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Wednesday, 8 November 1905
Wednesday, 8 November 1905

The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.


Senator PLAYFORDlaid upon the table tEe following paper : -

Further correspondence about the Federal Capital Site between" the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales - -25th October to 3rd November.


Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Keating) read a first time.


(Message received from the House of Representatives, stating that it had agreed to the Senate's amendment upon its amendment in this Bill.


Tasmanian Newspapers and Election Addresses. Senator MULCAHY (Tasmania).- I desire to move -

That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 3 o'clock to-morrow, for the purpose of calling attention to a misrepresentation regarding a speech which I made in the Senate.

Four honorable senators having risen in their places,

Question proposed.

Senator MULCAHY.- I have to apologize to honorable senators for taking up their time, at a somewhat late period of the session, with a matter which, although I feel justified in referring to it on personal grounds, has also, to my mind, an important public bearing. In dealing with a proposed recommittal of the Copyright Bill I made certain references to a press monopoly in Tasmania. My remarks were reported briefly by some of the newspapers in the State, and not reported at all by others. The newspaper to which I particularly referred as the one which tried to bring about .1 combination for the purpose of blackmailing candidates at elections - the Hobart Mercury - 'has discussed the matter and sent a copy of its comments to every honorable senator. In its reference to myself there is an implication: that I have not been quite veracious. The article is headed "A, Veracious Senator." That part of it is. quite correct.

Senator Millen.-We can all identify him.

Senator MULCAHY.- But if it had added the words " And a Voracious Newspaper " it would have .been still more correct. It reads as follows : -

Some, of our readers may have seen a statement by Senator Mulcahy reported as made inright Senate during the discussion on the Copyright Bill, to the effect that there was a newspaper monopoly in Hobart, which charged for the publication of election speeches. We did not notice the statement before, because we desired to wait for the Commonwealth Hansard, in order to prevent any dispute about correct reporting, as an allegation of having been wrongly reported is the refuge of those destitute of honour and veracity.

I stop here to inform honorable senators that the date of this publication is the 1st November, and that on the 21st October, I received from the proprietors of the Mercury a letter, in which they enclosed a cutting from the Launceston Examiner, giving an abbreviated report of my speech, and which reads as follows :-

Dear Sir, -

Although we cannot find any record of your speech reported in the Melbourne papers, still the enclosed cutting from the Launceston Examiner gives a short telegraphic report of remarks you are said to have made in connexion with the Copyright 'Bill in the Senate on Friday last.

We shall be glad to know if you are correctly reported.

Kindly return the enclosed slip.

Yours faithfully,

Davies Brothers Ltd.

I replied to this that the full report of my speech would appear in Hansard, yet the Mercury makes a virtue of waiting for Hansard, and speaks as if I had a design lo contradict the report on the ground that I was destitute of honour and veracity.

We now find that what Senator Mulcahy did say was : " I, as a public man, have been compelled to pay for having reports of my speeches inserted in that journal [The Mercury], I have had a bill for £g presented to me on its account." He said, further, that he had been waited upon by reporters - he does not say how many, or from what papers- rand asked how many inches of space he wanted at 3s. an indi. And, further, lie said that a colleague of his had been refused the publication of a financial statement unless he would consent to pay 3s. an inch. It is a pity that Senator Mulcahy's notions pf fact are as crude as his notions of logic, or he would have said a great deal more - which I am about to do - or wisely refrained from saying anything at all on the subject. We deem it desirable, for the information of others, to state the facts. The well-understood rule is, that at election times the first speech of a candidate shall be fully reported.

Let me now state the facts upon which I based my statement. On the 14th February, 1900, Captain Miles, an exMinisler of the Crown, against whom very grave charges had been made, and whose case had been inquired info by a Select Committee, advertised in the Mercury that he would deliver a speech, which was to be a vindication of his character-

Senator Givens.- Was that about election time?

Senator 'MULCAHY.- Yes. That speech, which was very largely an attack upon myself, the Select Committee of which I 'was a member, and the Ministry to which I belonged, was reported in the

