4th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs say when the return which was ordered by the Senate, relative to molasses, will be ready for production?
– I shall make inquiries, and let the honorable senator know during the course of the sitting.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral whether, in view of the fact that it has been of very great advantage to those who have to consult the Statutes to find that each Act is printed with all amendments up to date, any similar course has been taken in regard to the rules which are made under the different Statutes, and which’, in many instances, are amending rules; and, if not, whether he will draw the attention of his colleagues to the desirableness of adopting the same procedure with regard to such rules as is observed with regard to the Statutes?
– I shall bring the honorable- senator’s suggestion under the notice of my colleague.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
If he will afford the Senate an opportunity of considering the questions to be included in the forthcoming census papers before final approval is given to same?.’
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is -
The majority of the questions ere specified in section 6 of the Census and Statistics Act, passed by the Federal Parliament. The form to be used will be prescribed by regulation, which will be laid on the table of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
If he will supply this Senate with information as to the present state of progress in the preparation of the official map of the Commonwealth?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is -
Owing to difficulties which had arisen and were delaying the progress of the work, it wasfound desirable to send an officer to the various States of the Commonwealth to explain exactly what was required and prevent any superfluous, work being done. This officer has completed his visits, and the map is now being proceeded with as expeditiously as possible ; but the nature of the work is at present such that it cannot be advanced very rapidly. Three draftsmen are now engaged. This number will be increased to fourin the near future, and at a later date it will be possible to employ extra draftsmen on the work.
MINISTERS laid upon the table thefollowing papers -
Reports by the Director of Fisheries on. Cruises of F.I.S. Endeavour in Queensland waters for the periods 6th to 19th July, 1910,, and 26th July to 9th August, 1910.
Lands -Acquisition Act 1906. - Richmond, New South Wales : Field Ambulance Depdt. - Notification of the Acquisition of Land for Site.
Defence Acts 1903-1904. - Financial and Allowance Regulations for the Military Forces of the Commonwealth. - New Regulation 88 (b) (Provisional). - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 73.
Regulations (Provisional) for the Military Forces of the Commonwealth -
Amendment of Regulations 143, 151, 170,. 188, 196, 302, and 469.- Statutory Rules 1910, No. 74.
Amendments of Regulation 199. - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 76.
Amendment of Regulation 141. - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 77.’
Public Service Act 1902. - Documents in connexion with the promotion of Mr. Herbert Siddons Norris to the position of Clerk, 3rd Class, Clerical Division, ‘Accounts Branch, Department, of Defence, Sydney. - Documents in connexion with the promotion ‘of Mr. Ernest Pringle Ramsay to the position of. Inspector, 3rd Class, Clerical Division. Relieving, Postmaster. General’s Department; New South Wales.
Bill presented by Senator Pearce, and read a first time.
Message received from the House of Representatives stating that it had agreed to the Senate’s amendment No.1 and disagreed to amendment No. 2.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Message No. 9of the House of Representatives, in reference to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, being at once considered and all consequent action taken.
In Committee :
Clause 7 -
Section twenty-seven of the principal Act is amended -
by omitting therefrom the words “ or by leave of the President,” and by inserting after the words “counsel or solicitor “ the words “ or paid agent.”
Senate’s Amendment. - At the end of clause add- “and
House of Representatives’ Message.-
Amendment disagreed to.
– I move -
That the Committee does not insist on the amendment.
– The reasons for the other House disagreeing with our amendment have not been circulated.
– The reasons have just been read by the Chairman.
– Oh, but we want them printed.
– The honorable senator knows that the object of the Government in getting a suspension of the Standing Orders was to avoid the necessity for printing the reasons, and the consequent delay of a day. in dealing with the matter.
– We do not want slipshod legislation.
– It will be remembered that in Committee the VicePresident of the Executive Council moved to add to the clause the words relative tothe exclusion of a counsel or solicitor from the Arbitration Court. The reason why he proposed the amendment was that there was a doubt in the minds of a number of members of Parliament, both here and elsewhere, as to whether, in endeavouring to exclude lawyers from arbitra tion cases, the other House had not gone a step further and excluded a class of persons whose presence is very desirable in the conduct of such cases. I refer to the paid secretaries and other officials of the unions. On further reflection, however, the AttorneyGeneral and his Department have expressed the opinion . that the amendment which was made in the clause carried out the purpose of excluding lawyers from the Court, but did not exclude the secretaries and other officials of unions who might be paid agents and appear in that capacity before the Court. Accepting that view, the other House felt that our amendment was unnecessary, and consequently disagreed to it.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [3.15].- Tt is quite refreshing to find the Minister of Defence executing such a volte face. I would point out that this proviso was not inserted at the instance of the Opposition or of a Government supporter, but was proposed by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and the Government now tell us very coolly that they have discovered that it was wrong to take that step. Of course, they have attempted to show that what they want has been provided for. I ask honorable senators to realize how carelessly our legislation is prepared, and to reflect upon the slipshod methods which are resorted to by the Government. The amendment which we are now asked not to insist upon was not suddenly proposed at the long sitting which we had on Thursday last, but was placed on the contingent notice-paper after having received much consideration and thought ; and with the approval of the Government, it was adopted. Two or three days later, however, the Minister of. Defence very coolly tells us that the Government have reconsidered the position, and do..not think the proviso is necessary.
– It may have been slipshod when it was proposed, but it cannot be that now.
– It is just as likely to be slipshod now as it was then. On the third reading of the Bill, on Friday last, it waspointed out very strongly from this side what the effect of the amendment would be.
– Are not second thoughts often best?
– Very, often, and, apparently, the Minister of Defence thinks so in this case. At the instance of the other House, and without offering any cogent or sufficient reasons, the Government have asked honorable senators opposite to swallow all that they did two or three days ago. The other day we pointed out what the effect of the proviso would be. They said then that they would not allow counsel to appear on behalf of any organization, even with the leave of the President of the Court, but they now say that that was a little too stringent, and they will make provision so that any members of unions, although they may happen to be in the legal profession, shall be able to appear on their behalf before the Court. It was stated the other day that, unless a man was a bond fide member of a union, that is to say, a worker, he could not appear before the Court, but, I point out that the rules can allow any person to become a member of an organization. The Registrar has no power to disallow a rule of that character. He can only disallow a rule which is shown to be contrary to the law. I congratulate the Government upon the way in which they have dealt with the Senate in connexion with this Bill. In the first instance, they asked for one thing, and now they ask for another. I should like to know what reasons, if any, were advanced in the other House against our amendment? Did any section of that House propose an amendment, by means of which persons, who might take advantage of the proviso, would not be able to get special remuneration for their services ? Was such a proposal made as would have enabled a secretary of a union, as one did some little time ago, to charge ^5 5s. a day for time spent in attending the Arbitration Court during the hearing of a matter of interest to his union? Was it pointed out that secretaries of unions getting a salary of ^3 per week, as I understand is paid to the secretary of an important union in New South Wales for devoting the whole of his time to its interests, might receive additional remuneration for attendance at the Arbitration Court?
– The honorable sena.lOt is taking up a strange attitude; he did not approve of this proviso before.
.- I wish to show now the inconsistency of the Government. If the proviso was a good one a few days ago, it ought to be a good one to-day.
– The honorable senator did not think it a good one a few days ago. Why is he objecting to the motion t
– I do not consider it a good proviso now; but I am directing attention to the way in which trie business of the Senate is being conducted. It is calculated to make us a laughing-stock to people outside. The Minister of Defence says that upon reconsideration the Government find that clause 7 and the original section will be all right without this proviso. Section 27 of the existing Act reads -
On the hearing or determination of any industrial dispute an organization may be represented by a member or officer of any organization, and any party not being an organization may be represented by an employe of that party ; but no party shall (except by consent of all the parties or by leave of the President) be represented by counsel or solicitor.
In clause 7 of this Bill, the section was amended by the omission of the words ‘ ‘ or by leave of the President,” and by the addition of the words “ paid agent.” So that no organization could be represented by counsel, solicitor, or paid agent, except by consent of all the parties. We added the proviso to which the House of Representatives has disagreed, and we are now told that the clause will be all right without it. If a gentleman occupying a high Ministerial position happens to be a member or officer of an organization, he is to be in a position to appear in the Arbitration Court for that organization, although he may be a counsel or solicitor.
– The same applies to the other side.
– A party not being an organization may be represented by an employe of the party, even though he should happen to be a counsel or solicitor, and it is assumed that a counsel or solicitor who is a member of an organization, or an employ^ of a party appearing before the Court, shall not come within the prohibition of section 27, as amended by clause 7 of this Bill, and shall not be considered to be a counsel or solicitor. I ask the Government whether this is the way in which legislation should be passed? We shall have other Bills presented to us during the session; amendments upon them submitted by the Government will be accepted in good faith by the phalanx behind them, and a few days later they will be told that they are unnecessary and undesirable, when no doubt they will say that they are quite satisfied. The Government will have given them a dose of physic, and a day or two later will administer an emetic to get rid of its possible effects.
– Is it not a good thing occasionally to take a dose of physic?
– Not if it is necessary to take an emetic afterwards to avert its effects. If a man takes a dose of poison, an emetic taken immediately afterwards is very useful. Honorable senators opposite were invited to swallow a dose of poison, and lest injury should be sustained by them, or the organizations they represent, the Government today administer an emetic. Are we to have in the position of Ministers of the Crown men who will give so little care and attention to the business of Parliament as to lead honorable senators into undesirable positions from which it becomes necessary to extricate them later? If this is the way in which legislation is to be carried on by a Labour Government, people may well say, “ God protect the country from this kind of administration and leadership !”
– I think the Minister of Defence ought to have paid a well deserved compliment to the Opposition in this matter, because they pointed out the futility of the proviso upon which we are now asked not to insist. Notwithstanding that the Government determined to have it inserted in the Bill, in another place, the good sense of the Opposition in the Senate has been recognised, and honorable senators opposite are now asked to go back upon their previous action. I regard the motion as a compliment to the Opposition, and am glad that the Minister of Defence has moved that the Committee do not insist upon its amendment.
– I also have much pleasure in supporting the motion to rescind the amendment which we made in this Bill at the instance of Ministers. The Government kept us up all night in forcing us to agree to it. Honorable senators will recollect that the VicePresident of the Executive Council stated distinctly that he would accept no amendments upon the proposals of the Government. I am pleased to learn that it is now acknowledged that the contention of the Opposition in this matter was right.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported and adopted.
– In the absence of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, through illness, and at his request, I move -
In order to give effect to that motion the Government propose to embody the following conditions-
– In an Act?
– No, in the resolution.
– Why not include then* in an Act?
– As they will be stated here, it is not considered necessary to embody them in an Act of Parliament.Honorable senators are aware that we have entered into a mail contract for over £250,000 a year upon a simple resolution of Parliament.
– And a contract.
– It is the resolutionof Parliament which binds the contract.
– Does not Parliament approve of it?
– Yes, in exactly the same way as we are asking Parliament to approve of this. The difference is only that in the mail contract we may be dealing with millions of money, whilst in this motion we. are dealing with only £6,000.
– But it will be competent for the Government to alter these conditions from . time to time?
– Once an agreement has been made with any Association under this motion it will not be competent for the Government to vary the conditions. I remind honorable senators that, when a mail contract is submitted to Parliament for ratification, if Parliament insists upon an alteration of its terms, the alteration must be made.
– A mail contract is carried out under a law.
– Mail contracts, as Senator Fraser knows well, are made subject to ratification by Parliament. What is proposed is a subsidy of £2,500 for the first year, . £2,000 for the second year, and £1,500 for the third year, to be payable on compliance with the following conditions, to one existing Australian Cable Press Association, having articles of association or rules for its management which are approved by the Minister. These are the conditions -
This is the schedule -
Maximum Annual Charge in respect of Metropolitan Newspapers : -
Maximum annual charge in respect of newspapers in the chief provisional cities, £200.
Maximum annual charge in respect of newspapers in minor cities and towns, £50.
The charges set out in this Schedule are in addition to any cost involved in transmission charges incurred within the Commonwealth.
These are the other conditions which must be complied with -
This motion deals with a matter which has attracted my interest for many years. I am pleased that we are at last in a position in which we can do something to break up the monopoly that has existed for so long.
– The honorable senator cannot call it a monopoly.
-I can, and I shall prove that it is a monopoly, which has existed for many years, in the supply of oversea news to Australia. It is a monopoly which, I venture to say, has been harmful in its effects and oppressive in its methods of operation. It has had the effect of preventing the free dissemination of news, and of rendering Australia absolutely dependent upon one source for its news of the outside world. The people of this country have had no guarantee that news was not coloured and seasoned to suit the political taste of those who sent it.
– Will there be any such guarantee under this proposal ?
– There will be the guarantee of competition ; the guarantee that we shall have two sources of news, and will be able to compare the one with the other. Previous to the establishment of the monopoly, there was’ more than one association for the supply of news, and there was then a better guarantee that the people of Australia learned the truth as to what was taking place elsewhere than there has been under the existing monopoly.
– The honorable senator speaks of competition ; are we to understand that persons interested in the present cable service will be able to avail themselves of this proposal if they comply with the conditions?
– Certainly they will ; but, if they do, the power of the monopoly will be gone. The conditions here proposed are very different from those imposed upon their subscribers by the existing Press Cable Service Association. Their subscribers are bound hand and foot. Not only are they placed in such a position that if they wished to do so they could not form another association, but- if one were formed, they could not avail themselves of any news supplied by it, no matter how valuable or interesting.
– The honorable senator thinks that competition is a good thing sometimes ?
– In private enterprise competition is certainly better than monopoly. No honorable senator on this side has ever contended otherwise. We have always contended, and still contend, that the only safe monopoly is a State monopoly. Under a State monopoly, the rights of the community are safeguarded, whereas under a private monopoly it is the interests of those who control it that are safeguarded, whilst the interests of the people are exploited. The Senate last year appointed a Select Committee to investigate this question. I had the honour to be Chairman of that Committee. We were regaled with some very interesting evidence, but we found that whenever an attempt is made to investigate the proceedings of a monopoly, a number of people who will give information in the privacy of one’s office do not dare to give the same information to a Select Committee or a Royal Commission. We were, however, fortunate enough to be able to examine some gentlemen who had been the victims of this cable monopoly, but who had gone out of the newspaper business. I am going to quote from the evidence of one of them, Mr. James Bell, who was, until lately, the proprietor of the Geelong Times. His evidence will be found on page 41 of the report. He stated that he was proprietor of the Geelong Times until June, 1909. The newspaper referred to is a daily morning journal. Mr. Bell said -
I became connected with the Geelong Times newspaper, and remained its proprietor until June of this year . . . covering a period of some twenty-three years.
So that this cannot be said to be ancient history. It is very modern -
In 1885and 1886, and previously to those years, ….
There was competition then - the charge for cable service was £128 per annum. This was at the time when the press cabling was at the rate of either 3s. 6d. or 4s. a word. The £128 fee prevailed, I think, until 1888, when it was reduced to £100 per annum
Competition still prevailed - in the meantime, the Cable Company had reduced their charge to about 2s. 3d. a word for press messages. Of course, I am speaking from memory. In about the year1900, when press messages were only required to pay1s. 4d. per word, the telegraphic cable service to us was increased to £125 per annum.
The monopoly was now coming on the scene.
– Was the monopoly on the scene then?
– It was coming -
It remained at that until about three years ago, when we were made to pay an extra £50 a year- or in all £175- although the Cable Company had reduced their charge in 1902 to 1s. per word. It will thus be seen that, notwithstanding the lowering of press messages by cable by over 400 per cent., the charge to us was increased by 75 per cent.
– How could the charge be reduced by over 400 per cent. ?
– It was reduced from 4s. to1s. a word.
– That is not 400, but 75, per cent.
– The witness went on -
It has been stated before your Committee that the Association’s service includes Inter-State items. That is perfectly correct ; but so paltry and insignificant were these items that a newspaper proprietor would hardly place value on them at all. In my own case I rarely used the matter supplied -
That is to say the monopoly brought forward as an excuse for their treatment of country newspapers that in addition to the cable service they were supplying InterState news, which this newspaper proprietor says he did not want at all -
It my own case, I rarely used the matter supplied, and when I did so it was only done in order to fill up. Newspaper proprietors throughout the Commonwealth stand in the not very enviable position of being completely under the control of the- “ Combine,” a capitalistic monopoly which has the power either to raise the price for the service to such an exorbitant extent, or refuse to sell the service ; and therefore it follows that the Association could crush out of existence any desired journal. It is no argument to say that the power has never been used. The fact still remains - it could be done. It exists. It puts a dangerous power in the hands of a monopoly such as the United Cable Service Company is. With such a possibility hanging over their heads it will be difficult for your Committee to get newspaper proprietors to give evidence for fear of reprisals.
The witness was further examined as follows : -
Had you continued to be a newspaper proprietor should you have been willing to come forward ? - I should have hesitated. Perhaps I should have had to pay for it if I did. That is my opinion.
You had personal knowledge of the matters to which you had been referring, while you were proprietor of the newspaper? - I was owner, manager, and editor. The paper was under my own control for twenty-two years.
One of the methods by which this monopoly exercises this power is contained ir. Article 9. of its Articles of Association, which I will read -
That no messages shall be supplied to the proprietary of any newspaper published either in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, or Brisbane other than in respect of the newspapers mentioned in this agreement without the unanimous consent of the parties hereto.
– Is it not in existence? I shall have a few words to say on that point directly.
– Mr. Batchelor said, in. the House of Representatives, that the condition was not in existence.
– I have something to say, in addition to what Mr. Batchelor said. . Article 9 concludes -
Except to the proprietary of any evening newspaper or newspapers which may hereafter be published in Melbourne.
The sting of that condition is this : That the monopoly had the Melbourne Herald “ by the wool.” The Herald is not a member of the Association. But, whilst the Association says, “ There shall be no competitors with us,” they still reserve to themselves the right to bring in a few competitors to the Herald, which is merely a subscriber to the service. I come to the statement of Senator Gould that Article 9 has been repealed. That statement was made before the Select Committee by the Chairman of the Press Association. But, when I drew his attention, on his second appearance before tine Committee, to the fact that that agreement was still in existence, and was still a legal agreement, and to the further fact that, until that legal agreement was superseded by another legal agreement, Article 9 had the force of law, he could not deny that that was so. Whilst the Press Association’s advocates say that they have waived this condition relating to the consent of all the parties, the fact remains that no other agreement has yet been reduced. I invite the honorable senator, if he knows of another agreement having been entered into, to let it see the light of day. As far as the Select Committee were aware, no other agreement had been brought into existence up to the time that the Committee presented its report. Vet the statement is made that the Association has waived the condition contained in Article 9. There is no proof of that as sertion; and when there is a legal agreement in existence, if I am a party to it, I shall want to see any alteration made in a legal way before I shall be satisfied.
– Even supposing that the combine has waived Article 9, there is nothing to prevent them bringing it into existence again to-morrow.
– Of course there is not. The same parties who brought Article 9 into existence could bring it into existence again to-morrow if they chose. I asked Mr. Mackinnon, the general manager of the Association, on the occasion of his second appearance as a witness (Question 1779) : -
There is only one other matter I desire to ask a question on. When you were giving evidence you made a statement in regard to the agreement which is the basis of the Australian Press Association, and you promised to put in a copy of that agreement, which you afterwards did, but you said the clause requiring the unanimous consent of the Press Association for the starting of a new daily paper in capital cities had by mutual consent been waived.
