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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Mr ROSEVEAR (Dalley) .- I address myself to a matter which affects the rights and privileges of all honorable members of. the House of Representatives, and which is not the exclusive preserve of the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives. I refer to the action which lias been taken by the President of the Senate to exclude certain working journalists from the precincts of the Senate and to deprive them of the conveniences i hat are usually made available in Parliament House to the staffs of newspapers. This action has arisen from the publiNon in the Sydney Sunday Telegraph of mi article dealing with the Senate as the reporter who wrote the article saw it. I have read the article. Some of it might well have been omitted, but I consider that most people who read it would regard it more as a humorous piece of work than as a damaging attack on the prestige of the Senate or Parliament generally. These persons who have been so unfairly treated by the President of the Senate are working for a living. In the course of their employment they may frequently have sent to their newspapers reports which have reflected great credit on Parliament, but their employers may not have been prepared to publish that sort of article. It will be generally agreed that working journalists are not free to decide what they shall write fur publication. If they do not write according to the policies of their employers, they are sacked or their reports are not published. In this case, the employees of the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph should not be penalized; they must write as they are told to write. If some grave injustice has been done to Parliament, the proper thing to do is to call, the editor of the newspaper to the bar of the Senate and require him to justify the publication of the article about which complaint has been made.

Mr Blackburn - Either the editor or the writer of the article.

Mr ROSEVEAR - I am not particular about that. All members of the staff of the newspaper employed at Parliament House - not merely the author of the article - have been excluded from the privileges which have been conceded to journalists since the inception of the Commonwealth. The proper course to take would be to punish their employers. I recall an occasion when a certain Sydney journal published a report of proceedings n this chamber which was far more scurrilous and calculated to damage the parliamentary institution than the facetious article to which the President of the Senate has taken exception. On that occasion, some honorable members moved to have the editor of the journal called to the bar of the House, but nothing of the sort was done. The proprietors of that newspaper were properly attacked by the then honorable member for "Warringah, who said that the press of that day was guided by nothing but "bowelless commercialism ". The employees of such newspapers should not be compelled to suffer on account of the actions of their employers. Further evidence that the DailyTelegraph management, not ite journalists, is conducting a mischievous campaign designed to reflect on the integrity of Parliament, is contained in a leading article in yesterday's issue, apparently written by the editor. The article deliberately misrepresents the matter which was the basis of the article written by Mr. Hughes. The editorial of yesterday's date stated -

In this article Mr. Hughes criticized the Senate for throwing out a regulation to giro the Commonwealth power to override the States and secure the release for the Army of beef, which soldiers urgently needed. The House of Representatives "had recognized tin* urgency of this matter and had "not questioned the regulation.

It is true that a motion for the disallowance of the statutory rule relating to the marketing of Werribee beef was not submitted in the House of Representatives. But that may have been merely a circumstance arising from the Opposition's policy of submitting numerous motions for the disallowance of statutory rules both in this chamber and in the Senate. I have no doubt that the Opposition parties decided to split the job between the two Houses, and that the Senate Opposition was given the task of moving for the disallowance of the regulations relating to Werribee beef. A toss of the coin might have decided in which branch of the legislature the Opposition should submit the motion. In any case, the subject of Werribee beef was discussed on a motion for the adjournment of the House. During that discussion, the honorable member for Darwin (Sir George Bell) made the f olio wing statemen t : -

The people of Melbourne and suburbs will not eat this beef; I am certain of that, and the Commonwealth Government wants to force it on to the market so that it may be used to feed our troops.

The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) went even further, and made this statement -

I make my stand to-night ... on the statement made last Sunday to the effect that this beef is to be supplied to the troops, not only Australian troops, but also the troops of our ally, the United States of America.

The Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) flatly denied that Werribee beef was intended for the consumption of the troops. Honorable members opposite nevertheless went so far as to state that, if our own and allied troops were forced to eat this beef, they would be in danger of becoming infected with tape worm. The business of the House was greatly delayed by the discussion. The Daily Telegraph was technically correct in stating that the House of Representatives had not interfered with the regulation, but, as I have pointed out, it was probably by chance that this was the case. The truth is that Werribee beef was not intended for consumption by the troops. To state that the Government was slaughtering cattle whose meat was unfit for human consumption in order to feed Australian and American troops, was to make an insidious attack upon the position of the Government by creating uneasiness in the minds of Australians and Americans. I have quoted the misstatement which was made in yesterday's edition of the Daily Telegraph in order to impress upon honorable members the fact that its editorial policy is likely to do much more damage to the prestige of Parliament than the facetious comments of Mr. Richard Hughes on the appearance and general conduct of the Senate. The punishment of employees of the Sunday Telegraph and Daily Telegraph is merely mischievous; it does not penalize those persons who were responsible for the publication of the offending article. The editor of the Daily Telegraph made this statement in his article in yesterday's issue of the journal -

Senator Cunninghamwas forging a weapon that might be used some time in the future by anti-democratic elements to keep the public ignorant of parliamentary debates and proceedings.

That newspaper's statement that the House of Representatives was not in terested in the subject of Werribeebeef is more likely to keep the public ignorant of the truth regarding parliamentary proceedings than anything else which has come to my attention. The Speaker of the House of Representatives is chairman of the Joint House Committee, and he should have at least some voice in safeguarding the rights and privileges of honorable members and honorable senators. He should have been consulted by the President of the Senate before action was taken. I have had no cause to thank the press for anything during the ten years for which I have been a member of this Parliament. Like other honorable members, I have been sometimes carried shoulder high, so to speak, and then practically kicked to death politically on the following day. However, that does not affect my judgment in this matter. The people who should be punished for the attack on the integrity of Parliament are the employers, not the men who have to work for a living.

Silting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.

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