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Wednesday, 3 July 1946


Mr BLAIN (Northern Territory) . - This bill reminds me of the decision of Sir Roger de Coverley in. a famous judgment, immortalized by Addison in the Tatler. But, levity aside, there was much to be said on both sides. I am rather diffident about supporting this bill because, not being a gifted speaker, I should be at a great disadvantage in having my speeches broadcast in comparison with ,some honorable members, particularly men on the front benches, natural orators, "who would have a greater appeal to listeners. But- in addressing' myself to the bill 1 am fortified by the knowledge that, although my' electors will be delighted to . listen in to the debates, the people generally are not so interested in the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings as honorable members imagine. I have very good reason to believe that they are not. That does not refer to my electorate, because the people" there are. politically minded. They have no legislature, no legislative council, not even a town council. They must be federally and politically minded, because they look to me, as their representative, to solve or try to solve, all their problems, whereas people in the -States have their State legislatures, municipal . councils, roads boards and so on to occupy their attention, and they will not be greatly interested in 90 per cent, of the purely domestic matters that are debated in this House. I admit that the " hill-billys " of Kings Cross, the Yarra Bank, the Sydney Domain and such places will be almost diving into their radio, sets to listen to the riotous matter that so often emanates from honorable gentlemen, but they will not be interested in the really sensible speeches that are never even reported in the press. I am delighted when my speeches are not reported, because I know that that indicates their excellence. I remember clearly that when the late Sir Littleton Groom was with me as an independent member of this Parliament he made, one morning, an excellent speech, one that was full of oratory and common sense, but not one word of it was reported in the press. He was disgusted. I mention this for the benefit of new members, and I advise ill em not to be surprised if the press does not report their speeches. Usually, that is a sign that an honorable member has made a good speech. If I had the oratory of Lord Rosebery, I should never be in difficulties. I could indulge in his mixed metaphor of which I call to mind the following example : " I smell a rat. I see it floating in the air. I shall nip it in the bud ". And I am not .able to emulate Charles Lamb in the use of the long sentence. If I. were, I should be worth listening to. That master of paradox, G. K. Chesterton, says, " There are some people who look upon the big things as little things, but men mistake little things for big things ". That observation

Gan. be applied in many respects to the Government. And I could quote that great lexicographer, Dr. Johnson-


Mr SPEAKER - I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the bill.


Mr BLAIN - "We are discussing privilege, and the reception pf honorable members' voices over the air. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has said, the Government members will be able to dominate the times of broadcasting. They believe that this advantage will enable the Government to win the forthcoming elections. But Dr. Johnson said, " It is a great disadvantage when self-interest coincides with an exact proposition by no means proved ". I give that advice to the Government. Its proposition in this matter is not proved/ nor is it likely to be proved. Much has been said about privilege, particularly by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). I recall that when I exercised my right of privilege in this chamber in December, 1934, to expose crookedness in the mining industry in the Northern Territory, the honorable member was the very one to criticize me and my exercise of that very privilege he now professes to admire. On that occasion the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) came to my rescue, and saved the situation on my behalf.


Mr SPEAKER - I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the bill.


