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Tuesday, 18 October 1949

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lazzarini) - Order! I am afraid that the honorable member for Hindmarsh cannot pursue that argument any further.

Mr THOMPSON - Last night I listened to a broadcast that was made on behalf of the Liberal party.

Mr Menzies - What has that to do with the bill?

Mr THOMPSON - It has everything to do with the bill. As the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) has explained, this measure has been introduced to control the display of certain posters relating to a general election before the writs for that election have been issued. To-day, the Liberal party is sponsoring broadcasts with the object of influencing voters at the next general election.

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER - The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill, which does not deal with broadcasts. It seeks to prohibit the display of certain electoral posters.

Mr THOMPSON - The Leader of the Opposition has said that he wants freedom. He and his colleagues want freedom merely for the man with the most money to expend on the display of electoral posters on hoardings. Some years ago in South Australia it was part of my duties to book space on hoardings for the display of posters on behalf of Labour candidates, and I found that the advertising companies that controlled advertising on those hoardings had let all available space to anti-Labour organizations which twelve months previously had bought up the space on every hoarding that was in a prominent position. The result was that the Labour party could not secure any hoardings in a suitable position.

Mr Menzies - So, the honorable member admits that the bill is directed against his political opponents.

Mr THOMPSON - No. It is quite possible that in Victoria, for instance, the Liberal party will be opposed by parties other than the Labour party, and it is possible that the same state of affairs will exist in Western Australia at the next general election. I am wondering how the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) will feel if the big Liberal organization has already booked up space on all prominent hoardings in his electorate to be used in opposition to his candidature. Therefore, this is not merely a question of a fight between the Labour party and the Liberal party. It cannot be said that the Government has introduced this measure merely to prevent its political opponents from doing something that Labour will not enjoy equal opportunities to do. The object of the bill is to prevent the big moneyed political organizations from monopolizing hoardings throughout the country.

Mr Francis - That was not the reason that was given for the control of electoral posters when the original bill was introduced.

Mr THOMPSON - I do not know whether or not that reason was given. T agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the quantity of paper that will actually be used for electoral posters will be infinitesimal compared with the quantity that will be used for electoral purposes in other ways. Honorable members opposite say that this measure has been introduced solely in the interests of the Labour party. That suggestion is remarkable in view of the fact that in some States where Labour is not in office, party political candidates are prohibited from using pictures in advertisements. Therefore, when the Leader of the Opposition says that this is the work of bureaucrats, there must be many non-Labour bureaucrats in this country. The real issue is whether it is in the interests of the community to permit party political candidates during a general election campaign to advertise on hoardings to an unlimited degree. Whilst I admit that in the past every party endeavoured to gain the greatest possible advantage by displaying electoral posters on hoardings, nevertheless, the most lurid posters that I have seen were used by Labour's opponents. Some years ago action was taken in South Australia to prevent the countryside from being marred by the erection of unsightly hoardings for advertising purposes. That prohibition was not imposed by bureaucrats but by decent people in the community. Is it necessary, or desirable, to allow that principle to be ignored merely because a general election campaign happens to be in progress? The anti-Labour parties will not be at a loss to find means of disseminating electioneering propaganda. They will put out plenty of literature and along with that literature they will toss over the fences of private residences electioneering posters as large as they__are permitted to issue under the law. We know only too well what our opponents always do in that respect. Therefore, the Opposition parties have no justification for their outcry against this measure which has been introduced to tighten up provisions contained in the principal act. Surely, the Leader of the Opposition will not deny that posters that have been issued by the Liberal party during the last six months have been issued for the purpose of influencing voters at the forthcoming general election. This measure arises out of action taken by an officer of the Liberal party in Queensland to ascertain from the Chief Electoral Officer in that State whether it was permissible before the writs for the next general election were issued to display electioneering posters of greater measurements than the maximum prescribed under the principal act. That individual was told that the provision limiting the size of posters did not apply until the writs for the general election had been issued. That being so, the question has arisen of who shall be responsible for the removal of such posters after the writs for the next general election have been issued. If provision were not made in that respect, the anti-Labour parties would make a pretty good job of plastering every available hoarding with electioneering propaganda and, then, after the writs had been issued, they would merely say that it was not their responsibility to rr-move them. The purpose of the bill is to ensure the effectiveness of the existing legislation. Honorable gentlemen opposite will talk about fascism, as the Leader of the Opposition did earlier. His talk about fascism is in remarkable contrast to the usual talk of honorable gentlemen opposite about communism.

Mr Spender - They are both the same.

Mr THOMPSON - Both are objectionable to me. Neither communism nor fascism enters into our consideration of this measure. The question is whether the size of electoral campaign posters should be limited to 60 square inches or whether it is necessary for the political parties to advertise the work of their candidates on huge hoardings. The law is that the size of posters shall be limited to 60 square inches. The purpose of this bill is to ensure compliance with that law. I am not personally concerned, in my electorate, whether posters are big or little, but I know, from experience, that the big battalions and the men with lots of money certainly have a decided political advantage if political advertising on hoardings is allowed. This measure gives a fair opportunity to all political candidates to put their views before the electors.

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