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Thursday, 4 July 1946

Mr HOLLOWAY (Melbourne PortsMinister for Labour and National Service) . - by leave - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The object of this bill may be shortly stated. It proposes to give absolute protection against civil or criminal proceedings, for example proceedings for libel, in respect of the publication under the authority of a parliamentary committee of any document laid before the committee or of any evidence given before the committee.

The Parliamentary Papers Act 190S- 1935, which the bill proposes to amend, provides, amongst other things, that no action or proceedings, civil or criminal, shall lie against any person for publishing any document published under the authority of the Senate or the House of Representatives. The act does not apply to publication under the authority of a parliamentary committee, but where the evidence given before a parliamentary committee is tabled in either House of the Parliament and ordered by that House to be printed the protection given by the act applies.

However, when evidence is tabled and ordered to be printed, a large number of copies must be printed in order to meet the requirements of the circulation list for parliamentary papers. For example, upon the .tabling of the report of the Standing Committee on Broadcasting regarding proposed staff regulations for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the number of copies printed was 660. It is considered that the expense of printing the evidence before parliamentary committees as a parliamentary paper is not always justified. As an instance, the Standing Committee on Broadcasting considers that the number of copies of the evidence given before it which, generally speaking, need be printed is about 40. I feel sure that honorable members will agree that where a committee itself arranges the publication of evidence before it with the object of saving public money, it should not be deprived of the protection of the Parliamentary Papers

Act. It may be that the publication is already privileged either at common -law or by virtue of section 49 of the Common- wealth Constitution, but it is considered desirable to put the matter beyond doubt. The bill is 'designed to achieve this object.

The bill applies to documents and evidence published after the 23rd September, 1943, which was the first sitting day of the present Parliament, so as to cover certain evidence before the Broadeasting Committee which has been published by the committee since that date.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.

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