Mr. Mackinnon said
That is so. We agreed mutually. That agreement, of course, comes to an end next year, and we are now negotiating for a further agreement. In that further agreement there is no stipulation of that nature. So far as the present agreement is concerned we have agreed mutually to waive that clause. Therefore if I was dealing with a new paper applying for the service tomorrow, that clause would be inoperative. We are not taking the legal standing. That is absolutely agreed to between the members of the Association.
Then I asked-
So far as any legal document is concerned it is still in existence?
Mr. Mackinnon replied
That old agreement will cease to exist when the new agreement is signed.
I therefore -point out that, so far as the legal agreement is concerned, it continues to exist. No person has yet publicly produced the new agreement. What has happened under the agreement at present in force? We had the evidence of Lt.Colonel Reay, who is the managing editor of the Melbourne Herald, a newspaper which is the customer of the Association. He was examined (Question 738) as follows : - ‘
You have told us that the agreement binds you to accept no cables from any other source? - Yes, it precludes us from accepting any other cable service, but not from the publication of a message received privately, or messages that might he supplied by the Government. For instance, we publish every week the prices of the produce markets, sent by the State AgentGeneral.
But you cannot go behind the back of the Association and obtain cables from another source? - No. When I was in South Africa during the war I had to rely entirely on letters. 1 could not send any cables. Similarly when I was in London during the last Imperial Conference - when Mr. Deakin represented the Commonwealth - I could not send cables. I had to rely upon letters again.
And the newspapers which are the cause of this kind of thing are the journals that tell the public how anxious they are to strengthen the silken bonds of Empire, and to bring the outlying portions of it into close touch with each other. These are the gentlemen in whose leading articles one reads high-sounding phrases about “ the glorious Empire upon which the sun never sets.” They have such a love for it that they will only permit news from one portion of the Empire to another to circulate through their own office ; and when a newspaper is so enterprising as to send a correspondent to a war, or to London during an important Conference, this company, composed largely of these platitudinarian Imperialists, say, “ No Imperialism unless we make a profit out of it.”
– It is only fair to say that Mr. Mackinnon told us, in answer to a question, that he did not care a straw for Imperialism, but that what a newspaper proprietary cared about was profit. .
– That was a very interesting portion of his evidence. We had, as a member of the last Parliament, Mr. Dobson, who entertained strong feelings with regard to strengthening the “silken ties.” He is a great advocate for Imperial unity. Mr. Dobson never had such a shock in his life as when he heard Mr. Mackinnon say that he did not regard this matter from an Imperial point of view at all, but merely from the point of view of business. With him it was not a question of Imperialism, but purely a question of profit, and he made it plain that he was going to deal with it on strictly business lines. Of course, I am not dealing with Mr. Mackinnon as an individual, but as manager of this Press Association. I could go on quoting case after case from the evidence given before the Select Committee - notwithstanding the difficulties that existed - showing that this Association, having the power, used it ; and the Committee reported to the Senate that, in their opinion, the condition of affairs was by no means satisfactory. They said, in paragraph 26 of their report -
Your Committee are of opinion that the present position is undesirable and detrimental tothe public interest, because it -
Makes it extremely difficult, if not absolutely impossible, for new and competing newspapers to obtain a Cable Service at a reasonable rate.
Gives an imperfect Cable Service, and does not give sufficient news of the various parts of the Empire.
Retards, by its costliness, the spread of knowledge and world’s news amongst the people.
Makes it difficult for the provincial press to establish or maintain an effective supply of cables, and thus tends to centralize power and influence in a few metropolitan journals.
Senator Fraser interjected just now that the Association is not a monopoly. That argument was repeatedly urged when the Select Committee was dealing with the matter. It was asked, “ What is there to prevent halfadozen other newspapers from forming a combine? “
– What is there to prevent them?
– I am going to tell the honorable senator what there is to prevent them. First of all, you have the most powerful and most influential journals of Australia forming the Association itself. Secondly, those influential journals not in the Association are bound to the Association by contracts, all of which expire at different dates. The agreements do not expire together. By reason of that fact they are precluded from joining any other Association. The great bulk of the newspapers - so far as concerns the metropolitan cities - are precluded for the reason I have stated, and the others which might form the nucleus of a powerful organization, are precluded, because they are bound by contracts, the penalty for breaking which is upwards of £1,000.
– The newspapers were bitterly hostile to each other for years, and they came together by sheer force of common sense.
– But their combination was not in the public interests.
– Yes, certainly it was.
– It is not in the public interest that Australia should be controlled by any one set of individuals in regard to the dissemination of news from the outside world. We want to know the truth about both sides of every question.
– Both sides are given now.
– But in respectto news from the outside world, the newspapers speak with one voice, and the news is acquired in one way. This Association, so far as the subsidiary newspapers are concerned, exercises complete control. You cannot find any two newspapers anywhere in Australia, whose contracts end on the same date; so that you cannot go to any number of newspapers, and find them not prevented by the existing agreement from joining any other Association.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that a wealthy proprietary like the Bulletin could not get cables of its own?
– The Bulletin docs not use cables. It is a weekly newspaper. I presume that cables would be of no use to it. It has been said that the scheme put forward by the Government is simply intended to subsidize Labour journals. 1 give that statement a most emphatic contradiction. I do not suppose, that my assertion will carry conviction to those who made the statement.
– It is a malicious lie who ever says it. .
– The facts are, and the conditions set forth show, that any newspaper can enter an Association formed as the result of this subsidy ; there is no limit to any particular set of newspapers. The very newspapers constituting the old Association-the monopoly - can come into the new Association if they so desire. As the Labour newspapers are in a hopeless minority throughout Australia, the proposal cannot be for their benefit. There are some States in which there is no daily Labour newspaper; and daily newspapers are the only newspapers which use cables. ‘I believe that the only States in which there are daily Labour newspapers are New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania. There is no daily Labour newspaper in Victoria, nor is there one in Queensland, nor in Western Australia.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - The Labour party are going to alter that state of things, are they not?
– They have been trying to alter the conditions of affairs for the last fifteen years, but with very little success. Furthermore, I would point out that a large number of the newspapers that are outside the Association are bitterly opposed to the Labour party in politics. For instance, the witness from whose evidence I have quoted, Mr. James Bell, did not conduct a Labour newspaper. Nobody who has read the Geelong Times will say that it is favorable to the Labour party, lt has never been known as a Labour supporter. Take the Country Press Association of New South Wales, which serves the largest provincial newspapers in that State. Will honorable senators say that that Association is run by the Labour party? They know that the principal newspapers in the Provincial Press Association of New South AVales fought the Labour party bitterly at the last election, as they do at every election. Yet they have been very strenuously endeavouring to get some relief from the old Cable Association. Therefore, I say that this proposal is not intended by the Government for the purpose of subsidizing daily Labour newspapers. Secondly, I maintain that in this matter we are only doing what Canada has already done, and for a similar purpose. Canada found that its cabled news was coming from one source only, and that a tainted source. Its news came through New York, where it was coloured to suit American, and not British, ideas. Therefore, Canada, in order to assist in the development of its territory, and to secure more news of a better class, provided a subsidy almost on the lines which we now propose.
– There was a little justification for Canada’s action; but there is no such anomaly here.
– We submit that there is an absolute justification here, and for a similar reason. I do not intend to labour the subject. I ask honorable senators to continue the debate on the motion, because it is not like a Bill containing a number of clauses.
– I regret that Senator Millen is absent through. ill health; and so is unable to follow Senator Pearce’s interesting speech. I do not feel called upon to defend the Press Cable Association. That is their business; and they can defend themselves if they feel aggrieved. I think that Senator Pearce did not treat them altogether fairly when he stated that it was no argument to say that certain conditions in the contract have not been enforced. We have had a similar statement from the other side. When we have mentioned certain rules of trade unions we have been told that they have never been enforced. That is not altogether a fair way of treating the Association. Of all the witnesses who were examined by the Select
Cornmittee, the Minister has quoted the evidence of practically only one, and that is a gentleman who, for twenty-two years, was manager or editor of the Geelong Times, and who summed up the horrors of his position after years of trouble with the statement that when he left the newspaper he had to pay £175 a year to the Association.
– The others were afraid to speak.-
– They may have been. Now that the scale has been reduced the maximum of £200 could be charged. Surely Geelong is not going to be put down as a small provincial town. It is a matter of regret that this proposal is submitted in this form. The Senate is asked to carry a motion, and on a separate slip’ we find a number of conditions which we are. told will be embodied in any contract which may be made. I want to know whether, before it becomes effective, the contract will be submitted to Parliament for approval. If that course is not taken, it cannot be compared with the shipping subsidy contract to which the Minister alluded. There arc so many details in the motion, and in the conditions laid down on a separate paper, that I think, it would be very much better that the question should be discussed, if necessary, in the Parliament, instead of a secret contract being made between the Government and a Cable Association. I venture to say that the evidence which was collected by the Select Committee rather surprised the gentleman who moved for its appointment. I think it will be found that there is not sufficient evidence to show that the Government should take a new line of action, that we should go out of our way to subsidize a private trading concern, an association which will have the right to sell its goods, and, so far as I can see, is going to sell them in some cases under cost price, when the public will have to find the money to enable them to do so.
– Just now, the honorable senator said that they were going to charge more.
-I said that, in some cases, they would. Take, for instance, the case of a metropolitan daily. According . to Mr. Wynne, the Sydney Daily Telegraph pays £1,300 a year for about 5,000 words per week. It is now suggested that if that newspaper likes to go to the new Association and take the news which they will supply, it will be able to get 6,000 words per week for £1,000.
As regards the provincial press, evidence was given before the Select Committee that the Ballarat and Bendigo newspapers pay £200 a year. That is what is proposed in the new scheme. The smaller provincial newspapers are to be charged a maximum of £50 a year. The evidence given before the Select Committee, in half-a-dozen places, was that the usual charge to such newspapers was from £4 to £50, according to the number of limes they published during the week. If the real desire is, as is stated in one document, to supply a greater amount of news to the city and provincial press, then I say that what we ought to do is first to render some assistance to the provincial press. A letter was addressed by the Select Committee to numerous newspapers throughout Australia, and a large number of replies were received. According to the replies, nine newspapers definitely complained of ‘the transmission charges. A number of other newspapers complained of the cost of the cable service, and said it was necessary to have a reduction in the rates. A typical reply came from the Barrier Miner, of Broken Hill, which was summarized, by a sub-committee, in these terms -
Thinks charge merely nominal and cable service efficient. Cost of cables not nearly 2½ per cent, of our total cost, and it costs us three or four limes as much to get cables from Sydney to broken Hill as for London service. If rates abolished, if doubled amount so small we would notice no difference.
A newspaper called the Macleay Chronicle, and published at Kempsey, in New South Wales, replied -
Lately contemplated direct supply from Reuter, but abandoned idea owing to uncertainty of telegraphic service from Sydney, which is too slow. If telegraphic service improved, thinks almost every country journal go in for direct service if cable rate reduced.
The Daily Telegraph, of Launceston, in Tasmania, said -
Service a very good one, and think very little Home news of interest available to Tasmanian people not cabled from London. We do not think reduction in cost likely to induce only country newspaper published in Tasmania which does not now receive cables to take them ; nor do we think reduction lead to establishment of other newspapers. Agreement of T.P.A. with A.P.A. precludes cable monopoly in Tasmania.
These are typical of the replies which came from a large number of newspapers, whose main complaint was against the excessive land cost.
– Those three replies are not typical. The honorable senator has taken the three most extreme replies which he could find in the evidence.
– I took the fullest replies on the subject, and I hold that they are typical of the complaints made by a large number of newspapers. The honorable senator elicited evidence from one gentleman to the effect that the land charges were a very serious imposition on the country press. Mr. Shakespeare gave evidence that the land charges represented 65 per cent, of the cost of the cable and telegraphic service to the newspaper. Again, Mr. Waddell, who is manager of the Victorian Country Press Co-operative Company, said, in reply to Senator Neild - 899. Then I understand, from your point of view, the country press is not very keenly interested in the matter of cables, as first of all a great deal of the news cabled is not of interest to their readers. Is that so? - That is so. goo. Secondly, the cost of the cables per se is of less moment to the country press than the cost of transmission of the news in question over the land lines? - That is so. 901. Those are the two leading features that affect the wish for or against cable news in the country papers? - That is so.
– The land charges cover a large volume of Inter-State news, which has nothing whatever to do with cables.
– Surely these gentlemen knew their own business. Mr. Shakespeare, who is secretary of the New South Wales Country Press Association, gave this evidence in reply to myself - 1055. What proportion of the 1,000 provincial newspapers which you mentioned would be prepared to pay the land charges to get through cable messages from Sydney or wherever the news was landed in Australia? - They would all be prepared to have some look in at the service, some of them taking 100 and some 200 words; but very few would do so at present rates. . In New Zealand the charge is 6d. per 100 words. The result is that cable messages get into the smallest paper. It is 6d. for every twenty-five here, with is. 6d. for the first 100. That shows a vast difference. Our people have to take in a lot of State and Inter-State news, and the terminal charges is certainly a big handicap in the dissemination of information.
Previously 1 tried to ascertain from Mr. Shakespeare the proportion which the transmission charges bore to the agency charges - 102 1. Do you know of your own knowledge what provincial papers have to pay who take the cable news? - At the time I speak of I was conducting a newspaper at Condobolin, in this State, when Reuter sent along the letter to which I referred, asking me £10 a year for a 200-words message once a week. Their present rate is £6 to £10 for a weekly service, up to £52 for a daily service to far inland papers. I have never known any paper in New South Wales to receive a separate cable service for £4 per annum. That may be the case in Victoria, but I do not think it is in New South Wales. Anyway, I could not get it. 1022. Does that service include Inter-State? - No. I make bold to say that no office receiving cables first hand with Inter-State charge, would supply the news for £4 a year. I think in the evidence they said they give them the published cables and Inter-State. That might be. No thanks to them. They are of no value. But I say I do not think any paper in Australasia receives cables first-hand at £4 a year. 1023. What is your opinion of the charges from £10 to £$2 a year for the service they receive? - Our people do not grumble at them. At the present time I have a heap of letters from people in the country in reference to the questions submitted by the Chairman of this Committee. In every case they have asked me to attend to them. They did not care to answer the Committee’s inquiry, through fear of being drawn into it. If they expressed any satisfaction whatever it might have the effect of increasing their charges. Their trouble is that two papers come out each morning with the same news.
The evidence which I propose to quote from other witnesses is to show that they complained not so much of the prices, for it is not seriously argued that the country press are complaining so much of the agency charges as of the heavy transmission charges. I pointed out just now that, under the proposed arrangement, the provincial press in small cities and towns, which, I take it, will include hamlets, are not to be charged more than £50 a year, which is practically what they are now charged. Newspapers in large provincial cities are to be charged £200 a year, and no Inter-State news is to be supplied for that sum. Before the Select Committee, Mr. Mackinnon, manager of the Melbourne
Argus, gave the following evidence in reply to the Chairman - 334. I notice that your Association charges the Ballarat Courier and the Bendigo Independent £200 per annum? - That is Reuter’s arrangement.
In each State the principal agent of the Association supplies the daily press all over the State, and another body in Queensland, called the Provincial Press Agency, supplies all the smaller newspapers. Consequently, if the proprietor of a small provincial newspaper asks the Brisbane Courier to supply him with a cable and Inter-State service, he is told to go to the Provincial Press Agency. During the inquiry by the Select Committee, a case cropped up where a man stated that he- had been refused a cable service by the Press Cable Association, and told to go to Reuter. He said that it was of no use for him to go there, because Reuter was only the agent of the Press Cable Association. 335. Under that agreement? - Yes. May I add, because it is important that this should be impressed upon the Committee, that that payment is not for the cable news only, but covers the whole of the Inter-State news supplied to those papers. 336. Mr. Collins explained that? - But it is important to bring strongly before the Committee the fact thatReuter’s are assisted to get those papers that information by having the whole of the Argus Inter-State news placed at their disposal.
Of course, Mr. Bell said that the InterState news was such rot that he did not feel inclined to publish it. That is, I think, very much a matter of opinion.
– He did not use those words.
– No, he said that the items were of so little interest that they were worthless. It was the same thing in other words. As I have pointed out, so far as the actual charges proposed are concerned, the provincial press and small newspapers will not get their news any cheaper under this proposal than they have been able to get it before, whilst the big citv dailies will be able to get something like 20 per cent, more news for 25 per cent, less money.
– No. they cannot do so, thev are under a bond.
– They could break the bond if they thought they could get a better service. Reference has been madeto the Canadian suhsidy, and it is suggested that we have in that a precedent for this proposal. Mr. Shakespeare on that point gave the following evidence -
You can say nothing of the conditions as regards sale which the Canadian Government lays down in return for their subsidy? - There is only one provision as far as I know, and that is, the news they subsidize must be Empire pews.
You used the words “ Empire news,” and then began to talk about foreign countries. Would that not be foreign news, or does Empire news mean really to Great Britain and her dependencies? - Yes; they do not subsidize news from foreign countries.
If there is anything in this proposal, the intention is to subsidize news from America and other foreign countries. If this subsidy were confined to Empire news I might be more inclined to support it, and the Minister would have less cause, or shall I say more justification, to gibe at the daily newspapers who look upon the news paper business as a business concern, and not as a means of strengthening the silken bonds we were told about. Mr. Waddell, manager for the Country Press Association, was asked -
What is your opinion ? - Supposing another Association were started to send news from England to here, the news must come from the one source, and so far as I can see, the cable news is very full at the present time, sir. In fact I know a good deal of the news cabled is of very little interest to the ordinary country newspaper man. They only want matters of extreme public interest, such as what has transpired lately in the Imperial Parliament, the disaster in Jamaica, or any wreck.
Mr. Shakespeare, in reply to Senator Findley, gave this evidence -
You also say, “ By taking up any London paper on a given day and comparing the news with that cabled out, it will at once be seen how much of really first-class news is missed, and what class of matter is invariably chosen.” What kind of news is missed ? - All the minor events of England are missed.
That is the evidence of the representative of the Country Press Association of New South Wales, who gave the Committee a lot of valuable information. He had made inquiries, and probably knew as much of the working of the London office as any witness who came before the Committee. I am not going to accuse the Government of subsidizing a Labour Association at all. I leave that to persons possessed of a more vitriolic tongue than I have, but I do say that if we are going to subsidize a Press Association solely and entirely to get news of “minor events” transpiring in England, we shall be paying Very dearly for our whistle.
– Is that all Mr Shakespeare said on that point?
– Yes. We had a most interesting and amusing incident during the proceedings of the Select Committee; and this is one of the cases in connexion with which Mr. Shakespeare’s evidence was not so valuable. He described how the Press Cable Association and big newspapers often missed news. He reminded us that there was a time when the Sunday Times of Sydney ran its own cable service. He told us perfectly seriously that cables upon most important events during the South African war appeared in the Sunday Times before they were published in any other newspaper in Australia. He mentioned the relief of Mafeking, the news of which he said appeared in the Sunday Times something like eight days before it appeared in any other Australian newspaper. He mentioned also the Boxer rising, and one or two other important events. From his statements it did appear that it was absolutely necessary to have a service a little faster than that supplied by the apparently effete and slow combination which is supposed to be a monopoly.
– There was a member of the Opposition on the Sunday Times at that time.
