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Thursday, 1 August 1912

The PRESIDENT - I hope that Senator Gardiner will not continue his present line of argument, which seems to be developing merely into a statement regarding the Werriwa election. At the same time,, there is no objection to the honorable senator using that election by way of illustration.

Senator GARDINER - I merely desire to show that by extending existing legislation in. regard to signed press articles to the referenda campaign, we shall not unduly restrict ' the press or prevent it from giving; full and free expression to its opinions.. The Post went on to say -

Werriwa electors by returning a man of Mr.. Conroy's views ought to make it clear that theyare not to be fooled by that transparent device,, and, at the same time, give an intimation tothe Liberal party that the Tariff must be liberalized very considerably to bring the sovereign back to something more approaching itsold value.

Under these circumstances, can anybody truthfully say that the press was gagged? Right up till the very morning of the election, this great single-tax newspaper fought for its candidate in the most open way;, and the authors of the articles which it published, were merely required to append! their names to them.

Senator St Ledger - What is the useof this restrictive legislation? Why not wipe it away?

Senator GARDINER - We do not wish? to wipe it away. The outstanding feature of that campaign was the cleanness and? straightforwardness of the articles published by the press. That is saying a lot,, when we consider the bitterness exhibited! during its progress. The press of New South Wales occupied a most peculiar position in connexion, with that election. For instance, the sentiment around Goulburn is chiefly Free Trade, and as a result Senator Millen and Mr. Joseph Cook were sent to that city to deliver Free Trade speeches; whilst Mr. Deakin, the leader o£ their party, had to be content to visit smaller centres. They dared not take him' to Goulburn, where the single-tax news- papers were fighting for their candidate. He had to visit places where the electoral strength was only one-half that of Goulburn.

The PRESIDENT - I wish the honorable senator would confine himself to the question before the Chair and not discuss the matter of Free Trade versus Protection.

Senator GARDINER - I must apologize for transgressing; but I have been led away by interjections. Some time ago Senator Gould referred to the huge sums of money which were expended by Labour organizations for political purposes. He spoke of organizers who were engaged for industrial organization, using the funds of Labour bodies for political organization. I wish to correct the honorable senator. I think that he has gathered his information from a wrong source. I was not sent out by the Australian Workers Union to engage in industrial organizing.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel SirAlbert Gould. Was not the honorable senator a selected candidate for the Senate at that time?

Senator GARDINER - I was selected at the time I was organizing; but I was not sent out by the Australian Workers Union to industrially organize, and simultaneously to use my time for political organizing. In the most straightforward way, that body advertised for political organizers. I am not a bit ashamed of having been a political organizer; but if I were sent out by a union to organize industrially, and if, while so engaged, I used my time to organize politically, I should feel ashamed. I repeat, however, that I was simply selected by advertisement to do political organizing.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel SirAlbert Gould. -And afterwards the honorable senator was selected as a candidate for this Chamber.

Senator GARDINER - Yes ; theAustralian Workers Union sacrificed the principleof preference to unionists rather than give up its right to organize politically. If that body had merely said that it would forego its political organization, it could have had preference to unionists. I repeat that everything was done in the most straightforward way. There was nothing underground about the methods which were employed.

Senator St Ledger - That is exactly what we say.

Senator GARDINER - I can quite understand the honorable senator's statement. He never does see things clearly. Innuendoes have been thrown out that, whilst! paid to undertake industrial organization, certain organizers on behalf of the Australian Workers Union had used the time and funds of that body to do political organizing. I feel sure, however, that now that the matter has been explained, honorable senators will see that everything which was done was fair and above-board. Our business was political organizing.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel SirAlbert Gould. - A return was made of the moneys spent in politically organizing, I presume?

Senator GARDINER - Yes. The honorable senator declared that huge sums had been spent in that connexion. I know what I stated as my expenditure in the return which I furnished. The trouble which we experienced was to get a sufficient sum in our returns to show that we had been fighting at all. It was difficult to make a return which looked anything like a fair one. The whole of the expenses of the three candidates for the Senate in New South Wales did not amount to£200 ; and I am perfectly satisfied that all the candidates put in a correct statement of their expenditure. The reason why the amount was so small was that neither we nor the organization at our backs had the money to spend.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel SirAlbert Gould. - The organization has any amount of money.

Senator GARDINER - That is one of the bogies which has been raised for quite a long time. I have been connected with the Australian Workers Union for twenty years, and I have not yet learned that it is possessed of gigantic funds.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel SirAlbert Gould. - A levy of 5s. per head must amount to a great deal.

Senator GARDINER - The honorable senator is quite mistaken if he imagines that that amount is contributed for political purposes. So far as I am aware, the only substantial levy made upon the members of that body is for the purpose of establishing a Labour daily newspaper.

The PRESIDENT - Order ! The honorable senator is drifting away from the subject-matter of the Bill.

