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Friday, 20 October 1905

Senator MILLEN - I know that Senator Higgs is a perfect worshipper of numbers where the carrying of a motion or anything of that kind is concerned. But my desire now is to direct attention to a defect in the clause which the Senate itself, on a former occasion, sought to rectify. An amendment was agreed to with a certain object, but that object, as I think I shall show, was not attained ; and, therefore, unless honorable senators have, changed their opinions, they should recognise that the suggestion I have to make is reasonable. I previously pointed out that whatever may be the merits of the clause, so far as cable information is concerned, it certainly is not sought to make it apply to a case where a combination of newspapers send Out a special war correspondent. That position was recognised so far that an amendment was carried to insert the word "telegraphic" before the words news of any facts or events. " Clearly, it was deemed to be unfair that, in the case of two or more newspapers combining for the purpose of sending out a special representative to report any events, other newspapers should have the right to participate in' the special news thus obtained.

Senator Higgs - Hear, hear.

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator assents to that proposition. But it is quite probable that several newspapers might combine for the purpose of despatching a special correspondent to send them such news by telegraph or cable; and the clause as it stands would not protect news so obtained.

Senator Higgs - A Minister would be foolish if. under the circumstances, he gave any other newspaper the right to participate.

Senator MILLEN - Without referring to the present Government in any way, I may say that we have had foolish Ministers in the past, and may have such Ministers again.

Senator Higgs - The action of a Minister may be reviewed in the Senate.

Senator MILLEN - But the reply of the Minister would be that the Act compelled him to allow other newspapers to participate, .and that it was not for him to decide on the question of the justice of so doing. The clause does not go far enough, because while it excludes newspaper correspondence forwarded by mail, it does not exclude the same correspondence if forwarded by cable ; and the Senate, in order to be "consistent, and to secure that measure of justice which we intend shall be given under the Bill, ought to agree to a recommittal, if not for the purpose of going to the full extent proposed by Senator Gould, at any rate for the purpose of rectifying an omission in our own work. If the proposal for recommittal is assented to, I trust that the Committee will assist me in framing an amendment which will meet the position I have indicated, even if in other respects the clause be adhered to in its present form.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator wants to frame a bludgeon, I am afraid.

Senator MILLEN -" Bludgeon " is a very good term to apply to this clause. The object I have in view carries the indorsement of honorable senators opposite, because, on a previous occasion, they supported me in excluding from the operation of the clause correspondence forwarded by telegraph. If honorable senators were sincere when they took that course a week ago, they will now assist me to make the meaning of the clause clear. If, on the other hand, they desire that the clause shall give any. newspaper the right to come in and share in the benefit of special correspondence, whether it be sent by mail or wire, they will, of course, retain the clause as it stands. But in doing so they will not be acting consistently. There is one other point to which I should like to refer. If a distinguished journalist, for instance, forwarded to a number of Australian newspapers articles for each of which he was paid, he would receive copyright under this Bill; but if, instead of being paid by the article, the journalist entered into an arrangement to be paid a lump sum, copyright would not subsist. Is there any equity in such a provision? I am now speaking, not merely in the interest of newspapers, but in the interest of journalists. In the event of a number of newspapers combining to send out a special correspondent, the effect of the clause would be to deprive the writer of the articles of that measure of copyright which is given under other circumstances. Even if honorable senators adhere to the clause, I ask them to help me to eliminate from its operation the cases to which I have referred.

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