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Wednesday, 27 November 1935

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) . - My first objection to this clause is the omission of the word " knowingly " which appears in the principal act. The law seems to have been quite adequate to meet all requirements from the establishment of the Commonwealth nearly 150 years ago until a newspaper, Truth, published a sensational article which was alleged to contain seditious matter. In this case, a prosecution was launched, but did not succeed. Everybody knows that editors, publishers and proprietors, have quite enough to do in conducting a newspaper without being confronted with further traps of tin's character. This is not a party matter, but concerns all printers and publishers. A few years ago the editor of the Brisbane Telegraph was charged with having published seditious matter because he had published a letter sent to him by a correspondent. Eventually he was- acquitted of the charge. Whether or not a statement published in a newspaper is seditious depends largely on the point of view of the person who reads it; what might appear to one person to be seditious might be considered harmless by another. Editors and other persons associated with newspapers have enough to do without having to weigh the possibility of something which they publish being construed to be seditious. I am astonished that the press of Australia has not been more alive to the danger confronting it. If the word " knowingly " were omitted from the act, every publisher would need to have a team of barristers at his elbow to advise him; and even then he would not be certain whether or not be was publishing seditious matter, because in all probability the barristers would disagree. Even if he accepted the views of the majority, he might find that the court held a different view. I have had some experience of newspapers, and I have seen the members of the staff of a newspaper in a state of great nervous tension because of the possibility of a charge of libel being laid against them. Reputable Australiannewspapers are not likely to publish seditious or libellous matter; the possibilities of an expensive court case are too serious to be disregarded. At the moment the press of Australia is silent regarding . the Government's intention; but should one or two editors or publishers have to face court proceedings, the press will probably seek an alteration of the law. I agree with the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition regarding the words " or as to be likely to ". I move -

That after the word " who ", proposed new sub-section (1a.), the word "knowingly" be inserted.

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