the matter from our point of view just for a moment? It is proposed that the motion shall be limited to the “ progress of the present war “ in order to secure that nothing shall be published which is “ calculated to prejudice his Majesty’s relations with a foreign power, or the successful prosecution of the war, or to imperil the safety of the Commonwealth.” After the war is over the second ground will disappear, but the first and third grounds will remain. Are we to understand that, in the opinion of the Government, it is only advisable to censor members’ speeches which are “ calculated to prejudice his Majesty’s relations with a foreign power,” during the progress of the war, and that the Government should have no power to do so after the war is over?
– The danger will not then be so great.
– But, surely, after the war we desire to be on the best of relations with all the powers? Is that not the purpose of the war? To avoid international misunderstandings and troubles we must maintain at least an attitude of friendliness and good relations with all the powers.
– Do you desire the motion to be permanent or temporary in operation ?
– If the Government are consistent it should be permanent, so that nothing shall be published, so far as the records of the House are concerned, that would imperil our relations with foreign p’owers.
– The good sense of Parliament would decide that all in good time.
– There is another point of view I am prepared to take, namely, that while the reasons given may appear satisfactory for the present, there is an ulterior purpose behind.
– After four years have the Government only awakened to the fact that they require a motion of the kind?
– The Government have awakened to the fact that they can give another turn to the screw, and that this is a good time to do it. We cannot be blamed for looking on the motion with suspicion - for looking for the reason behind and not the apparent reason.
– Does the honorable member feel that this motion places a restriction upon him ?
– Yes; it will place a restriction on me if it is carried.
– Why ?
– It will prevent my saying things which I think ought to be said.
– Is the honorable member likely to say anything to imperil the safety of the Commonwealth?
– I have not come to that point yet; I am now dealing with our relations with foreign powers.
– The motion does not restrict you from saying anything you like.
– It restricts me to the extent that my audience is limited to honorable members who choose to honour me with their attention. I am sent here, not to talk to members only, but to express my views to the people generally. I am not here as an individual, but as a representative; we are here not to consider each other so much as to consider the bigger audience outside for whom we are legislating, and whose interests we have to protect.
The safety of the Commonwealth to which the Minister referred in his interjection is a permanent concern of ours - we are here to see to that always. Does the Minister imagine for one moment that any member of the House on either side is going to say or do anything deliberately to imperil the safety of the Commonwealth? I refuse to believe it even of any honorable members opposite, although I sometimes think they are not as good Australians as they ought to be.
– If you replant the Germans in Samoa you will do something to imperil the safety of the Commonwealth!
– I do not see that that has anything to do with the question before us. If the motion is to have any virtue during the progress of the war, it will have equal virtue at the end of the war. The limitation to the period of the war has been placed in deliberately, and not by accident. The motion is serious. It is meant for something. It- is loaded. If it is going to be worth anything, it must be because it will establish a principle which will be good for the war and for other time3, so far as the safety of Australia is concerned, because the safety of Australia must always be our primary and chief consideration.
I do not look on the motion as in any way affecting the present occupant of the Speaker’s chair, for whom we have a personal, as well as a political, respect. It will be a matter not only for him, but for his successors. Who could imagine that the Speaker is going to put himself in opposition to the advice of the Crown Law officers? The motion stipulates that the matter must first be decided by the Crown Law officers, but it is suggested that the Speaker will exercise a discretion to an extent that will put him in antagonism to the deliberate legal advice of those officers.
– Do you think the Law officers will do this?
– Even from that point of view it is unthinkable.
– They will not do it. There are only two or three of them.
– Before to-day Ministers have told us that the justification for what they have proposed to do was that the Crown Law officers said it was the proper thing to do. Yet it is now suggested that the Speaker will put himself up against that unimpeachable authority. I do not think the present, or any other, Speaker would take the responsibility of saying to the Crown Law officers, “You are wrong; I know more about this than you do”; but- what we do expect is that the Speaker shall never forget that every honorable member looks to him to protect us in the exercise of our rights and privileges as representatives of the people. It is the Speaker’s highest responsibility to protect lie privileges of members of Parliament, and to secure that the House shall not be subjected to unreasonable interruption. There is the case already referred to by. the Leader of the Opposition, where the military raided Parliament House. The Speaker took a very proper stand on that occasion, and my only regret was that he did not take a much stronger and more persistent attitude along the line which he first adopted. The Speaker must always be looked upon as the repository of our rights and privileges. It is most unreasonable, unfair, and unwarranted to place on the custodian of our rights and privileges a responsibility which might place him in antagonism to the Crown Law officers, who have no such consideration, so far as we are concerned. I suggest to honorable members on the Government side that they are placing the Speaker in a most unreasonable position, where he is asked to exercise a discretion against the law advice of the Crown, which practically means putting himself in opposition to the Government. We do not want to see Mr. Speaker either favorable to, or against, the Government. We wantto see him impartial. The limitation of the motion,so far as Mr.Speaker is concerned, is wrong, unfair, and unnecessary. Whatever honorable members opposite may regard as the immediate necessity for the motion, or whatever ulterior motives they have in view so far as its application is concerned, I urge them to think of the future. The war may last for some years, or it may soon be over, andI warn them again that they are forging a weapon to-day which some day will come back and hit them.
– Let us hope not.