– I do not know whether there was or not, but I know that a Mr. Cornford was on it, and he gave evidence before the Select Committee. He had been on the Sunday Times for a number of years, and he was asked about the matters referred to by Mr. Shakespeare. He gave the following evidence on the subject -
It has been stated, for instance, that your paper had news of the relief of Mafeking several days before the daily newspapers? - I do not think that was so. I do not remember it. 1 ask honorable senators to say whether any newspaper man who had managed to get such a “ scoop “ as the news of the relief of Mafeking before the Argus. Age, Sydney Daily Telegraph, and Sydney Morning Herald would be likely to forget the circumstance in a few years. He would remember it to his dying day. Mr. Cornford gave this further evidence -
And the same with regard to the murder of the German “Consul at Pekin? - We had that news first because it happened to arrive at London in time for our man to despatch it. We received the news on a ‘ Sunday morning while the daily papers did not get it till Monday.
Do they receive their cables on Monday? - I think so. .
Evidence has been given that they did not receive that news till a considerable number of days after your paper published it? - I hardly imagine that is correct. It was a very important thing.
Still your recollection is that on several occasions you got news earlier, even allowing for Sunday ? - Yea. 1 have read this to illustrate the way in which every possible effort was made to rake up evidence to show that the present service is inefficient and slow. No serious effort was made to prove that it is biased. I may relate a little personal experience of my own in the matter. For a number of years, and until I came here to attend this Parliament, I received regularly Canadian, Demerara, and South African papers, and I failed to find, with the exception of a large amount of news of only local interest, anything in the way of foreign news which could not be seen iti the Australian newspapers. To-day I had a look at the T Monto Globe in the
Library. It is a weekly newspaper, but it publishes what are alleged to be columns of cablegrams to which the initials S.C.P.A. are attached. I presume that the reference is to “ Subsidized Canadian Press Association.” I read them ‘ through, and except for a little padding and a little extra information as to the doings of the Imperial Parliament, I should say that, in respect of world-wide news, the Toronto Globe is not anything like as good as newspapers published in Austrafia. Mr. Cornford was asked this question -
Speaking as a pressman, ouside the combination, would it be of any advantage to you if another service were subsidized by the Government? - and his reply was -
Very little indeed. I think it would lead’ to duplication, and an expense which I do not think the country should be called upon to bear.
In the lace ot this evidence one might have expected that the Minister would give the. Senate some idea of the kind of news that is going begging all over the world, and which the combine declines to send to Australia.
– If the witness to whom the honorable senator has referred did not believe in an independent service, why did his- company have an independent service?
– I do not know. They had an independent service for five years, and evidently they then found it cheaper and better to subscribe to the combine. An extraordinary effort was made t<-< show that the work done in the collection of news was very inferior under the combine, and a Mr.’ Fitzgerald was induced to come along. Some years ago, how many I do not know, but I think it was about a quarter of a century ago, Mr. Fitzgerald was locum tenens for two or three weeks in the London office, and on the strength of the. experience he gained in that time he was called to tell the Committee how the London office was run, to explain that the officers there worked only from 3 to 5 every day, and that they received, I think it was, £600 a year each, He gave this evidence - 1748. By Senator Chataway. - Generally, you are of opinion that the service now is not as good as when you were in London? - It seems to be no belter than it was then.
I do not think that any honorable senator will deny that, with cheaper cable rates, increased printing facilities, and a larger market for the newspapers, the cable service to-day is very much better than it was twenty-five years ago, when Mr. Fitzgerald acted in the London office. Still be did not think the service was any better, If my memory serves me rightly, he objected to the news of the death of titled individuals being sent out. But when asked definitely what he thought would be the effect of a new service he said that another service would “ brighten things up a bit.”
– A good point, too.
– It is-; but apparently it is going to cost us £6,000. No serious evidence was given that , a new cable service, such as the Government propose to subsidize, would improve, to anyappreciable extent, the quality of the news received in Australia. It has been said that, if nothing else would justify the proposed subsidy, it is the fact that we have a monopoly, and that it must be broken up. The allegation is made that the combine has blocked the establishment of newspapers. Hints were thrown out by members of the Select Committee, in the course of examination, that the establishment of additional newspapers was being blocked, but no direct evidence was given by any one to show that the establishment of a particular newspaper had been blocked by the combine. Some evidence, however, was given to show that the establishment of newspapers was blocked for quite other reasons than the operations of the combine.
– We could not make the dead speak.
– We had one dead man speaking, and I shall read what he said directly. Mr. McMillan, who is a very live man, and has written a large amount of stuff on the cable service, including a very interesting and valuable pamphlet on the Eastern Extension Company, and another later to show that the only thing that would make things comfortable for the newspapers would be a reduction in the land charges, gave the following evidence before the Select Committee -
You referred to a paper you were about to establish yourself, but which did not come off because of the large cost of the cable service. Did you at that time actually make application to the cable syndicate ? - No ; because we had sense enough to see it would be foolish to do so.
You referred to the Bulletin Company publishing a paper. I take it that was the daily paper about to be established a short time ago? -
They were talking of establishing a daily paper, and. we were negotiating with them.
That paper was to take part in bringing out a cable from the Old Country by an independent source? - Yes.
Can you say if the reason for it being blocked was because they wanted to get cable messages from the syndicate? - We were not taking the syndicate into consideration at all.
Then the reason why the paper proposed to be published by the Bulletin Company was not started had nothing to do with the cable syndicate ? - No.
I remind honorable senators that we were told that the Bulletin does not want cables. In the face of this evidence, it has been suggested, by interjection and otherwise, over and over again, that the reason why this paper was not started was because the proprietors could not pay the enormous price which the Press Cable Association wanted for their news.
– Not the enormous price, but the absolute refusal of the syndicate to supply the news.
– No evidence was given to that effect, and the Press Cable Association was not communicated with.
– Because it was useless.
– Applications were made to the syndicate, and were refused.
– I am not very much concerned about the interjections of honorable senators. Senator Guthrie is prepared to say that sort of thing here, but there was nothing to prevent him going before the Select Committee and giving evidence.
– I was a member of the Committee, and could not give evidence.
– If - the honorable senator was so keen about the matter, he might have procured his discharge from the Committee in order that he might give evidence. Evidence was given to show that some- reason other than the operations of the combine operated to prevent the establishment of newspapers. On this subject, I quote the following from the evidence given by Mr. Shakespeare-
Is it not a fact it was proposed to establish a certain daily press at that time? - Yes.
Could you say why that fell through? -I would prefer Mr. Deakin to state that.
You cannot say as a fact they did not start, or were prevented from starting, because you could not get the.present press cable service? -
They never negotiated for it ; they considered it was absolutely useless.
As towhether it was absolutely useless you cannot say?- I can only say that I know the directors met and conferred on that very point, and considered that a new evening paper started in Sydney and Melbourne would be a feature of it. Having accommodation arranged in the London Times office, they would have first cut at all their news.
Then you do. know why they did not start it? -Yes.
You would prefer the Committee asking Mr. Deakin? - Yes ; certain members of his Cabinet could tell you why.
I should prefer to ask you why? - They could not put up enough “ brass.”
We have had sworn evidence that a reasonable service, such a.s would be required by an evening newspaper, could be supplied for about £6,000. Yet we are invited to believe that the Sydney Bulletin Company and the proprietors of the thousand provincial newspapers in Australia could not raise £6,000 to start an independent service. Lt.-Colonel Reay, when examined in reference to Mr. Mackinnon’s statement that the running cf a Press Cable Association was a business concern, gave the following evidence in answer, I think, to Senator Pearce -
He distinctly said that it was purely a matter of business. You say that in your opinion a new combination for cabling purposes could he formed. But is it not the case that it would he practically impossible to give effect to such an idea owing to the fact that the agreements of the newspapers with the Press Association expire on different dates?
That is one of the strong points which Senator Pearce tried to make. Lt.-Colonel Reay replied -
T have already expressed the opinion that it is practicable to give effect to the idea. I will now go further, and say that if we sent a cable message to our agent in London, and also a message to our bankers we should be furnished with another service in twenty-four hours.
Of course, Lt.-Colonel Reay is only a newspaper man, and, therefore, in the opinion of honorable members opposite, knows nothing about the subject. Those who have never been in a daily newspaper office in their lives can explain the subject thoroughly. In the report of the Select Committee the statement is made that -
Whilst the full power of the monopoly has not been used, it is there, and there is at present no check upon its use. There are none of the elements of free bargaining in the present position, and a dissatisfied newspaper has no recourse but to submit.
What element of free bargaining is there in this proposal?
– There will be a choice between two associations, instead of there being only one.
– Would the honorable senator say that we ought to split up employers and employes, and let each person bargain for himself? That is the last opinion that I would have expected from him.
– That is the honorable senator’s doctrine of freedom of contract.
– The honorable senator can safely leave my doctrine to me.
I am merely expressing surprise to hear such a contention from him. I say, however, that there is no element of free bargaining in this proposal, because the Association, when it is formed - indeed, it i> already- in existence - will not be compelled to give the subscribing newspapers more than one director. How much will one be able to do amongst so many on the controlling Board? The amount of “voice” which the provincial newspapers will have is not worth talking about. It is a farce to talk about restoring free bargaining. The conditions themselves are, in many respects, clumsy, and in so far as the subscribers are to have only one director, they are exceedingly illiberal. Amongst the conditions there is a provision that at least 6,000 words are to be transmitted in each week. No one who knows anything about a cable service will deny that, whilst during so important an event as the Coronation it may be necessary to cable many thousands of words, news may be slack in other weeks. But, under these conditions, the Association will be compelled to send out the 6.000 words per week, although they may have nothing but rubbish to send. During the Coronation week they may, however, want to send out 18,000 words, or more. I would urge the Government to give some elasticity to their conditions. ‘ The managers of the Association should not be tied down to send out so many words, week after week. I believe that the present combine gets out about 5,000 words per week. The average stated before the Select Committee was 4,950 words.
– I think that the number has been increased slightly, owing to a reduction in the rates.
– At any rate, there should be some elasticity, and the Association should not be compelled to bring out the same number of words every week, irrespective of the amount of news obtainable. 1 also think that it is a mistake to compel the new Association to use only the Pacific Cable. We had some evidence on that subject from Mr. Robert McMillan, a gentleman whom I consider to be an authority on cable business. He was examined as follows : -
You say the Pacific cable must have an alternative route before we can get a really reliable service, and expect a large and important newspaper to intrust it with their work ? - Yes.
Would it not be possible, if we had the Pacific cable completed across Canada and the Atlantic, with State-owned lines all the way, to enter into an arrangement with the Eastern Extension
Company, if that line broke down? - If they were very unselfish and good Christians they might, but I have my doubts.
Mr. McMillan gave useful evidence showing that the Eastern Extension Company practically controls the Atlantic cable lines; and he argued from that fact that if we had a service via the Pacific, the Eastern Extension Company might be able to block the messages between the United Kingdom and the United States.
– 1 do not think they could do that now.
– No new cable lines have been laid.
– The company would not do so.
– Perhaps they would not do so; but why tie the Association down to a particular route which may be less reliable and less speedy? A proposal was made before the Select Committee that the collection of news for this new Press Association should be made from Vancouver in order to avoid the use of the Atlantic cable. It was urged that from Vancouver we could collect news from Canada, United States, and Great Britain. Whether that proposal is in the mind of the independent Press Cable Association, I am not in a position to say; but I think the Government will be. wise if they make their contract a little more elastic in that respect. Why compel the Association to send their news over the Pacific cable, when the desire should be to enable them to work their system in the best manner possible? I do not want to see the new Association smashed up, and therefore I do not desire to have them hampered in their business. The argument has been used that the Pacific cable is a State-owned line, that the Commonwealth has subsidized it, and that therefore we ought to insist upon its use whenever we can. But when the profits or losses are divided amongst the contributing countries, it will be found that the £6.000’ which we are to pay in three years will give back very little indeed to the Commonwealth.
– Not so small an amount as the honorable senator thinks.
– Why does the honorable senator say that? We know what proportion of the loss Australia has to bear, and we know that Canada and. the United Kingdom have to bear a larger share than we have. Consequently, they will receive the larger proportion of the subsidy which we pay to the new Press Cable Association. Another point about this proposal that has not been recognised is that relating to the regulation of the charges that are to be made to country newspapers. It is not recognised that if you have a central receiving office in Sydney, Western Australia and Queensland newspapers will have to pay additional land charges over and above those made to the New South Wales press. Unless the Association establishes agencies in the other States, that will occur ; and the moment it establishes such agencies, the possibility of difficulty arises. The objection that I have to the present cable system is that it leads to something like sub-letting in the various States. The Brisbane Courier, I understand, acts for the present Cable Association in Queensland. The Courier lets out cable messages and Inter-State messages to the various Queensland newspapers. Whether there is a profit on this business. I do not know, but the probability is that the country newspapers would get their business done cheaper if they dealt directly with head-quarters. I, ‘as a country newspaper proprietor, have had to deal with the combine through the Brisbane Courier. My only complaint has been - and it was a complaint mentioned by a gentleman who was my partner, though without my knowledge, and I first saw the statement when it came before the Press Cable Service Committee - that the enormous overland charges which had to be paid by country newspapers are most oppressive to them. Our experience has been that for every £100 we paid in ordinary charges, we paid £300 for overland transmission. Honorable senators can imagine how such charges hit small newspapers in the country districts. Personally, I do not -believe that the subsidy to be paid to the new Association will be enough to achieve the purpose in view. The amount is only £6,000, spread over three years. Of course, I do not approve of the idea at all. Unlike Midshipman Easy’s nurse, I do not believe in saying, “lt is only a little one.” If a raid is to be made on the Treasury, it might as well be a big raid as a little one. The size of the sin does not matter ; it is the fact of the sin itself which is objectionable. As far as I can see. the proposal of the Government has not been justified by any evidence collected by the Select Committee, which dealt with the question. The Committee itself did not collect evidence from all parts of Australia. They had no Western Australian, Queensland, South Australian, or Tasmanian evidence.
– Mr. Collins’ evidence affected Queensland.
– I do not doubt that; but evidence from the newspapers in the other States was never obtained by the Committee. The proposal has been brought forward too hurriedly. The Government should have given more consideration to it. I am reminded that in 1906, Mr. Charles McDonald, the member for Kennedy in Queensland, was asked on the election platform how he proposed to bring about the nationalization ot monopolies, and he said, “The Government will start other industries which will run the monopolies out.” Here we have evidence that the Government entertain the idea that by this proposal they are going to” run out “ private enterprise in regard to newspapers. I venture to say that the people of the Commonwealth will not approve of such a proposal.
– One can hardly understand why honorable senators opposite are objecting to this small expenditure of £6,000. Surely they recognise the fact that Australia is already subsidizing private enterprise to a much larger degree. Wall it be contended for a moment that the amount which the Commonwealth receives for the transmission of newspaper messages over the land wires represents anything like the cost of sending those messages? Surely not. Therefore, the Australian taxpayer is already subsidizing newspapers which are receiving a large volume of telegraphic business from all parts of the country. Furthermore, some of the States subsidize newspapers to a greater or less extent in regard to the free carriage of the journals on the trains. A newspaper that gets a message of, say, 2,000 words from some other part of Australia gets that message at the rate of1s. per 100 words. Will any one contend that1s. per 100 represents the actual cost of sending a press message from one part of Australia to another? As a matter of fact, the taxpayers are contributing out of the revenue of every State a large amount of money in’ subsidizing newspapers. I am not objecting to that practice, but honorable senators opposite should object to it if they apply their own arguments. I say that it is a good thing to subsidize newspapers to this extent, if by so doing we can disseminate among the people of Australia the news they want, and which is useful to them. It has been contended that the existing Press Cable
Association is not a monopoly. But surely it must be adrnitted by candid people that it is. It may be a justifiable monopoly. No one has any right to say to the gentlemen forming the present Association, “ You are doing a very wrong thing.” They have every right, as business men, to form a monopoly for such a purpose. It is a business arrangement. But it is a monopoly all the same, and as’ it is worked it prevents other newspapers from coming into existence. The effect of the agreement has been to prevent other newspapers from forming an association. A small monopoly has grown out of the bigger one. Senator Chataway cited the evidence given by the manager, or the proprietor, of the Daily Telegraph, in Launceston - it seemed to be on the side of the present Association - in rebuttal of arguments used by Senator Pearce. Probably he does not know that a small monopoly, called the Tasmanian Press Association, has grown out of the Press Cable Association. A certain number of newspaper proprietors there combined to form an association, and the effect of that small combination has been to prevent other newspapers from being started in the State, because they would not supply cable news to a new journal. So long as the Tasmanian Association was getting a certain quantity of news the original syndicate would not supply news to other newspapers. The direct effect of that arrangement was that, for a long time, a second daily newspaper, although the capital had been arranged for, was not started. Is there not a bigger question at issue than that of whether there is a monopoly in Australia, or whether that monopoly is doing something unfair? If we, in making this trifling grant of £6,000, have only the semblance of a chance of getting a cable service, the people of Australia will have a service which will not be coloured, and which will give two sides of a question. Surely it will be money well spent.
– How does the honorable senator know that the present service is coloured ?
– Will any honorable senator tell me that our present service is not coloured? It is marvellous the number of readers who do not know that practically every cablegram published in Australia comes from one source. Of course, there may be a little difference in the wording of the published cablegrams.
The pressmen who are engaged upon the padding-work may colour the messages according to the political ideals of their proprietary. If, for an outlay of £6,000, it is made possible for the people to get an improved cable service, surely the motion should command the support of every honorable senator?
– The new service may not be any -better than the present one.
– That is possible. I admit- that, apart from their political ideals, Australia has reason to be very proud of its magnificent journals. One has only to compare American and Australian newspapers to be satisfied on that point. I have heard visitors from America and Canada speak in the most glowing terms of Australian newspapers. Will any one seriously say that there is not a possibility of our getting a still better cable service than we have, if we grant this subsidy?’ I feel sure that honorable senators have often shaken their heads after they have read a large quantity of the cable news, and remarked, “ Why should we have to pay for this stuff? Of what interest is it to us to know that a duke’s wife has run away with a coachman?” Cable news of that description is frequently published. The messages have been transmitted from the other side of the world, and the people have had to pay a share of the land charges.
– Who is to control the cable news which is to come over the Pacific line? Is there to be a censor appointed?
– Paragraph 4 of the motion reads -
That the Government should, in granting such subsidy, impose such conditions as may be necessary to secure that the public shall obtain the fullest possible benefit from the subsidized service.
– Does that mean that all the news is to be censored before it leaves England ?
– I should not think so. There are many newspapers which would be glad to get rid of a considerable quantity of the cable news which is supplied to them, and which they have to pay for.
– If they had an agent, they could make a selection for themselves.
– Every one must be aware that, indirectly, the people of Australia subsidize a service that supplies, very frequently, a lot of cable matter which is absolutely useless, and which is not wanted. It supplies matter which the people do want, but, at the same time, they have to pay indirectly for a lot of stuff which they do not want.
– Have the public complained of this?
– Yes. Has the honorable senator never heard persons remark, “ This is funny kind of stuff which our newspapers are paying 3s. 4d. a word for? Of what interest is it to Australian people? “ Seeing that we spend a large sum of public money in subsidizing the press in various parts of Australia, is it not advisable to grant this small subsidy of £6,000, with a view to our obtaining a better cable service? I cannot understand the opposition which has been offered to the motion. I notice that honorable senators opposite have carefully refrained from acknowledging the fact that the general taxpayer now subsidizes newspapers, but when a straight-out proposal is made to subsidize an association to the tune of £6,000, they immediately advance various objections, and the chief objection is that it is a proposal to use public money for the purpose of subsidizing private individuals, although that is admittedly being done. I think that some better reasons for their opposition to the motion should be advanced.
