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Friday, 15 December 1905

Mr HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne) - I think that we are at cross purposes in this matter, and that there is a deal of misapprehension as to what the effect of the amendment would be. It would not cure the evils of which the member for Hindmarsh complains, and I suggest that the Minister should makesome radical amendment in paragraph a of the section proposed to be amended. I cannot make out the meaning of the last phrase, " and on the face of the notice the name and address of the person authorizing the notice." The previous part of the section provides that the issue of an electoral notice without the name and address of the person authorizing the same shall be an illegal practice, and I cannot understand why the words I have quoted are added. There would be nothing to hinder a person from giving a false name. What we want to do is to provide that no notice relating to an electoral matter shall appear unless it is authorized by the candidate. Every newspaper proprietor, before inserting an advertisement, should be satisfiedthat it is authorized by the candidate. That could be done in a dozen ways. The Minister will not achieve his purpose by merely excepting newspaper advertisements. That would not cover the whole of the ground. The desire is to prevent the insertion of bogus advertisements, or the. issue of bogus pamphlets, and I think we should prescribe that any publication of an electoral advertisement, handbill, or pamphlet without the authority of the candidate should render the offender liable to a penalty. I do not move an amendment to that effect, because I feel that the Minister in charge of the Bill could best draft a provision of the kind.

Mr. FISHER(Wide Bay).- The proposal now being made is something akin to that which was intended to increase to £2 50 the amount which a candidate might devote to electoral expenses. If the amendment were adopted any irresponsible person might insert an advertisement in a newspaper with the object of assisting the candidate.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I intend to except only advertisements calling meetings.

Mr FISHER - That would not overcome the difficulty, because a person might insert an advertisement calling a meeting, and at the same time enter into a long description of the qualifications of the candidate. I would urge the Committee to make the conditions as strict as possible, and not to permit the insertion of any notice unless it is authorized by the candidate or by his duly appointed agent.

Mr. BATCHELOR(Boothby). - I trust that the Minister will not accept the proposal either wholly or in part. We want to provide against bogus advertisements of whatever kind. We cannot prevent persons from signing false names upon election notices ; but, as a matter of fact, the newspapers take care not to accept such advertisements unless they are fully satisfied that they are properly authorized. I was the secretary of a political organization, when the Act first came into force, and as we had to run about fifty or sixty candidates, we had to be very care-' ful to see that every advertisement, circular, pamphlet, or poster, bore the name of the person authorizing it. No difficulty was experienced so far as that was concerned. I trust that everything in the shape of anonymous attacks or advertisements of a bogus character will be prohibited. The name of the person responsible for an advertisement should invariably appear. So far as the suggestion of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne is concerned, I would point out that it would be difficult, in many cases, to obtain the direct authority of the candidate. Moreover, any elector. should be allowed to insert an advertisement, if he thought fit, so long as his name was attached. I would strongly advocate the extension of the provisions of the original Act, so that leading articles in the newspapers, which are very frequently advertisements for particular candidates, should have attached to them the name and address of the writer. If that course were adopted, the articles would, as a rule, have precious little influence. I hope thatthis provision in the Act, which has worked very well, will not be altered.

Mr. GROOM(Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs). - I hope that honorable members will speedily proceed to a division. I intend to carry out my promise to the honorable member for North Sydney, because I do not think that the amendment in itsretrictedform would weaken the Act.

Mr Spence - But a bogus advertisement might be inserted in a weekly newspaper, and no opportunity would be presented for warning the electors.

Mr GROOM - In Queensland there is no provision of the kind. I could not agree to the amendment in its original form, but if it be altered in the way suggested it would not weaken the Act.

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