– I hope not from this point of view, that I trust the Labour party, when they have charge of the government of the country, as they are sure to have sooner or later, will never treat their opponents so contemptibly as the present Government treat us. I should be eternally sorry if the Labour party ever descended to the tactics employed by the party opposite, against us. I should be ashamed of the Labour party if they placed on free speech, the freedom of the press, and the privileges of members of Parliament the restrictions and limitationsthat the present Government have perpetrated. If they did, they would not be worthy of the name of the Labour party. If there is a reason for the motion now, the safety of the Commonwealthwill demand its continuance after the war. The Ministerial party will perhaps find then that, boomerang-like, a motion of this character will recoil on their own heads. Actions always have reactions. As you sow you reap, and what honorable members opposite are doing to-day must, in time, come back on themselves. They will probably find, as we all find at times, that in this case the reliction is stronger than the action. I oppose the motion as unnecessary, unreasonable, and unwarranted.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Richard Foster) adjourned to a later hour of the day (vide page 6488).
. -(By leave) I move -
That the House accords permission to honorable members who spoke on the motion for the adjournment of the House yesterday to censor theHansard reports of their own speeches.
I submit this motion after conference with the authorities of the House and the available members who took part in the debate yesterday. I should have preferred, if the press had kept the compact which we understood would be kept, to expunge the whole record from the official report of the debates. As things are now, however, that course would not be quite fair to some honorable members, and, therefore, Iam taking the course I now propose. There are still certain statements in the proofs of the debate of yesterday which honorable members themselves feel can properly be excised in the public interest. That refers particularly to speeches by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) and myself. The House will consult the convenience of those who participated in the debate, as well as the highest interests of the Government and the troops, by assenting to this motion without discussion.
.- The position has been altered on account of the report of the proceedings which appeared in the Age this morning. I understand that it went in after the censor had gone through the proofs at the Age office. I do not mind a member censoring the report of his own speech, but I think the only way he can be allowed to do so is for the permission of the House to be granted. It would land us in an intolerable position if, after a member delivered u speech here, he could censor it without restriction. I think the motion is the only way to get over this difficulty. I object to outside censoring of members’ speeches, but I do not mind things being taken out by members themselves, or taking things myself out of my own speech if permission of the House is given. I have already consulted with the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) as to whether there was anything in the remarks I made which could be regarded as likely to be harmful in any way. Whilst I am iu accord with honorable members being allowed to censor their own speeches, I hope our action on this occasion will not be regarded as laying down a precedent for any outsider to censor parliamentary proceedings, because I am absolutely opposed to such a procedure.
.- I may be alone in the attitude I take up in regard to censorship of honorable members’ speeches, but I am absolutely opposed to honorable members on either side making speeches in the House and then, by agreement amongst themselves, excising portion of their remarks! from the permanent record. I am fortified in that attitude by what has been published in portion of the daily press, with the consent of the censor. Those statements have gone broadcast throughout the country.
– They will appear in Hansard.
– The censor, in dealing with certain utterances by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J”. H. Catts), took a certain course to which I objected just as strongly as I object to the House giving permission to honorable members to censor their own speeches. ‘ We rightly complained that, in connexion with the invitation extended by the Prime Minister to the Leader of the
Opposition to co-operate with the Government during the period of the war, conditions which were not stated in .the House were written into Hansard. I came to Parliament as a representative of the people to express the opinions in which I believe. Other honorable members are in the same position, and if we are not prepared to allow our statements in the House ‘to go before the outside public, we ought not to make them. I object to honorable members making statements in the House that may be mildly described as unwise, and then being afraid to allow them to go before the public.
– There is no question of our being afraid of the public knowing what we have said.
– I ‘ am not insinuating that. I do not accuse the honorable member for Ballarat of having made statements which he would be afraid to let the public read. I believe that both he and the Acting Prime Minister are governed by the thought that some of their utterances in this House may be prejudicial to recruiting. From my” point of view, any statement that ?nay be regarded as prejudicial to recruiting ought not to be made by them.
– Does not the honorable member see that some of mv statements last night were properly made to honorable members in order to inform them of the exact position? But it might not be wise to give that information to a larger audience.
– I recollect that on one occasion when we desired to discuss certain matters, and it was thought inadvisable that the discussion should’ be made public, a secret session was held, and, although I am opposed to secret sessions, I believe that they represent a more proper procedure than the making ‘ of statements in the House, in the hearing of the public and the press, and the subsequent censoring of them in Hansard. I am opposed to any censorship of the speeches that honorable members make in this Parliament. The people sent us here with a full knowledge of the opinions we held, and expecting us to give .voice to them. When our views have been expressed and recorded in the House, no alteration of them should take place. I will not cast a vote in favour of the censoring of honorable members’ utterances on any occasion. If any remarks are considered by the members who made them to be deserving of censorship, they ought not to have been uttered.
.- I do not like voting for the censorship of honorable members’ speeches. I have an unpleasant recollection that some years ago I was suspended from the House because of words I used regarding the censorship of the speeches of honorable members. I treasure freedom of speech just as dearly asdoes the honorable member for Barrier. But I shall vote for the motion because I recognise that an honorable compact was entered into last night.
– A personal compact only.
– Yes, and some of us did not speak for that very reason.
