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Friday, 23 April 1915

Mr RILEY (South Sydney) .- If the Government will not adjourn the debate, I am prepared to oppose the Bill to-day. This measure was put into the hands of honorable members a short time ago, and we have not had an opportunity to peruse it. The Government are expecting too much in asking the House to swallow a Bill of this character without an opportunity to discuss it. Looking hurriedly through the Bill, I find, on page 2, the words " to prevent the spread of false reports," and the Bill continues to the effect that any man writing in a newspaper what the military authorities consider to be a false report, will be liable to trial by court martial. The House should not allow any Government to get a Bill like this passed in a hurry. Honorable members have a right to go on the public platforms of the country in order to voice their grievances in regard to any action of the naval or military officers, and this may interfere with that right. As the measure now stands, if my honorable friend for Melbourne Ports drew attention from the public platform to the matter referred to yesterday, he would find himself in the hands of the military authorities at once. I am afraid that the Government are in a funk over this matter. One would think that the country was .'nil of enemies, when really there are no enemies here. In the Old Country, trading with the enemy is met with a fine of from 5s. to 20s., but here, although we are 12,000 miles away, the Government are trying to get very heavy penalties. I am not prepared to put the liberties of the people in the hands of the military authorities. Now that the Prime Minister has returned to the chamber, I ask him, does he think it fair to try to force this Bill through with less than an hour for discussion? I, for one, if it goes into Committee, will do my best to prevent it from passing until members have had an opportunity of discussing it. Surely the matter is not so urgent as to prevent the Government from allowing it to stand over till Wednesday next. There are several members of the House who want to speak on it. I think it is a trick on the part of the Government to bring the matter on at this particular time.

Mr Fisher - What do you say?

Mr RILEY - I say that it is a trick on the part of the Government to try to force the Bill through like this.

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to say that.

Mr RILEY - Well, I think the Ministers should give us an opportunity to discuss the Bill.

Mr Fisher - Ask leave to continue your speech.

Mr RILEY - I ask leave to continue my remarks when the House resumes.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

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