Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 24 November 1927

Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) . - Three hours of our time were occupied this afternoon in the consideration of the subject of immigration. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) moved the adjournment of the

Senate to discuss the influx of Italian immigrants, and now we have the DeputyLeader (Senator Grant) suggesting that the speeches of honorable senators should be broadcast throughout Australia by means of the invention of an Italian, Signor Marconi. It is a curious change of front on the part of Labour senators. Senator Grant would have us believe that, if only the addresses delivered on both sides of the chamber were made to ring from, one end of Australia to the other by means of wireless telegraphy, the people would be enthralled, and we should become almost immortal. When the Constitution was drawn up, this branch of the legislature, it was anticipated, would be the highest legislative body in the Commonwealth. It was said that the greatest 'political mind3 in Australia would aspire to become senators. Here we were to tackle the great problems that could be effectively dealt with only in a chamber that gave equal representation to all the States, and whose members were elected on the most liberal franchise known. I think that the universal opinion is that this chamber has not acted up to the high ideals of the founders of federation. It is said that to a certain extent it merely reflects the opinion of the other branch of the legislature, and therefore has not justified its existence. Many remarkable proposals have been submitted for our consideration in the past, but I know of no more remarkable motion than that now before us. Is Senator Grant sincere regarding it, or has he some ulterior motive? Since he is a Scotchman, I suppose I cannot accuse him of being a humourist. Eoi- some time the platform of his party has provided for the abolition of the Senate, and if, by a series of underhand attacks, that party could create popular prejudice against this chamber, it might be easier for it to carry out that part of its programme. Is the object of the motion, therefore, to ridicule the Senate by suggesting that when the other chamber is dealing with matters of vital importance to Australia, this section of the Parliament has nothing to do except consider whether the speeches of honorable senators should be broadcast? It is our solemn duty to do our utmost to uphold the high traditions of the Senate, and, therefore, I intend to oppose the motion. Let us consider what would be the effect upon the people if our speeches were inflicted upon them over the air every night. Have we no pity for the unfortunate electors? Certainly, they do not receive the consideration that they deserve from this and other legislative bodies; but the carrying of the present proposal would amount to an outrage upon their feelings. Perhaps Senator Grant remembers that there are a number of Labour leagues throughout New South Wales. I do not know one member of those leagues who, either on a fair or a wet night, would be inclined to leave his home to listen to a speech by Senator Grant, or indeed any other honorable senator. The people generally are not interested in the doings of this Parliament to the extent of desiring to hear individual addresses. Our decisions as registered in the legislation we enact are of interest to them, as are possibly the speeches by recognized leaders who deal with great national issues from new viewpoints. Senator Grant nas taKen an opportunity to attack the press generally, because the great daily newspapers of Australia do not publish verbatim reports of his speeches. Some other means of acquainting the people with his words of wisdom must be found. If the honorable senator's suggestion were put into operation, and the speeches delivered in this Senate broadcast, we should, in order to be consistent, go a step further and compel the people of Australia to listen to those speeches. Already we have compulsory enrolment and compulsory voting. Why not have, as well, compulsory listening-in to parliamentary speeches ? I could adduce one or two reasons why the motion should be agreed to. It has been contended in some quarters that the composers of songs and other musical productions are not getting an adequate return from the works they have created. The Performing Rights Association has been formed, we are told, to ensure that they will receive that return. If we could not only compel the people to listen to the speeches delivered in this chamber, but also require them r.o pay a fee for that privilege - the revenue derived therefrom to be divided among those who made the speeches - the scheme would have its attractions. Senator Grant, because of the great number of lengthy speeches he delivers from time to time on various subjects, would receive, as his proportion of the fees, such an addition to his income that when next he faced the inf uriated electors of New South Wales he would be in a position to snap his fingers at them. But even that reason is not sufficient to cause me to vote for his motion. There is, however, one further reason which might be advanced in support of it, and which might well engage the earnest attention of the Council for Scientific and IndustrialResearch. For some time that body has been seeking a means of combating the prickly pear, which in portions of Australia has become a pest. If the poison gas from this chamber could be conveyed to the areas affected by prickly pear it might confer a benefit on Australia! If that experiment proved successful, attention could then be devoted to the rabbit pest. Senator Grant said that a medium-powered broadcasting station would necessitate an expenditure of about £12,000. To enable the speeches made in this chamber to be heard throughout the world £60,000 would probably be required. That seems a large sum of money, but if its expenditure would eradicate the prickly pear and rabbit pests, the money would be well spent. Nevertheless, much as I should like to support the motion, I am ofthe opinion that the disadvantages associated with it far outweigh the advantages. I ask the Senate not to agree to the motion, not only for the sake of the unfortunate people of Australia, but in the interests of Senator Grant himself. I shudder to think what would happen to him if the electors were forced to listen to his many speeches in this Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Sir William Glasgow) adjourned.

Suggest corrections