– There was an audience in the House last night, and there was nothing to prevent the honorable member from addressing them. I have not since I returned from the Front said all I know about the war. There are many things which I do not think it wise to say. But I have been urging the Minister for Defence and the Government to effect certain reforms, and they are trying to bring some of them into operation. It is my desire to make conditions as fair as I can for the boys oversea, and after a consultation with the Acting Prime Minister last night I thought his suggestion that honorable members should express their views in the House and then censor their own speeches was preferable to the holding of a secret session. I believe that I enjoy the confidence of my constituents in as large a measure as any other honorable member, but I certainly said things last night which I shall not say on the platform. There may come aday when they should be said, but I prefer to first give the authorities an opportunity of effecting reforms. Recognising the gigantic struggle in which we are engaged to-day, [ have never allowed my attitude tobe in doubt. I know that men are needed at the Front, and I shall not say one word to prevent them going there. The prooposition made by the Acting Prime Minister is a fair and reasonable one, and I shall take advantage of it to censor my speech on lines somewhat similar to those followed by the censor in dealing with the report published in the Age this morning. I differ from him in regard to some of the remarks he has censored, but recognising the compact we entered into last night I am prepared to waive my objection. It would certainly be unwise to allow members to censor their speeches on all occasions, because such a system would allow members to make speeches in the House which, on reflection, they might regard as likely to injure them with their constituents, and they would be very glad to take the opportunity of striking them out ofHansard. I wish honorable members to understand that 1 am not agreeing to the censorship in connexion with last night’s debate because of any fear that what I said would injure me in the eyes of my constituents. As far as a section of my constituents are concerned, I might be regarded as a pretty good fellow, and perhaps gain a certain amount of kudos if I made these things public; but I do not desire to do that, as I recognise that Ave are living in troublous times, and I want to see something done for the lads themselves.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– May I, with the permission of the House, now make a statement with regard to the operation of the censorship concerning one newspaper?
– I do not wish to traverse the ground that has already been covered this morning concerning the report which appeared in the Age newspaper relating to this debate yesterday. I said I would make inquiries, and after a conference with the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) decide what action should be taken. I have not had a chance of a conference with Senator Pearce, but I have got all the facts, and I find that the Age did submit its copy, according to orders, to the censor, and that it was passed. I think it is from a comparative point of view unfortunate; but the Age complied with the requirements of the censorship.
– I would like to take this opportunity of informing the
House that the carrying of this motion should not be regarded in any way as a precedent. I need hardly point out that it applies solely to this specific occasion, which probably may never arise again; but it may be just as well to place it on record that this resolution must not be accepted as a precedent in regard to future debates.
Omissions from “ Hansard.”
Debate resumed (vide page 6485).
– I wish to congratulate the Government upon the action they are taking. I do not believe in any silly sentimental reasons being advanced by the Government in times such as the present. We have had a good deal of extraneous reasoning that has nothing whatever to do with the subject under discussion. It is as clear as noonday that the motion is aimed at the prevention of publicity being given to any statements, made in this House, which may prejudice His Majesty’s relations with a foreign Power, or interfere with the successful prosecution of the war, or imperil the safety of the Commonwealth. There are only two parties in this country in regard to this particular question - those who are for, and those who are against, the Empire and our Allies. I believe this power is necessary, and think that the attitude taken by members on the other side of the House very strange. Possibly there was a time, after the war began, when the action now contemplated by the Government was not necessary, but that time is not now. When the party opposite was in power, and when the then Leader of the Government (Mr. Fisher) proclaimed the war policy for the Ministry in the memorable words, “ The last man and the last shilling,” his sentiments were echoed by every member of his party, with possibly one exception, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan)., who has spoken strongly on the matter to-day. His was then the voice of one crying in the wilderness. At that time there was not one man on the other side of the House who did not look sideways at him. I am reminded, however, that his is not the only voice now crying in the wilderness.
Since then one or two new voices have been heard in this House, and, strange to say, those members of the famous “ Last man and last shilling brigade “ who are now sitting opposite have altered their attitude considerably in relation to a good many matters connected with this war. Otherwise this motion would have been carried to-day without debate, and would have been received with considerable applause as the propercourse to take.
– After what we have suffered from the censor ?
– I know that the Leader of the Opposition has been making rambling statements about a hundred arid one. things that are not necessarily connected with this particular motion.
– But they are.
– I want to be as generous as I possibly can be, and I say that I believe the honorable member at heart is a good deal better than he appears to be.
– As far as this is concerned, I am absolutely opposed to it.
– I remind honorable members of a speech made by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson), who, whenever there appears to be a difficulty about reconciling the things of to-day with the things of days gone by, is called upon as their champion and adjuster. He is about the best man they have at the job, for he is exceedingly skilful and resourceful, but to-day, when he tried to adjust the present attitude of members on the other side of the House with their attitude in the days gone by, when they subscribed to the doctrine of the last man and the last shilling, he made very bad weather of it, as he was attempting something which was utterly impossible. The position of the party opposite to-day is unadjustable.
The honorable member for Brisbane reiterated a lot of suspicions that he felt concerning what he termed the untrustworthiness of members on this side of the House, and he said that if ever the great Labour party attempted to gag men and prevent freedom of speech in this House of the properly appointed representatives of the people, he would be utterly ashamed of the party. Why, sir, it is because members of the Labour party are nol allowed in this House to express opinions according to their own convictions; it is because irresponsible authorities outside the House claim the right, from day to day, and at any. time, to tell honorable members opposite what they shall say and how they shall vote, that the honorable member rose to-day. Recently, however, some honorable members opposite have resented this undue and illegitimate interference with the rights of the people in the National Parliament, and it appears that they are now prepared to take all the risks. It is inconceivable that any other attitude can be taken, on a question which involves the safety of the Empire, our relations with our Allies, and the future of Australia; so I hope they will have the courage to follow the dictates of their own consciences. I have said that such a resolution is necessary to-day, and I want to prove it by referring to the re-‘ marks of the prime leader on the other side in regard to this matter. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) gave instances of what he said was the wrongful suppression of free speech since the war began, and among these mentioned the suppression of a peace pamphlet which, according to him, was an expounding of the true religion. No doubt it contained a true religion, according to the gospel of Brennan.
– Why attack the honorable member in his absence ?
