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Friday, 20 October 1905


Senator MULCAHY (Tasmania) - I do not. like undoing to-day that which we did yesterday, unless,- as in this case, there seem to be good and sufficient reasons for that course. But I think it is better that we should acknowledge that we have made a mistake than load the statute-book with an impracticable and unjust provision. There is, in my opinion, no form of monopoly which is worse than a newspaper monopoly. Notwithstanding the remarks of Senator Symon, I think that a combination of this kind does at times degenerate into a monopoly. We have had an experience of that sort of thing in Tasmania. Therefore, my sympathies are very strongly in. the direction of the object sought to be attained by Senator Pearce's proposal. First of all, however, I believe that the object cannot be attained in the way proposed ;. and that in so seeking to attain it we shall commit ourselves to a mischievous principle. Where are we going to stop ? If certain newspaper proprietors choose to join together in certain circumstances in order to bring about economy in the transaction of their business, and incidentally give the public a much better supply of news, why should we interfere with them in doing so ? There seems to be an idea that we can, by Act of Parliament, enable some one to decide what the money cost of obtaining- items of news by cablegram is. Such an idea is absurd. A number of proprietors of journals who had previously been getting their cables individually might combine, establish agencies at Home, arid send out expert correspondents to different places - it might be to follow up armies in the field. They would have to incur considerable expense; and to bring considerable experience to bear in making their arrangements. The mere money cost of obtaining the cables would not represent the true value of the service thus obtained, for the simple reason that such a plan would have to be carefully thought out, and would be probably the result of years of work. Why should men who combine together in this way be compelled to share the results obtained by the application of their brains, energy, and capital, with other people who had taken no risk? I do not agree with Senator Symon that there is no exclusiveness shown by newspaper combinations. We have had an experience of an unpleasant character in Hobart. There is only one morning newspaper there. It constitutes a monopoly, and in operation it is a most objectionable monopoly indeed. I, as a public man, have been compelled to pay for having reports of my speeches inserted in that journal. I have had a bill for £9 presented to me on its account.


Senator Sir Josiah Symon - That is a very wrong and mischievous practice.


Senator MULCAHY - I have been waited upon by reporters from the newspaper before I delivered a speech in public, and asked how many inches of space I intended to pay for at 3s. an inch.


Senator Sir Josiah Symon - I have always positively refused to pay for the publication of any speech of mine. I think that it is a scandalous practice.


Senator MULCAHY - I have known publication to be denied even to a financial statement by a colleague of mine unless hewould consent to pay 3s. an inch for having it inserted.


Senator Keating - Although the country wanted to see it.


Senator MULCAHY - In Tasmania an effort was made to form a strong combination of newspapers by means of which no public man would be reported unless he submitted to this improper charge. Fortunately, one paper, the Launceston ' Examiner, was strong enough, and public-spirited enough, to resist that attempt. But the other journals denied publication even to Ministerial speeches, and it was only when the practice was denounced upon the platform by myself and others that something like fair play was given. But although I entertain a strong view concerning the iniquity of newspaper combinations, I cannot subscribe to Senator Pearce's proposal. I believe that it contains a false and mischievous principle. We are asked to constitute the Minister a tribunal, and to place him in a position which he ought not to occupy. I would go a step further than Senator Symon has gone, and say that probably the Government might enter into the journalistic business. I believe that such a "thing has been proposed in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament. Fancy a Minister being placed in the position of deciding what would be a reasonable charge for cables supplied to a journal of which he was part proprietor. Such a position is an absolutely false one, and should not be tolerated for a moment. I think that we have no right by Act of Parliament to interfere in matters of this kind ; and although there are cases of gross hardship, I certainly do not agree that the remedy proposed is one that can be regarded as just. I shall vote for the recommittal.







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