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Friday, 15 December 1905

Mr MAHON (Coolgardie) - I did not altogether agree with the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne when it was first moved ; and, at his request, I have given it another and less objectionable form. The Minister of Home Affairs raised the objection that it is vaguely worded, and said that any person might choose to feel himself aggrieved by moderate criticism. But he did not tell the Committee that the aggrieved person would have to convince a Judge or a magistrate that his grievance was a just one. Had he been quite frank he would have added that it was not the candidate's feelings which would determine the issue, but that the decision should be tested with the sober judgment ,of an independent arbitrator. I cannot understand the extreme censoriousness of the honorable member for Bland. He implied that the supporters of this amendment dislike criticism. I rather welcome criticism, because, in my opinion, it keeps public life healthy. The criticism with which this amendment deals is not exactly that based on lies, because it is only a clumsy writer who descends to falsehood concerning an opponent. This amendment is devised to meet suppression, distortion, or wilful misrepresentation. It is designed to protect candidates against newspapers which boil down speeches so as to conceal their full meaning, and then proceed from this foundation to raise their own superstructure. The honorable member for Bland remarked that the newspapers will publish any contribution which a man may send. But I know of one or two cases in which two leading newspapers in this city .refused to publish contributions in correction of their misstatements. In face,. that is rather the rule than the exception, for the newspapers publish only what suits their policy. The honorable member for Bland seemed to think that, under the amendment, it would be necessary for the aggrieved person to obtain a second order from the Judge before he could compel the offending newspaper to publish a correction. Possibly the clause does bear that interpretation, and, if it does, it can be easily amended; but that is no argument against 'the principle. I do not agree with the Minister of Home Affairs that the amendment is un workable, but if it should be considered that an amendment' would make it more workable I feel sure that the honorable member for Melbourne will gladly accept any assistance in that direction.

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