-It is not my fault if he is away; he knew that I was going to speak. I am sure that my honorable friend is with me in these matters. He is an old “ Tommy,” and one of the best, and if he has a warm place in his heart for anything on earth, it is the British soldier. Let us see what the High Court of Australia said of this pamphlet which, according to the honorable member for Batman, set forth the highest principles of true religion.
– Is the High Court an authority on religion?
– I would rather follow the Justices of the High Court than the honorable member for Barrier, and, thank God, Australia - with a few insignificant exceptions - is doing that. The High Court unanimously condemned this pamphlet, root and branch. It ordered the appellant in the case in which this pamphlet was concerned to pay the costs of the original action and of the appeal, and ordered a new trial in accordance with the principles of the Court’s judgment. That was a clear and unmistakable statement of opinion. Mr. Justice Barton, who presided at the trial, said of this pamphlet which, according to the honorable member for Batman, should not have been suppressed, that one statement meant -
That the Allies were responsible for the continuance of the war, and either that they could have had a just peace or that they should have accepted an unjust and disgraceful peace. Another put the charge of blood guiltiness on Great Britain, which included Australia, and on the Allies. These and other statements were calculated to prejudice recruiting, and there was nothing in the context to alter this meaning.
Mr. Justice Isaacs concurred with Mr. Justice Barton. He said that -
This was a gigantic struggle for irreconcilable ideals. The German ideal was for world mastery, which they sought to enforce by methods of terror and with utter disregard for human suffering. The Allies’ ideal was to fight for a world in which every nation would be given the opportunity of free development, and when that was secured they would welcome peace. This pamphlet did unmistakably depreciate the policy of the Empire and Allies, and attributed to us blood guiltiness, while showing Germany as the country seeking peace* without adding the terms upon which Germany would have that peace. Such statements to ail human reasoning must raise in the mind of a man deliberating whether he would enlist a doubt, and weigh his mind against enlisting.
Mr. Justice Rich and Mr. Justice Duffy also concurred. Yet this is the pamphlet which the honorable member for Batman regards as a proper one for circulation’ at the present time. Let me appeal to honorable members opposite, and to the pacifists, to take reasonable views of this matter. At Home the pacifists have become an insignificant’ element of the population, many of those who were once of their party being now supporters of the war. It is the same thing in America. How does the attitude of the so-called. Labour party of Australia towards the war compare with that of the Labour men of Great Britain ? If Australian Labour were free, it would range itself unreservedly behind the declaration, “The last man and the last shilling.” What about the attitude of the great American Labour party, led by Mr. Gompers ? I do not believe that Labour in Australia is represented by the sentiments that have been expressed by members on the other side.
The people of Australia are watching how members are ranging themselves, and feeling against those who have tried to hinder the prosecution of the war will intensify when the war is over. The warnings of the honorable member for Brisbane will not be fulfilled, and the true hand-writing on the wall will not be blotted out.
– I desire to say a few words in anticipation of the Prussianizing of this honorable Chamber. I oppose the taking away of the few fragments of privileges which are left to us. An ever-increasing army of public officials are now enjoying a power such as they have never enjoyed before, and which it will be hard to take from it. - that of saying what the public men of this community shall be permitted to say. They already have the power of deciding what we shall be permitted to say outside of Parliament, and it is proposed to give them the power to decide what speeches uttered in Parliament shall be printed in Hansard and in the press. This power is to be given to them under the cloak of patriotism, but it will be exercised for party purposes. Some of these party moves have been camouflaged, but the intention of others has been frankly expressed. Who is to decide what statements constitute an infraction of the motion?
– Mr. Speaker.
– No. Some public official in the Crown Law offices is to have the power to say what speeches shall be published. His discretion will be exercised in accordance with his imagination or his bias. I ask honorable members to recall the flimsy ‘pretexts upon which members of this party were brought before the Courts only a few months ago. Let lue remind them of the indictment of Senator McDougall, and -of the summons hurled almost indiscriminately against, those who mounted the public platform in opposition to conscription. These prosecutions were all attempted to be justified on the ground that the safety of the Empire was at stake, or that our relations with foreign Powers might be imperilled, or that recruiting was being prejudiced, the three reasons contained in this motion for the suppression of parliamentary speeches and the persecution of every man who dares to speak against the National party. A few months ago, I had occasion to say that men had been sent to gaol for fighting on behalf of the working class. Was that statement likely to injure our relations with foreign Powers, to prejudice recruiting, or to imperil the safety of Australia? Yet the Chief Censor of Australia, the man whom it is proposed shall - have the right to say whether my speeches shall or shall not be published, said that that statement did so offend. On another occasion I passed the remark, “ This is not a regulation for war purposes, but it is a regulation for party purposes,” whereupon a wise and benevolent censor decided that, in the interests of Great Britain and the Allies, and’ in order not to prejudice our relations with foreign Powers, and so that the safety of Australia should not be imperilled, these words could not appear in the report of my speech. If our public officials are so stupid as to act in this way, or, to give their actions a more sinister interpretation, if they are prepared to make them.selves mere tools for party purposes to their political bosses for the time being, I am not prepared to hand them further powers. Those which they already enjoy are not equalled by the powers possessed by the Kaiser. When they have the power to say that these two phrases which I have quoted from my remarks shall not be permitted to appear in the prints cf my speeches, when they can be so stupid or so politically biased as to act in this way, are they to have the right to go even further, to come into th’s chamber and say, “ Not one word which the honorable member has spoken during this debate shall appear in Hansard ?” Heaven knows what will happen to His Majesty’s Opposition !
Lt. -Colonel Abbott. - To whom would the honorable member gi-se the power of veto?