– I am sorry to say that I cannot see my way to agree to the statements made from the other side. I deny that the Press Cable Association is a monopoly. If the public were suffering in any way, no doubt it could be called a monopoly, but, as a matter of fact, the public are very largely benefited by its existence. They get a far larger number of cablegrams in the press than they did formerly. Was it not absurd for a dozen or more newspapers to be continually obtaining from England practically identical cablegrams on their own account? The ridiculousness of that proceeding became apparent to the proprietors, and then they agreed to come to a sensible business understanding, with the result that the public get much more news from the Old Country then they used to receive. There is nothing to prevent any country newspapers that object to the Association, or feel aggrieved, from forming a syndicate, but it would have to pay exactly the same cable rates as does the present Association. In my opinion, the public have not suffered in consequence of the existence of the Press Cable Association. There is a large number of newspapers which could agree to combine. Some persons say that many of the cablegrams in the press are of no use or interest, but the newspapers are the best judges of that. I venture to think that if a new combination were started, the cablegrams would be no better. Perhaps they might be coloured in some other way. If a sensational murder occurred in England or elsewhere, or an elopement took place in high life, the fact would be cabled. The newspapers are keen judges of what the public read and like. I suppose that honorable senators are aware that without a cable service it is of little use to start a new paper. If press cablegrams from England cannot be obtained, a new paper has no chance of acquiring a circulation. When I was a director of a newspaper in Melbourne some years ago, we entered into an arrangement with one of the two associations. We had no trouble in making the arrangement, and I feel sure that at the present time no difficulty is experienced in that regard.
– If the honorable senator starts a newspaper, he will find out.
– Probably some difficulty might be experienced in the city, but I am sure that none would be experienced in country districts. I do not think that we are justified in throwing away £6,000 in subsidizing a cable service. I believe that if a subsidy is granted I shall be able to rise in my place here, a year or two hence, if I am alive and well, and point out that the money has been absolutely wasted.
– I think that every honorable senator is prepared to admit that the newspaper education of the people should be made as free as possible. We are brought face to face with the fact that persons who have attempted to establish newspapers in Australia have been refused a service of cable news obtained from England at rates which gave the Press Cable Association an advantage over the general public. I have some knowledge of this matter. I conducted negotiations with the syndicate to secure cables foc some newspapers which were to be established. Honorable senators are aware that the whole of the correspondence which passed between the newspapers for which I was negotiating and the syndicate has already appeared in Hansard, and it shows that there was an absolute refusal to supply the cables. Senator Chataway told us that he was connected with a newspaper, and that there were two combines which came together. They came to an agreement, of which this was one of the provisions -
That the total maximum cost for such cable messages as aforesaid shall be the sum of £1 2,000 per annum.
They could not exceed that amount. After the. Select Committee was appointed, the syndicate began to consider their position. They were then prepared to come to terms with those interested in newspapers that were being established in metropolitan areas. But although previous communications had been carried on with Mackinnon, Wilson, and Company, they were not manly enough to say that they would re-open those negotiations and come to terms with the persons interested. They took advantage of a subterfuge, induced Reuter to come into the matter, and say, “ We will let you come in at a price.” The most powerful newspapers in the Commonwealth - the Melbourne Age and Argus, the Sydney
Morning Herald and Daily Telegraph, and the Adelaide Register and Advertiser - were contributing the £12,000 and farming out the service to newspapers in Western Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, and the country press all over the Commonwealth. Yet they had the impudence to ask a little struggling newspaper in Adelaide to pay £1,700 to come in. Is that not evidence of a monopoly ? Was not that a standanddeliver attitude, to take up? Thank God, those who were interested in that newspaper were independent of them.
– Can the honorable senator produce documentary evidence in support of what he has said?
– It is already published in Hansard, and if Senator Fraser had read Hansard during last session, he would have seen it. There never was greater robbery than that of the people of Australia by the daily press of to-day. The Adelaide newspaper with which I was connected was independent of the syndicate. We had a separate and independent service, and publish cables supplied by an independent service to-day.
– Then the Press Cable Association is not a monopoly if it is possible to get news in another way.
– Yes ; but at what expense ?
– The honorable senator wanted to get in on the cheap.
– We did not. We were prepared to pay as much for 0U cables as the Age was paying, though we had no guarantee that our circulation would be one-tenth of the circulation of the Age. Any one who reads the report of the Select Committee will see that evidence was supplied from every part of Australia to show that the present Press Cable Association is a burden upon the provincial press of the country.
– Why did not the honorable senator .get the provincial press to unite with him?
– During the last ten years I have seen many of the proprietors of country newspapers in connexion with this matter; but I was everywhere told that they dared not refuse to comply with the conditions which the syndicate’ laid down for them. Let me give an instance. The proprietors of a provincial newspaper in Victoria were sending one of their employes Home at a time when important cricket matches were being played in the Old Country. They made arrangements with him to wire results of the matches every night. They commenced the publication of this news, and then received a peremptory order “from Melbourne to discontinue doing so, or all their other cable news would be stopped. Was not that a boycott? This, and many other cases, could be quoted to show that, if any country newspaper published information that was not supplied by the Wilson-Mackinnon syndicate their cable news, supplied by that body, would be stopped.
– That is still the rule.
– It is still the rule. I have not a ha’porth of interest in this matter; but, from information I have received, 1 think that Senator Fraser has. I say that the present Press Cable Association hold a monopoly, and it is right, in the interests qf the people, that it should be broken up. I shall support the motion up to the hilt.
– I wish to say a word upon this matter, because of the persistent repetition of the statement that the proposed subsidy is intended to assist Labour journals, or proposed Labour journals. When the suggestion was made in the beginning of the debate I interjected that it was a malicious lie. I admit that the words I used are strong; but they are not too strong to properly stigmatize the statement to which I refer. The journals that have made this statement, as well as the politicians who have repeated it, know well the conditions on which the Government propose to grant this subsidy. They know that one of them 15 that any newspaper is to be entitled to avail itself of the news to be supplied, and, at the same time, to have the right to obtain news from any other source. That is of very great importance, because it is acknowledged that the combine, by its agreement, prevents subscribers from publishing news obtained from other sources. If one of the subscribers to the service published, from another source, news of the most important event possible, he would be fined. I am assured, on the best authority, that there is scarcely a newspaper subscribing to the combine that has not, at some time or. another, been carpeted and fined for the publication of important and interesting news from an outside source.
– Because it was in contravention of their agreement.
– That is so. They have to agree not to publish cable information from any other source. It is not a question of the cost or quality of news sent from the Old World ; but if they published the most valuable information from any other source, the subscribers to the service are liable to a severe penalty. I am informed that not long ago the Brisbane Courier was fined £60 for inadvertently publishing a cable received from an outside source. The combine exists for the purpose of restricting the avenues through which news can be obtained, and that would be a sufficient reason to justify me in supporting legislation which would make it illegal for this body to have any such agreement or understanding with its subscribers. When it is asserted that it is proposed to establish one or more Labour newspapers, and that the proposed subsidy is intended for the express purpose of supplying them with news, I should like to say that only yesterday I obtained a statement from the independent Press Cable Association - and, by-the-bye, I should say that I have never seen one of the members of the Association, and have had only written communications with them-
– To which Association is the honorable senator referring?
– I did not know that there was more than one independent Press Cable Association.
– I am just going to give that information. This is the Association which it has been said is to be subsidized in. order to assist the establishment of Labour newspapers. I wish to inform honorable senators that already the following newspapers, in addition to many others, receive their cable news through the independent Press Cable Association : - The Sydney Sun, Sydney Truth, Lismore Daily News, Grafton Argus, Grafton Examiner, Wagga Advertiser, Wagga Express, Albury Evening News, Bathurst Times, Orange Leader. These are all dailies, and, in addition to them, there are the following : - The Barrier Truth, Hobart Daily Post, Devonport Post, and Adelaide Herald. Of all these newspapers the Barrier Truth, Adelaide Herald, and, probably., the Hobart Daily Post, may be called Labour newspapers. Not one of the others can be so described ; and some are bitterly opposed to Labour politically. The Bathurst Times, which is a strongly anti-Labour newspaper, gets its cables from the independent Cable Association, whilst the Bathurst National Advocate, which is a Labour newspaper, gets its cables from the combine. This should show that the business of newspaper proprietors is not directed by political considerations only. In addition to the papers I have mentioned, over eighty small newspapers in New South Wales, bi-weeklies and tri-weeklies, get their cables from the independent Press Cable Association.
– Is that the service that is going to be subsidized ?
– How can I say?
– They will make these cruel insinuations.
– I do not suppose that the party to which I belong, any more than myself, are much concerned about cruel statements ; but when deliberate lies are circulated, it is as well that an emphatic denial of them should be placed on record. I shall do my best to have Labour newspapers established wherever possible, and I say they should have the right to avail themselves of the news supplied by the independent Press Cable Association so long as they are not given special concessions I affirm that there is no attempt being made, direct or indirect, to give a preference in this matter to Labour newspapers.
– “ Methinks the lady doth protest too much.”
– When the friends of honorable senators opposite make these statements, they should not squirm under the protest against them. We. are told that the subsidy proposed is too large, and Sena tor Chataway has said that it will not be sufficient for the purpose. I am not acquainted with the financial position of the independent Cable Association, if it is to be the body that will secure this money ; but I should like to point out that there is nothing to prevent the combine making an application for the subsidy, except that it would be obliged to abolish the rule under which its subscribers are prevented from publishing information obtained elsewhere. I cannot understand how any honorable senator can defend such a rule. It is perfectly fair that, by combination, men should make a greater profit than they could otherwise make, but no one can defend the special . provision in the syndicate’s agreement to which I have referred as being in the interests of the country, nor can it be justified on commercial grounds. While, as individuals, we might be willing to become shareholders in an association of the kind, and reap all the profits possible from it, it is our duty, as senators, to regard it from the point of view of the interests of the people; and I say that it must be injurious to the community that any association should have a monopoly of the supply of news under such restrictive conditions. I am not competent to say whether the proposed subsidy of £6,000 will be sufficient.
– I think that there should be a quorum present to listen to the honorable senator. [Quorum formed .]
– It is proposed that on an average, 1,000 words a day shall be sent by the proposed new Association. It is suggested that about 800 words per day will come via Vancouver, and 200 words from London. Assuming that 800 words a day come from Vancouver, the Pacific cable will receive a revenue of 3d.. per word, and on the 200 words per day from London it will receive 9d. per word. So that if a minimum of 1,000 words a day were sent there would be an income to the Pacific Cable Board of £5,300, of which the Australian Government will get one-third, amounting roughly to £1,770. It is, therefore, a very important point that this news service, carried across the Pacific cable, will really mean that the Australian Government will receive back with the one hand a large part of what it has paid away with the other. Under these circumstances, the amount that will actually be paid out of pocket by the Commonwealth Government will be very small indeed. This is, therefore, in my opinion, a very favorable opportunity for getting news from an independent: source in the cheapest possible way. Since the independent cable service has been established, there have been occasions on which news has come from that source to the daily papers in Sydney hours sooner than the same news was transmitted by the rival service.
– The Labour daily newspaper in Adelaide received the news of the death of King Edward VII. hours before any other newspaper.
– In Sydney also, news has been received by the Sun some hours before similar news was received by the newspapers associated with the combine. It is therefore of great advantage to the community to have this rivalry. On this account alone, and also because the proposal will destroy the injurious restrictions imposed by the combine, we are amply justified in voting for the motion.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [5.44].- I have listened with much attention to the debate, and must admit that I do not feel myself seized of the facts in connexion with the case at issue. I am aware that the Select Committee of the Senate, which sat last year, inquired into this matter al length. It was just as well that an opportunity should be presented of hearing what the members of that Committee had to say with reference to the subject, before the debate came to a conclusion. I am glad that Senator Chataway has spoken, and join in the regret that has been expressed that Senator Millen is not present. I am under the impression that he is well acquainted with the case, and could have assisted the Senate in arriving at a conclusion. We must have regard to the fact that a similar motion was carried in another place on the . voices. I am assured that the motion now under consideration will meet with similar treatment here. But, at the same time, we require to ascertain whether there is a real necessity for the course of action now proposed to be taken. I was not aware, until I listened to the debate this afternoon that an independent cable service had been established in the Commonwealth of the magnitude that appears to have been attained nor did I know that the new service had been so beneficial to the public . generally in relation to the supply of early news. But we have to ask ourselves whether it is necessary for the Government to subsidize any cable association whatever. Senator Rae’s speech convinced me that there was no necessity for such action. Senator Guthrie has informed us that when the daily Herald was about to be established in Adelaide, its promoters were confronted with the demand to pay £1,750 a year to the combine for the cabled news received through its agency.
– Does not the honorable senator think that that was a bit stiff?
– I shall not offer an opinion upon the point. It has shown, however, that the newspaper in question was in a position to make arrangements independently of the Australian Press Association. I understand that the independent Association now supplies thirteen or fourteen daily newspapers with news.
– They are all small newspapers.
– They appear to be new journals which are trying to make their influence felt.
– None are metropolitan newspapers, except the Sun in Sydney, and the Herald in Adelaide.
– The question that suggests itself to my mind is whether the independent Association is able to make its enterprise pay. Is it carrying out its contracts in connexion with the supply of information in such a way as to justify us in subsidizing it? If the service is paying,” and can be made to pay, there is surely no reason for granting a subsidy. It may be that the Association is not obtaining such information as the. Government consider should be supplied to the public. Perhaps it is not supplying such information as the Association known as the combine is giving. But, nevertheless, it has been made clear that it is possible to establish an independent service. It is alleged that the news supplied by the Australian Press Association is coloured, and that only a particular class of information is supplied. But when I turn to the report of the Select Committee of the Senate I find the following paragraph in the dissenting report signed by exSenator Pulsford -
As to whether the news supplied is “ garbled and inaccurate “ no evidence in support thereof was given, nor indeed was it seriously sought. In fact, this portion of the attack on the press cable service may be said to have been abandoned.
It may be said that Senator Pulsford was the only member of the Committee who signed that statement. But the majority report does not allege seriously that the information supplied by the Press Cable Association was garbled or inaccurate. We must recollect that ex-Senator Pulsford is a man of very strong independent views on a great number of questions. He is not inclined to depart from his opinions in the slightest degree. We can rely upon it that he would insist on saying what was in accordance with the evidence obtained.
– It is wonderful how such a staunch Free Trader could have become a Fusionist.
– We had proof that much of the alleged information supplied by the Press Cable Association was inaccurate and garbled.
– I do not suppose that any man would expect every item of information to beyond question. Newspapers have to publish items which they believe are acceptable to the majority of their readers. Any day I may see matter in the newspapers which I may not consider worth reading. But others may regard the same item as being of value. On the other hand, I may see items of news which I regard as . vital and important, whilst other people would not give a moment’s attention to them.
– Does the honorable senator ever see the Worker?
– It is the duty of a member of Parliament to make himself acquainted, not only with the views of his opponents, but the peculiar way in which they express those views.
– Is the honorable senator aware that the Sydney Evening News last week attributed to him the speech which I made in regard to the treatment of servant girls ?
D- I did not know that. The point which I wish to emphasize is that the news that is published by newspapers is believed by them to be of interest to some of their readers. They must supply their readers with the class of news that they require.
– Frequently the newspapers receive items which they would like to reject, but they cannot very well reject them after they have been sent.
– That does not imply that the news published is garbled or inaccurate. I turn to the question whether there is any general dissatisfaction with the way in whichthe country press has been treated. The Committee, in their report, stated -
As regards the Country Press, a perusal of the replies received from them in answer to the circular issued by the Committee discloses the fact that in New South Wales, generally speaking, there is dissatisfaction with the present service, and a desire for improvement in price, quantity, and quality.
Victoria seems fairly divided in opinion, though the provincial dailies appear to be dissatisfied generally.
Queensland and Tasmanian Country Press, with . a few exceptions, seem fairly well satisfied with present arrangements.
The replies received from the Country Press of South Australia and West Australia were too meagre to form an opinion upon.
The great preponderance of opinion was that the present service is too costly for country papers, but that if a reduction could be made, proprietors would give more space to cables. The charges by the Association, as well as the land charges by the Telegraph Department, were both quoted as important factors.
One of the gentlemen who gave evidence mentioned that he held a very strong opinion as to charges made for the transmission of messages over land lines. He said that that was a most important factor. Necessarily, it must be a factor in dealing with a question of this kind. But how will the giving of a subsidy effect a remedy in that regard?
– Is the honorable senator in favour of reducing the land line charges ?
– Does the honorable senator think that they are too high at present?
– If the land line rates can be reduced, I shall be glad to see something done in that direction. That is one of the elements which cannot be eliminated by granting a subsidy to another independent Association. The contractor will, I presume, have to maintain a head office in one of the States, and from that place will be distributed the news which has been obtained by cable from England. Then the expense in connexion with the land lines will have to be met as at present, so that there can be no gain in that respect. According to the memorandum which has been circulated, the maximum annual charge to be made by the new Association in respect of metropolitan newspapers, “is to range from £300 up to £1,000, in respect of newspapers in the chief provincial centres, £200 ; and in respect of newspapers in minor cities and towns, . £50. These charges are to be made in addition to the transmission charges incurred within the Commonwealth. That is an expenditure which cannot be overlooked. Senator Pearce alluded to the evidence given by a gentleman as to the expense to which he had been put in obtaining a cable service for a Geelong newspaper. He mentioned that the charge ran from £128 when the cable rate was 3s. 6d. pei word, down to £125 in 1900, when the rate had been reduced to is. 4d. a word ; but three years ago it was raised to £J15> when the cable rate was reduced to is. a word. Of course, that must have included the .charge on the land lines. It occurred to me at the time that the point to be ascertained was whether the information then given was greater than had been supplied previously. I find that in 1896 about 1,556 words were received per w’eek, and in 1909 nearly 5,000 words. In 1.900, however, when the witness paid ^125, 2,920 words were supplied; but in 1906, the number had increased to 3,650 words. So that while the rate was increased in the last three years mentioned b; Senator Pearce, the amount of information furnished had been materially increased. That is a reply to the statement as to charging an increased amount to certain newspapers. We are also told that we should make the conditions easier, in order that other newspapers may be established. From the report of the Select Committee I find that, whereas the United Kingdom has 5.04 daily newspapers ‘ per 1,000,000 people, Australia has 15.82 daily newspapers. As regards weekly, bi-weekly, and ti i- weekly newspapers, I find that, whilst the United Kingdom has 59.95, Australia has 382.85. In other words, in each case Australia has more than three times as many newspapers as has the United Kingdom.
– Surely the honorable member cannot make a comparison between Australia and a closely-settled country like the United Kingdom?
– Will the honorable senator now give a comparison between New Zealand and the Commonwealth?
– I have not the information. There is no need to put the taxpayers to any expense in order to increase the number of newspapers, because we are already provided with a number of well-conducted newspapers representing all classes of opinion. Honorable senators must bear in mind that, without a subsidy from the State, existing newspapers established an independent cable service, finding the money themselves. That not only shows that the newspaper proprietors had some enterprise, but also that the people were prepared to support newspapers holding the views which were then expressed.
– The members of the other syndicate got the news for their own papers for practically nothing, because they made the country press bear nearly the whole of the cost of the cable service.
– I do not wish to take away any credit from the Labour party, who, I understand, are endeavouring to establish a daily newspaper in each metropolis. If they have the necessary enterprise and skill, and see a. probability of achieving success, no one can offer any objection; but I strongly object to particular newspapers being aided at the expense “of the taxpayers. There are two independent sources from which cable news is obtained. If the motion be carried, it will bc for the Government to determine which Association they will subsidize. That is not, I contend, a position in which a Government should be placed.
– I beg to call attention to the state of the Senate. [Quorum- formed.]
– It is no part of the duty of the Government to subsidize any newspapers.
