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Tuesday, 18 October 1949

Mr DALY - I repeat that the Leader of the Opposition was too tired to oppose the measure, although, in his own words, it was a fascist measure designed to stamp out opposition. The right honorable gentleman asks the committee to believe that he did not oppose the legislation merely because he was too tired to do so. At 12.22 p.m. that day, in another place, an honorable gentleman who supported the right honorable gentleman's political party, being too tired, I suppose, to oppose the measure, rose in his place and said, " I support the measure ".. They are indeed a tired collection of individuals ! One says that he was half asleep and could not oppose a measure of vital importance to the public because he was too tired, and another supporter of the right honorable gentleman's political party adopted the same attitude. The Leader of the Opposition expects us to accept that excuse. The Minister for the Interior, in an excellent speech, has explained the real reason why honorable members opposite are opposing this bill to-day. He has reminded us that a general election is approaching, and that the Opposition parties have produced this bogy, as they have produced other bogies, in an attempt to discredit the Labour Government. Honorable members opposite declare that the Labour party, in this bill, is attacking the freedom of the people, and, generally, they are indulging in a vote-catching campaign. But their real motive in objecting to this bill is that they realize that it gives to the candidate of average means the same opportunity to present his case to the electors as wealthier candidates have. The amended law will afford candidates an ample opportunity to display their names on their committee rooms during the election campaign. In that respect, all political parties will have an equal opportunity.

One of the purposes of this bill is to clarify a vagueness in the act of 1946. Lawyers, laymen, electoral officers and candidates have placed different interpretations upon the provisions of that act. For example, the Liberal party in Queensland adopted an interpretation that was different from that of the Chief Electoral Officer. I am so charitable as to say that possibly both the Liberalparty and the electoral officers were entitled to their own opinions on that particular provision of the act. This bill will make clear what is an electoral poster and where it should be displayed.

I recall that during the election campaign in 1946 I had in my own committee rooms a sign bearing the slogan, "Daly for Martin". That display was perfectly legal, and was accepted by the electoral authorities, but I understand that a similar sign, if displayed in connexion with the forthcoming election, would not have the approval of the authorities. T also recall that during the election in 1946, I expressly avoided having signs that exceeded a certain size, and yet I discovered on election day that the Liberal party had larger signs that the returning officer accepted as perfectly legal. Consequently I was placed at a disadvantage compared with my political opponent, because I had placed on that particular provision of the act an interpretation different from that which he had placed upon it. The bill clarifies many of the matters upon which, interpretations that were not always to our benefit had been placed.

Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.

Mr DALY - As I pointed out earlier, the Opposition offered no resistance in 1946 to the passage of a measure almost identical in its provisions with the bill that the committee is now considering. In replying to accusations that the Opposition had not objected to the bill, the Leader of the Opposition endeavoured to convey to honorable members an impression that his party had not considered it and that, as it was debated in the middle of the night, he had been too tired to deal with it or something to that effect. I have taken the trouble to check the progress of the debate that took place in 1946 and I have found that, after the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) made his second-reading speech on the 23rd July, the debate was adjourned until the 8th August. It would be too much to expect honorable members to believe that consideration was not given lo the measure by the Opposition parties in the intervening period. The real truth is that honorable members opposite were in agreement with that measure and saw in it none of the fell purposes that they claim to see in it on this election eve. The Leader of the Opposition stated that he did not feel inclined to discuss the legislation in 1946 at 1 a.m. during a long sitting. I accept that statement. One o'clock in the morning is a very late hour, and none of us are likely to be as lively as we might wish to be at such a time. But for the life of me I cannot believe that the then Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator McLeay, was asleep at 12.30 p.m. in the middle of the day when the measure came before the

Senate, and that he was not in a fit state physically to debate such an important issue. If that were the case, the Opposition parties should have awakened long ago to the fact that they need leaders who are capable of debating important matters.

Mr Turnbull - I rise to order. What the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) is saying appears to me to be quite out of order taking into consideration the ruling that you, Mr. Deputy Chairman, gave when I was speaking.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - I do not agree that that is so. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) was speaking about signs that had no relation whatever to elections or referendums. The bill that the committee is discussing relates to election signs.

Mr Turnbull - The remarks of the honorable member for Martin have no relation to the clause before the committee. That is my point.

Mr DALY - It is a sorry commentary on the Opposition that, although its members did not oppose the original measure in 1946, they to-night describe the bill before the committee, in the words of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) as an arrogant abuse of power and an unwarranted intrusion into the rights of candidates.

Mr Menzies - Hear, hear !

Mr DALY - The Leader of the Opposition now interjects " Hear, hear ! " Why did he not attack the 1946 legislation? Is it not an indication of lack of concern for the needs of the public that honorable members who describe this legislation in such violent terms allowed a similar measure to be passed by the Parliament, in 1946, in the early hours of the morning simply because they were too tired to debate the issue? The only reason why the Opposition is so critical of the clause before the committee is that the general election is approaching and they seek to use the full resources that finance can make available to them in order to decorate the hoardings of this country with monster signs. They want to use the funds of the banking institutions which back them to take up all available advertising space in the Commonwealth. They want to use the power that money can give them in the field of propaganda in an effort to mislead the people into voting the Labour administration out of office.

Mr Spender - Tell us about the money that the Labour party gets from the breweries.

Mr DALY - The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) is taking advantage of one of his occasional visits to this chamber in order to interject again.

The bill that is before the committee will give equality of opportunity to all candidates at the election so that those who lack the huge financial resources of honorable members opposite will be enabled to present their arguments to the people adequately. The bill is an indication to the people that the Labour party believes in giving all candidates a fair chance to win seats in this Parliament, irrespective of their financial backing. The honorable member for Fawkner talked about attacks on liberty. The only attach on liberty that he knows is the attack that can be launched by the banks and other financial institutions through the support that they give to honorable members opposite.

Mr Spender - Tell us something about the breweries.

Mr DALY - The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) knows all about the financial assistance that is given to the Opposition parties. The clause that the committee is considering will guarantee a fair go for all candidates at the general election. It will provide equality of opportunity in the presentation of posters for the nation-wide dissemination of propaganda on the grave issues that will be placed before the people. Furthermore, it will give a clear interpretation of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which, as I have said, was interpreted in many different ways by different candidates, returning officers, and others interested in elections. Not only will it provide equality of opportunity for candidates, but also it will clarify the objects of the 1946 legislation. My final word-

Mr Beale - Hear, hear !

Mr DALY - The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) will want something more effective than 10-in. by 6-in. posters if he is to be re-elected. It ill behoves him and other honorable members opposite to attack this measure only for the sake of political window-dressing. Their criticism is only a sham attack upon a principle that they support in their hearts. The true attitude of the Opposition parties to the principle of the bill was made crystal clear by their leader in the Senate in 1946, when his second-reading speech on the bill that was passed then was limited to four words, " I support the measure ". If the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber were sincere he would not have endeavoured, as he did earlier in this discussion, to mislead us into believing that he was too tired to debate this issue in 1946. He would have said instead that honorable members opposite support the measure in principle hut oppose it to-night only because an election is in the offing and the legislation will tie up the huge financial resources that the banks are putting behind them in an effort to throw this Government out of office.

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