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Friday, 28 June 1946

Mr HARRISON (WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Privilege was conferred on members of Parliament in the early seventeenth century when the Stuarts reigned in England. Our democracy was then in its infancy, and ' the granting of privilege was necessary in order to guard the right of free speech by members of Parliament. -I believe that the proposed amendment of the honorable member for Warringah does not cover the entire ground. Take for instance, questions asked in Parliament. Under the Standing Orders no statement may be made, or information conveyed, in the asking of a question, but a question can be just as damaging as a straight-out statement, as was illustrated some little while ago by a question asked by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy).

Mr Spender - It is recognized in law that a. person may be defamed by innuendo.

Mr HARRISON - I agree that a committee of privileges should be established to determine whether privilege has been abused, and to discipline members of Parliament. The existence of such a committee would tend to improve the tone of the House, and to prevent wilful defamation.

The arguments advanced from this side of the House are strong enough to justify, the Minister in postponing further consideration of the bill, so that- he may consult with his legal advisers during the week-end, and confer with his colleagues in order to decide whether it. is proper that privilege should be granted to a particular section because it happens to be concerned with the broadcasting of the proceedings of Parliament. The Government should also give further consideration to the recommendation of the Broadcasting Committee that the entire proceedings of Parliament should be broadcast, so that no party or member might suffer by the selection pf particular portions to be broadcast.

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