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Wednesday, 18 February 1959

Mr HAYLEN (Parkes) .- Mr. Speaker,before I make a few comments on a subject on which I think comment is called for on a quiet night like this, I should like to congratulate you on your re-election to your high office, and to say that the particular detergent that you use on your wig is eminently satisfactory.

The particular question on which I should like to address the House first this evening concerns something that I think is serious. It may be humorous, but on a slack night like this we ought to have a talk about it. I refer to the knighthood machine - the honours machine, which grinds out decorations, large and small, for various people throughout this, country, as. it has done throughout the term of the Menzies Government. It was said by Malcolm Muggeridge that a knighthood was an inexpensive carrot. It appears that we have dealt out a lot of inexpensive carrots during the last few years. Although the Australian Labour party, as a matter of policy, is opposed to knighthoods, it does not object to people getting them, provided that they have been earned by endeavours for worthy purposes and by useful deeds, particularly by servicemen, who should be rewarded for their deeds of valour. And I dare say that they should be given to civilians for community effort.

I want to deal with the matter in lighter vein- rather than seriously, but I think we have gone quite beyond what is reasonable in the bestowing of these awards in the last few years. Canberra has now come to- be known .as the city of dreadful knights. You dare not go out for a walk in case you fall over a knight and his fair lady. You have to be very careful indeed about what goes on. One who is engaged, as I am, in looking after an electorate sometimes finds in the

Public Service an embarrassment of riches, so far as knights are concerned. I confess to having a feeling of inferiority in these matters, and it is nourished rather than allayed by the things that happen. I have before- me a note from my secretary of things that I have to do this week. Let us have a look at it. It is in this strain -

Ring Sir Patrick about your taxation worries.

Ascertain whether you can. see Sir William about that superannuation job.

Sir Kennethmay help you on a legal opinion about Mrs. Murgatroyd.

Sir Johnhas promised you a trade permit. You should look him up.

If Sir Giles is still with us, see whether you can get a telephone for the diggers at Burwood.

Sir Walter

A minister, not a bureaucrat, this time might help you with that digger's pension. If all else fails, you can ring Sir Roland at the Treasury, to see whether something can be accomplished by this means.

In all this talk, there is a serious vein. There is too much of this decoration nonsense. I found, that I had additional work to do, and I used, the telephone again. When my call was answered at the other end, I asked, " Who is there? " The reply was, " Bill ". I said, " Thank God! I did not know that there was any one in Canberra left without a title ". I suggest that the plain " misters " of this city should now be cared for and cherished, because they are a diminishing kind.

I suppose one can look at this in a humorous, light, but have we not overdone it? I think the " Sydney Morning Herald " touched on the matter some months ago when it said that the guerdon for long service, or the accolade conferred by the Queen, is quite apart from this lighthearted controversy, but when you hand out these baubles indiscriminately you only tend to debase the currency, as it were. That is the point that I wish to make,, without labouring the matter. We in the Australian Labour party have felt for a long time that this sort of thing is. going on, and I wish to make a kindly and well-intentioned protest to the Government about it. It is laughable, and the value which attaches to a decoration awarded by the Queen is debased by having too many applicants and by the manner in which these awards are being given. It is getting as bad here as in England, where it is nothing for the " Times " to. publish a list of: O.B.E. awards taking up six columns, with the note, " Continued in our next instalment". So these things go from bad to worse. I know that the Government is horror-stricken that this matter should be brought up here, because it is one of the things that it revels in.

I see in the august audience this evening a knight whom I have no intention of offending. I send a great big cheerio to Sir Frank, who is engaged in a matter of very great importance to the members of this place. Any remarks that I make are not intended to reflect on him in any way.

All this is in passing, Sir. The second matter with which I wish to deal is one about which I asked a question earlier in the day - the censorship of books in this country. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) showed a little irritation when I directed attention to a book-

Mr McMahon - Not irritation.

Mr HAYLEN - It was. The Minister is not Prime Minister yet, although his ambition is well known. He would do better to wait a little to hear what I have to say before he tries to apologize. When I said that censorship in this country operated on a par with that of certain republics, the Prime Minister said, " You are referring to Ireland ". In this case, the author concerned is an Irishman. In the interval between question time and the present I have been permitted to read " Borstal Boy ". I represent many thousands of electors, and am also an executive officer of the Fellowship of Australian Writers, and I have been forced to shuttle between the Parliamentary Library and this chamber trying to read the book in little snatches because the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) has ordered that it must not be taken from the library. What a farcical situation that creates!

Here is a book that is banned. We want to know whether a good piece of literary craftsmanship is being murdered. I would not describe the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), who has just interjected, as a literary craftsman because he no longer writes poetry, except for certain dissertations about the territories. These books are written and then some one says they ought to be censored. Two books have been censored, and we shall bring that up again. One is " Borstal Boy " and the other is " Lolita " - both in their own way works of art. I want to point out that it is a pretty stupid and niggling way to deal with a request that a book should be released from censorship in this fashion, and to require that it be read in instalments in the Parliamentary Library. I make no criticism of the library, but I certainly criticize the Minister for Customs and Excise.

If we want to get out of this position into which we have fallen by being one of the countries that imposes a harsh censorship, particularly on the written word in book form, we shall just have to bring these things into the open. I brought the matter of censorship up once before, and subsequently many books were released from censorship as a consequence. A survey of the things that were being withheld was made. It was extremely laughable that some of those books were being withheld. These two books with which I am now concerned are works in respect of which those in the outside world - the readers and the community - consider that they should be the best judges of what they should read. They do not want any professors or members of Parliament to censor their reading. The police courts can take charge of anything that is salacious or pornographic. But these are literary works, and they are banned. What would happen to the works of Rabelais if this sort of thing were accepted? This Government has been notorious for it. A former Minister banned " Ulysses " and the classical works of Rabelais were banned by others. Anything that contained what sounded like a naughty word was immediately seized, wrapped in hessian and put under the seat that the responsible Minister occupied for the time being. This is a very bad practice, and we ought to be ashamed of ourselves for allowing it.

We should grow up in literary matters, just as we should grow up in our attitude towards knighthoods. We should chide the Government on these two little matters. It should not try to make fools of the Australian community by throwing largesse knighthoods about everywhere. The Government should remember what Muggeridge said about them - that the carrot can be too eagerly devoured by the donkey wanting some preferment at the time. You have got to keep these things up to a standard. Do not let them become debased as they were in the days of Lloyd George, when they were handouts, gewgaws and propaganda.

We should see that our literature is allowed free circulation, and even if it hurts the susceptibilities of one or two people, the Government should observe the democratic principle that is essential and iet the people make their own decisions about what they wear, eat and read. Sumptuary laws have never been successful. They have caused the downfall of democracy. On that point, Mr. Speaker, I say no more, except to plead with the liberal-minded supporters of the Government. The term " liberal " is becoming very badly misused, and the Government and its supporters are becoming less and less worthy of the description " liberal ". In the matter of books, censorship generally, pictures and Australian culture, let us take a grown-up view and not expect members of this House to run back and forth from the library trying to read a book in quick snatches. That is absurd and ridiculous. This matter should be looked into, and I suggest that the Minister for Supply (Mr. Hulme), who is at the table, or any other Minister who may be responsible for bringing this matter to the notice of the Minister for Customs and Excise, should direct attention to the bad aspects of censorship that I have mentioned.

Mr.SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

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