– Does not the honorable senator admit that at present the Government are subsidizing the principal newspapers ?
– I admit that the Government do the best they can to facilitate the distribution of those newspapers throughout the Commonwealth .
– What about providing special trains for the. metropolitan dailies ?
– I dare say that it pays the Railways Commissioners to run those trains. I. have not a brief to defend the metropolitan dailies, or the country press, but I have a brief to defend the Treasury against improper raids. The small newspapers are charged exactly the same parcels rate ,as are the big newspapers. Instead of each providing a separate cable service, some years ago the established newspapers found it much cheaper to join together, and provide a common service. Nobody can possibly object to that as a business proposition.
– How is it that the Melbourne” Herald was prohibited from publishing cablegrams sent out by its managing editor?
– That was done under the agreement to which the parties had subscribed. . It should not be forgotten that newspapers are business propositions which are run not solely for the purpose of disseminating news, but also to earn money. When the newspapers entered into the combine, they were placed on an equal footing. Of course, the agreement provided that if any newspaper received special information, it was not to be confined to that newspaper, to the detriment of the others, but to be supplied to the various newspapers in the Association. I do not suppose that any business man would deny that that was an ordinary business precaution to take. Honorable senators have spoken of what has been done in Canada in regard to subsidizing the press. I understand that the chief reason for granting the subsidy there was that the major portion of the Canadian information came through American sources, and was tinged in such a way that it was unsatisfactory to Canadians, and misleading as to Great Britain. In our own case, we have no reason of that kind given to us. No such objection can be advanced against the information which is obtained through the Australian Press Association. It is not alleged that its cable information is so tainted that it is quite un-English, and misrepresents the actions and opinions of people at Home. We are all aware that the American press is not reliable, and that information which comes from foreign countries must be taken with a good many grains of salt. That objection is not, and cannot be, urged in our case. Honorable senators may say -that certain political information which is cabled to Australia is coloured ; that may, or may not, be true. But no honorable senator is in a position to say that information is supplied which absolutely misrepresents public opinion and public actions in Great Britain.
– Yes ; it misrepresented Great Britain in reference to the Dreadnought agitation.
– I happened to be in England when the Dreadnought cry was raised.
– So was Senator Symon.
– My opinion is just as valuable as his.
– Senator Clemons was there too.
– The opinion of Senator Clemons is just as valuable as that of Senator Symon, and Senator Clemons agrees regarding the Dreadnought cry. There is no ground for complaining that the information which is sent to Australia misrepresents English opinion. That information is transmitted, I believe, by the Eastern cable. Is any provision to be made in the proposed arrangement with regard to the way in which information is to be collected at the other end of the world ? Is the English information which is to be obtained by the Pacific cable to be collated from New York newspapers or sources? It costs money to bring information from London to New York, and an enterprising syndicate might regard it as a bit of good business to save themselves that expense by supplying the information from New York, and then it might - become necessary to subsidize a service which would go in another direction in order that we should not be misled.
– There is in London a man who is sending out news to the independent newspapers.
-I am glad to hear that statement, . and to know that the combine is placed on such an exceedingly good footing. Now, where does that gentleman get his information? He has to look to the same source as does the Australian Press Association, and although he may be doing well at present, I doubt very much whether he can command the same channels of information as can the longer established service. The information which is now cabled is that which the people of Australia as a whole want.
– What authority has the honorable senator for saying that?
– Because the newspapers, being business concerns, do not bring out any news, unless it is suitable to wants and tastes of their readers.
– The information should be correct. That should be the criterion.
– If the honorable senator could get behind the scenes, he might find that there are Free Traders who are running Protectionist newspapers. Not long ago a man who had been running a rabid Free Trade newspaper told me that he was going on to a Protectionist newspaper. I remarked, “ How are you going to reconcile your opinions there?” “Oh,” he said, “it is a matter of business. If they will give me an engagement, I will accept it.”
– There are good Labour men on the Daily Telegraph.
– Yes; and sometimes the good Labour men get a little help from the newspapers.
– There were Protectionists in the Free Trade fusion.
– And there are Free Traders in the Labour party to-day.
– Not one.
– The Attorney-General was one of the most rigid Free Traders in New South Wales in the old days when he was a member of the State Parliament, and he owed something to Sir George Reid in that connexion. I say that there is a risk that the information supplied under this proposal may be tainted, but we are assured by honorable senators opposite that there is no fear of that. I ask what is the good of spending £6,000 of the people’s money to support a third organization when we have already two engaged in supplying news to the Commonwealth? It has been alleged that the establishment of the second has smartened up the people who are running the first.
– The first might kill the second, and then the last state of the country would be worse than the first.
– Will the honorable senator not admit that the second might kill the first?
– It could not do so. .
– The honorable senator should remember that an organization that has the Government behind it is placed in a position of great advantage. Here is another matter upon which I should like to have some information. The seventh of the conditions proposed reads -
The Association must transmit to Australia by cable and supply to its subscribers any information on matters of Australian interest supplied to it or its agent in London by the High Commissioner, but the Association shall be entitled to charge the Commonwealth Government press rates in respect of the matter so transmitted.
I wish to ask whether it is proposed that the High Commissioner shall be under instructions as to the information he is to send. Is he to give information of a political character, or only information of a social or general character? Is this duty to be imposed upon him without any instructions at all ? I can well understand that if the High Commissioner, happening to be a Free Trader, were to send out information which honorable senators opposite would regard as telling in favour of Free Trade, there would at once be a howl that he was acting as a political partisan. If he sent out information of a Protectionist character, he woul.d probably be charged, as an old Free Trader, with having abandoned his principles. I say that would not be a fair position in which to put the High Commissioner. He should not be made a collector of information for the daily press of Australia. It is, of course, his duty to supply the Government with full information on matters of importance which will enable them to properly gauge public opinion in Great Britain. If he is to send out information for publication in the Australian press, we know that in the process of extension of the cable messages, that information may be coloured, and so the High Commissioner may be placed in a false position. Any gentleman who occupies the position in the future will, no doubt, have pronounced views upon public matters. They may not be in accord with the views of the Government of the day, and if the information he sends out to Australia under this proposal is given a political colour by the’ newspapers publishing it, he is liable to be charged with an intention to advance party political views. Very great care indeed should be observed in securing information in the way proposed Allowance must be made for the colouring of information according to one’s views, and the views of the most honorable men may be unconsciously influenced by feeling and prejudice. All I can do in the circumstances is to protest against the proposal. It appears to me that no reason has been given for it, in view of the fact that there are already two press cable associations, and we have an opportunity of obtaining news from two independent stand-points.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
Senator VARDON (South Australia) rubbing his hands with glee, and feeling perfectly, satisfied with himself because of the way in which he is scoring against the Press Cable Association. We are told that this proposal is not intended to subsidize Labour newspapers. I have my doubts about that. I rather think that we have here another example of “ the spoils to the victor.” The Government have the numbers, and they mean to take advantage of the fact. When Senator Pearce was moving for the appointment of the Select Committee to investigate this matter, he said that the news supplied under the existing system was inadequate, garbled, and inaccurate.
– Quite right.
– I have been looking through the evidence taken by the Select Committee to find out whether that statement was substantiated.
– Senator Pearce gave specific instances of garbled reports when he moved for the appointment of the Committee.
– I remember that he gave one instance in relation to what was called the Dreadnought scare. I think he mentioned that the cablegram announced that a “ grave “ situation had arisen, while the statement made by some English statesman was that a “new” situation had arisen. That was the glaring instance of inaccuracy which the honorable senator gave on the occasion referred to.
– What did Senator Symon say about the Dreadnought scare ? He was at Home at the time.
– I know ; but Senator Gould told us this afternoon that Senator Clemons, who heard the speech referred to made in the House of Commons, said that the report of it cabled out was absolutely accurate.
– What did Senator Symon say about it?
– The matter came up before Senator Symon arrived in England..
– If Senator Givens wishes to know what Senator Symon said, he can look it up in Hansard, and when I have finished he can tell the Senate what it was. I shall be satisfied to accept what he may produce from Hansard as to what Senator Symon said.
– We will hear the honorable senator’s speech for the press monopolists in the meantime.
– I thank the honorable senator ; but I have a right to make a speech without his consent. Senator Pulsford, who was a member of the Select Committee, sent in a dissent from the report which was signed by the Chairman. It was not signed by any other members of the Committee, but I assume that they agreed with it, or they would have dissented.
– Senator Pulsford refused to discuss the report. He would not give the Committee the benefit of his opinion upon it.
– This is what Senator Pulsford says in his dissent -
As to whether the news supplied is “ garbled and inaccurate “ no evidence in support thereof was given, nor, indeed, was it seriously sought. In fact, this portion of the attack on the Press Cable Service may be said to have been abandoned.
– That comes gracefully from a man who refused to give the Committee his assistance in discussing the matter.
– I do not know anything about that; but, so far as I can see, the evidence taken by the Committee bears out the statement made by Senator Pulsford. The statement that the news supplied under the existing system was “garbled and inaccurate” was really a stalking horse. Some reason had to be given for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the doings of the Press Cable Association. The real reason for its appointment was that the Association would not let in a Labour daily newspaper proposed to be started in Adelaide.
– And others.
– And others, if the honorable senator pleases. Senator Pearce quoted correspondence that passed between Mr. Opie. then, I think, connected with the Weekly Herald in Adelaide, and the proprietors of the Adelaide Register and Advertiser, in which it was shown that the newspaper with which he was associated was practically refused admittance to the Association. That was the reason for the appointment of the Select Committee. It was never claimed that the Press Cable Association was a bad thing in itself, and if the Labour newspaper referred to had been admitted .to the Association; on what the proprietors considered favorable terms, we should never have heard a word about a Select Committee. The Association would not have been a monopoly, but a very good arrangement. I believe that the members of the Association made a tactical mistake, and blundered badly in not allowing the Labour newspaper in. Their mistake gave the parties applying an opportunity to pose as martyrs, and to gain a good deal of sympathy in connexion with the matter. I think they have admitted that it was a blunder, because they have since agreed to take in other newspapers.
– Where is the proof of that?
– I have only the statement of Mr. Mackinnon, in the evidence, for it. I have no reason to believe that he is not an honorable, straightforward, truth-telling man.
– No one denies it.
– I have only his evidence that the Press Cable Association are now willing to admit other newspapers. What I wish to say is that the real gravamen of the charge against the Association was that they refused to admit a Labour daily newspaper. Senator Pearce said distinctly in his speech at the time : “ I propose to break up the present combine.” Those words will be found in the report of the honorable senator’s speech, at page 2334 of Hansard for last session. This proposal, I take it, is carrying that threat into effect. It is intended to break up the combine. I am a little doubtful that it has been proved that it is such an evil thing that it ought to be broken up. I quote the following from paragraph 26 of the report of the Select Committee with respect to objections -
Your Committee are of opinion that the present position is undesirable and detrimental to the public interest, because it -
Those are given as the objections to the Press Cable Association.
– If true, do they not justify the present proposal ?
– We have first to consider whether the evidence taken by the
Committee justifies the objection and the adoption of the remedy now proposed for the existing state of things.
– One honorable senator on the other side agreed that the grounds stated were sufficient, and that the action proposed was necessary.
– Honorable senators on this side have a right to express their opinion. They are not gagged in any way. I do not know what the practice followed on the other side may be, but an expression of opinion by Senator Gould, for instance, does notbind me in any way. I want to discuss the question whether the evidence taken by the Select Committee justifies the objections stated in the report against the present system. The first witness called before the Committee, Mr. H. M. Collins, at that time general manager in Australasia of Reuter’s Telegram Company, gave a good deal of evidence with regard to this matter. He stated that Reuter’s, in London, receives cable messages from 261 principal agencies in all parts of the world. These , messages are made available to the representatives of the Australian Press Association in London, who select from them items of news which are transmitted by cable to Australia. In return, Reuter’s receives Australian news, which is sent back to London. Mr. Collins said that the Australian Press Association did not interfere in any way with the terms made by Reuter’s, and that the net profit from the sale of cables to the country press was divided between Reuter’s and the Association.
– A nice, happy family arrangement !
– Well, we all try to get into nice, happy arrangements when we can. We are all very much alike in that respect. Mr. Collins was examined by the Chairman as follows -
Can you supply an unlimited number of newspapers, or is there a limit in any part of Australia? - Legally we can sell to whom we please.
But actually can you? - There is absolutely no obligation on our part not to sell the news to whom we please, and if we declined to sell it would be solely from business considerations. If a better offer came along we should give it business consideration.
– But the agreement made with the Cable Association provided that no messages shall be supplied by Reuter’s to any newspaper published in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, or Brisbane.
– We have to take Mr. Collins’ evidence as given. The next question was -
Is there any limit as to the price at which you shall sell to the newspapers? - No, that is a matter which has been left entirely to our company to fix. Speaking generally, we raised the subscription four or five years ago.
Further on, Mr. Collins was examined as follows -
Under the agreement would you be at liberty to supply the press cables to another Association if formed? - There is no stipulation that we are not to supply whom we please. As I said before, it is a business consideration only.
Again, in reply to another question by the chairman, the witness said -
In fact, the interest taken by the country press in cable news, except on special occasions, is very small indeed. That will account for the extremely limited number of newspapers that we have on our roll.
Further on, Mr. Collins told the Committee that out of 230 provincial newspapers in Victoria, only 41 contributed to the cable service. He showed that there was a reason for that, namely, the heavy wiring charges from Melbourne, which proved crushing to country newspapers. He- did not allege that the charges were unfair. But he stated that any country newspaper that took the full service would, unless it were within telephonic communication, be compelled to pay a very heavy sum indeed. In reply to the question, “ What is the daily average?” Mr. Collins said - 1 had the number of inches occupied by a daily country newspaper here last week taken out, and dividing the year by fifty-two, we found that they paid for their cable and Inter-State service, embracing all parts of Australasia, 5s. per column.
By the Chairman. - That is, after the expander had been at work? - That is so, but let me say that it is legitimate expansion. The public at large are uninitiated, and you must have cables expanded in a proper and educative manner. You have frequently to refer to previous incidents in order to make the cables intelligible at all. The space I mentioned includes, not only the expanded telegrams, but also the Inter-State news. These figures were taken out haphazard during last week. You will find that a newspaper like the Ballarat Star, or the Bendigo Advertiser, or the Geelong Times pays for its cable and Inter-State service 5s. per column. In other words, it pays for five cable words to fill a column of its space.
That does not seem to be a very extravagant price to pay. Again, the witness said -
Only yesterday I was waited upon by a gentleman from the country who has a bi-weekly newspaper. He was anxious to publish cables, which, so far, he has not been able to do. I quoted him the ridiculous sum of £6 per year for the right of copying them, but he could not pay it because of the wiring charges.
Once more -
In Victoria, of 230 provincial papers, only forty-one contribute to the press service, of which eleven are daily newspapers. The remaining thirty journals contribute £261, or about £& 14s. each. The eleven daily newspapers pay an average of ;£’20 10s. each per annum.
Further on. the witness was examined as follows -
I understood you to say that the cost of the service is £4,364 per annum, and that the revenue received is £2,481? - I do not wish you to understand that Reuter pays £4,364. We do not pay for this cable service; we only pay the copying fee. The cost of the service is paid by the Association.
Then in question 160, Mr. Collins’ evidence proceeded -
Can a country newspaper get from you a selection of cables ; for instance, in time of war, can a newspaper say, “ We only want from you the cables referring to the war”? - Certainly. In such a case we should make a selection to the best of our ability.
– That is absolutely incorrect. The statement is contradicted by witness after witness.
– I am simply quoting what the witness said. If the Minister can quote a contradiction, he is at liberty to do so.
– The reason why the country newspapers do not take cables is that they have to take the lot or none at all.
– Mr. Mackinnon, who is connected with the Argus, and is manager of the Australian Press Association, also gave evidence. In the course of his statement, he said -
The operations of the association, as I have endeavoured to show, are simple and easily explainable. It has a London office, to which by well tested organization all the news of the Old World filters. Every available source of information is levied upon. Men whose special duty it is to know how to pack a column of news into a line, and whose sole object is to keep Australian readers properly abreast of the affairs of four continents, are employed to sift and strain this vast collection of interesting events and to bring them, free from all party bias, within a practicable compass for cable purposes. The messages, when they reach Australia, are distributed amongst the subscribing papers. The paper with a small circulation, and the paper with a large circulation, can alike present their readers every morning with the very latest authentic news regarding the principal events overseas at a minimum of cost and with a maximum of educational advantage to their readers. The association strives to provide its subscribers with the best possible cable service, and spares no justifiable expense in this respect. Witness the fact that the reporting of the matches played by the Australian Eleven this year alone cost £2,500, as Mr. Collins pointed out. It has put an efficient cable service within the reach of every paper in Australia by combining to eliminate duplication of expense, in order that the money thus saved might be devoted to obtaining an ever-expanding service. When the cable rate was recently reduced, the association instantly increased its news and so gave the public the whole advantage of the lower charge. It is not a monopoly. It has no exclusive rights to anything save what it has fairly purchased. It is a commercial undertaking, run on business lines to cheapen cable news to Australian papers, and to give Australia a good cable service.
This extra money is, Mr. Mackinnon stated, devoted to providing an improved cable service. He alleged that when the cable rates were reduced, the Association instantly increased the number of words transmitted, and gave the public the whole advantage of the lower charges.
– That is absolutely incorrect.
-The Minister will have an opportunity of correcting the statement if it is wrong. I simply quote it.
– The honorable senator does not inquire into the truth of it.
– I look upon Mr. Mackinnon as a truthful man.
– Will the honorable senator quote the figures supplied by Sir Robert Scott, the Secretary to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, on that subject?
– I think Sir Robert Scott afterwards modified his figures, because he had mixed up certain things. Mr. Mackinnon gave some figures which I do not propose to read at length. He said that in the year 1896, the Press Cable Association received about 1,550 words per week, including cricket news, whilst in 1909, they received 4,950 words, including cricket news. Those figures seem to me to justify Mr. Mackinnon’s statement that when the rates were reduced, the Association gave the public more news. They did not simply put the saving into their own pockets. They put the extra money into their newspapers by giving additional information to the public. In question 297, Mr. Mackinnon was examined as follows -
Can you supply any newspaper starting operations in a metropolitan centre with cables without reference to the members of your Association? - Yes.
It would be merely a question of terms? - It would be a matter of arrangement between the parties.
Then ex-Senator Dobson “chipped in” at question 372 -
From what you have told me, I now believe that most, if not all, of your arrangements are fair, but would you think it right for the Government to stand by and see all the rich papers of the Commonwealth coming together in a combine to get these expensive cables and then refusing to sell them to competitors, except at a very exorbitant price ? - Mav I put it another way.’ Would it be fair for the Government to say to us, “ You get those cables out, and you must supply them to anybody who asks for them at such and such a price.”
Senator Givens, at question 399, examined the witness, as follows -
You told the Chairman that there was no restriction on any country paper. You emphasized the word “ country,” implying that there was some restriction on metropolitan newspapers? - In the agreement, as handed in, the supply of cables to any metropolitan paper in Melbourne, Sydney, or Adelaide depended on the unanimous decision of the Association.
That restriction is now removed ? - Yes.
There is now no restriction, except such as may be contained in the terms to be arranged ? - Exactly.
Is it not possible to impose a very severe restriction ia those terms? - If it rested with me personally, it would not be so.
But it is possible? - Yes.
You supply to an Association in Queensland ? - We supply to the Brisbane Courier, Telegraph, and Daily Mail.
Would those papers be able to veto your supplying another paper if it were started in Brisbane ? - No.
