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Friday, 20 October 1905

The PRESIDENT - That has nothing to do with the question.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - I make that remark merely parenthetically.

The PRESIDENT - I ask the honorable senator not to refer to a former debate. To do so merely leads to friction.

Senator Givens - We will go over the whole ground again if Senator Gould likes.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Col. GOULD.- I have no desire to go over the whole ground again. I pray to be saved from that. I simply give this information to the public, and ask them to judge between the statements of these newspaper proprietors and the opinions of honorable senators opposite. I give it in order that the Senate may understand that the cables are not obtained for a mere bagatelle. Senator Guthrie has asked what return the members of the association received for supplying information to other newspapers. I reply that I do not know. But I understand that the charges made to newspapers that take the cables are in proportion to their circulation. Speaking without definite information as to the amounts, I understand that, for instance, one newspaper may pay ^1,000, whilst another may pay ^£500. Much depends upon the circulation of the newspaper concerned. The Senate should also bear this fact in mind - that one great benefit arising from the whole of the leading papers of Australia getting cables in this way has been that we get a larger amount of information than we could from the individual efforts of each journal. It would be absurd to assume that each newspaper would be prepared to expend a sum of £12,000 or ^15,000 per annum on cables. The joint enterprise of the newspapers enables us to get a very full service. Possibly we should get only one-half or onefourth of the information that we now obtain, if we had to depend upon the individual efforts of the leading journals.

Senator Walker - About 400 smaller newspapers obtain cable information from these principal newspaper proprietors.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- It would be quite impossible for any one of the 400 newspapers mentioned by Senator Walker to obtain such a quantity of valuable information, if they had to bear the original cost. An honorable senator pays his id. for his newspaper in the morning, and he gets the whole of this information, which is obtained at an expenditure of over j£i 5,000 per annum. That in itself is a great benefit to the people of Australia, and a great benefit to the country newspapers that avail themselves of the privilege of participating in the service. But honorable senators opposite want to put it in the power of the Minister to say what sum of money shall be paid by a newspaper for participating in this service.

Senator Guthrie - The Minister would fix a reasonable sum.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - I assume that the Minister would make a reasonable recommendation. But apply that principle to any other business. Take the case of the proprietors of one of the large softgoods or hardware houses in Sydney, who are able to purchase goods on extremely advantageous terms because of the strength and stability of their firms. Are we going to say by Act of Parliament, " There is Tom Jones next door, who cannot buy goods on the same terms ; we will force the large business man to sell him goods at the same price as that at which he is able to purchase them ?"

Senator Pearce - We are not dealing with soft goods but with cables.

Senator Guthrie - We are giving a protection, by means of this Bill, that a softgoods merchant does -not get.

Senator Lt Col' GOULD .- I think we give the softgoods man a great deal of protection in more ways than one. We propose to say to these newspaper proprietors, " Unless you consent to sell the information which you obtain on such terms as the Minister may determine, we will give you no protection, and any one can use your information the moment you publish it." Assume the case of a war breaking Out, or of some other important event occurring in any part of the world; and assume that two or three newspaper proprietors combine together to send out one or two representatives to obtain the fullest and most complete information, and to cable it to Australia. Are we going to enact that it shall be at the option of other newspapers to say, " The obtaining of this information is going to cost so much ; we will take a share of it if it suits our purposes, but we will run no risk in obtaining it. These people can take the risk of obtaining the information, and if it is worth anything, we will avail ourselves of it." That is the position which honorable senators opposite are taking up. Other newspapers would not join in the initial expense until they ascertained whether the information was likely to be of value to them. Several statements were made, in the course of the previous discussion, to which it is just as well to reply. It was asserted by Senator Pearce that this combination has an arrangement with the Eastern Extension Company, by which its cables are sent out at a lower rate than other newspapers would have to pay. I understand that that is an absolute error, and that the newspapers in the combination pay the same rate as other newspaper, proprietors would have to pay for the same service.

Senator Pearce - Who told the honorable senator that?

Senator Lt Col GOULD - It is useless to tell Senator Pearce, because he would not believe it. I should be sorry to exhibit so much preju'dice in connexion with a question. I tell the honorable senator, however, that if he chooses to start a newspaper to-morrow, he will be entitled to get information sent out by the cable company at the same rate as is charged to these journals. Senator de Largie as- serted that there was very little original matter sent by cable. I have already stated that the newspaper proprietors concerned incur considerable expense in obtaining information.

Senator Higgs - There is great originality displayed in .padding it out.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - Perhaps there is very little originality in the world after all. A great deal of the information cabled to Australia is published here before it appears in any English journal.

Senator Givens - Does the honorable senator take into account the difference in time between Australia and the old country ?

Senator Lt Col GOULD - That difference only makes my case stronger, because Australia is ahead, and not behind, the old country in point of time; and, therefore, the information would have to be sent away before its publication in England if it was to be published here on the same clay. A newspaper is a valuable document, of great use to people, affording, as it does, information of events in every part of the world. That information could not be obtained without a combination of talent and ability in the case of each newspaper; and the only assistance which this Bill appears to give to newspapers is to copyright news for a period of twenty-four hours. A book or a magazine article has copyright for a number of years ; and, in comparison, the protection afforded to news is very small. Under the circumstances, it is fair to protect newspapers when pluck and determination are shown in an endeavour to cater for the public generally. It would, be grossly unfair to take away any of the rewards that may reasonably be expected from enterprise of the kind, just as it would be to take away the rewards which a man in ordinary business may earn by his energy. In any town in the world we may find two men in the same way of business, one as singularly successful as the other is unsuccessful.

Senator Higgs - But such businesses do not receive the same assistance as newspapers here receive in the way of reduced telegraphic rates.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- And who reaps the benefit of the facilities, which are offered to all newspapers alike? If the proprietors of the Melbourne Argus desire to send copies of that newspaper through tlie post, they have to pay a regular rate, and the rate increases with the size of the publication.

It is a good thing for this country that there should be great newspaper enterprise exhibited in the various States, resulting, as it does, In the collection of information by cable from all parts of the world. I ask that, the clause be recommitted, so that no bar or ban may be placed upon individual enterprise. If honorable senators carry their minds back a few years they will remember that the cable information then published in the newspapers was very sparse and unsatisfactory, and items which appeared one day were very often contradicted the next.

Senator Guthrie - We need not go back many days to find examples of that kind !

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- These contradictions, at any rate, do not happen with anything like the frequency they did formerly, and that is because care is taken to verify the information cabled.

Senator MILLEN(New South Wales).I second the motion that1 the Bill be recommitted for the re-consideration of clause 34. I do not propose to traverse the arguments which present themselves against the clause as a whole, seeing that I did so on a previous occasion. Those arguments have just been placed before the Senate by Senator Gould ; but there is one other to which I desire to direct attention.

Senator Higgs - Is the honorable senator thinking of the small majority by which the clause was carried ?

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