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Thursday, 3 July 1941

Senator KEANE (Victoria) .- I second the motion. The two newspapers referred to in the motion have been guilty of a flagrant breach of privilege. There seems to be some agreement among the proprietors of the Australian press either to ostracize this chamber on every possible occasion or to limit the publicity given to its proceedings to unfortunate incidents such as we witnessed last night. The action of my Leader in raising this matter is amply justified. I am amazed that the articles published in these two newspapers were passed by the censors. Generally speaking, the Australian press does a good job in connexion with our war effort and enjoys the goodwill of the majority of the people; but for a section of the press to suggest that the offices of President of the Senate and Chairman of Committees were competed for, and that, as the result, Tasmania has been unfairly treated, is atrocious. When the ballots were taken certain honorable senators supporting the Government were absent from the Senate and honorable senators on this side of the chamber merely exercised their undoubted right tosubmit themselves as candidates for the vacant positions. The ballots were taken secretly and fairly. No honorable senator in this chamber could possibly know how I cast my votes.

Senator McBride - I think that we all know that.

Senator KEANE - I challenge any honorable senator to say how I voted in the secret ballots. How can any honorable senator opposite say that three honorable senators supporting the Government did not " twist " ? It was freely rumoured that certain honorable senators opposite favoured the appointment of a chairman from this side of the Senate.

Senator Arthur - The outburst to which we were treated by honorable senators opposite last night shows how they love one another.

Senator KEANE - I do not regard that incident seriously. One of the parties to the squabble has always " been with the troops ". He may have voted with them on this occasion. It is a reflection on the three Labour senators from Tasmania to allege that, by their votes in the secret ballots, they inflicted an injury upon the State which they represent. The Commonwealth Constitution provides that Tasmania, which is the smallest State in the Commonwealth, and probably contains only as many people as there are in three big suburbs of Melbourne, shall have six representatives in this Senate. That is as it should be. During the last eight or ten years Tasmanian representatives in this Parliament have had a fair innings. That Tasmanians have been appointed to the high offices of Prime Minister of Australia, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and President and Chairman of Committees of this chamber is evidence of the fair way iri which candidates have been selected. The newspaper reports complained of in the motion do not comprise &he only instances in which this Senate lias been unfairly treated by the press. 1 readily admit that when legislation reaches this chamber it is not news. Due to the way in which legislation is introduced into this Parliament, members of the House of Representatives are able to steal most of our thunder. I do not complain of that. I merely point out that in that may lie the reason why the press so persistently ignores the proceedings of this chamber. Honorable senators, however, are at long last realizing that this is the senior house of the Australian Parliament, and that its dignity should be upheld. Tt should be the task of all of us to see that; no member of this chamber is misrepresented, and for that reason this motion should be carried unanimously. It ill becomes the press of Australia to have thrown in this "dead pig " at a time when the nation is experiencing the greatest difficulty in promoting its all-in war effort. It is also regrettable that at a time when we should present a united front to the world honorable senators should repudiate their leaders and indulge in exhibitions of malice as was done in this chamber last night. I am anxious to see how the unfortunate happenings in the Senate last night have been treated by the Tasmanian press. I commend the motion to honorable senators.

Senator E B Johnston - On a point of order, I draw the attention of the Senate to Standing Order 418, which roads -

No senator should use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament, or against any statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives and nil personal reflections on members should be considered highly disorderly.

I regard the reference to " Arthur James Beck, a member of the House of Representatives," as distinctly offensive, and suggest that as it is out of order it should ho deleted.

Senator Collings - The Standing Orders do not prevent me from impeaching him for contempt.

The PRESIDENT - In a matter of privilege no one is exempt.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Standing Order 427 reads -

Any senator complaining to the Senate of a statement in a newspaper as a breach of privilege, shall produce a copy of the paper containing the statement in question, and be prepared to give the name of the printer or publisher, and also submit a substantive motion declaring the person in question to been guilty of contempt.

It appears to me that the only people we are capable of dealing with for contempt are the printer and the publisher. I venture to say that by including in the motion the name of a member of the House of Representatives we shall find ourselves in difficult constitutional waters. If the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) wishes to proceed with his motion he should eliminate the reference to a member of the House of Representatives. That suggestion is in keeping with the point of order raised by Senator Johnston under another standing order. Our right to deal with contempt is limited to those who, as printers or publishers, have been guilty of contempt.

The PRESIDENT - I suggest to the Leader of the Opposition that he seek leave to amend his motion by deleting the words " Arthur James Beck, a member of the House of Representatives ".

Senator Collings - Do I understand you to rule, Mr. President, that the inclusion of the name of a member of the House of Representatives in a motion of privilege is out of order? In my view, the Standing Orders permit me, in such a motion, to impeach any member of either House of the Parliament.

The PRESIDENT - If the honorable senator desires to impeach a member of the House of Representatives, I suggest that he should do so in a separate motion.

Senator Collings - I nsk leave to amend the motion by deleting the words " Arthur James Beck, member of the House of Representatives ".

Leave granted; motion amended accordingly.

Senator Keane - I second the motion as amended.

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