They would have absolutely no say ? - They have none, as is shown by the fact that we recently supplied the Daily Mail.
Then if another metropolitan paper were started there, it would be simply a question of the terms to be arranged ? - Exactly.
Again Senator Givens examined the witness as follows -
If an independent paper started a cable service of its own, would it get from the Eastern Extension Company the same priority over their lines as your Association gets? - We get no priority. All private messages take priority of our cable messages. If a message for another paper were handed in at 10 o’clock, and our message at one minute past 10, the former would go through to Australia first.
But might not priority be arranged ? - I have never tried it on. I know we have none now.
Perhaps there has been no necessity for it so far? - We could not get it. The regulations of the Cable Company would prevent it.
The following is a further extract from the evidence, the first question being asked bySenator Pulsford - 462. But according to the evidence given by Mr. Collins it appears that the bulk of the country press of Australia use your cables without payment? - That is so. 463. Do you confirm Mr. Collins’ -statement that in Victoria 189 papers pay nothing for the cable news? - I believe that to be perfectly correct. 464. Do you also confirm his statement that in New South Wales 221 out of 240 papers paynothing for the cables? - Yes. 465. By the Chairman. - But do they take the cables? - They take them, but they do not pay Reuters or the Press Association for them. 466. By Senator Guthrie. - But those are mostly weeklies, are they not? - They include a good many dailies which are able to get the news from the early morning papers.
This is by the Chairman - 471. But Mr. Collins does not say that the provincial newspapers, which do not contribute to the press cable service, get the cables for nothing? - But they do. They take them for nothing. 472. Where are your common law rights? - We have never exercised them.
At a later stage of the inquiry Mr. Mackinnon was recalled, and gave evidence with regard to the receipts and the expenditure of the Press Cable Association, and the figures supplied by Sir Robert Scott. The first question is by the Chairman - 1776. Well, Mr. Mackinnon, what would you be prepared to say is the gross income? - Will that meet the views of the Committee?
Well, speaking for myself, it would. [The Chairman asks each member in turn.]
– I should like to get a little more detailed information, but I do not want to embarrass Mr. Mackinnon by unduly pressing a view which he does not seem inclined to accede to.
– I am more than content.
Witness. - I think, Mr. Chairman, I gave you the expenses for three and a half years, 1906, 1907,1908, and 1909. 1777. By the Chairman. - Yes, in 1906 the expenditure was £13,467, in 1907 it was £14,915, in 1908 it was , £14,614, and during the first half of the present year it was , £8,790? - £8,7go. That made a total of , £51,786 for the three and a half years. The receipts for that three and a half years were £30,805, leaving close on £21,000 to be made up by the members nf the Cable Association. 1782. By Senator Dobson. - Do I understand the receipts are £30,805, leaving a debit for the three and a half years of £21,000?
– That is about it. 1783. By Senator Dobson. - Leaving £7,000 a year to be made up? - By the members of the Association.
Later the witness said, in reply to the Chairman -
There are certain figures put in by Sir Robert Scott which I think the Committee has accepted as official. Now, I cannot compare Sir Robert Scott’s figures with my own, because his year goes from different periods, that is, from June to June, while my figures are given from December to December. The figures that I put in before, I want to assure the Committee, are absolutely from the records of the messages as received in my office, and Sir Robert Scott’s certainly do not show a fair basis. Mine are absolute records, the messages are entered into a book every day, and the number of words are entered, and there can be no possible mistake about the returns, so that if the Committee are . accepting Sir Robert Scott’s figures as official, I beg to say that they do not accord with the official records of the Cable Association, and I would like to put in the correct figures.
– Which would the honorable senator accept now - the figures from a private individual, or the figures from a Government Department?
– I think that, after all, there was something to be said from his point of view - 1809. By Senator Givens. - Who is to decide which are the correct figures? - Sir Robert Scott has said, to begin with, there are a certain number of messages that come to the office as fully paid messages. They do not come as press messages. Sir Robert Scott would not be able to tell what they were. Further, he says the returns from New South Wales show different from those of Victoria, but as New South Wales gets exactly the same messages as Victoria, there must be some mistake there. If I could have compared the figures, I would have liked to compare them ; but these I am prepared to make an affidavit are correct from our records. . I can show the records.
I think that later, when he was recalled. Sir Robert Scott admitted that there were some fully-paid messages which he could not distinguish from the others.
– His later figures made the discrepancy even worse for the combine, showing that they were making more profit than they had stated.
-It showed that there was a difference in regard to the figures, but it does not seem to me to prove anything, one way or the other.
– Another question came in which complicated the matter.
SenatorVARDON.- I think that Sir Robert Scott modified his statement when he came before the Select Committee on a later occasion.
– The press messages’ are kept entirely distinct from the others and charged a separate rate. The figures which Sir Robert Scott prepared related to press messages only.
– I think he said that there were some fully-paid-up messages, which he did not take into account. Tt was said that a good deal of injustice had been meted out to Mr. Hugh Mahon, of Western Australia, and much evidence on the subject was taken from Mr. Mahon, and Mr. Mackinnon. On page 33 Mr. Mahon gave the following evidence : - 631. By the Chairman. - Turning from that matter, as a one-time proprietor of a country newspaper, what was your experience of the business of getting a cable service? - It proved a very bitter experience. 632. Was there any other method by which you could have got cables? - Absolutely none. 633. Did you make full inquiry? - I knew it before ; I knew very well there was only one cable agency in Australia. 634. Outside of that, you had no hope of getting cables? - No hope whatever; and in their contract they bound me not to publish any cablegrams from any other source. 635. What contract was that? - The contract I entered into under duress in the middle of 1S98. 636. Do you think you could get a copy of that contract? - This contract is amongst the documents for which I have sent to Menzies, and it may be in existence. 637. If you want a cable service, there is no question of competition? - Absolutely none. 63S. They can fix any terms they wish? - Yes, and the fact that they” fixed £150 a year for a little town in a remote part of Western Australia, and only ^200 for a paper like the Bendigo Advertiser, in a place with a population of 30,000 or 40,000, shows how they desired to take advantage of the unfortunate position in which i stood at the time. 639. How often was your paper published ? - livery day, but it was only a four-page paper, with a circulation of about 700 copies. 640. You found it impossible to pay the amount they asked? - Absolutely impossible, as shown in my letter, which I am glad Mr. Mackinnon read here. 658. By Senator Givens. - Is it not a fact that no newspaper in Australia could, under the conditions which prevail in Australia, afford to have a separate correspondent and service from England ? - It is absolutely impossible to compete with the Press Association. There are seven or eight newspapers in the combine, and it cost each a little over id. a word, whereas a single competitor would have to pay the full gd. 669. You think it is all nonsense to say that there is no combine or monopoly? - Not merely is there a monopoly, but absolutely the most dangerous monopoly in Australia. Other monopolies do not seek to get political power as this one does. 673. Is it not a fact that, owing to this Press Association, there is only one news-collecting agency in Australia for Great Britain? - Quite so. 674. Do you not think that we should have a better selection of news if there were a little competition? - I think that the public would profit by competition, and that the news would be more reliable ; one service would act as a check on the other. 675. Now we get only what the Association chooses to send? - What some individual in London chooses to send at the dictation of somebody at this end. 676. Is there any possibility that the messages may be coloured by party or partisan feeling? - I think it is a matter of common knowledge that they have been. 677. Whether that be so or not, they are absolutely dependent on this service? - Yes. 703. By Senator Dobson. - Can you make any suggestion to the Committee whereby a larger supply of cables can be obtained, with a wider distribution throughout Australia? - Only after he manner Sir Sandford Fleming suggested ; that the matter should be taken up by the Imperial, the Australian, and the New Zealand
Governments and a certain amount of free cable news distributed throughout the Empire. 704. By Senator Givens. - How would you suggest that the news he collected at the other end? -That is a matter of detail, I should imagine. 705. By Senator Dobson. - Would you leave the Press Association alone, or modify or amend its methods? - Their contention is that it is a private business, with which there is no right to interfere. 706. But if it is a private business carried on with the aid of public concessions, and with public property, and we have the right to have some voice in the control, can you make any suggestion? - I can see nothing except, perhaps, that you might insist on their paying a larger fee for the use of the land lines - that is to say, the sum per word that comes to the Commonwealth now from the cables.
One of the principal witnesses before the Select Committee was Mr. Thomas Mitchell Shakespeare, whose evidence dealt largely with the possibility of establishing a rival Press Cable Association and the affairs of the present Association. On page 46 he gives this evidence - 955. By the Chairman. - What is your official position? - I am secretary of the Australasian Provincial Press Association, and also of the New South Wales Country Press Association. 957. Is your Association fairly representative nf the provincial press of New South Wales? - Yes. In this State there are 238 provincial papers outside a radius of 10 miles of Sydney, and of that number 210 are members of our Association. 1 1 12. By Senator Guthrie. - What are the objects of the Australasian Press Association? - It is a Federal Council of the State Associations. But the outstanding feature, which brought it into existence, was to enable the different Associations to come together and commence a satisfactory cable service, to allow the possibility of united action to bear upon a question which was beyond State power. 1 113. One of the objects was to bring about a new cable service? - Yes.
A statement which Mr. Shakespeare read at the beginning of his evidence included the following passage : -
My own personal opinion is that in view of the high rates for press cable messages (gd. per word), plus considerable administration charges, no new cable service, likely to satisfy the reading public and national ideals, can be established without the aid of at least four metropolitan daily papers, in addition to the provincial press. The chance of obtaining this support is rendered difficult from the fact that contracts made by the present Press Cable Syndicate prohibit subscribers from publishing press cables from any other source on the one hand, while such contracts have been made with the papers for different periods and expire on different dates, thus precluding the possibility of several falling into line on a given date and supporting a rival service. The only hope of seeing a second service consummated lies in the Pacific Cable Board further reducing press rates, or in the Federal Government (1) following the precedent of the Canadian Government in subsidizing a second service until it becomes self-supporting, say for five years, or (2) of establishing a reciprocal service of its own between Great Britain and Australia, such as was suggested at the Melbourne conference of the Australasian Provincial Press Association last year, and of supplying the cables received here at a nominal cost to the press of Australasia. 970. By the Chairman. - What is your opinion of the present methods of the Australian Press Association, which you describe as the “ syndicate “ ? - I think they are good business people, and are running their concern on business lines, and very satisfactorily. It is a commercial concern, and no one can fault it. 971. From what point of view is it satisfactory? - From their own point of view. It is necessary, while press cables are received as at present, that there should be an arrangement for a combination. I do not think any one newspaper could afford to pay gd. per word for cables and the heavy upkeep in London, and produce a service quite independent of any other service. It therefore means combination. The present syndicate have taken that in hand. Prior to the present arrangement, as Mr. Mackinnon pointed out in his evidence, there were two services, and in bringing it down to one they made their contracts so that no rival service could start against it. 972. And you consider that good from a commercial stand-point? - Yes; I consider it a sagacious arrangement. 1 think that most business men will agree with Mr. Shakespeare that it was a very sagacious arrangement, so far as those who were associated with the Press Cable Service were concerned. The following is a further quotation from this gentleman’s evidence, the questioner being the Chairman - 1 02 1. Do you know of your own knowledge what provincial papers have to pay who take the cable news? - At the time I speak of I was conducting a newspaper at Condobolin, in this State, when Reuters sent along the letter to which I referred, asking me £10 a year for a 200-words message once a week. Their present rate is £6 to £10 for a weekly service, up to £52 for a daily service to far inland papers. I have never known any paper in New South Wales to receive a separate cable service for £4 per annum. That may be the case in Victoria, but I do not think it is in New South Wales. Anyway, I could not get it. 1022. Does that- service include Inter-State? - No. I make bold to say that no office receiving cables first hand with Inter-State charge, would supply the news for £4 a year. I think in the evidence they said they give them the published cables and Inter-State. That might be. No thanks to them. They are of no value. But I say I do not think any paper in Australasia receives cables first-hand at £4 a year. 1023. What is your opinion of the charges from £10 to £52 a year for the service they receive? - Our people do not grumble at them. 1063. By Senator Chataway - I understand tout real trouble is the quality of the news? - Yes. 1064. You think if a second agency were established you would get out a lot of news of quite a different character? - Yes, we know that we would.
In answer to Senator Givens. Mr. Shakespeare gave this evidence -
Do you think the news at present received is of such a character that people do not get a fair opportunity of judging public questions on the fairest merits?- I do. There are many published opinions not adequately stated here.
Do you think they give a sufficiently accurate view, and the fairest, of public events in Great Britain to enable us to form a just opinion? - I really could not answer that.
Questioned by Senator Pulsford, we have this -
I take it this is your general position : The present price of the cable service, looked at all round, is not unsatisfactory ? - That is true.
But a second service, which you would like to see, would give a greater diversity of news? - Yes.
We have it in evidence that_ in the last thirteen years the average words increased from 1,500 to nearly 5,000. Does that not show the extreme enterprise of the press, and what they have saved in cable moneys they have more than expended in getting an enlarged service? - Yes. It is patent the service has increased right along the line.
In answer to Senator Dobson there is this further evidence -
Do I understand you to say you would prefer the new service quite apart from the Government? - Yes. I meant to say that, in running a service, we would prefer to have one without what I mentioned as a tag.
There is a good deal of other evidence I should like to have quoted, but I think I have given sufficient to show that the objections set out in the report of the Select Committee were not justified by the evidence.
– The honorable senator has not read it all, and the Committee had the whole of the evidence before them.
– I am quite aware of that; but the Select Committee were good enough to publish the whole of the evidence, and we have all had an opportunity to read it. There is other interesting evidence to which I should like to have referred to show that the Committee heard nothing from the witnesses to warrant the objections stated in their report, or to warrant them in making some of the somewhat drastic recommendations they did make. It has been said over and over again that the country press is altogether dissatisfied with the Press Cable Association. I was somewhat surprised to find that this was not in any way borne out by the evidence submitted to the Select Committee. There is no reference to the matter in the Committee’s report; but in his dissent, Senator Pulsford does make a reference to it. He says -
The Committee, on its formation, at once sent out to the Australian press a circular letter inviting information and suggestions as to the operations of the Association, and generally, as to the objects of the Committee. The circular was sent to every daily and weekly paper in the Commonwealth. The number so sent exceeded 800, but these elicited only about 90 replies, and of these 90, not one-fourth expressed dissatisfaction.
– They were frightened.
– The honorable senator must have a very poor opinion of the spirit of the proprietors of the country press. There is proof that only twenty out of 800 country newspaper proprietors communicated with expressed any dissatisfaction with the service supplied by the Press Cable Association. That has not been contradicted in any way. With regard to the cost to country newspapers, it should be remembered that the cost of the cables is not their difficulty. I quoted the evidence of Mr. Collins, to the effect that he offered the cables to the proprietor of one country newspaper for£6 a year, and the man said that he could not take them at that ridiculous price because the wiring charges were so heavy. Senator Pulsford, in his dissent, makes a reference to this point. He says -
The most marked, and probably the most useful, point brought out by the inquiry, is that the cost of telegrams over Australian, wires is more burdensome to the country press, and probably to the metropolitan press as well, than the sum that would be charged for the supply of oversea cable messages. Evidence in this direction was given by representatives of both the Victorian and New South Wales Associations. Reuter’s manager, Mr. Collins, said - “ It is the heavy wiring charges which prove crushing to a country newspaper.” He further said - “ Only yesterday I was waited upon by a gentleman from the country who has a bi-weekly newspaper. He was anxious to publish cables, which, so far, he has not been able to do. I quoted him the ridiculous sum of £6 per year for the right of copying them, but he could not pay it on account of the wiring charges.”
That is the trouble with the country press. Tt is not the cost of the cables, but the cost of wiring them over the land lines. I do not say that the Commonwealth should charge less for this service, or is making a profit on the business; but I do say that we are already subsidizing the press with cheap telegrams, and are carrying their goods all over the country. Why should we not go a little further, and, instead of providing this subsidy of£6,000, reduce the railway and telegraphic charges to the press, and thus give every newspaper throughout the Commonwealth the advantage?
– And made the combine stronger than ever?
– Oh, of course, the combine is always going to be strengthened. What I suggest would place every newspaper on the same footing. The unfortunate country newspaper proprietor who cannot now afford to use the cables because of the wiring charges over the land lines would be able to use them if the suggestion I make were adopted.
– A newspaper that cannot pay more than1s. 6d. per hundred words cannot pay for ink.
– That may be the opinion of the honorable senator; but people who wish to support- a country newspaper may differ from him. Senator Pulsford went on to say, in his dissent -
The same statement as to the effect of the wiring charges was made in several letters received by the Committee. Sir Robert Scott, the Secretary of the Post and Telegraph Department, expressed the belief that the existing rates for press messages did not cover their cost. Sir Robert, however, admitted that the New Zealand press rates are very much below those of Australia. Complaint was also made of the fact that the Inter-State press rate is double that of the State rate, which means that a Broken Hill paper, for instance, must pay twice as much for a message from Adelaide as for one from Sydney.
These are some of the difficulties that must be got over, and the proposed subsidy will not overcome them. I say distinctly that there is only one reason for bringing forward this proposal, and it is to help in the establishment of Labour newspapers. I do not object to the establishment of newspapers of any and every description; but let us have the matter stated fairly. Let it be frankly admitted why we are asked to adopt this proposal. Senator Rae has said that an independent Press Cable Association has been established, and that it has four metropolitian newspapers and a number of provincial newspapers on its list.
– I said it has three small metropolitan dailies, a number of country dailies, and about eighty provincial newspapers; but they are all small newspapers.
– And they are not Labour newspapers !
– I do not say that they are.
– The honorable senator said that this proposal is intended only to assist the Labour press.
– I have said that that is the object of the proposed subsidy. The information we have now shows that this business is open to competition. We have an independent cable service established that has already on its list three small metropolitan dailies, a number of outside dailies, and some eighty country newspapers. That is a very good start. I say, “ More power to the independent Association, and let them get more newspapers on their list.”
– The existing combine can crush them if they do not get assistance.
– We are now told that what is wanted is competition. Fancy a Labour man asking for a Government subsidy to bring about competition, which they have declared is the curse of the world
– It is better than monopoly.
– Let us have some little consistency on the other side. If this independent Press Cable Association has already made so good a beginning, and one or two daily newspapers have been started in the capital cities of the Commonwealth, and are doing business with them, there is no reason why they should not continue “ on their own.” I suppose the motion will be carried notwithstanding all we can say, but when the Association is established and cables are being sent through it, I say that if the Commonwealth is going to pay part of the cost, we should have some voice as to the character of the news to be sent. Is the business of the Association that is to be subsidized to be carried out without control as to the character of the news to be supplied, and conducted in what we are led to believe is the unsatisfactory way in which the business of the Press Cable Association is conducted ? The only condition affecting the matter which the Government propose is that contained in the following paragraph
The Association must transmit to Australia by cable and supply to its subscribers any information on matters of Australian interest supplied to it or its agent in London by the High Commissioner, but the Association shall be entitled to charge the Commonwealth Government press rates in respect of the matter so transmitted.
Are people outside the independent Press Cable Association to be allowed to par.ticipate in that?
– There seems to be some silence on that point, but it would be very unfair that one Press Cable Association should be supplied with news by the High Commissioner, and another should not. We have before us a statement as to the charges to be made under the Government proposal. It is proposed that the maximum annual charge in respect of metropolitan newspapers shall be for Sydney and Melbourne, £1,000; for Brisbane and Adelaide, £750; for Perth, £500; and for Hobart, £300. Then the maximum annual charge in respect of newspapers in the chief provincial cities is to be £200, and in respect of newspapers in minor cities and towns, £50. If country newspaper proprietors cannot afford to pay as much as £6 per year for cable news, because of the heavy cost of wiring it over the land lines, how are they going to benefit under this proposal ?
