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Tuesday, 18 October 1949

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Minister for Information and Minister for Immigration) . - Members of the committee and those who have been listening to the broadcast of to-night's proceedings must have been appalled at the nonsense that has just fallen from the lips of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). He has been a member of the Parliament long enough to know that the whole spirit of the electoral legislation is to restrict expenditure by candidates in order that every candidate who presents himself for the suffrages of the people may have, as far as possible, an equal opportunity with his opponents to state his case. The whole spirit of that legislation is to prevent the abuses which invariably accompany the expenditure of excessive amounts of money on electioneering campaigns. The present legislation, which was introduced in 1946 and is to be made effective by the amending legislation that the committee is now discussing, emphasizes how necessary it is that there shall be equality of opportunity for all candidates, not only by providing that posters shall be of small size, but also by emphasizing the maximum amount that may be expended by any candidate in his election campaign. That legislation provides that a candidate may spend only £250. How far would £250 go in the purchase of space on hoardings? How far would it go towards paying the scrutineers and meeting all the other expenditure that falls upon a candidate? The whole spirit of the legislation is that people shall not be misled by the misuse of money, and that principle is to be found in all the electoral legislation of the colonies both before and after federation. Yet honorable members opposite plead that they shall be permitted to use their huge slush fund of half a million pounds to place hoardings everywhere.

The honorable member for Balaclava said that he objected to the display of electioneering signs on railway sidings and bridges. I remind him that that practice is constituted an offence by the present legislation. However, whilst the honorable gentleman objects to the display of electioneering matter on the outside of railway premises, he would not have the slightest objection to . his party being enabled to purchase all the advertising space inside railway premises for the display of electioneering propaganda. That would be quite another matter! Honorable members opposite know that if they did not have the vast power that their party funds confer upon them their parties would not succeed in having any representatives elected to the Parliament. I hope that the day will come when we shall have real equality of opportunity for all political candidates. Already the broadcasting stations provide equal opportunity, as far as it is possible for them to do so, by giving Labour party candidates and non-Labour candidates equal opportunity to purchase broadcasting time. The Australian Broadcasting Commission also provided, so long ago as 1932, that all political parties shall have equal opportunities. However, members of the Opposition are not satisfied with such arrangements. They want to be able to scoop up all available space on the hoardings and other places for the display of their propaganda. They have been reading Labour advertisements in newspapers to the committee and comparing the size of those advertisements with the size to which it is proposed to restrict electioneering posters. At least it can be said for the Labour party's advertisements, that they are factual, and that they appeal to the reason of electors and are not the " scare em stiff" propaganda of the type published by the Opposition parties. Honorable members opposite have displayed newspaper advertisements this evening and said, in effect, " Labour can adver- tise to this extent, but we are to be prevented from displaying similar advertisements on hoardings ". Of course, they omitted to mention that they would lease hoardings as large as they can obtain, in fact, hoardings as large as Parliament House if they could obtain them.

Mr Fuller - Even that would not save them.

Mr CALWELL - Of course, nothing can save them. The honorable member for Balaclava asked what the Government was afraid of. It is afraid of nothing. It is certainly not afraid of the Opposition. If the Opposition parties cannot put up something better in the way of policy and propaganda and adduce some more concrete proposals for the betterment of the community than they have done, they will remain in Opposition for the next twenty years. The abuse uttered by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), who referred to members of the Government as " social fascists ", shows the depth of their fear and the degree of their frustration. If there are any " social fascists " in the Parliament they are to be found amongst the present members of the Opposition. What honorable members opposite want to be able to do is to buy space on hoardings in order to suggest that we are moving towards the socialized state by simple socialist steps in an attempt to exploit the emotional appeal and raise the bogies with which they have snatched electoral victories in other days. Labour will get no advantage out of this piece of legislation, which makes effective the 1946 act. We shall get no more opportunity out of it than our opponents will obtain. We emphasize that they will have no less opportunity than we will have, but they object, not because they are losing anything, but because they are not getting anything more than others will receive. They have £500,000 in Victoria which they handing over to fools ; it is doing them more harm than good. Now they want to plaster a few hoardings.

