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Thursday, 17 November 1910

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) (Honorary Minister) . - I do not anticipate that there will be any opposition to this motion, because it is merely a declaratory one, which, whilst affirming a principle* does not commit us to anything of a concrete character. Some honorable senators have complained of the unfairness of the press reports of the proceedings of this Chamber. They have complained of the meagre reports of those proceedings which have been published from time to time. But I do not think that any party in the civilized world has had more reason to complain of the unfairness of the reports which have appeared in the daily newspapers of Australia than has the Labour party.

Senator Vardon - The complaint is not all upon the side of the Labour party.

Senator FINDLEY - I can truthfully say that, up till the last five or ten years, the utterances of Labour members in the Victorian Parliament received no attention at the hands of the press. Many excellent speeches were delivered in that Parliament a few years ago by prominent members of the Labour party, and not infrequently those speeches passed unnoticed. There have been occasions upon which the newspapers have given reports of one line, stating that " Mr. So-and-so also spoke."

Senator Rae - That is a very common thing in New South Wales.

Senator FINDLEY - It is a very common practice. It is because of the growing power and influence of the party to which I belong that the daily newspapers are bestowing more attention upon the utterances of its members, not only in the National Parliament, but in the State Parliaments of Australia. So strong is the Labour party becoming that it is more or less independent of the daily newspapers. It has won its way to public recognition despite the opposition of those journals, and today I am glad to say that in more than one State there are daily newspapers, owned by the workers,, and advocating their claims and policy. There is one such journal in South Australia. There is another daily newspaper in Tasmania which is partly owned by the workers, and which is run in the interests of Labour. Before many months have passed there will be brought into existence in New South Wales a daily morning newspaper which promises to become one of the most powerful in the Commonwealth.

Senator Rae - There is still another Labour daily published in Broken Hill.

Senator FINDLEY - Yes. In Broken Hill there is a daily Labour newspaper which has a large circulation, and which exercises a strong influence, municipally, politically, and socially. The suggestion that a condensed report of the proceedings of this Parliament should be prepared, say, by the Hansard staff and forwarded, at the public expense, to the daily newspapers throughout the Commonwealth for publication by them, does not meet with my approval. I would not like to be one of the men intrusted with the preparation of condensed reports of the proceedings of this Chamber. A man would require to be a literary and political surgeon to do justice in an abbreviated report of the proceedings of this Chamber, or of another place. I do not care what pains a body of men may take to prepare a condensed, impartial report; I say that that report will, at some tune or other, cause dissatisfaction.

Senator Walker - To prepare a condensed report is an occupation in itself.

Senator FINDLEY - It is an occupation to which men have to serve a lifetime. It is not every man who can become an absolutely reliable sub-editor. Sub-editors are not born every day, and we should require to have a corps of sub-editors to prepare abbreviated reports of our proceedings. Then we know that daily newspapers cannot set apart, at the eleventh hour, a certain amount of space for the publication of a particular article. I have had some experience of newspaper work. I know how difficult if is for reporters to get reports of meetings into the journals which they represent. A pressman is perhaps instructed to prepare a report of a certain meeting. A certain space is allotted to him. He goes to a great deal of trouble to write up his report, and after it has been sub-edited, " linoed," read in proof, revised, and got ready for the making-up process, at the eleventh hour something unexpected occurs, or something of greater importance than the meeting thus reported. Then the literary surgeon or sub-editor is called into requisition, and has to apply, figuratively, the butcher's knife to chop down the report. Suppose that Senator Millen's idea were adopted, and the abbreviated report of Parliament left the hands of those intrusted with this work, and was telegraphed to various newspapers. Suppose the report was chopped down by any' particular newspaper. I dare say that that journal would come in for a certain amount of criticism - probably unfair criticism - when the matter was mentioned in Parliament. Mention has been made of Han sard. I always speak in the highest termsof that official publication. I believe that I am right in saying that the very best men available for this kind of work in the Commonwealth have been obtained. I have personal knowledge of some members of the staff ; but it is not that fact which induces me to make these remarks. Some of them had made a reputation for themselves long before they became members of the Hansard staff. That publication is a full and thoroughly reliable report of the proceedings of Parliament. Notwithstanding, what Senator Symon has said as to his not using the full number of copies of Hansard allotted to him, because he found that all, except three or four, were simply thrown on one side as waste paper, I can assure him that that has not been my experience.

Senator Rae - Nor mine.

Senator FINDLEY - I do not believe that that has been the experience of the majority of the members of this Parliament. When we were allowed twelve copies each, I frequently paid for additional copies when the price for Hansard for the session was far more than halfacrown. Many of our supporters, ami many persons who are interested in politics, were anxious to obtain . copies of the official report, and I frequently had to buy copies to supply to them. Although the number of copies supplied to each member of Parliament has since been increased to twenty-five, I used the full number supplied to me, and even then have had frequently to purchase more copies to supply to persons who desire to read it. Hansard to-day has a larger circle of readers than it has ever had since the establishment of the Federal Parliament. The Democracy is becoming more and more enlightened, largely because of the increased circulation of that publication. It is perfectly true, of course, that a smaller proportion of the citizens of Australia read Hansard than read the great daily newspapers.

Senator O'Keefe - Does the honorable senator think that if each of the in members of the Federal Parliament circulates on an average a dozen copies of Hansard it reaches any very considerable number, of the people?

Senator FINDLEY - The number of copies circulated by members of Parliament by no means represents the total number of copies read throughout the country. As my honorable friend is doubtless aware, there are hundreds oT Mechanics' Institutes, Schools of Arts, and societies of various kinds that receive copies of Hansard. Every newspaper, small or large, is entitled to a copy. My experience shows me that that publication is more extensively read than some- honorable senators imagine. Especially does that remark apply to the distant parts of Australia. Those who have travelled much in the country districts must often have met with men who are thoroughly conversant with the doings of the Federal Legislature. They read Hansard carefully, and are thoroughly well informed about the various Bills that are discussed by Parliament from time to time. Indeed, I have met members of the public in distant parts of the country who were better informed about the proceedings of Parliament than some members of Parliament themselves are. Some of these people read very little else than Hansard.

Senator O'Keefe - The honorable senator does not think that the average elector reads Hansard? I am sure that ninetenths of them do not.

Senator FINDLEY - Of course, I do not think that the average elector reads Hansard, for the good and sufficient reason that many of them have not the opportunity. I am disposed to agree with Senator Sayers that if it were more generally known that Hansard for the session could be obtained for 2s. 6d., far more citizens of Australia would obtain copies than is now the case. Consequently the official publication would have a much larger circulation than it has to-day. But, whatever be the outcome of Senator Millen's motion, I hope that something will be done that will give satisfaction to the members of this branch of the Legislature, and to members of Parliament generally. The details of any proposal would, of course, require serious consideration. The question is beset with difficulties and obstacles, but there are no difficulties or obstacles that cannot be surmounted if we are in earnest about overcoming them. I think I can speak for the Government in respect of this matter. We hope that the motion will be carried unanimously, and that later on an opportunity will be afforded of considering the question more thoroughly.

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