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Thursday, 19 July 1906

Senator STEWART (Queensland) . - - -I feel that something might be done along the lines indicated by Senator Smith. I am sure that we have all felt the inadequacy of the present cable service, as it affects Australia, other portions of the Empire, and the rest of the world.

The news we get is very limited. Very often it is of no consequence to the ordinary citizen at this end, and so far as I have been able to discover, the Australian news published in the British press is absolutely next to nothing. Take, for instance, the cablegrams in to-day's Argus. To begin with, we have three long cablegrams, namely, one about the King, one about .the German Emperor, and one about a late South African millionaire. No doubt the King is a most interesting personage, and the people of Australia are waiting with bated breath to know that he has received an invitation to visit Canada, and that he has declined. I have no doubt that very soon we shall have Senator Dobson moving that His Majesty be invited to visit Australia.

Senator Dobson - -I wish he would.

Senator Mulcahy - Why should he not ?

Senator STEWART - There is no earthly reason why he should not, and I expect that within a very limited period a motion will be placed upon the noticepaper. It gave me quite a shock when I discovered -from the press that His August Majesty the German Emperor has become a grandfather.

Senator Fraser - The honorable senator had better be civil to His Majesty, because he is a great fighting man.

Senator STEWART - I am at a great distance from the German Emperor, and can afford to talk somewhat disrespectfully about him, or to talk very much more freely about him than I -could if I happened to live in Germany, Itappears that he has not granted an amnesty to certain prisoners. No doubt that is a very important fact to the prisoners, but I do not see how it affects the people of Australia. Then we have a cablegram about the death of the late Mr. Beit - I suppose one of those poor, miserable, down-trodden South African millionaires who were ruined by Kruger. It appears that this gentleman has left a fortune of between .£25,000,000 and £30,000,000. I do not know why that fact was cabled to Australia, unless it were to make us envious of the riches which, unfortunately, he could not take away, perhaps on account of the climate to which he was going.

Senator Playford - That statement has been already contradicted. It is said that he left £9,000,000.

Senator STEWART - Then . we have a cablegram about a Native Rising in Natal, Musical Copyright, and Charlemagne. I do not know if many of the people of Australia know who Charlemagne was, and I suppose that a great many more do not care. Then we have a cablegram which is of a little interest - about the Education Bill and Welsh Home Rule. There is a cable about the canning of meat. It appears that Sir Thomas Lipton, that great bacon curer and tea merchant, is about to enter into the meat-canning business. Then we have cables about some fighting republics in South America, about amateur cricketers, gipsies in England, and so on, and so on. I think it must be clear to all of us that the cables that are sent out to Australia day by day are lacking in interest to the people of this Continent.

Senator McGregor - They are not selected by a Socialist.

Senator STEWART - They are not the kind of cables that the people of- Australia require. They are not selected by a Socialist, as Senator McGregor interjects. I suppose that the news is sent out by some gentleman who moves in select aristocratic circles in London, and Ave in Australia are. supposed to read it with awe and reverence. If .the cable service is unsatisfactory at our end, I submit that it is much more so at the other end. The people of Great Britain get very little reliable information about Australia. What they do get, if we can believe what we hear, is poisoned bv the enmity of the people who send it from this end of the cable.

Senator McGregor - The English people get stinking meat from America, and " stinking fish" from Australia.

Senator STEWART - We have what is known as a " stinking fish " party in Australia, and the members of that party send distorted information about Australia over the cables day by day. The effect is that Australia is depreciated in the eyes of the British people, and that, instead of there being a friendly feeling existing towards us, there is an attitude of semi-hostility. In short, nothing like the truth is known about us or told about us. If Senator Smith's proposal were adopted, and if we had a good editor at this end, we could daily send to Great Britain, Canada, and Europe, news of an important character regarding Australia. We could send news as to our industrial developments, mining, squatting, agricultural, and as to our various commercial activities. We could also keep the people in Europe well posted with regard to social and political matters. In that way we could present to them day by day a comparatively honest picture of life as it at present is in Australia.

Senator McGregor - We might let them know that Mr. Reid is in Rockhampton.

Senator STEWART - I think it would be a most important fact to telegraph to the other end of the world that Mr. Reid, the great anti-Socialist champion, was holding meetings in Queensland, and that large numbers of people attended those meetings, and cheered him to the echo.

Senator Millen - We might also tell them that some nervous people in another place wanted to object to Mr. Reid getting of absence.