Mr Barnard - They want to disfigure the landscape.

Mr CALWELL - They also want to mislead the people. In addition to affronting the people's ears on the air, they now want to affright their eyes by the use of hoardings. By these means they hope to be elected to office. The Australian Labour party has a discipline that is the envy of members of political parties opposite. There is no question of regimentation in this matter. We present a united front in this Parliament and speak with one voice. In their lust for power, honorable members opposite do not hesitate to criticize each other, even on election signs. The Liberal party wants the hoardings in order that it cun advertise its political wares as being superior to those of the Australian Country party even in country districts. That competition exists in Victoria, and will no doubt be practised elsewhere. Itexists in Western Australia, where the Liberal party is after the scalp of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton), and on present indications, looks like getting it. The electoral legislation of this country, in which the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) is beginning to take some interest, contains a provision, dating back to the first days of thi& Parliament, that there shall be equality of opportunity. The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1946 limits the amount that each candidate for election to the House of Representatives may spend on electoral expenses to £250, under the following headings : - advertising and broadcasting, publishing, issuing, distributing and displaying addresses, notices, posters, pamphlets, handbills and cards; stationery, telephones, messages, postages and telegrams; committee rooms; public meetings and places therefor; and scrutineers. Every member of this Parliament knows that it is physically impossible for any person to wage an electoral campaign and cover all of those items within an expenditure of £250. So parties came into the field. But some people who want to buy space on these hoardings do not belong to any political party, but are the hangers-on of the parties of reaction led by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). The Australian Constitutional League wants to buy hoarding space. Although this organization wants to get rid of the Chifley Government, it has the extraordinary temerity and the odious effrontery to proclaim itself a non-party organization.

Mr Adermann - What about the Australian Labour party?

Mr CALWELL - The Australian Labour party gets its finance from its few friends amongst Australian manufacturers. It gets nothing from the Chambers of 'Commerce or other sections of the black labour brigade. When the Australian Labour party publishes its 10 in. by 6 in. advertisements, which it has a legal right to exhibit, it defrays the cost out of contributions from trade unions. It pits the pennies of the people against the pounds of the profiteers. The representatives of the profiteering classes are to-night protesting against the Government's attempt to make effective legislation that was enacted in 1946. We were told by the Leader of the Opposition that that legislation was passed at 1 o'clock in the morning when he was too tired to take an interest in it. It was accepted by the Leader of the Opposition in another place in four words, as the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) has said - " We support the measure ". Senator McLeay was either sleep-walking or talking in his sleep, but it was only half an hour after noon on the same day as that on which the Liberal party leader said that he was too tired to be really interested in the legislation. After the legislation was passed it was accepted by the people. There has been no objection by the great masses of the people to this legislation. No demands have come from the Chamber of Manufactures, or the Chambers of Commerce. Not even the Employers Federation has said that the legislation ought to be repealed. It is too late for the lazy leaders of liberalism, or for their comatose comrades of the Country party to make effective protests against this particular piece of legislation, which is good legislation. It is legislation which ought to be extended in the electoral laws of the Commonwealth. I hope the day will come when neither the Australian Constitutional League, nor the League of Rights, nor indeed any other such bodies will bo able to display their opposition or take any part at all in the electoral affairs of the people of Australia. I know what is going to happen. This is going to be one of the dirtiest elections ever held in Australia if the Opposition gets its way.

Mr Menzies - If the Minister for Information is in charge of the Australian Labour party's election campaign, it will be the dirtiest on record.

Mr CALWELL - The Opposition is upset because it will not be able to make it dirtier still by the use of hoardings. Honorable members opposite will try to put the propaganda of the banks into the workers' pay envelopes on the eve of the election. They will stoop to anything. However, in spite of that, democracy will triumph and the Government of this country will be carried on in the interests of the people of Australia, and not in the interests of the money power.

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