Senator GARDINER - That is due to the fact that Senator Gould, on. a previous occasion, made a reference to this matter which I interpreted as a personal one. I will not offend further in that direction, but I hope that we have heard the last about organizations using huge sums of money and professional canvassers being employed for political purposes when they were ostensibly employed for quite other objects. With regard to the provision regarding the signing of newspaper letters and articles, I am able to say, from personal experience, that it had a most beneficial effect during the Werriwa election. It put an end to the publication of scurrilous anonymous letters, which often make a political campaign more bitter than it would otherwise be. Any one who wrote an article or a letter commenting upon the election had to append bis name to it. If any man was libelled, there was the name and address of the writer, and the slandered person could take his own course. It is equally desirable that we should have a provision of this kind in operation when referenda questions are submitted to the electors. The need for such a compulsory provision is illustrated by the state of affairs in connexion with the newspaper press of New South Wales to-day. There are sixty-two newspapers which are trying to manufacture public opinion against the present State Government by publishing articles under different headings, all emanating from the same source. What is the process ? An article is evidently written in some office in Sydney, put into type, and sent out to those country newspapers which are either paid for the insertion or publish it of their own free will. Conduct of that character will, I am satisfied, compel the State Legislature to do what we are doing in this Bill - to compel political articles to be signed.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - In this State, country newspapers "were paid four times the usual rates for publishing articles.

Senator GARDINER - I am not aware of what has been done in Victoria, but I do know how public opinion has been manufactured in New South Wales, and I think that we are wise in laying it down that the writers of political articles at election times should attach their names to them, so that the public may know what weight ought to be attributed to any article that is published. In exactly the same way, any man who appears on the platform has to take responsibility for his own utterances, and those who hear him form their own opinion as to the weight that is to be attached to what he says.

Senator St Ledger - There is nothing to provide that the man who signs an article shall be the man who has written it.

Senator GARDINER - That may be so; but if a good article is published over the signature of a man to whose opinion the public attaches no weight, the article will be deprived of some of its force.

Senator McGregor - That would be the case if an article were signed by Senator St. Ledger.

Senator GARDINER - I suppose that if an article were signed by that honorable senator it would be highly appreciated by those ladies who foregather at tea meetings and invite him to address them ; but outside such circles the honorable senator's name would not be known, except, perhaps, away up in Queensland. As to the abolition of postal voting, to which Senator Gould has referred, it has not had the ill effects which were prophesied by the other side. We were told that it would disfranchise hundreds of people.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould-. - Hear, hear ! So it has.

Senator GARDINER - At the Werriwa election a bigger vote was polled under this so-called disfranchising provision than had ever been polled before. No less than 76 per cent of the electors on the roll exercised their franchise on that occasion.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould. - If there had been postal voting, 80 per cent of the electors might have voted.

Senator GARDINER - There was postal voting at the general election, when there was excitement throughout the country, and then the percentage of voters to those enrolled was, I think, 72.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould. - It was less, I admit.

Senator GARDINER - I acknowledge that I was one of those who, in the State Parliament of New South Wales, advocated postal voting, and worked hard for it. Had it not been that the other side allowed thepostal vote to be used in an unfair and unreasonable manner, it would have been retained, and would have been a good thing for the country. But what was the effect of it? Professional canvassers went round the country and signed papers wholesale. Some of them had their hands full of these documents. They used the postal vote not only illegally, but in a way that was dangerous to the purity of elections.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - Why were not those individuals, prosecuted ?

Senator GARDINER - I recognise that some might have been prosecuted, as we have been prosecuting people connected with the Sugar Company ; and the result would have been that,, after three or four months, they would perhaps have been fined ^25. What is that to them? It is no punishment. But we have adopted a better system. We determined to take the postal vote out of the hands of those who had misused it. Honorable senators opposite may claim that all the dishonest people are not on one side in politics.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - The honorable senator will admit that, surely ?

Senator GARDINER - I never admit anything against my own side ! At any rate, I gave good reasons for my action in helping to abolish the postal vote. I know of one case where a person went to a hospital with a postal voting paper and asked a patient to vote against the Labour party, and, being met with a refusal, took the paper away. I can mention another case within my own knowledge, where an employer of labour called his men together and asked them to vote by post, inasmuch as they were at work a considerable distance from a polling place; and those who refused to say that they would vote against the Labour candidate were called up to the office the next morning and given their walking ticket. It is that sort of thing that induced us to abolish the postal vote.

Senator Vardon - Instances like that were not mentioned here at the time the subject was under discussion.

Senator GARDINER - I myself gave plenty of instances from my own knowledge of the facts; and they were not isolated facts, either.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - How were the majority of the postal -votes cast?

Senator GARDINER - I never bothered to work out the figures. It was enough for me to know of the mischief of postal voting, and of the dishonest way in which it had been used. I have heard that the abolition -of the system is the sorest blow that has been given to the opposite party, because by means of it they hoped to win nearly every electorate in the country.

Debate (on motion by Senator McColl) adjourned.

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