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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Mr BLACKBURN (Bourke) (3:54 AM) . - I do not raise any objection to the form of punishment proposed for a person who has been convicted of an offence, but I object to the Minister having power to substitute his own decision for the decision of a court. According to what the Minister has just said, the Minister may go even further than that and deprive a man of his livelihood, or temporarily suspend his right to earn a living, merely because be considers that words used by the person have caused, or may have caused, offence to a section of the public. The word " offence " is not defined. --- Minister may consider that words are blasphemous, indecent, or obscene, or he may consider that, for some other reason, the words have offended somebody, or may have offended somebody, and that, therefore, he is entitled to fake away the broadcaster's means of earning a living. The Minister has said that the person would first receive a warning and that he would be prevented from broadcasting only if he continued to offend. But the bill does not provide for the issue of a warning. A man may have an order made against him merely on account, of a phrase, a word or even an intonation. The Minister is not bound to give him any notice. The cause of offence, or possible cause of offence, to any section of the public may be something that is not blasphemous, indecent or obscene. A person who listens to various partisan broadcasts, such as religious or political talks, may be offended by something that is said, and he will have the right to appeal to the Minister. Apparently the Minister will have the right to make an order forbidding the man who has given the offence, on religious or political grounds, to broadcast again. It is undesirable that the Minister should have this power. The Minister will be the lawgiver, and will be entitled to decide what is offensive and what is not offensive. He will be the lawgiver, prosecutor, judge and executioner. He will be empowered to decide what standard of susceptibility shall be adopted, and any contravention of that standard may cause a broadcaster to be deprived of his means of livelihood. That penalty would be severe even if the man were convicted of an offence, but it would be unjust in the extreme to impose it upon a man who had not 'been tried by a court. The words " blasphemous ", " indecent " and " obscene " have ever-changing meanings. The conception of what is blasphemous, indecent or obscene depends upon the mind of the man who is dealing with the case. Fortunately, in a court of law we have the benefit of precedents and established doctrines, which are always changing in favour of freedom of speech. Even a court composed of a- magistrate would be a much more satisfactory tribunal than the Minister. The Minister would be more prone than the court to please narrow-minded and prejudiced persons. The court aits in public and has to administer settled principles of law. That is the reason why I wish to have these words deleted. I believe that -they invest the Minister with judicial power which he should not have. They enable him to deprive a person of his livelihood, even though that person may not have committed any breach of the law and may not have been charged with any definite offence.

A mendmen t uega tiived .

Clause agreed to.

Bill reported with a further amendment; reports - by leave - adopted.

Bill - by leave - read a third time.

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