Senator STEWART - I do .not know that I ought to refer to that subject ; but I' can remember when just such another exhibition of bad taste - for I call it that - was made in this Chamber. If Senator Millen does not recollect it-

Senator Millen - I do not.

Senator STEWART - Well, I do. In any case, I have no doubt that the people of Great Britain would be very much interested to know that St.' George had set out to assail the dragon of Socialism in Australia, and was surrounded by great gatherings of people, who came from afar, if not to laugh with him, at least to laugh at him, in his extraordinary endeavours to slay that dreadful monster. In short, 1 believe that probably the best way to develop Australian interests would be to adopt the suggestion thrown out by Senator Smith.

Senator Trenwith - Who is to control these telegrams? Who is to be the author of them?

Senator STEWART - That is a matter for the Government of the day. Senator Keating has pointed out that the Pacific Cable Board has raised certain objections. Of course,, every one would expect the Pacific Cable Board to object to a proposal of this kind. But we ought to remember that we are shareholders in the Pacific Cable, and that our contribution towards the loss in carrying on the business is about ^27,000 per annum. We ought to have something for our money. Senator Smith has told us that the cable is idle for about twenty hours out of every twentyfour. Ought we not to insist upon getting something for the ^27,000 that we pay? It would not add to the cost of running the business to send through a thousand, or a couple of thousand words per day.

Senator Trenwith - Would it not reduce the revenue? If messages were sent free, the same number of messages would not require to be paid for.

Senator STEWART - The messages to be sent free would not be in connexion with business or private concerns.

Senator Millen - Press messages are now paid for. If they were sent for nothing they would not be paid for.

Senator STEWART - Even if that were the case, I think that the profit to Australia would be very much more than it is at present. We should have all the advantage of the additional information with regard to the Continent of Europe being circulated in this country, and we should have the advantage of information regarding Australia being circulated in Europe and America. That information would be much fuller, much clearer, and much more honest than it is at present. Surely, that advantage would be sufficient to balance any loss of private business that might occur. Looking at the whole matter broadly, I think that the adoption of the proposal would be advantageous to Australia. It is a highly .socialistic proposal, and for that reason it commends itself to me. Then, as I pointed' out at the beginning, it would insure messages of greater interest to the great mass of the community being - transmitted If rom our end of the cable. The information would be unbiased from both ends, and that is more than can be said at present.

Senator Findley - What guarantee' is there that the information would be unbiased ?

Senator Trenwith - That is the danger, I think. For instance, if the Reid Government were in charge, and were sending its messages over the cable, does the honorable senator think that they would be just what he would like?

Senator STEWART - I do not think that the person in charge should be under the control of any particular Government. With the rapid communication that exists nowadays between countries, I am of opinion that no man could continue to send unfair or untrue messages for any length of time. He would very soon be found out, and, if he did not do his duty honestly and 'fairly, would probably be speedily dismissed.

Senator Millen - Dismissed by whom?

Senator STEWART - Dismissed by his employers - the Government. We have no guarantee now. We are absolutely in the hands of private individuals. The messages, we know, are coloured every day. How does it happen that the various Agents-General have continually to be writing to the press in London denying slanderous lies circulated about Australia by pressmen from this end of the cable? That is the case at present. I do not say that the system proposed by Senator Smith would be perfect, or that absolutely perfect results would be achieved by it, but we should have some control over the news sent over the cables from both ends. The advantages appear to me to be so abundant that the Government ought to do everything in its power to persuade the other partners to the Pacific Cable to do something on the lines suggested by Senator Smith.

Senator Keating - What about the privately-owned lines connecting the Atlantic with the Pacific?

Senator STEWART - I think that arrangements might be made with them.

Senator Trenwith - We could only make arrangements to pay them. We could not get messages sent free over those lines.

Senator STEWART - We might, in time, persuade the people of Canada that it would be verv much better for them if the telegraph lines were owned by the States rather than by private individuals, as at present.

Senator de Largie - So long as they get their present payment for each telegram" they will not see matters in that light.

Senator STEWART - There are obstacles in the way which would have to be overcome, but I have not the slightest doubt that they could be overcome. In any case, the better knowledge that would be obtained by different peoples of each Other by this means would be productive of general good, not only to the people of Australia, but also to Europe and America. For that reason, .1 think that we ought to do everything in our power to help forward the object of. the motion.

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