– That was only one case.
– Many of them are paying £50 now, and that is the maximum charge to be made under this proposal.
– Here is the trouble with the country newspapers. They say “ We cannot avail ourselves of the cables because of the heavy land charges in transmitting them.” They will be no better off under this proposal in that respect.
– The honorable senator will see how they will take advantage of this proposal.
– I shall have to wait to see that. It is a case of shut your eyes and open your mouth, and see what the Government will send you. Before going to a vote on the motion, I should like to have some information, and perhaps the Minister, in replying to the debate, will give it, as to how the country press will be placed in a better position under this proposal than they are in at present.
– There will be no land charges directly ; we shall have wireless communication.
– Will that be without charge?
– It will be without any land charge.
– I am doubtful if messages will be sent in any way without some charge. J do not wish to delay the Senate longer. I think that a case for this motion has not been made out.
We have no evidence to show that we are justified in spending £6,000 of the money of the Commonwealth upon some Press Cable Association which may yet have to be started. There is nothing in the evidence given before the Select Committee to show that the cable news published in the daily press of Australia is not of the first class. When press representatives of other countries were here on a recent occasion, I took advantage of the opportunity to ask several of them what they thought of the press of Australia. They were unanimously of opinion that it was of a very high order, that the news supplied was excellent, and the daily press a credit to the Commonwealth.
– The guests of the Australian newspapers.
– I do not look a gift horse in the mouth, as Senator Guthrie does. I have given the testimony of the pressmen who visited Australia. I think that if fault were to be’ found with the Australian press, they would not have hesitated to say so. They were unanimous that the news supplied by the metropolitan newspapers of the Commonwealth was of a very high order, and they were conducted in a very creditable fashion indeed. Now we are asked to spend £6,000 of the Commonwealth money on a Press Cable Association, without knowing what news it will supply, and, so far as the country press are concerned, they will not be one whit better off than they are under existing conditions. In all the circumstances, I do not feel inclined to vote for the motion.
– It is not my intention, at this hour, to delay the Senate very long, but I must enter a protest against the Government entering into competition with private enterprise.
– Surely, in the opinion of the honorable senator, no Government could hope to compete successfully with private enterprise?
– Some people are under the impression that the Press Cable Association is a monopoly ; but Senator Guthrie has proved that it is not, because, he has shown that another association has been established, and where two associations are engaged in the same business it cannot be said that one of them is conducting a monopoly.
– There are more than half-a-dozen banks in Australia, and I sup pose the honorable senator will say there is no banking monopoly.
– There is no monopoly in banking in Australia. What is a monopoly? A monopoly arises when one firm has the whole field in a particular business to itself, and no one else can enter it. One would imagine, from the remarks we have heard in this debate, that Reuter’s Company is the only company that can send cablegrams. The speeches we have heard seem to me to prove only that the members of the Press Cable Association are persons who understand their business. Persons who make an agreement with them should keep it. They should find fault with the agreement before they become parties to it.
– I suppose that because more than one person owns land in Australia, there is no land monopoly ?
– There is no land monopoly in Australia. The State possesses the greatest monopoly of land in Australia. I have always maintained that, and the heavy land tax which honorable senators opposite propose to introduce must have the effect of reducing the value of the property of the States in land.
– Order !
– I was dealing with the question of monopoly. When I was in England two years ago it was generally remarked that the news from Australia was very limited. I think that if the Government were to spend £3,000 on cablegrams from Australia to Great Britain, it would be of more value than spending that sum on cablegrams from Home to this country.
– Is not Australia “ home “ ? ‘
– Australia is home now ; but I was born in Great Britain, and England is the Homeland. Why should we not spend money in making known to the people of the Old World what our resources are? Let us encourage emigrants to come out as they came to Queensland forty years ago, when emigrant ships arrived every month.
– Three cheers for cheap labour !
– Cheap labour? I remember that in Queensland forty yearsago shearers got 15s. per 100.
– Order ! The honorable senator should not reply to interjections which are disorderly. He is wandering from the subject.
– It is quite evident, from the information that has been placed before the House, that there are plenty of well-to-do newspapers which could afford Lo establish a second cable association if they chose. But they find it to be much better to work with the present Association, which is composed of men who understand their business. I am one of those who think that when an agreement has been made, it should be adhered to. I cannot, therefore, blame those newspapers which have joined the Press Cable Association for remaining loyal to it. We have evidence which goes to prove that the land charges are a great drawback to the country newspapers in respect to obtaining cable news. There is a great deal of force in what Senator Vardon has said in that respect. If we want to subsidize a cable service, let us reduce the land charges. I exceedingly regret that, through illness, my leader, Senator Millen, is not present to give the benefit of his experience. He has been connected with newspaper enterprises for many years, and 1 am aware that he had to submit to a great deal of criticism from country journals in New South Wales on account of the stand he took up in the matter of telegrams. Of course, I recognise that the subsidy will be granted, because twenty-three senators can out-vote thirteen. I emphasize the point made by Senator Chataway that the new Association should not be restricted in the matter of sending out 6,000 words each week, lt should be permitted to send an average of 6,000 words per week throughout the year. There is much force in what has been said by Senator Vardon, as to the information to be obtained from the High Commissioner’s office. But is the High Commissioner to be expected to edit cablegrams? I trust that the Minister in charge will let us know what the intention of the Government is.
– -*We shall want a new High Commissioner if he is to do that work.
– We have the best man in Australia for the office of High Commissioner. I have heard members of the Ministerial party say, when in Opposition, that the man they would like to see appointed was the Right Honorable Sir George Reid. Since he has been in London, he has advertised Australia better than any man ever did before.
– Next to Mr. Coghlan.
– I regret the action that has been taken by the Government. We are already getting a good cable service, and what more is required ? Once more I enter my protest against Government interference with legitimate private enterprise.
– I regret to say that I differ entirely from the view which has been last expressed by my honorable friend who has just sat down, and also from those which have been enunciated by Senator Vardon. I have the most complete respect for both honorable senators, and I know that experience has dictated to them a course of policy which, in their opinion, will be conducive to the best interests of the Commonwealth. Senator Walker has just stated that Australia is already pretty well supplied with cable news, and that there is hardly any necessity for the establishment of a new organization. I totally differ from my honorable friend in respect to that point. On more than one occasion during the last eight or ten years, I have availed myself of opportunities to express my opinion on this subject. It is not a question of the present only. I am quite prepared to .take my part in voting upon the important proposal which has been submitted to us. But, at the same time, I dissent from the course adopted by the Government in bringing this subject before Parliament. In my opinion, it should not have been submitted in the form of a motion to be debated by both Houses; or, if there was a motion, it should have in terms signified the intention of the Government to follow it up with a legislative proposal. A Government could have attached to a Bill dealing with this subject rules and regulations relating to administration, which would receive the concurrence of both Houses of this Parliament. If the Go,vernment had been Spared to submit’ a project of this sort i” the form of a Bill they would have bound, not merely the Go1vernment at present in power, but every Government that might succeed them. The measure would have had to be administered according to rules and regulations laid down and approved by Parliament. Such a Bill would, I venture to say, be accorded the cordial assent, not only of the Senate, but of the members of another place. But to ask us to adopt a motion for a resolution with regard to a subsidy operating for years is, in my view, a little too much. If I may, in the most friendly spirit, make a suggestion to my honorable friend, the Minister of Defence, I would ask him whether, having secured the adoption of this motion, he cannot see his way to ask his colleagues to bring down a Bill to give legislative sanction to what is intended. Such a course would, I believe, commend itself to honorable members in both Houses of the Legislature, and would, I think, command the support of every rightthinking man and woman in Australia. I do not ask my honorable friend to give an answer to me now, but I do ask him whether he will ask his colleagues to agree to the suggestion that I am now making. J desire that this project shall be embodied ir the statute-book, and that Parliament, and Parliament alone, as the representative of the people, shall express its will, which will be binding upon whatever Government may be in power.
– The Minister clearly replied to the honorable senator’s suggestion when he was submitting a motion.
– I think not. The proposed subsidy extends over a certain period, and it ls not at present proposed to give legislative sanction to it. I am not saying anything hostile to the Government ; I am simply speaking as one who knows the many difficulties that have confronted people who have endeavoured to establish newspapers, especially in the metropolitan centres. I am speaking from my own personal and professional knowledge of these difficulties.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that this subsidy should continue year after year?
– I am suggesting that it should be embodied in a Bill to be placed upon the statute-book. The assumption is, of course - and it may be a perfectly correct assumption - that the present Government will remain in office throughout the career of this Parliament. But everybody knows that accidents happen, and in no sphere of activity more than in the political sphere. I am speaking with a due regard to the interests of the people of Australia. I recognise that the information that has been received in the past from our press cable organizations has not been altogether of the character that one might naturally have expected.
– What is the fault?
– I suppose the fault is largely due to commercial reasons. Senator Pearce clearly indicated that when he referred to the evidence given by Mr.
Mackinnon, and to the way in which one of the strongest Imperialists we ever had in the Federal Parliament, ex-Senator Dobson, was shocked when Mr. Mackinnon said, in effect, “ We are not out to promoteImperialism; we are out for profit.”
– Will not the other combine be out for profit also ?
– Exactly. My point is that, in the past, we have not been furnished with that class of information which we might naturally have expected from a highly-developed organization such as that which at presents exists, and of which, from what we hear, the managing director of the Argus is the head, the front, the back, the centre, and indeed the whole body. This organization, he tells us, is avowedly “ out for profit,” and for nothing else.
– Yet they pretend to be great patriots 1
– I do not think so. I do not go so far as Senator Givens does.. I believe that they are not to be blamed! for being out for profit. Let me show how the cable service supplied to the Australian press strikes an intelligent foreigner. My honorable friends from New South Wales, may remember that a few years ago, there was in Sydney, representing the Republic of France, Monsieur Biard D’Aunet. No doubt Senator Gould knew him well. This gentleman, during the course of his residence in Australia, contributed many articles; of serious import and very great interest to the Revue des Deux Mondes. In thecourse of one of these articles, which havesince been published in book form under the title L’Aurore Australe, Monsieur D’Aunet quoted an extract from Le Courrier Australian, which professed to represent the manner in which news was cabled to Australia. I will try to translate the passage, which I think will be amusing to the Senate -
Scene : London. - The scene represents a bureau lighted by electricity. Tables covered with small sheets of paper of various colours; the tick-tack of an instrument is to be heard. Messengers frequently enter and leave.
Mr. Black and Mr. Brown are half reclining on a bench smoking and drinking whisky and soda. Mr. Black informs his friend about his. visit to the ballet at the Empire. Mr. Brown, is quietly smiling approval. Mr. White is seated near one of the large tables working a typewriter.
Mr. Brown rises and says: “Well, it is Australia that you are doing to-day, is it MrWhite ?”
Mr. White, Yes, but there is really nothing at all to dg.
Mr. BROWN. There is the cricket match.
Mr. White. I have already sent 140 words about the cricket match, 40 about the football, 30 about the swimming, 12 about the fight between Bob and Tom at Coney’s Island. By the way, Bob had three teeth broken.
Mr. Brown. Ah well, that is quite enough for Australia. Three teeth broken ! You will not find anything more interesting than that?
The word “ lines “ is used. I think it should be “ words.”
Mr. White. I want another fifty lines. Mr. Smith wishes us to send political news. But I ask you, Mr. Brown, what is the good of sending that to Australia. What do they want with political news?
Mr. Brown. Mr. Smith sometimes has singular ideas it is true. But still he understands the service. It is a tradition to send political news to Australia, and (gravely) tradition has made the power of England. (A short but solemn silence.) However, one of my friends who has come from Coolgardie has assured me that there are really some people down there in Australia who read our telegrams.
Mr. Black. (Interposing.) Oh, I doubt that.
Mr. Brown. I doubt it very much. However, I am glad to realize that Mr. Smith has so much tact in the selection of messages. You are right in saying he knows the service.
Enter Mr. Smith.
Here follows a description of his personality -
Mr. Smith. I am late, gentlemen ; but I see you have not lost any time. (To Mr. Brown) - New York gone, eh?
Mr. Brown. Yes, sir.
Mr. Smith. And was there anything particular?
Mr. Brown. Nothing. Same old thing. Kinship Crimson thread Blood thicker than water English speaking Dreyfus, and Sarah Bernhardt.
Mr. Smith. Splendid. Go on just as you are. Above all - No news about the Philippines? It is bad taste to tell one’s friends disagreeable news. It is said that they are going to lay a cable across the Pacific for the express purpose of communicating with them direct. It is a magnificent idea. Ah ! gentlemen, they are a great people, whose inspirations are never anything but magnificent. And so this idea of being connected with the Philippines.
. But I was forgetting - (to Mr. Black) - You have got Hong Kong, Shanghai?
Mr. Black. Yes, sir; that is done.
Mr. Smith. And good?
Mr. Black. Very little very little. His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales the Duchess of York Saxe-Coburg Epsom the Marquis of Lorne Dreyfus and Sarah Bernhardt
Mr. Smith. Good ; anything about Mr. Chamberlain ?
Mr. Black. Mr. Cecil Rhodes prefers that nobody says too much about him just now. I have thought -
Mr. Smith. Very good. You are right. It is necessary to be careful, very careful, for our responsibility is tremendous. . . . You smile, Mr. White? By the way, Mr. White, what have you been doing to-day?
Mr. White. (Of handedly and lightly) Australia.
Mr. Smith. That’s easy.
Mr. White. I have got “the Cricket match, the Football match, the Swimming, little Rowing contest, Pugilism in America, Dreyfus, and Sarah Bernhardt. I still want sixty lines.
Mr. Smith. We’ll do that together. Let us see ! Is there anything about Major Marchand ?
Mr. White. There’s a message not, too clear saying that the Government has refused him leave to go to his people in the country. That’s of very little interest.
Mr. Smith. Any one can see that you are new in the service, White. Mention the refusal of leave and add that the French Government wish to have Commandant Marchand at hand in order to obviate political demonstrations.
Mr. White (re reads the message). I beg pardon. I made a mistake. The Government has given leave to the Commandant to go -
Mr. White. In that case state that leave has been given. It’s necessary to be exact and never to alter news. Add that the French Government wishes to get Commandant Marchand out of the way in order to obviate political demonstrations. You have nothing about Deroulede ?
Mr. White. Nothing at all.
Mr. Smith. He has made no movement, no speech?
Mr. White. Apparently not. The Times says that the attitude of M. Deroulede is causing the Government uneasiness.
Mr. Smith. I can well believe it. It is not the usual thing. This absence of any movement is more than a movement itself. Put down that M. Henry de Blowitz, correspondent of the Times at Paris. . . . You write : “M. Blowitz.” It’s necessary to put prefixes and titles always. That gives weight to news, and pleases the Eastern telegraph. Let us say, then, that M. Henry de Blowitz, correspondent of the Times at Paris, refers to the probable existence of a conspiracy of which M. Deroulede will be the chief. Some of the. most prominent personalities will probably be compromised. Serious eventualities are anticipated.
Mr. White. There’s a message from Germany saying that the Emperor is unwell.
Mr. Smith. You can put that in also. What - do the French papers say about it?
Mr. White. They reprint the news without comment.
Mr. Smith. Add, that the silence of the French press on the subject of Emperor William’s illness is regarded at Berlin as far from friendly in the light of recent developments. Well, Mr. White, is that enough?
Mr. White. Oh, about eight or ten lines wanted.
Mr. Brown (Mopping himself with his handkerchief). Oh, Lord; isn’t it hot?
Mr. Smith. Put down that it is hot in London.
Mr. White. That is well already cabled that yesterday.
Then put down that it’s still hot.
Mr. Black (satirically). And that will be the freshest of our news.
That, sir, is a sample of how others view us, and what other people look upon as the class of news which we get from Europe.
– That is the cable factory.
– I do not know what it is called, but that is a sample of what people who come to live amongst us regard as the character and the quality of the news, which is transmitted here.
– What news do we lend Home?
– Nothing to speak of, I regret to say. I am quite with the honorable senator in that regard, and would vote a like sum to have authoritative information sent Home with regard to Australia, but, at present, we have no direct means of verifying the information which is supplied to us, or determining whether it can be relied upon. What is it ? Anybody who has been at Home will tell you that the bulk of the news sent to Australia is what is picked out of the morning newspapers. Two or three persons are employed day by day in a particular place in sending news, not only to Australia, but also to Shanghai, New York, indeed, all over the world, and professedly picking out the news that will suit the different localities to which it is sent. Can we expect to get anything like an adequate service in that way? When it is attempted on the part of any proprietary or any enterprising persons in Australia to establish the machinery which would secure something like adequate news for Australia, they are always faced with the difficulty of the cablegrams. It has been argued that it would be far better for us if we, as a partner in the Pacific Cable, were to take the responsibility of charging the persons who receive this news a much lower rate than they are now compelled to pay. I originally agreed with that idea, and I now want to tell honorable senators what my experience has been. About three or four years ago, the Senate, on my initiative as a Minister, abolished the super charge in connexion with cable news between Tasmania and the mainland, and placed that State, in the matter of telegraphy, in the same position as any of the mainland States amongst themselves. The Eastern Extension Telegraph Company’s charge of Jd. per word was taken off. When I was addressing myself to that subject, amongst other matters T mentioned that it would conduce to a greater knowledge as between the States, and that Tasmania would be better known in Victoria and other States, and vice versa. What was the result ? I venture to say that to-day not 100 additional words are sent per week between press and press over the cable, if we are to judge by what we see in the newspapers. When Senator Ready, while here, picks up the Melbourne newspapers, morning after morning, as I do, lie might as well look for a needle in a haystack as for news from Tasmania. He will, I ‘ am sure, agree with me that we, on the other side of the Straits, do not appear to get a ha’porth more news from the mainland. Who is getting the benefit of the reduction in the rate? Somebody is getting it, but it is not the public. Primarily and honorably, that proposition came before this Parliament, and was adopted, and the Commonwealth saddled itself with a responsibility to such an extent that it even went into the High Court and fought the company. The High Court decided against the Commonwealth, and made it pay the difference in charges up to the termination of the contract. I shall not say whether I think that the High Court decided the case rightly or wrongly, but I have my own opinion about the matter. Did the publicget any benefit out of the reduction? I venture to say that, from a press point of view, they have not got a penny’s valueout of it.
– Then the concessionwas obtained by false pretences.
– No. It only costsus is. minimum to telegraph to Tasmania., whereas previously it cost is. 8d. A private individual does get that benefit, and’ we are placed on a fair equality with theother States. But it was urged that by the abolition of that .charge Tasmania would hear more about the mainland Statesthrough its press, and vice versa. I venture to say that the prophecy has never been fulfilled. For that reason I cannot accede to the suggestion that a reduction of the rates over the Pacific cable, or even over the land lines, would bring about theresults which we all wish to see achieved. Per head of population, Australia hasa larger number of newspapers thanhas, perhaps, any other country in the world. Our newspapers are naturally desirous of giving, not only the latest news of local significance and interest, but alsothe greatest amount of news which they can afford of what is taking place throughout the world. And everything that we- can reasonably and legitimately do which will conduce to that end I think we should do. The abolition, or a reduction, of the existing rates will not, I think, conduce to that end. I am prepared, therefore, to support any proposal which the Government may bring forward tor subsidizing any service which will supply to any and every class of newspaper a certain amount of news per week, or per month, or per quarter, or per half-year. At the same time, I would ask the Minister of Defence to impress upon his colleagues that, whatever may be done in that regard, should be done not on a resolution which simply gives carte blanche to the Government for the time being, but under legislative authority, supported, so far as the public are concerned, by proper rules and regulations made thereunder.
