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Thursday, 17 November 1910

The PRESIDENT - Order. If the honorable senator will look at standing order 409, he will §ee that it is not in order for an honorable senator to read extracts from newspapers or other documents referring to debates of the same session.

Senator O'KEEFE - I must bow to that ruling. I had overlooked the standing order; and, for the moment, thought it referred only to Hansard.

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator may give the gist of the statement made ; but he will not be in order in making a quotation from the newspaper.

Senator O'KEEFE - I may say that in the "weekly letter, from the Melbourne correspondent of the Mercury certain statements are made regarding the proceedings in this Parliament. The readers of that newspaper, presumably, believe that they are given a fairly accurate account of what transpires here. Although the newspaper is bitterly opposed to the Labour party, its readers include a large number of people who approve of the politics of that party. The little incident to which I have referred has been used to damage the party, either by the correspondent, or in the office in the process of editing. A paragraph about two inches long is published, in which the statement is made that whilst Senator Symon was speaking, a Tasmanian senator interjected that while he might alter the opinions of Labour senators, he could not alter their votes. On the strength of that jocular interjection, as we know it to have been, leading articles have appeared in various newspapers in Australia misrepresenting the incident for party purposes. 1 recognise that a newspaper, being purely a profit-making concern, has the right to do what it likes, so long as it keeps within the limits of the law. The question is, Are we to allow year after year to pass without taking some action, not altogether in fairness to ourselves, although that consideration should also have some weight, but in fairness to our constituents, who look to the press for an account of what we are doing, to provide condensed reports of our utterances and proceedings?

That a necessity for taking some step ir» that direction has existed for eight or nine years must be palpable to every one whohas an acquaintance with this Parliament.. A suggestion has been made in some quarters that one newspaper should be engaged1 to make an abbreviated report of the proceedings, which should go forth as the official Hansard. That idea would not hold water for a moment with regard to thisParliament. I may mention, in passing, that the journal to which I have alluded supplied the Hansard report for the Tasmanian Parliament. Honorable senators can easily imagine what little chance the representatives of different sections of political thought had' to get fair play in the official report from a journal which is admittedly so strongly partisan. I do not know whether there has been any alteration, but I do knowthat some kind of arrangement was made with that journal by the Parliament, or the Government, that it should furnish an official report of its proceedings. Honorable senators can realize how utterly absurd it was that the production of the official report of the parliamentary proceedings of a State should be placed in the hands of a newspaper with strong party leanings. Since a daily newspaper has been published in Hobart, and conducted on opposite lines in politics, there has been a considerable improvement in the parliamentary reports of the other journal, and complaints are not now heard from members of the State Parliament. I think that Senator Millen's suggestion is worthy of full consideration by every honorable senator. Of course, nothing in this direction could be done during the few remaining hours of this session. When he submits a motion at the beginning of next session, for the appointment of a Select Committee, it will receive my cordial support, because I believe that it will be able to devise some means of insuring fair play to the electors, as well as to their representatives. Possibly Senator Givens has suggested the best solution of the difficulty. The present motion has my cordial support.

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