– -For the last four years Australia has been governed, and at no time during that period has it been found necessary to pass such a motion as this, and no country on the Allied side has found it requisite, even at the seat of war, to pass a similar motion. However, if it be deemed really necessary to take some action on the lines contemplated, I would leave it to the good sense of honorable members themselves - I would suggest the appointment of a Committee of the House to decide on these matters. We have had from the Minister who submitted this infamous motion one of the weakest cases ever put up in favour of any proposition. He simply stated that the motion was necessary because certain information had got abroad. No valid reason was put forward by him. Honorable members opposite have twitted us by saying that if we oppose the motion we shall be voting for disloyalty. That assertion is only so much rot. The trouble is that honorable members in the Ministry are not satisfied with the power which they already enjoy, and in their lust for more they’ are seeking to still the tongues of the Opposition. This motion is merely the forerunner of what will happen in the Chamber next week, when the Ministry will endeavour to stifle all opposition. The Governmentare all-powerful, and if they want to block the Opposition altogether, let them do it. We have no remedy. The proposal on the notice-paper is to confine our speeches to about ten minutes each.
– Only on certain specific motions.
– Most of the motions will be of an urgent character to which the proposed standing order will be applied.
As an antidote to the vapourings of some honorable members opposite in their endeavour to stigmatize the Opposition as disloyal, I propose to read some remarks recently uttered by Professor Picken, the Director of War Propaganda. I . am sure that he will not be edified when he reads the words of some of the honorable members on the Government side to-day. He is reported in the Daily Telegraph of the 25th September to have said -
We were a deeply divided people on funda mental questions affecting the nationhood, but each of the opposite camps had not only to teach, but also to learn from the other. Failure to realize this was leading “us to national disaster. The problem of Australia was to get a true basis of common citizenship.
He went on further to say-
Get on to a higher plane. Get the beam out of your own eyes; do not get thinking of the other fellow as a disloyalist. There are disloyalists in Australia, but the great majority are loyal.
I recommend some of those who are fond “of .hurling the taunt of disloyalty at any one who is opposed to them to ponder the words of Professor Picken, the Director of the” war propaganda which honorable members opposite have instituted.
Here is another specimen of the way in which the censorship has been conducted. The Perth Conference of the Australian Labour party laid down certain peace proposals. Those proposals represent the official views of the Labour party, which constitute His Majesty’s Opposition for the time being. In most countries an Opposition is possessed of certain -rights which are regarded as sacred, but in this’ country the rights of the Opposition are regarded as something which should be suppressed. We have attempted in our official newspapers to ventilate the reasons which actuated the party in regard to the peace proposals, but only two articles were allowed to appear in the Sydney Worker. Immediately after the second article was placed in the hands of the censor in Sydney, Mr. Boote, the editor of the paper, was informed - and very snappily - that no further articles were to appear in the Worker in regard to the peace proposals.
– A very sensible thing to do.
– No doubt, according to my Kaiser friend.
– I think that is distinctly disorderly and objectionable, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I did not catch the expression to which the honorable member for Henty takes exception.
– The honorable member referred to me as his “ Kaiser “ friend.
– That is distinctly objectionable, and I ask the honorable member for Darling to withdraw it. “
– I will withdraw the expression, and substitute for it, my “autocratic” friend. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) is a very good specimen of honorable members on the Government side. Anything that is said in opposition to their party is disloyal, and should be suppressed immediately, and they are not particular as to how the suppression is achieved so long as they stop the mouth of the other chap. They have prevented the circulation of the proposals of the party on this side through either their newspapers or their speakers. The motion is characteristic of many proposals emanating from the Prime Minister and his immediate followers. It is a little too bad for the Liberal section of the party opDOsite, but is fairly representative of the action commonly taken by the other portion of the present National Government. It will, no doubt, be carried, and anything said in opposition to the views of the National party will be immediately suppressed.
Lt. -Colonel Abbott. - Only on the matters referred to in the motion.
– The judges as to what is right or wrong are the officers of the Solicitor-General’sDepartment or the censors. I have already given concrete instances to show that statements which no member of this House would regard as seditious likely to imperil the safety of the Empire, or prejudice its relations with foreign powers have by them been excised from our speeches. I have no doubt that these people will continue to act in the same way, and that the three matters specially mentioned in the motion represent merely camouflage for political purposes.
It is said that Mr. Speaker will have power in regard to this matter. The Speaker has no power at all in this Chamber. If he had any power at the time this Parliament met, that power has since departed from him. Representatives of the Defence Department came in here and tampered with the goods of honorable members regardless of the Speaker’s wishes. Our rooms were invaded, and correspondence and telegrams, the property of members of this Chamber, were removed without Mr. Speaker being consulted. Yet honorable members opposite talk of the power of the Speaker. What will happen should this motion be carried will be that the censor will come along and say, “ The honorable member for soandso’s speech must be obliterated,” and that will be the end of it. Mr. Speaker will have no discretion, because what the censor says will go, and anything which is likely to cause pain to honorable members opposite will also go. Under the pretext that it is disloyal, seditious, or likely to imperil the safety of the Empire and its relations with foreign Powers, any statement that is likely to imperil the safety of the National party will be obliterated fromHansard. For the reason that the motion is introduced for a party purpose, and has no bearing upon tie proper conduct of the war, I shall vote against it.
– I wish to raise my voice in what I suppose may be regarded as a swan song, in view of the proposed curtailment of the liberty which honorable members on this side have hitherto enjoyed in respect of their utterances as representatives of the people. This motion gives power ostensibly to Mr. Speaker to deal with the utterances of members of this House calculated to prejudice the relations between the Empire and any foreign Power, not merely any Allied power. One would imagine, in view of recent happenings in this chamber, that the object of the motion was to protect the Russian Administration from the assaults of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) and some other honorable members on the Government side.