Mercuryin eleven columns. On the following day, I announced in its columns that I would reply to the speech, and that morning I was waited upon by a reporter of the Mercury, who stated that he was instructed to tell me that my reply to Captain Miles would be restricted to' two columns, but that if I wished to have a fuller report, I should have to " arrange." I was not quite so wise then as I am now. I did not think that Captain Miles had paid for the insertion of his speech, and I replied, with some indignation, that I would not consent to such terms, that they could report me or leave me alone, just as they pleased. Subsequently, the same reporter saw me, and in a friendly manner - not as a tout for the press, as he was made in the first instance- - suggested that, inasmuch as so many serious reflections had been cast upon me by Captain Miles in his speech, it was desirable that I should have a lengthy report of my reply. I again declined to come to any arrangement. On the night on which I was to deliver my address in the Town Hall of Hobart, I was waited upon by the re. porters, who were present on behalf of the Mercury, to know whether they would give me two columns or more. As I realized the possibility of my speech being mutilated, and as I had to reply categorically to a series of statements, referring to al-" most historic incidents, I told them to give me four columns. That was a fair contract, and, so far as the charge was concerned, I had no particular reason to complain ; I had given my consent. I was reported in nearly five columns, which also included the reports of other speakers, and I was sent a bill, speaking from memory, for about ^9 13s. The next instance was on the occasion of the general election in Tasmania. On or about the 27th or 28th January, 1903, the Lewis Ministry adopted a manifesto, which was sent to the press for publication. It was sent to the Mercury, but by accident it was not marked as an advertisement. . It was intended to be an advertisement, but it was sent as an ordinary communication, with the Premier's compliments. The Government were very anxious that it should be published next day, because we knew that a very stormy election time' was at hand. On the following day, however, the manifesto was not published, and, as the Premier was absent, the Treasurer, Mr. Bird, telephoned to the Mercury office to know the reason why it had not appeared. I ask honorable senators to carefully note the reply, which, was that the leading proprietor, Mr. C. E. Davies, was then in Launceston, arranging with the proprietors of the northern journals as to what matter should be admitted into the open columns of the Mercury and what matter should be charged for as advertisements, and that, therefore, the manifesto was not published at that time. My colleague, the Treasurer, immediately sent this reply - " Put in the manifesto, and send in your account afterwards," and thereupon it appeared. At the same time, he was announced to deliver the first address in the election campaign. His address was a statement of the finances of Tasmania, giving details and the reasons why the Government had had to resort to a rather severe form of direct taxation. The importance of it was generally recognised, and the newspapers, as is frequently done when an important speech is Fo be delivered in a country place, asked for copies of it in advance. Mr. Bird handed copies to the various newspapers', and he personally handed to the editor of the Hobart Mercury, before the other newspapers got it, the manuscript of his address. On the afternoon of Thursday, the 30th January, when Mr. Bird was about to proceed to his constituency in order to deliver the address, the telephone bell rang. He was informed that there was a message from the

Mercuryoffice, and those who telephoned said they were instructed to inform him that his manuscript would not be printed unless he paid for it at the rate of 3s. per inch. He replied, with very much indignation : ' ' Send me back my manuscript ; I will consent to no such terms." His manuscript was returned to him. He went to his electorate and he delivered his address, but there was not a line of it in any newspaper in Tasmania on the following morning, with the exception of the Launceston Examiner, which published a fair and full report, occupying something like four or four and a half columns.

SenatorMillen. - Does the honorable senator remember whether that was the first address given by Mr. Bird during that election campaign?

Senator MULCAHY.- It was his first address, and I venture to say that it was the most important address delivered by any candidate throughout the whole of the campaign. But a report of it was not published in the Mercury until a day or two afterwards, when they found that the Laun ceston Examiner, which had refused to join the combination, had published it in extenso, or nearly so. The Mercury then published a very abbreviated report, occupying about 15 inches. It was a most garbled report of a most important statement. . My assertion was that the Hobart Mercury charged candidates for inserting their speeches. I make that statement again. I say that the Mercury has, over and over again, contrary to its own statement, charged candidates for publishing their first election speeches. At the last election, it published in the same issue of the paper as the contracted report of Mr. Bird's speech appeared, a report of an address by a young fledgling politician, who never even succeeded in entering active political life. His speech was published conspicuously, set out with capital headings, and so on, while the speech of the Treasurer of the State was given second place, and much less space. As a matter of fact, the abuse was so great that when the last Electoral Act was passed in Tasmania, members, resenting what had been done, inserted a provision making it an offence against 'the Act to publish in any newspaper the speech of a candidate for the publication of which money had been paid, unless it was set out that it was an advertisement. The Act contains a provision relating to electoral offences, one of which is the following: - 9

Publishing in any newspaper the report of any speech of a candidate at any election for the publication of which any sum of money or other consideration has been paid by, charged to, or promised by any person unless the word " advertisement " shall be legibly printed at the head of each column of such report.

SenatorFindley. - Did the proprietor of the Hobart Mercury vote for the insertion of that provision. ?

