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Wednesday, 27 November 1935

Senator BROWN (Queensland) . - The Assistant Minister (Senator Brennan) has said that the Government is anxious to give the Opposition the fullest opportunity to discuss the bill. We are not lawyers, and when we ask questions concerning the legal meaning of certain words, we should be given civil answers. I understand that the word " publishing " covers not only printing, but also distributing.

Senator BRENNAN (VICTORIA) - For the purpose of a libel, that is so.

Senator BROWN - The Assistant Minister has admitted that the distributors of the edition of Truth, in which the allegedly seditious article appeared, could be regarded as publishers. This proposed new sub-section deals with the man who is usually recognized as the publisher of a newspaper - the man whose name is required by law to appear in the imprint. He does not know that an article, which is likely to incite to mutiny, is printed in his paper; but, as a fact, the article is published. Then, the paper containing such an article may be distributed among the lower naval ratings. If, in Truth's case, such a publication was distributed among naval ratings with the object of deliberately inciting them to mutiny, it was the duty of the Government to have charged, not the publisher of Truth, but the men who distributed the paper, and then to have proved that these men knowingly distributed that paper among the ratings with the object of inciting them to mutiny. In fairness to Truth, let us examine what that journal said about the matter when this case came before the court in November, 1932 -

Mr.Justice Lowe, in a masterly summingup, told the jury to read the article as a whole in a fair-minded manner, not just sentences picked out for a purpose. He pointed out that the Crown had failed to prove thai a single copy had got to a single person of the lower ratings. How could persons be incited by an article they had never read?

This paper never got into the hands of naval ratings.

Senator Brennan - That is not admitted; but it was a part of the contention of counsel for the defence. The Crown did not attempt to prove that, because it was not essential to its case.

Senator BROWN - The position, in that case, as the Opposition sees it, was that Truth - as it stated itself - was anxious to eliminate certain trouble in the navy, and gave good advice to the authorities; what it published was not incitement to the lower ratings to mutiny, but incitement to the naval authorities to take steps to allay discontent in the navy with regard to certain pay and allowances. The authorities, taking the advice, removed the cause of the trouble, and then charged Truth with sedition. The publisher of the paper, who knew nothing about the article, was arraigned before the court and charged with having incited to mutiny. Any one who deliberately sets out to incite the troops of this country to mutiny should be arraigned before the court, and tried by his peers but it is grossly unfair that a man, because his name appears as the publisher in the imprint, should be prosecuted for the publication of matter that " is likely to seduce any person serving in the King's Forces from his duty and allegiance". Because the proposed new sub-section will permit of a grave injustice being done to many publishers in this country we object to it. We are told by the Assistant Minister that such men will be tried by a jury and judge and will have a fair trial. However we know that often a man when brought into court has his character maligned to such an extent that even when he is found not guilty many people believe that there must have been something in the charge or the Government would not have instituted proceedings. We want to prevent the arraignment of any innocent man; we do not want the Government to safeguard any man who sets out knowingly to seduce or to incite to mutiny any member of the King's Forces. The word " knowingly " which appears in the Principal Act has been deliberately omitted from this proposed new sub-section, because the Government desires to broaden the power of the authorities so that they will be able to drag into their net men who are innocent of any action that will incite to mutiny, or be likely to incite to mutiny. The inference to be drawn from the speech of Senator Pearce is that a mistake was made in inserting the word " knowingly " in the Principal Act, and that in Truth's case it should have been possible to convict the publisher and fine him heavily, as would have happened had the law been what is now proposed.

Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) put -

That the question be now put.

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