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Wednesday, 8 December 1971
Page: 4372


Dr J F Cairns (LALOR, VICTORIA) - In one day. The mistake concerning the salary does not matter. But the mistake about marihuana does matter. What is the purpose of that report? It is to suggest to the credulous reader of the 'Daily Telegraph' that the Australian Labor Party is tied up in the marihuana racket and that it wants permissiveness in the taking of drugs. That is the purpose of the report. Is not there malice in that? Of course there is malice in the attitude of the 'Daily Telegraph'. The Daily Telegraph' has libelled at least 3 or 4 members on this side of the House. The courts of not only the States but also the Commonwealth have found this. In Mr Uren's case the court said the libel was malicious enough to run into a very high 5-figure award for damages. I was libelled by the 'Daily Telegraph'. Sir frank Packer chose to settle that case with a payment that ran into 5 figures rather than see the case taken into court. He knew there was enough malice in what he had done, together with his own costs, for an award for damages running into 5 figures to be granted if it were taken into court. Do not tell me that there is no malice in what the 'Daily Telegraph' reports about this Parliament.

Therefore. I think that if this incident is taken, for political reasons, as an isolated incident, a mistake or reliance upon an unreliable witness, what the Leader of the House proposes would be an appropriate remedy. But if it is seen in the context of a carefully arranged plan with malice aforethought to damage as much as possible and continuously one side of this House and unduly praise and improperly report activities on the other side of the House, it becomes a different matter. If it was left alone to Mr Reid, the matter would not be so serious. One might be able to explain it away in Mr Reid's terms. But this cannot be done when it is realised that the matter also involves Mr McNicoll and Sir Frank Packer. If Sir Frank Packer was not involved the Leader of the House would not have come in here with a watered down version of the Committee's report. The Leader of the House would have come in here supporting the Committee's report. I say that Sir Frank Packer's influence in this House has gone much too far. If there were no better reason to support a requirement that the 'Daily Telegraph' should apologise, that would be very good reason to do it. It is about time we decided to stop a little Sir Frank Packer's influence in this House.

Some people believe he has selected the Prime Minister for us. Some people believe he has a continuous and improper influence upon the Government. Some people believe he has a continuous and improper influence upon Ministers and members of the Government parties. We do. not face a simple isolated matter about a report of some members of the House who left it after the quorum bells rang. We. face a conspiracy. It is ,a conspiracy to damage and endanger. The honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley) from the academic circles and the ivory towers of the University of Melbourne comes in here with his innocence and laughs. The honourable member will find, when he grows a little more hair on his face and gains a little more political experience, that he is not living the same kind of life now as the one he was brought up in. He will find that this place is a little harder and a little tougher than he imagined it to be when he studied it academically before arriving here. If it has not happened already, he will be brought before the finger of Sir Frank Packer or some similar newspaper magnate in the future. I would leave the decision he has to make about that to him.

This House has to decide whether it will accept the kind of biased and prejudiced reporting that the 'Daily Telegraph' has adopted constantly about affairs in this House in at least the 16 years that I have been here. No, this is a much more serious matter than an isolated instance that might have been based on a mistake or on a leak by an unreliable witness; it is something much more considerable than that. Further, the penalty suggested by the Privileges Committee is not a serious penalty. The Committee merely said to these people: Because you have misreported something about the activities of this House we ask you to apologise for that misreporting. I would have thought that anyone with any sense of manners or propriety would have been prepared to go that far under any circumstances. But why will not the Government go that far? The answer is, because it is the 'Daily Telegraph' that is involved.

I do not intend to spend any time examining the procedures of the Privileges Committee. I believe that is irrelevant to the matter. I think the Privileges Committee unanimously came to the decision that there was what it called a contempt in this article, that is to say, there was a misreporting. The only difference of opinion amongst members of the Committee is about what should be done, and that is the only difference of opinion amongst honourable members in this House tonight. I think it is perfectly reasonable to support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope) that we ask these people who have misreported the House, with . at least some element of malice, to apologise for doing so.







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