Mr BLAIN - We should pay due regard to our privilege as members of the Parliament. We should refrain from abusing.it to the detriment of people outside who cannot speak for themselves. However, an honorable member fails in his duty if he does not exercise his privilege to expose some evil which he knows to exist. Any honorable member who fails in that respect does so because he. is not gifted with intestinal fortitude, but has the physiology of a snipe. I believe that the benefits to be derived from broadcasting proceedings in Parliament will not be commensurate with the expenditure involved. Serious-minded people, who would elect a sane government, prefer to read of parliamentary proceedings in Hansard, Honorable members are allowed a free issue of only 35 copies of Hansard. I should like to see that number increased even to 3,600. I do not believe that any honorable member would have any difficulty in distributing that number. Already, my list is full, and in addition I subscribe for copies which I make available to various people. If the Government, wished to induce seriousminded people to read Hansard, it would instead of broadcasting proceedings in this chamber in some hill-billy fashion, advertise the fact that -the yearly subscription to Hansard is 4s., and that Hansard may be obtained from the Government Printer, Canberra. I know of very many people who are hardly aware that Hansard exists. They certainly do . not know where to obtain it, and they do not know its price. If this 'Government were anxious to serve the needs of seriousminded people in this matter it would advertise Hansard and encourage the public generally to read it. The printed report of speeches in Parliament will always be more serviceable than the broadcasting of speeches, because radio listeners will receive muddled impressions of what happens in this chamber. Honorable member's opposite seem to be very anxious to confine the broadcasting of proceedings in Parliament to stations which serve the capital cities and more densely populated centres. I am astonished at the Government's objection to the suggestion made by the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) that the regional station at Dalby should be used for this purpose. Apparently, no provision is to be made to enable residents of Moresby, Darwin, Alice Springs and the sparsely populated areas to the north of Australia to listen to these debates. I understand that the military authorities are about to relinquish control of eight stations at Darwin, Moresby and other northern centres, which they took over during the war. if the privilege of listening to proceedings in Parliament over the air is to be given to people in the more densely populated areas, it is incumbent upon the Government to make similar facilities available to people in the outlying areas which I have mentioned. The Government, if necessary, should allow the people of Darwin to purchase the local station and operate it on a community basis as a regional station. The residents of New Guinea have no representative in this Parliament. They look to me to represent them, and to voice their needs in the difficult task of rehabilitating themselves after their awful experiences during the war. I urge the Government to provide a station at Darwin. It has been said that honorable members should say what they mean and mean what they say. If they follow that rule the broadcasting of proceedings in Parliament- may be of some benefit to the public. However, having regard to the words often spoken in heat in the course of a debate, the written -report of -proceedings is preferable to the broadcasting of speeches. Most of us, I hope, will have something worth-while to say; and I hope that most of us will mean what we say. However, maty honorable members opposite speak with their tongues in their cheek. From a national point of view I hope that they do; but from the point of view of party politics I hope that the reverse is the case, because out of their mouths will they be convicted.' I refer honorable members to Professor Walter Murdoch's delightful essay, entitled The Art of Writing. The Professor explained that for many years he had been delivering to university students lectures on the art of writing. He had advised them regarding the proper positions in a sentence of commas, semicolons, emphatic words, and the like. The idea of saying, what we mean, and meaning what we say, will have a direct bearing upon the desirability of broadcasting the debates of this Parliament. Professor Murdoch wrote -

Say what you mean - how easy it sounds, how hard it really is! It is, in fact, an ideal, never to. be completely realized by mere mortals. Let me illustrate by a figure of speech which I may have thought of for myself or found in some book or other. (It seems too good to be mine.) There are various ways of getting eggs to market. One way is to put them in a basket and carry them; this is a slow and laborious method, though a fairly safe one. Another way, an up-to-date and expeditious way, would be to put them down the muzzle of a cannon, find the range accurately, take good aim, and shoot them to market. Assume, for the sake of argument, that they would arrive; but in what condition would they arrive? Well, the whole art of writing is the art of getting our eggs to market without breaking them; that is, of getting our ideas to the mind of the reader without changing them beyond recognition. If you can so write that your thought reaches the reader's mind exactly as it was when it was a thought in your mind, you are the perfect writer. But there has never been a perfect writer. If the spirit of Shakespeare could look into our minds as we read Hamlet's soliloquy,he would say, "No, no; that wasn't exactly what I meant; you've got it wrong! "

Broadcasting the proceedings of the Parliament can serve only one useful purpose. The sooner the debates of the Senate and the House of Representatives are put on the air the better it will be, because I know that if the Government erects regional stations in various country districts Ministers will soon convict themselves out of their own mouths. Therefore, I say " by all means let the proceedings of the Parliament be broadcast ".







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