– Before the honorable member passes from that, will he say whether he is still the representative of the Bolsheviks?
– I begin to seethe necessity for this motion, ‘in view of the fact that the honorable member for Wentworth is apparently still anxious to inquire into the relations between the Empire and the power now ruling in Russia.
– No; something still more important - the relation between the power now ruling in Russia and the honorable member for Barrier.
– That is a matter which concerns the honorable member.
– Why is the honorable member ashamed of it now, when a few days ago he took pride in it?
– The honorable member for Wentworth is suffering from an obsession, which he shares with other honorable members on the Government side, that honorable members on this side occupy positions in the dock, where, perhaps, they would desire them to be. We are not prisoners in the dock, but representatives of the people.
-You cannot crossexamine a prisoner in the dock.
– The honorable member has done so rather successfully at times.
– No, I have not.
– In my opinion this motion is brought forward to prevent people outside this House learning the truth in connexion with the war. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster), in alluding to my colleague, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), said’ that the Opposition represented, with one exception, the last nian and the last shilling party at the outbreak of the- war, and that the exception was a voice crying in the wilderness. Now the honorable member recognises that there are two or three of those exceptions, and hence this motion. There was one propagandist in the Federal Parliament, and, subsequently, two or three colleagues have been found to back him up. If this pernicious doctrine is to continue to be preached, what will become of the majority on the opposite benches? In view of what may happen, it must be a pernicious doctrine that is being preached on this side. If the honorable members for Batman, Capricornia, Bris: bane, and other honorable members on this side dare to criticise the objectives for which the war is being waged at the present time, and to object to the soulless exploitation of the people of Australia, and the callous exploitation of their patriotism, they must be blocked, because the people outside, if they read the utterances of their representatives here, may possibly be induced to reg ster votes adverse to honorable members opposite. Consequently the Government are taking time by the forelock. I am not protesting against their right to do so, because they have the might behind them, and they are going to exercise it. But I do object to the hypocrisy of bringing forward a drag-net motion of this character under the pretext of safeguarding His Majesty’s relations with foreign Powers, or- of successfully prosecuting the war, or of avoiding imperilling the safety of the Commonwealth. It was only. the other day that one of our learned Judges laid down the dictum that the relationship which existed between employers and employed might be construed as imperilling the safety of the Commonwealth.
– What Judge did that?
– I think it - was Mr. Justice Heydon. The honorable member may see his statement in the Hansard of the New South Wales Parliament.
– One cannot see a judicial decision by reference to the Hansard reports.
– It was Mr. Justice Pring who gave that decision.
– Of course, nobody would ever dream that the violent onslaughts made upon the Soviet Administration in Russia by the honorable member for Wentworth, the honorable member for Kooyong, or the honorable member for Wakefield will be eliminated from Hansard on the ground that they are calculated to prejudice His Majesty’s relations with a foreign Power ; but if the utterances of the poor, hapless member for Barrier can be twisted to mean that they are prejudicial to the chance of the Government maintaining their majority in this Parliament, they will immediately become “ detrimental to His Majesty’s relations with a foreign Power,” or will be construed as “ imperilling the safety of the Commonwealth.” If I point out that the Russian Administration - judging by the meagre news which is allowed to enter the Commonwealth - is adopting a certain course of action-
– The honorable member speaks of the “ meagre news “ entering the Commonwealth. Can he, as the Bolshevik Consul, enlighten us as to what is happening in Russia?
– The honorable member should apply to the Bolshevik Consul. He is now dealing with the honorable member for Barrier. May I ask honorable members opposite what constitutes the ‘ ‘ successful prosecution of the war?” Does not its successful prosecution involve the realization of the objects for which the struggle . is being waged ? If it does mean that, and if I endeavour to point out that the objects for which it is now being waged are not objects for the accomplishment of which more Australian lives should be sacrificed, I venture to. say that my observations will be excised from Hansard. But the speeches of honorable members who hold different views will not be interfered with. I say that the successful prosecution of the war involves the objects for which the struggle is being prosecuted. If- 1 were to urge that the objectives for which Britain entered the war are not those for which it is being prosecuted today, my statement would at once be construed as “prejudicial to His Majesty’s relations with foreign Powers.” Now, the successful prosecution of the war may mean the adoption of the Par.’s Economic Resolutions, which have been openly denounced by many public men in Great Britain. There, both the press and the people are free to ridicule the views that have been expressed by the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, who has been told by them that he knows nothing whatever about economics; but here, where we are so much wiser than are the people of other countries, we are told that any objections urged against the economic resolutions of the Paris Conference will, be regarded as utterances “ imperilling the safety of the Commonwealth.” Has that phrase been inserted in this motion merely for the purpose of preventing the propagation in Australia of certain economic doctrines which cannot imperil our safety but which, if adopted, would make us a Commonwealth in deed as well as in name? It is not a question of what is stated in the motion under consideration ; it is a question of the interpretation that will be put upon it. In my humble judgment, the “ successful prosecution of the war “ would be achieved if the Allies on the one hand, and the Central Powers on the other, would allow working-class representatives nf both belligerent groups to meet together for the purpose of discussing what are the real differences between them. Then it would speedily be ascertained whether there was any sound reason why more wives should be widowed, more mothers should be bereft of their sons, and more cripples, both mentally and physically, should be returned to the Commonwealth as the result of a continuance of the struggle. I venture to say that if working class representatives from both sides were permitted to meet in conference for the purpose of determining what real differences exist between the warring groups,- the present terrible slaughter would come to an end within a week. They would lay down conditions which would do away with the mutual suspicions that have caused this war. They would do away with the infamous system of secret diplomacy which, to a large extent, was responsible for setting the nations of the world at one another’s throats.