– In this motion, we are asked to approve of a subsidy of .£6,000 spread over a period of three years. I do not believe it is necessary to take that sum out of the Treasury for the purpose announced by the Minister of Defence. He said that we do not get the right sort of news. Now, who is to be the judge of that question - the Minister of Defence, or the members of the Senate, or those who pay to have the news sent here? It is all very well for honorable senators to say that it is not the right sort of news that we get. From their stand-point, it may not be the right sort of news, but I take it that it is the right sort in the opinion of those who have to pay for its transmission.
– We all have to pay for it.
– The honorable senator only pays when he buys a newspaper. Under this agreement, the Commonwealth would have to pay whether the news was what we wanted or not. Already there is another combine in the field. The Press Cable Association cannot be very powerful. In Australia there are about 800 newspapers, and surely they can get news without going cap in hand to the proprietor of the Argus. That has been the gist of the cry raised here this evening. In various States I have asked the proprietors and the editors of newspapers why they did not give more news from the other States, and in several States I have asked why they did not give more Queensland news. “ The people of this State,” I was told, “ are not interested in what takes place in another State. We give the news which we think our readers require. There is another newspaper next door, and if we are not giving the news which they require, they can subscribe to it, and perhaps get different news. But we find that the news which we get and pay for is that which the people require.” In these circumstances, I think it is hardly fair to ask the public to subscribe £6,000 to subsidize a cable news service. I do not intend to dwell too long on the subject, because it has been fairly threshed out. My attention was arrested by the following paragraph, on page 15 of the report : -
The Committee, on its formation, at once sent out to the Australian press a circular letter inviting information and suggestions as to the operations of the Association, and generally, as to the objects of the Committee. The circular was sent to every daily and weekly paper in the Commonwealth. The number so sent exceeded 800, but these elicited only about 90 replies, and of these go, not one-fourth expressed dissatisfaction.
As regards the extent to which the cable service was availed of, I find the following paragraph on page 10: -
Victoria seems fairly divided in opinion, though the provincial dailies appear to be dissatisfied generally.
Queensland and Tasmanian Country Press, with a few exceptions, seem fairly well satisfied with present arrangements.
The replies received from the country press of South Australia and Western Australia were too meagre to form an opinion upon them. On this information a report was drawn up by the majority of the Select Committee. I speak subject to correction, but I believe that some members of the Committee resigned from it on the ground that the whole proceedings were a farce. Senators Chataway and Pulsford dissented from the report of the majority of the Committee. I do not blame Senator Pearce for submitting this motion, because when he moved for the Select Committee he was in favour of such a proposal, and now that he is in a position to do so he is justified in bringing it forward, and I suppose he will carry it. I do not know what other honorable senators propose to do, but I certainly object to putting money on the Estimates to give effect to this motion. I should object just as strongly if the proposal were submitted in the form of a Bill. I believe that we have a very fair cable service under existing conditions which supplies us with news from all partsof the world. There are two associations engaged in the business now, and no matter how many more were established we should not get better or more cable news. The people engaged in sending cable news to Australia are better judges of what is of interest to the people of Australia than are many honorable senators.
– We are getting a choice of news now.
– Then why this subsidy ? T.« there any ulterior motive behind this motion?
– The object is to keep it going, and continue the choice.
– When there are 800 newspapers in the Commonwealth, and half-a-dozen constitute the Press Cable Association, the rest ought to be able to keep it going without a Government subsidy. What I think is necessary is that we should have more and better information sent from this side to the people in the Old Land. We want the people of the Old Country to be informed as to the resources of Australia in order that they may be induced by every legitimate means to come here and help to populate this country. I should support the Government in spending money in that way. People at Home should be informed that Australia is a good country to come to. I believe it -is the best country under the sun to-day. If the Government came forward with a motion to give a subsidy for the transmission of accurate information about Australia to the Old Country and other countries of the world, they would meet with very little opposition from this side. But they are submitting a proposal which will not benefit Australia. I do not believe that the news sent to Australia from the Old Country under this proposal will advance the Commonwealth in any way. I do not wish to take up further time, because I know honorable senators opposite are tired of hearing this matter discussed. They have such a majority that they need not speak, and when the division bell rings they know that the whole thing will be over. It is impossible for half-a-dozen honorable senators on this side to convince them. We had experience the other day of the fact that they will not be convinced. I do not see why we should vote for a subsidy of £6,000 to be expended over three years in supplying news to Australia. What we really require is to send Home news from Australia which will induce people to come here with capital. If the Government bring forward a motion to subsidize a service to that end I shall be prepared to support it, but I cannot support the motion now before the Senate.
– I shall reply first of all to the statement made by Senator Keating, that this proposal should have been introduced in the form of a Bill. The honorable senator is aware that even if that course had been followed there are many things connected with the proposal which would have to be provided for by regulation, and the decision as to details would remain practically in the hands of the Government of the day. They could frame fresh regulations in which they might alter the basis on which the subsidy would be given. So that to all intents and purposes the carrying of this motion, accompanied as it is by a statement of the conditions upon which the offer will be advertised, will give all the safeguards which would have been provided if the course the honorable senator has suggested had been adopted. I am prepared to bring his representation under the notice nf my honorable colleague who introduced this proposal, although I may say that the desirability of submitting the proposal in the form of a Bill was considered.
– Assuming the Commonwealth Government to be a continuous body, it would have given greater elasticity to the proposal.
– I remind the honorable senator - that what is proposed is merely a temporary subsidy for three years on the lines followed in Canada.
– It might be , advisable to continue it for twenty years.
– If, as the result of experience, it is found advisable to continue the subsidy, that might be a good argument for making statutory provision for it. I am rather afraid that Senator Keating, in the company he is at present keeping, is becoming tainted with the Toryism for which the present Opposition are noted. We find him repeating some of the well-known Tory adages, to the effect that the way proposed is not the right way to do what is proposed, and that this is not the right time to do it. These are the usual Tory objections to every reform.
– The practice of the Tory is to say that the time is not yet ripe or that the method proposed is not the proper method, but he never suggests asubstitute. T did not follow that practice.
– I remind Senator Keating that he was a member of a Government that adopted a precisely similar course in making far more important proposals carrying far greater financial obligations. They followed this course in connexion with the mail contract, as I mentioned in my opening remarks. I remind the honorable senator also that the mail contract dealt with a large number of subjects other than the carriage of mails ; such, for instance, as the regulation of the temperature in the refrigerating chambers of the mail steamers, the carriage and handling of produce, and the time the vessels should remain in different ports. We might then have urged the very objections which the honorable senator has urged against this motion. We might have said that because there were all those provisions in the contract, they should be embodied in a Statute.
– This is not a contract.
– It will be a contract when any agreement is arrived at under it. We have submitted the conditions under which any contract made will have to be made.
– This is an offer. The mail contract was an established contract, subject only to ratification by Parliament.
– We have submitted conditions in this case in just the way in which the conditions of the temporary mail contract were submitted. I remind Senator Keating that a similar course was followed in connexion with the proposed contract with Burns, Philp and Company to develop trade with the South Sea Islands. The Government of which the honorable senator was a member said it was desirable to develop trade with the South Sea Islands, and thev asked Parliament to sanction their entering into an agreement to subsidize Burns, Philp and Company. That agreement provided -for all sorts of things, such as that the crews should be white crews, and that the vessels should call at certain places.
– The honorable senator will pardon me. That was a proposal to ratify a contract with a distinct party, subject only to the ratification of Parliament. This proposal is a bald offer to the world.
– This will represent a contract with a distinct party, when any agreement under it is entered into. The only difference in this case is that we state what the conditions will be before we accept otters from anybody. Having stated those conditions, and having obtained the sanction of Parliament to enter into a contract under this motion, if it is carried we shall be prepared to receive offers from all who are willing to comply with the conditions. If there is any difference between this proposal, and those submitted by the Government of which Senator Keating was a member, it is a very slight one. Senator Vardon and other honorable senators opposite have expressed themselves as being very anxious about the country press. The best reflex of the opinion of the country press is given by the fact that it was the country press of New South Wales that organized the independent Press Cable Association. It was the newspapers that, we were told, did not want a cable service, and were not prepared to pay for one, that took the leading part in establishing the independent Press Cable Association.
– In view of the fact that circulars were sent out to 800 of them, how is it that they did not appear before the Select Committee?
– Because they had not then set to work to form the independent Press Cable Association. They organized that Association since the Select Committee presented their report.
– I suppose it is an organized political arrangement.
– That is an insinuation which is worthy of the honorable senator, but it is pointless, in view of the fact that the chief agents in the organization of the independent Press Cable Association are outside the Labour party altogether.
– That does not matter. If there is money in it, they can be got.
– I can refer the honorable senator to one of the chief agents in the organization of the Association, Mr. McMillan, the manager of the Stock and Station Journal of New South Wales, and no honorable senator will say that he has any particular love for the Labour party.
– I do not know the gentleman.
– The honorable senator might make inquiries before he makes these innuendoes. He makes an unworthy innuendo, and on his own admission he knows nothing of the prime movers in the establishment of the independent Press Cable Association.
– I do not know them.
– Yet the honorable senator has insinuated that the Association might be formed in the interests of the Labour party.
– I still say it might have been formed for political purposes.
- Senator Chataway attempted to make capital out of the fact that the maximum charge we propose for the provincial press is similar to the charge made bv the Press Cable Association. The honorable senator omitted to mention that what we propose is a maximum charge, and may be lowered according to the service supplied. But the chief complaint of the country press is this - and this is where the burden of the charge of the land lines comes in - that when a struggling country newspaper proprietor goes to the existing Association which is bringing out 5,000 words per week, he is told that he must take all their cables. They will not give him a selection. If the country newspaper proprietors say that they want only cables about the war, cricket cables, or special cables of any kind, they are told that they will not be given a selection of news, and that if they want a selection they must pay an agent in the office of the Association to make the selection, and telegraph the news to them. No country newspaper can afford to maintain as extensive a cable service as can a big metropolitan daily newspaper. The country press have complained of the land charges, because they have had to pay them on a lot of cable messages that are of not use to them, because they are of no interest to their readers. Senator Vardon attempted to cause Mr. Mackinnon, the managing director of the Press Cable Association, to appear as a very angel of light in his generosity to the reading public of Australia. I do not speak of Mr. Mackinnon personally, but in his representative capacity as managing director of the combine. In order to dress Mr. Mackinnon in the best clothes possible, Senator Vardon discounted the evidence given by Sir Robert Scott, as Secretary to the Post and Telegraph Department. He was not a partisan in this matter. He came before the Select Committee with the official figures, and that is all we asked him for. I am going to give the figures given by Mr. Mackinnon himself, and we shall see what sort of a philanthropist he turns out to be. Mr. Mackinnon’s claim and Senator Vardon’s claim is that, when the Commonwealth brought its influence to bear and secured a reduction in the cable rates, the Press Cable .Association promised Sir John
Quick - and they say they have carried out the promise - that they would give the public the benefit of a reduction in an increased cable service. That is the statement they made, but let us look at what it meant to the Commonwealth. I ask honorable senators to consider how much of the 9d. per word on press cable messages the Commonwealth, and the Pacific Cable Board receive. This is the way in which the amount is divided. Out of the gd. the Commonwealth receives id., the Pacific Cable Board 2d., the Canadian line id., and the Atlantic Fine. the private enterprise line, though not of the same length as the State-owned Pacific cable, and doing, I suppose, ten times the business, receives 5d.
– And they have not the work of the Canadian transcontinental line in repeating.
– Honorable senators opposite are always prating about the blessings of private enterprise. Here is a magnificent illustration of them. A Stateowned line charges 2d. for cabling a message, whilst private enterprise charges sd. for cabling the same message over a lesser distance.
– The honorable senator does not consider 3,000 miles, under the sea, as the same as a similar distance over land.
– Does the honorable senator believe that the Pacific cable is a land line?
– I thought the honorable senator was referring to the line across Canada.
– No, I am referring to the Pacific cable, which is a Stateowned cable, and comparing the charge the Pacific CaBle Board makes with the charge made for a lesser distance over the private line across the Atlantic.
– I misunderstood the honorable senator.
– The previous charge was is. per word, and the whole of the id. reduction came off the Pacfic cable, (he Atlantic cable people never budged, and did not reduce their charge by a halfpenny. The Pacific Cable Board reduced their charges from sd. to 2d.
– Does the Pacific cable pay at the 2d. rate?
– No, that is just what I am coming to. It is because it does not pay that the Commonwealth is called upon to subsidize it to the extent of £19,000 per annum of the money of the taxpayers of Australia. The taxpayers of the Commonwealth are called upon to pay this subsidy in order to secure this reduction. In whose interests do honorable senators think? In the interests of the Mackinnon syndicate. The late Government carried their proposal, which meant a subsidy to the Mackinnon syndicate, and did honorable senators opposite r-aise any objection. We did not hear a word of protest from them. When it was a question of subsidizing that particular syndicate, and not of throwing the concession open to competition, honorable senators opposite were dumb, and they accepted the proposal to subsidize the Mackinnon syndicate to the extent of 3d. per word without the slightest protest.
– Did the honorable senator object to it?
– I did object as soon as Parliament met, but the thing was fixed up when Parliament was not in session.
– How, then, could we object ?
– The honorable senator was sitting behind the Government which fixed the matter up. Sir John Quick, then Postmaster-General, arranged it without making a single stipulation that the Cable Company, which made the reduction, was to get any of the business. He called on the Pacific Cable Board to make this present to the press - because it was only on press messages, and not on private business messages, that the reduction was made. Then the Eastern Extension Company duly followed suit. Consequently this concession to the press of Australia meant a present of 3d per word, not only on the business they sent across the Pacific Cable, but on every press message coming to Australia. Taking Mr. Mackinnon’s own figures as given on page 83 of the Commission’s report - but which do not tally with the Post Office figures - we find that before the reduction in the charge the Association was receiving 4,477 words per week, which, at 9d. per word - the old charge - works out at £167 17s. per week. Since the reduction the Association has, as Senator Vardon says, increased the number of words cabled to Australia. They are now getting about onethird of their messages, or even less than that, over the Pacific cable, but the bulk of them still come over the Eastern Extension Company’s cable. The Association is now receiving, according to Mr. Mackinnon - or was receiving when he made this statement - 5,280 words per week, which cost, at fid. word, £132 per week. That represents, a saving of , £35 per week. But if we take into consideration that the Association has increased the number of words by 803 per week on an average, and multiply that figure by 6d. per word, it shows that the Association is paying £20 per week for the additional number of words that it is now bringing to Australia. That means that the Association is now pocketing a clear profit of £15 per week as the result of the reduction. And these are the generous people who tell us through the mouth of Senator Vardon that they have passed on the whole benefit of the reduction to the people of Australia, and that they themselves have not benefited at all ! I point out to the Senate that the reduction in rates has benefited the Association, according to the figures of Mr. Mackinnon himself, to the extent of £15 per week; whilst if we take Sir Robert Scott’s figures, upon which the Committee based their statement, the profit works out at very much more than that. Personally, I think that Sir Robert Scott is a much safer guide to follow. Senator Vardon says that the news cabled to Australia is thoroughly reliable. When Mr. Mackinnon was giving his evidence before the Select Committee, he was presented with a sample of garbled news, and asked for an explanation. I will read it to the Senate as it was published in two newspapers appearing in the same city. The Adelaide Advertiser, in October, 1909, published the following item -
London, 31st October.
The Anti-Socialist Union Fund, inaugurated early this week by the Standard to pay the election expenses of unionist working men, already totals 57,000s. The movement is showing great activity, and promises to be an important factor at the general elections.
The South Australian Register of the same date published the same item in the following form -
Important Election Factor.
London, 31st October.
The Anti-Socialist Fund now amounts to 57,000 shillings, and is showing great activity. The movement promises to be an important factor at the forthcoming general elections.
I said to Mr. Mackinnon -
You will observe that in the Advertiser cable the words “ union “ and “ inaugurated early this week bv the Standard to pay the election expenses of unionist workmen” appear, and that they do not appear in the Register. Would those cables come from the same source?
His reply was, “Absolutely.” That was the truth. The only explanation is that one of the cables was garbled. One had more padding put into it than the other. In other words, one had imparted to it a little colouring for local consumption.
– And the Advertiser was one of the supporters of the Labour party !
– I advise the honorable senator to look up the file of the Advertiser at about the time of the last elections. He will then see whether it supported the Labour party. There are one or two other points upon which I had intended to comment, but 1 shall be brief. Senator - Gould objects to the subsidy proposed, but says nothing about the subsidy granted by the Government of which he was an earnest supporter - a subsidy which, as I have pointed out, has enabled them to effect a great saving, and to secure increased profit to the extent of £15 per week. The honorable senator ‘ never made any objection to that subsidy - a subsidy of which no other Association was offered a share, and which it was not possible for any other Association to have a chance to share. The granting of it was, I say again, altogether wrong ; because it meant using the State cable merely as a lever to put money into private pockets, and, incidentally, to squeeze the Eastern Extension Company. I have before me various journals from which I intended to quote; but I shall forbear, the hour, being rather late. One ‘ is the Colonial Office Journal, edited by W. H. Mercer. I should like my honorable friends opposite to look at it. It contains an article on the question of press cables, and it is interesting to observe how our situation in this respect strikes a writer in what is certainly not a Labour journal. Indeed, this is rather a journal of a Conservative type. The writer speaks with some scorn of the fact that Australia is content to get its news from one source only. I also have before me the National Review, for May, 1910. This is by no means a Labour organ. A writer in it sets out the facts regarding our cable service, and says -
You, I said, may be surprised to hear this. But you will not be one quarter as surprised as would be 99 per cent, of the people in Sydney and Melbourne. For though the service is in working order and available on very easy terms for any newspaper in Australia-
– Hear, hear !
– I was waiting for that “Hear, hear!” The writer is, how ever, referring to the new independent Press Cable Association ! He goes on -
Not a metropolitan paper dares use it. Bathurst and Ipswich get their news now-a-days eighteen hours before Sydney and Brisbane - get a good deal of news that Sydney and Brisbane do not get at all. Brisbane merchants I know are studying the Ipswich papers to get information which will put them well ahead of their rivals in Sydney and Melbourne. That sounds almost impossible probably. Can you imagine a Londoner having to subscribe to the Uxbridge Guardian in order to get foreign news not to be found in the Times, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Standard or Chronicle) It is a fact, and here is the explanation of it.
Then the writer quotes that article in the agreement insisted upon by Mr. Mackinnon’s syndicate, which binds subscribers not to take cablednews from any other concern. The preliminary remarks of the writer of the article I purposely left out, in the hope of eliciting a “Hear, hear!” from some honorable member opposite. They refer, however, to the independent Press Cable Service, which has at last enabled the people of Australia to get news from other sources. By setting up competition between these two concerns, it has enabled us to get something near the truth as to what is going on outside this country. I trust that the Senate will agree to the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I cannot see why we should adjourn at this hour. As there is still so much business to proceed with, we ought to sit a little longer. The Government have many notices on the business-paper. Why cannot we do something more to-night?
– The other House took two days to pass the motion which has been disposed of by the Senate in one.
– I protest against coming from the other side of the continent to sit only a few hours. Of course, the Government must conduct the business in their own way ; but if we do not proceed with measures more expeditiously, the result will be that, at the tail end of the session, there will either be a slaughter of innocents, or Bills will be passed very hurriedly.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.9.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 August 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1910/19100824_senate_4_56/>.