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Friday, 20 October 1905

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) (Honor.ary Minister) . - I must oppose the recommittal of the Bill for the purpose indicated by Senator Gould. The position is not quite as the honorable and learned senator states; and if he had referred to the debates on the clause, he would not have committed himself to the opinion that it provides the only rights enjoyed bv news papers. This clause purports to give to a newspaper an additional right to those enjoyed by any literary production, namely, the right to exclusive production of a certain class of news for a certain term, with the power, if that right is infringed, to take summary proceedings before Justices for the imposition of a pecuniary penalty. This right of exclusive publication was contained in the Bill as circulated in the Senate in the first instance. Soon after the Bill was read a second time, a rather lengthy amendment was circulated designee! to carry out the object of the paragraph now under discussion. Thai amendment, I mav say, was in the hands of honorable senators for weeks, and came on in ordinary course for discussion in Com- mittee . Then another amendment was circulated for about a week, and on both proposals this question was discussed at length. It will be seen, therefore, that this cannot be described as an amendment which was sprung on honorable senators, considering that in both instances it was in print for a considerable time. On each occasion certain honorable senators, for reasons best known to themselves, chose to be ab sent from the division. Their absence may have been due to the most justifiable of causes, but the position is, practically, that, in consequence of their absence, we are asked to recommit the Bill.

Senator Millen - That is hardly correct, because I tried to show that the Committee itself had made a mistake.

Senator KEATING - I am at present dealing with Senator Gould's proposal which means that. Because honorable senators, for reasons best known to themselves, are absent from the Senate when public business of which they have had due notice is being considered, the passing of a Bill is to be suspended, and it is to be thrown once more into the turmoil and conflict of the Committee stage in order that they may have effect given to their views.

Senator Lt Col Gould - If an injustice is done the people should not be made to suffer because certain members of Parliament have been absent when a measure has been discussed.

Senator KEATING - If an injustice is done, certainly not. I remind honorable senators that the Committee considered this matter on two occasions, and, by a majority decided that, in conferring an extraordinary right on newspaper proprietors - and' it is an extraordinary right - they would do so subject to a certain condition. Some honorable senators who were not present when the matter was being considered arranged for pairs, but other honorable senators who were in this Chamber on the very day when they knew the question was coming on for discussion were absent when that discussion and division took place. We shall be adopting an entirely wrong principle if we decide that honorable senators may abstain from attendance inthis Chamber as they please, 'and may then ask the whole Senate to reconsider a matter which has been dealt with in their absence. If these amendments had been submitted in Committee without notice, no exception could be taken to a proposal to recommit the Bill for their further consideration, but, as I have pointed out, they were in the hands of honorable senators for weeks.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Col. Gould. - According to that argument, even if it is admitted that the Committee has made a mistake, we have no business to recommit a Bill.

Senator KEATING - I am not taking up that position. It was the duty of honorable senators to be here when the amendment to which exception is now taken was being discussed, since they had notice of it. As they were not here we are entitled to assume that they were indifferent as to the course which would be adopted in connexion with it. By following the course now suggested we shall be inviting honorable senators opposite to abstain from attendance in this Chamber whenever they please, and to come down subsequently and claim that a measure dealt with in their absence shall be recommitted. That would upset all discipline affecting attendance in this Chamber. In this matter I take it that the sense of the Committee was that the amendment should not be confined to any particular class of cables. The word "telegraphic " was put in to cover the case of communications being received by cable. Senator Millen asked me when I suggested it whether I thought that that word would cover the matter, and I said I thought it would.

Senator Clemons - Does the Minister contend that all telegraphic news is subject to the provision of the amendment ?

Senator KEATING - I say that that was the sense of the Committee.

Senator Clemons - I do not think it was.

SenatorKEATING.- Senator Clemons was not present when the discussion on the amendment took place. For the reasons I have indicated, the Senate would not be well advised in agreeing to the proposed recommittal.

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