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Thursday, 3 July 1941

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) is asking us to take a very foolish action in respect of the press statements to which he has referred. Apart from what he has said, I am not aware of the nature of those statements. But does any sane being in the community fail to realize that the election of the President on Tuesday was decided on a party vote? Indeed, if any honorable senator opposite were to declare on oath that he did not vote for his party's nominee, he would not be believed by any one. Yet we are now asked to declare the publishers of two reputable newspapers in Tasmania guilty of contempt of this Parliament. And for what? For telling the truth; because those papers have undoubtedly published the truth in this matter. That is what the Leader of the Opposition now asks us to do. We complain at times of the treatment which the Senate receives at the hands of the press. It has been well known that in the past Tasmanian members have been dissatisfied with their lack of representation in the Government, and in parliamentary posts. Recently, the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Beck) expressed such dissatisfaction, but the statement for which the Leader of the Opposition evidently intends later to ask the Senate to censure that honorable member was made before the ballot for the election of President on Tuesday last. No honorable senator opposite would dare to declare that he did not vote in favour of the Opposition's nominee for the presidency of this chamber. We are now asked to declare that in publishing the truth in this matter the publishers of two newspapers have been guilty of contempt of this Parliament. I admire the dexterity of the Leader of the Opposition in his endeavour to play upon the feelings of some honors) Me senators by saying that they do not receive fair treatment at the hands of the press. However his remark that the censorship should be employed to prevent newspapers from publishing the truth in a master of this kind is very significant.

Senator Collings - 'Can the honorable senator prove that these reports are true?

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The voting was seventeen all.

Senator Cameron - Did the honorable senator see any of the ballot papers?

Senator A.J. McLACHLANFrom what I know of my colleagues, I am convinced that without the support in one solid phalanx of members of the Opposition the voting would not have been even. I suppose, it is " La guerre ! " - the political war - as the French would say. In that ballot, the Opposition took advantage of the fact that one supporter of the Government was in hospital, and another Government honorable senator absent with our armed forces overseas. I do not know whether such tactics are really to the advantage of democratic government. I do not blame honorable senators opposite for voting as they did ; but when they ask this chamber as a whole to resent a statement of the truth by any newspaper, they ask us to bring ourselves into contempt and ridicule. Lei us take our gruel without " squealing ".

Senator Keane - When was any supporter of the Government criticized by these newspapers?

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator is apparently very touchy. He asks why the censorship was not used in order to prohibit the publication of these reports. It is a shocking thing to suggest that the censorship should be used to suppress a vote taken in this chamber, and to save the faces of honorable senators opposite, because their action in remaining loyal to their party in that ballot may have undesirable repercussions. If the Senate agrees to this motion, it will bring itself into contempt. Honorable senators opposite cannot take their gruel; the reports complained of have got under their political skins. With all the power at my command, I ask the Senate to reject the motion. Its adoption will be detrimental to, not only this branch of the legislature, but also every individual senator who, no doubt, exercised his vote in that ballot according to his conscience and in loyalty to his party. The original motion has been amended to exclude reference to the honorable member for Denison (Mr.

Beck), but apparently we shall be asked to deal with that aspect of the matter later. I urge honorable senators to preserve the dignity of the Senate, about which the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues declaim so much. They should reject the motion. If it be carried, we shall look ridiculous in the eyes of the people of Australia.

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