– In other words, the honorable member says that Labour could settle the whole thing in a week.
– I do not say that the work of repatriation, and so forth, could be dealt with in a week, but I do say that the representatives of Labour could settle in a week the differences between the belligerent nations.-
– That Labour could settle the #hole international question in a week ?
– I believe Labour could settle all the essential differences that are now being availed of to set the nations at one another’s throats.
– May I suggest that the honorable member read Germany at Bay?
– The honorable member may make any suggestion he pleases. The motive prompting this motion has been exposed by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster). The honorable member said it mattered little when there was only one honorable member on this side of the House who voiced opinions which he declared to be detrimental to the successful prosecution of’ the war. The position ceases, however, to be all right when there are two or three associated with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), to whom he referred. In that statement we have in a nutshell the whole Government case. When the honorable member for Batman stood alone his was a voice crying in the wilderness, but it has been joined by two or three other voices that are crying, not in the wilderness, but in the representative institutions of the people throughout the Commonwealth. There is a fear on the part of the Government that these two or three will be multiplied into forty or forty-five, and that, as a result, they will be transferred from the Ministerial to the Opposition benches. That, to my mind, is a reasonable fear, but if this motion is to be carried into effect, it will be idle to say that we are returned by the people to give expression here to our conscientious views as to what is the right attitude to be pursued. It is for honorable* members opposite again to say that our constituents are- not to be permitted to read the thoughts to which we give expression in this House. The reason for this has been explained by the honorable member for Wakefield. At the bottom of it all is the fear that, like that of Abou ben Ahdem, our tribe will increase. That is the only logical reason that has been advanced in support of this motion.
I am one of those who may be regarded by honorable members as obnoxious. I have stated in this House before to-day that 1 do not believe there has ever been a war fought in the interests of the working classes of this or any other community. I believe war is opposed to the interests of the class that I represent, and that if the representatives of the working classes in all the belligerent groups could be brought together they would quickly put an end to this slaughter. They would wipe out the huge armaments, the armament- trusts, the system of secret diplomacy, and the policy of Imperial expansion which are at the root of all modern warfare. They would do away with this seeking after territory iri which are to be found all the essentials necessary to the building up of huge armaments. It is such a policy that makes it essential that Mesopotamia, the Persian oil-fields, of the oil deposits that are supposed to exist in New Guinea, should be grabbed by one or other of the groups of nations. It .is this policy that makes it a question of vital importance as to - whether the coal-fields in the valley of the Saar ot the ironfields of Lorraine, shall belong to France or Germany. The vital necessities of modern warfare have made it imperative that certain tracts of country in which are to be found the essentials of modern armament shall be controlled by either one or other of the conflicting groups of nations. It is the necessity for controlling these essentials that breeds these secret alliances concerning which the workingclass men and women in any of the belligerent groups are not consulted.
– The honorable member will not be in order in discussing these matters.
– These are beautiful sentiments to come from a man who would slaughter Hughes and his followers to-morrow if he could.
– I ask to be protected from these bloodthirsty assertions. I absolutely repudiate any such desire. Neither the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), nor the honorable member for
Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) is of sufficient importance to call for .slaughter.
– The honorable member was referring to rhetorical slaughter.
– I admit quite frankly that the war has shown a division amongst the people. There has always been a division amongst the people - we have always had the war of class distinction. The interests of the working classes never were, and never will be, concerned in any way with war.
– The honorable member, is now going outside the terms of the motion.
– I wish to point out that the “ imperilling of the safety of the Commonwealth” may, arid will, be construed by honorable members opposite as covering any statement menacing the class which they represent, and which is not the class represented by honorable members on this side of the House. The motion, boiled down, i3 simply a precautionary measure by honorable members opposite to maintain the status quo - to secure themselves in their electorates by preventing the circulation of speeches made on this side of the House that might be detrimental to their chances at the forthcoming election. No doubt certain speeches that are made from this side that might be construed into helpful argument for the Government side will not be brought under the attention of Mr. Speaker; but any statements calculated to expose the exploitation of the people of Australia, under the pretence of winning the war, will be excised as likely to be detrimental to recruiting - this, of course, coming under the heading of interference with the successful prosecution of the war.
– That will be the only principle that will guide the discretion of Mr. Speaker.
– As has been very plainly pointed out, it is not Mi1. Speaker who is going to be the judge, but the gentleman in the little room at the Post Office. I know that the censor is very sorry that he has not greater powers, because he so expressed himself to me when I had occasion to consult him in regard to certain censored matter. Honorable members will know what to expect.
– You are not very temperate in your language.
– Tien it is to my mode of expressing myself that objection is taken? No one knows the position better than the gentleman who interjects; and I am sure that if he had remained on this side of the House he would have been the loudest in his denunciation of the motion. Ever since the censorship came into existence it has been utilized as a political weapon to discredit and hamstring the party to which the Government are opposed. When Italians were conscripted and “ shanghaied “ from Broken Hill, and my constituents attempted to communicate with me, my correspondence was seized from my letterbox in the Labour room. I brought the matter before the House; but Mr. Speaker was powerless, despite the assurance of honorable members opposite that they would assist in protecting the privileges of the House. I said at the time that if they allowed such proceedings to continue, they would be sorry; and now honorable members’ speeches are to be censored ait the sweet will of a person in no way connected with this House. The “ Crown Law authorities “ simply mean the Attorney-General, and the censorship will be a political one, pure and simple. The ideas of members on this side will not be permitted to be propagated in the future; their constituents and others represented here will not be allowed to read the arguments on both sides. Honorable members opposite will be free to say anything they like about honorable members on this side; but we are to be “gagged” in our criticism of the Government, under the miserable pretext of winning the war.
