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Wednesday, 3 July 1946

Mr BRENNAN (Batman) . - I agree that the proceedings of the Parliament should be broadcast. However much some people may despise the Parliament, and there are many people who do despise the Parliament, its legislation, nevertheless, does command swift obedience on the part of the subject. I have said that people may despise the Parliament. Many do. It is quite common to hear members of the . electorate holding forth in a diatribe against members of Parliament, as though members of Parliament were a class apart. "Well, I have not found that they are a class apart at all. I have' always understood, as the result of long experience, that members of Parliament are drawn from common and ordinary people. Looking round this chamber, I would not conclude that its members, particularly those of the Opposition, belie that impression. In any case, as I have said, broadcasting is the only way to assure the people of a complete record of the parliamentary proceedings. And I have already said that the Parliament, however much some may despise it, does in fact, command swift obedience. Whatever is put into the statute-book generally commands respect. Indeed, is is remarkable how great a respect there is for law, and my experience is that people have a great respect for it. One has only to observe the respect that exists for the law of compulsory voting. I find that there is a very shrewd disposition to respect the law which makes for compulsory voting, although we have proof that it is easy enough to .make excuses for failure to vote. That is my experience, and I am quite sure that it is the experience of others.

The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) said that we must not slander people under privilege. Well, like him, I think I am not accustomed, as a practice, to use my privilege in Parliament to slander others. I am not conscious that I regularly do that. On the contrary, I think that, speaking with the responsiblity of a member of Parliament, I avoid, as one is required to avoid, extravagant statements, reflecting upon others. But I find that this complaint is made, amongst others, by newspapers, in some cases enjoying a circulation of 120,000 daily, or, at least; claiming to do so, which, perhaps, is a different thing. Well, I would venture to point out that these newspapers, which make this complaint against members of the public, enjoy a privilege which, in fact, can never be overtaken, under which reputations of individuals are constantly assailed, and numbers of others outside the Parliament, who do not even enjoy the slight protection that members enjoy, are slandered vilely and to the utmost. Yet editors make these strident complaints in the columns of the daily press against members of Parliament, because they, it is said., slander other individuals to whom no opportunity to reply is vouchsafed. Members of Parliament, are subject to very strict rules asto their conduct, and those rules are often applied in a summary manner, A single vote on the part of the majority of the House can turn any honorable member out of this chamber. A single vote on the part of the majority of the House can suspend an honorable member and deprive him of the privileges which he has won at the ballot-box. In a number of ways, although apparently a member of the Queensland Parliament seems to have been .able to dodge such treatment, honorable members are subject to various forms of discipline. I have been long enough in this House to remember an honorable member being expelled, unjustly, I think; but he was ejected nevertheless. And, although the requirements of democracy are that such an honorable member may still submit himself to the electors, it is historic that in many cases - I mention, for instance, Wilkes and Bradlaugh - he has been obliged to submit himself repeatedly for re-election before he established his undoubted democratic rights, because the term of a parliament is not such as to encourage honorable members to disregard its disciplinary rules. I have sometimes succeeded professionally in marking down the newspaper slanderer and have required him to withdraw and < apologize, a fact of which I am not a little proud. It is very seldom that one finds 'the withdrawal, or the apology, published in a position even corresponding to that in which the slander itself was published; but the fact remains that one is able sometimes to mark down the slanderer and require him to make tardy amends. When he does attempt to make amends he does so with very bad grace, and I have had occasion to point this out to many of my newspaper friends. Newspapers employ men of different types in their work of circulating news and, like members of Parliament, some of these men are scrupulous whilst some are utterly unscrupulous. I speak as one who has had a long experience of the newspaper world, and I have found that newspapers are not always particular, but I hope that the time will never come, and I ask honorable members opposite to support me in the view that it should never come, when the ages-old and very important privilege of Parliament shall be destroyed. This privilege lies at the base of popular rights. It rests upon the rights of individuals to come to the Parliament, where alone they may utter the thing that is in them because of the right which they draw from the people. The individual is returned to the Parliament, and it is his proud privilege, but not so proud as it might appear, to say in the Parliament what he cannot under any circumstances say in any other place. As I said, that right is drawn from popular rights. Sometimes the individual says something that may be unjust, but, in all circumstances, it is much better that he should say the thing which is unjust than . that he should be prevented from saying it. He says the thing - in my opinion, very properly - that he thinks should be said. Sometimes, perhaps, the statement should not be made, but the fact remains that he, at that time, considered that it should be made, and it is better that he should say it in Parliament rather than that he should bottle it up and say it privately to individuals because that might do more harm than the original publication in the Parliament would do.

The opposition to this bill has a political motive. The purpose of honorable gentlemen opposite is to stall off the' broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings with the true and certain knowledge that they will get consideration in the daily press. That seems to be the general view. The press of the metropolis and the country districts gives to them a much better deal than it habitually gives to members of the Labour party. The Opposition derives much more support electorally from the press than do honorable members on this side of the chamber. Wealth is on their side. I remember the extraordinary propaganda inflicted on the people which resulted in my nevertobeforgotten defeat.

Mr Archie CAMERON - Nevertoberegretted !

Mr BRENNAN - The honorable member was himself so conspicuously near to defeat that I thought he was gone, and because of his genius for making quips on occasions I was almost ready to regret his political passing.

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