Senator MULCAHY.-I do not know what he did. I have now stated the facts of the case. I have taken this course of moving the adjournment of the Senate so that, if any honorable senator desires to make any comments upon this matter, he may have an opportunity of doing so. I did not wish it to be said that the newspaper had no possibility of being heard in the Senate. It has, as honorable senators know, every possibility of being heard outside. As a summary of my statements, I say first of all that the Hobart Mercury made touts of its reporters in asking them to go to a Minister of the Crown and inquire how many inches of space he was going to pay for in its report of my speech, and that I had to pay rather than have my speech garbled. Secondly, I say that the journal charged a Minister of the Crown over ^9 for publishing a reply to a lengthy attack upon him. Thirdly, I say that the conductors of the Mercury themselves gave the information that their proprietor was trying to arrange a combine in the northern part of the island. I am glad to hear from another newspaper that the exception that I stated the other day in the case of the Launceston Examiner was not the only one. The Launceston Daily Telegraph declared that it would not take part in the combine, although it did not at first publish Mr. Bird's speech. My fourth statement is that the Hobart Mercury refused to publish the first election speech of the Tasmanian Treasurer - a most important speech - unless it was paid for at the rate of 3s. an inch, and that the newspaper returned Mr. Bird's manuscript because he would not pay what was demanded. If any stronger facts are required than those, I think that honorable senators are rather exacting in respect of the evidence that will convince them. I say further that the Hobart Mercury has frequently charged public men who have been candidates for election to Parliament for inserting their speeches, and that it has been possible to form a very good estimate of a candidate's power and willingness to pay by the length of the reports of his speeches.

Senator Findley.- There ds not much chance for the Labour Party there, then.

Senator MULCAHY.- In Hobart a poor man is at a disadvantage in this regard. They do not give him the same chance, as I think a public journal ought, as is given to a man who has money, and who is prepared to pay. I think these facts should be sufficient to indicate that I had full justification for making what I will admit were severe remarks; but I am now referring to them again because a general election is approaching in Tasmania, and I think that the ventilation of this question will do good to those who desire to enter public life.

Senator HIGGS(Queensland). - I rise for the purpose of saying that Senator Mulcahy's experience is not unique in, the Commonwealth. The practice is growing amongst the newspapers, not only in his own State, but in Other parts of Australia, of taking advantage of those who aspire to appear in public life, by asking them topay for the reports of their speeches. The provision quoted by Senator Mulcahy,, which has been inserted in the Tasmanian Electoral Act, is, I think, a very good one. An instruction might very well have been given to the Committee of the Senate to insert a similar provision in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill which we had before us recently. The public are often to a great extent misled by the fact that a newspaper gives a certain candidate four or five columns of space, and perhaps reportsanother candidate only to the extent of a few inches, or even goes .=0 far as to refuse to report him at all, because he is unable to pay. Senator Mulcahy has done a very wise thing on his own account, and has also* done something which should prove advantageous to the Commonwealth, in ventilating the subject in the Senate.

Senator CROFT(Western Australia).I also think that Senator Mulcahy has done a very wise and useful thing in bringing thismatter before the Senate. Personally, hehas my sympathy in the position in which, this Hobart newspaper has tried to place him. I was prompted to rise, however, rather by the statement of Senator Higgsthat Senator Mulcahy 's experience is not unique. I certainly never heard of the practice of charging candidates for Parliament for inserting reports of their speeches until* I came to this part of the Commonwealth. In Western Australia, no matter who the candidate is, he is fully reported when he makes his first election speech, and if at any time during the campaign he touches or* any fresh matter,* or answers any attacksthat have been made upon him by opponents, he is just as fully reported on those occasions. I think it may be said that in> Western Australia it is always the case that the leading daily newspapers follow triepractice which I have described, and I have never heard of reputable newspapers anywhere pursuing the line of conduct which Senator Mulcahy has described in the case of the Hobart Mercury.

Senator PULSFORD(New SouthWales). - I think that Senator Mulcahy wasthoroughly justified in the course which he has taken this afternoon. I myself never before heard of such a procedure as he has. described. I did not know that it wasfollowed in any State; and I hope that the exposure which has been made in this matter will tend to terminate such an un- desirable state of things - undesirable in connexion with any candidate, and certainly very undesirable on the part of the press of any State.

Senator GUTHRIE(South Australia). - Senator Pulsford has just said that he was not aware that the practice of charging candidates for inserting reports of their speeches had existed in any other State than Tasmania. I can assure him that in South Australia our leading newspapers for years past have had an arrangement that every candidate for Parliament shall be reported to the extent of eight inches, and that any one requiring more space than that shall pay for it at about the same rate as that mentioned by Senator Mulcahy. So that the practice is not confined to Tasmania. I say emphatically that bo*-h in connexion with State and Federal elections the press of South Australia has carried out this practice. Of course, the newspapers have a right to do what (hey like, but when they are being to a certain extent subsidized in the way of cheap carriage, cheap postage, and Government advertisements at a higher price than is charged to the general public as a rule, the system should be discouraged in the interests of the public. I am very pleased that the Senate, in its wisdom, determined, in connexion with the Copyright Bill, that in future these newspapers should not have the advantages they have enjoyed in the past. I am also glad that Senator Mulcahy has brought this matter before the Senate. The article in the Hobart Mercury was an absolute disgrace. It was a discreditable thing to attack a public man as Senator Mulcahy was attacked in that article. Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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