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Thursday, 23 November 1905

Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales) - I do not think there is any necessity for any change in the way Hansard is produced. The paper of the copy I hold in my hand is of moderate quality, and, in that respect, as well as in the size of the pages, every economy appears to be observed. The printing, too, is well done, and altogether I think that Hansard, on the ground of economy and quality, is a credit to Parliament. I altogether disapprove of the suggestion made by Senator Smith, because the paltry saving would be i!'l compensated by the trouble we should have in making corrections on common paper.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH (Western Australia). - I think it would be rather dangerous to have the speeches delivered in Committee cut clown by the Hansard staff.

Senator Best - Further curtailed, the honorable senator means.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - Yes. Verv often a great battle rages about what an honorable senator actually did say in Committee. I remind honorable senators that the condensation would apply to the speeches of Ministers, as well as to those made by other members of the Senate. It would be imposing rather an invidious task upon the Hansard reporters to ask them to say how much of an honorable senator's speech should be left out as unnecessary verbiage, and how much of it was valuable. Under such a system an honorable senator might choose to say, " I shall not be bound by anything that appears in Hansard, because my observations have been condensed in such a way as to convey a different meaning to that which they would have conveyed if they had been fully re ported." He might claim that, by direction of the Senate, his speech had been so reported as to entirely alter the sense of the statement he made. At election times a great deal of use is made of Hansard. Very often in Committee an honorable member may make a speech upon a matter of great importance, and he might find it so cue down as to convey something very different to what he actually said. There can be no objection to the reporters leaving out interjections which have no bearing on the subject of debate, and the replies made to them. That is a discretion which might be given to the reporters. Speeches made in Committee are very often of great importance, and may be the means of altering votes or of altering legislation. If they are to be cut down in order to save some expense, it might lead to a condition of affairs which some honorable senators might find very unsatisfactory. Hansard is not a species of literature which the people of the Commonwealth read very largely, but there is no accounting for tastes, and some people do read it religiously. They take notes and make extracts of the speeches they find in Hansard, and may make use of them at election times for political purposes. In such circumstances, it would be very hard upon an honorable senator, if a speech he made were quoted against him at election time, and had been so condensed as to con.vey the impression that he had said something which was not in accord with public opinion, and not in accord with his own opinions. For these reasons, I think it is not advisable to give any instructions to the Hansard staff to cut down speeches made in Committee, because it is necessary that we should be able to rely on Ucvs' Hansard -report for a record of what each honorable senator really says.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (South Australia). - As this matter has been referred to, I wish to say that we must all agree that the Hansard reporting in this Chamber is admirably done. It rarely if ever happens that corrections of any substantial character have to be made. Speaking for myself, I very seldom take any trouble to go through the proofs of what I have said - in fact, life would be too short to do it. I think we may well protest against many things that are said about Hansard reports being so voluminous. The fact is overlooked that thev form a permanent record of the proceedings of Parliament.

Senator Mulcahy - And the only authentic record.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - That is so ; and it is from that point of view that I think we should consider the suggestion, and not because people read Hansard, unless, perhaps, they are abandoned to an extraordinary form of dissipation. I agree that the condensation already carried out in the report of speeches delivered in Committee is quite sufficient. I know that in South Australia proceedings in Committee have always been very much more curtailed, and to such an extent that at times on Bills of great importance there has been great difficulty in finding out the intention of honorable members, in proposing amendments, and the reasons given for them. The reports have been sometimes so much abbreviated as to make pure nonsense of the speeches made. I think that the condensation which is carried out here in Committee is quite sufficient.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH (Western Australia). - I do not know who are the members of the Library Committee, nor do I know how often the Committee meet. There is a suggestion-book placed at the disposal of honorable senators' in the Library, and very often the names of books of great importance are entered in it in anticipation of a discussion likely to take place. It is of great moment that they should be obtained as quickly as possible; but I have known books to be applied for and no notice of the application to be taken for a. month or two months, apparently because the Library Committee does not meet.

Senator Keating - It is not always necessary that the Library Committee should meet to enable these books to be purchased.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - Who authorizes their purchase? '

Senator Sir RICHARD BAKER (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I think the Speaker, who is Chairman of the Library Committee.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - Senator Stewart made a request for a number of books, which it was important we should have from various points of view, and no notice has been taken of the request.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Perhaps the Library Committee did not think that they ought to be procured.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.There is no notification given as to whether a request is granted or refused.

Senator Sir Richard Baker - The Library Committee has met only once this year.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.Then it is as bad as the Printing Committee. In anticipation of an important debate coming on in a week or a fortnight's time, an honorable senator may enter a request for a certain book, and certainly some decision on the request should be recorded by the Library Committee, or the members of the Committee to whom the power of procuring books is delegated. Very often after a particular debate is over, and a book asked for in connexion with it is useless for the session, we learn that the request for it has been approved, and that it has been obtained. The matter is one which ought to be looked into.

Senator DOBSON(Tasmania). - I am quite sure from what I know of the Librarian, that if a request is made for a book that would be useful in connexion with a debate coming on it will be obtained, if it can be obtained in the Commonwealth. I gather from what I have been told, that the Library Committee seldom, if ever, meets, and that this duty is practically left to the Librarian and the Speaker. I understand that when new books are suggested, the Librarian submits a list of them to the Speaker, and if the Speaker approves they are procured. I suggest that, as we have a Library Committee of seven, they would be better able to decide what books ought to be secured, than would two members of the Committee. I understood that it would be the business of the Committee to meet monthly, and suggest or approve of books which ought to be secured for the Library. But it appears that the Speaker and the Librarian have to take upon themselves the responsibility of ordering books.

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