– The honorable member knows that the motion does not mean that.
– From my own painful experience I know that the motion does mean that, and the honorable member who interjects is well aware of the fact. The honorable member also knows that if the people of Australia were allowed to hear facts within the knowledge of members on this side, the present Government and their supporters would be swept out of political power at the first opportunity; and it is in order to safeguard themselves from this, I was going to say, desirable result, that a motion of this kind is introduced. After four years of war, and at a time when the position never looked better from the Allied point of view, it is proposed to apply this additional censorship. For nearly eighteen months I, myself, and for years before, as the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) reminded us, other honorable members have been voicing sentiments to which objection is now raised ; and who will say that that has in any way prejudiced the relations of the .King with foreign Powers or imperilled the Commonwealth? All it has done has been to make it very unhealthy for honorable members opposite to consult their constituents; and they hope that the people will prove to have short memories, as they had on the 5th May last year. Honorable members on this side are being muzzled, so that the Government may have a free hand to do anything they like - to “ nail-road” their own party projects through the House, and look after their own interests without question by honorable members on this side. Honorable members opposite are simply buttressing up their economic position, or the economic interests they represent. I represent a class that is opposed to those economic interests, and repeat that the interests of the Labour party are opposed to war. As I have already said, the proposal, boiled down, means the safeguarding of the economic interests of honorable members opposite, which economic interests are not those of the class I represent.
.- I quite agree with honorable members opposite that it is deplorable that a motion of this kind should have been proposed here; but it is more deplorable that there should be necessity for it. As a matter of fact, this motion does not “gag” any man here from saying what he chooses in this House. The only trouble is that, instead of performing their duties as representatives, and voicing the opinions of the people outside, some honorable members desire to talk to a large audience, and show what great men they are. It strikes me that the members on the other side violently desire, with all the power that is in them, to say something which would be construed as “calculated to prejudice His Majesty’s relations with a foreign Power, or the successful prosecution of the war, or to imperil the safety of the Commonwealth.” If they do not want to Bay those things, what is all the fuss about? The Government, as a matter of fact, has this responsibility already, but the motion lessens the fear that honorable members may have of being censored unfairly. Instead of the Government exercising the right of consoring speeches which they think aro not calculated to advance the interests of the Commonwealth, they -are handing it over to an impartial man, who holds the respect of all members of the chamber, to say whether certain statements should be allowed to circulate or not. 1 “cannot see where the complaint of honorable members opposite lies. They are reading into the motion a desire on the part of this party and this Government to gag them in all sorts of ways, whereas the motion actually protects them from the Government, and from this- party exercising any of those powers ac all. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) talked about the “ clamant call of his conscience “ to say something which would be censored. I do not know whether he; has always listened to the clamant ball of -his conscience to say something that ought to.be censored, but he has certainly gone a long way in that direction since this war broke out, and if his conscience i3 still calling him to say things which would be detrimental to the Commonwealth, and hurt the Allies in the carrying on of the war, the people outside will say emphatically that he ought to be censored, and I agree with them. He talks about staining the history of this country. The fact that some members are restricted a little in saying what they think they ought to say to the detriment of tho Commonwealth and the Allies will riot he such a stain on the .history of the Commonwealth as the fact that there are in this community mcn who are willing, as representatives of the people, to say in this chamber, when we are at deadly grips with- the enemy, things that would prevent us bringing the war to a successful conclusion. After -all, the objections that have been raised boil down _ to this, that honorable members opposite, by their strenuous opposition to the motion, can be taken to insist on the right to say things that aro calculated to prejudice His Majesty’s relations with foreign Powers, or the successful prosecution of the war, or to imperil the safety of the Commonwealth. They also insinuate that you, sir, who have the respect of every one in this House and outside, will, from party motives, exercise your duties as judge in this matter in a way to help this side of the House, instead of acting fairly to both sides. I r. is a slur on the reputation of this country that such a motion has to be moved, but it is a still greater slur that the necessity has arisen. No man could have sac in this House during the last year or two without seeing the necessity “ writ large.” The Government have taken the proper action in endeavouring to restrain those nien whom their own good sense, as representatives of the people, does not keep within the bounds of what is right to the Commonwealth and our Allies.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Maloney) adjourned
The following papers were presented : -
Lands ‘ Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at Seymour, Victoria - For Defence purposes
The War - Report of the Departmental Com- mittee appointed by the Board of Trade to consider the position of the Iron and Steel Trades after the War. (Paper presented to the British Parliament.)
Motion (by. Mr. -Groom) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I support the urgent request of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. -Blakeley) to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. “Watt)’ that the Government should do something to assist the sale of our copper. 1 have in my electorate the Mount Morgan mine, which at one time was a great gold-producing concern, but which now produces large quantities of copper. The . sale of copper to the Home authorities covers only the short period to the end of October, and the position is very serious. I support the honorable member for Darling’s contention that, if the Home- authorities are not prepared to buy our output, the Australian copper producers should be permitted to make arrangements with allied countries for its sale to them. I believe that in Canada and the United- States of America the metal is now bringing about £140 per ton. If the Home authorities are not prepared to make a contract, there should no longer be an embargo placed on our copper producers. I hope the Government will cable as soon as possible to the Home authorities to see if they are prepared to take our output themselves, and, if not, to remove the embargo.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.9 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 September 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19180927_reps_7_86/>.