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Thursday, 17 November 1910

Senator GIVENS (Queensland) . - With the abstract motion that has been moved by Senator Millen, I am perfectly certain that every member of the Senate, no matter to what party he belongs, or on what side of the chamber he may .sit, will be in perfect agreement. I think, also, that most honorable senators will heartily concur in the remarks that fell from the honorable senator in submitting the motion. He put his case exceedingly well, in a moderate and cogent fashion, and he impressed honorable senators with the need of adopting some such course as was suggested by him. It is a fact that will not be gainsaid that it is exceedingly important, from the point of view of the general public, that they should be as fully acquainted with the acts and statements of their representatives in Parliament as possible. Otherwise honorable senators cannot be in touch with their constituents to such a degree as they ought to be, and the members of the public will have no adequate knowledge as to whether their representatives are faithfully carrying out the promises they made when they were elected, and discharging the work which they were sent here to do. It is also essential, in the interests of clean and pure politics, that the public should have a full knowledge of and acquaintance with what we are doing in Parliament. Nothing is so conducive to purity and cleanliness in public life as absolute publicity. If the public are acquainted with every iota of business that is transacted here - with everything that is said and everything that is done - that will be the best safeguard against corruption, and will be a guarantee that nothing will be done that cannot bear the closest scrutiny. If that desirable object can be attained by the adoption of some such scheme as Senator Millen has in view, we should not be deterred by difficulties from giving effect to it. It is a fact beyond cavil that the daily press of Australia is not capable, within its prescribed limitations, of giving that amount of attention to the proceedings of the Commonwealth Parliament which is desirable in the interest of the public. I do not mean that the public are entitled to get that information from the newspapers, because we must recognise that there are certain things which are beyond their resources. After all, the resources of even the greatest newspaper are exceedingly limited. A newspaper must be kept within certain bounds; and such a variety of matters have to be kept in view, about which news has to be published, that the amount of space that can be devoted to any particular subject must necessarily be limited. Therefore, I must not be taken as blaming the newspapers for the abbreviated reports of the proceedings of Parliament. But, nevertheless, 1 say that the public are entitled to fuller information, and they should get it from this Parliament, not from the press. My own opinion is that that object can be secured very effectively, and without any cost to the public exchequer. That is a pretty bold statement to make, yet I think it can be done. I am quite in accord with the idea put forward by Senator Millen. It is not necessary to give a full daily Hansard report to the public. Those who feel interested in getting an absolutely full and accurate report could still be supplied with Hansard, as they are now. But members of the general public have not time to wade through Hansard, and it would be better to give them a concentrated report such as they would be able to obtain from a daily abbreviated issue like that suggested by Senator Millen. It is true that it would entail very considerable expenditure to issue the report, even without considering the cost of telegraphing it. To prepare a concentrated report of the proceedings of Parliament we should require, in addition to our present Hansard staff, an independent journalistic staff, capable of preparing an abridged report of what the members of this Parliament say and do in regard to the various matters discussed in both Houses of Parliament. That, I repeat, would cost a great deal of money; but, notwithstanding that fact, I still believe that what we desire could be accomplished without making any demand whatever on the public exchequer. I have had that idea for a considerable time, and have been waiting for what appeared to be a favorable opportunity of giving expression to it on the floor of the Senate. How do all the great newspapers of the day make their journals pay at the ridiculously small price for which they are issued? Simply by taking advertisements from the public. If we had a daily report of the proceedings of Parliament like that indicated by Senator Millen - an abbreviated Hansard, going into the hands of every elector of Australia absolutely free every day - we could command unlimited advertisements to be published with it. I am perfectly satisfied that we could do that. There is no merchant in Australia who has any thing to sell ; there is no importer who has any goods to dispose of ; there is nobody who wishes to get his wares under the notice of the public, who would not 'be glad to avail himself of such a means of circularizing the public. If we are going to publish a daily report of the proceedings of Parliament, why not adopt commercial means? We are continually being told that we should run the public Departments on business lines. The daily press is constantly hammering that at us.

Senator Rae - We should- require a simultaneous issue in each State?

Senator GIVENS - That is a matter of detail, and it is not my intention to enter into details now. If such a publication were to be issued once or twice a day and sent to every place in Australia - if the proceedings of Parliament were telegraphed to the various States and "published there - I am certain that we could, if we laid ourselves out to do so, command unlimited advertisements at a highly remunerative price for inclusion in the publication.'

Senator Millen - We need not disagree about details now.

Senator GIVENS - I am only making a suggestion. Why not adopt the usual course that has commonly been adopted by the Senate and by other Houses of Parliament in regard to matters as to which inquiry is desired? When Parliament decides that a certain thing is necessary or desirable, it usually sets about finding the best means to accomplish the end in view. It appoints a Select Committee. Why should not this Senate, at the beginning of the next session, appoint a Select Committee? Probably, honorable senators will return from the country next year like giants refreshed.

Senator Stewart - What about a Royal Commission ?

Senator GIVENS - The honorable senator knows that I have never been favorable to the appointment of Royal Commissions.

Senator Millen - Perhaps the honorable senator is like me, in not having been a member of a Royal Commission.

Senator GIVENS - I have never been a member of one. At any rate, while Parliament is sitting, a Select Committee might be appointed, and such a body would have pretty well all the authority with which a Royal Commission would be clothed. It could thresh out all the details of such a matter thoroughly. I am not, however, wedded to the idea of a Royal Commission or Select Committee, but merely throw out the suggestion.

Senator Millen - Probably the honorable senator does not recollect that I "suggested that if the Senate was good enough to adopt my motion, I should perhaps ask it to appoint a Select Committee on reassembling after the recess.

Senator GIVENS - The fact that the honorable senator had made that suggestion had escaped my attention for the moment. Now that he reminds me of it, I am pleased to give it my hearty support.

Senator de Largie - Why not select the Committee now, so that it might proceed with its work during the recess?

Senator GIVENS - A Select Committee cannot sit except when Parliament is in session.

Senator de Largie - The Committee might be turned into a Royal Commission during the recess.

Senator GIVENS - We have had a great many Royal Commissions, and, personally, I have a great objection to them. The Senate, I believe, is in thorough agreement that it is necessary and desirable that some means should be adopted to attain the end which Senator Millen has in view. We are all agreed that it is highly desirable that the public of Australia should have better means of becoming thoroughly acquainted with what is being done on their behalf by their representatives in this Parliament. I do not believe that there is any honorable senator who would dissent from that view for a single moment. If . we are all agreed to that extent, why should we not set ourselves to work to devise some means of accomplishing the object to which we are all favorable? I firmly believe that if honorable senators will apply themselves to this task, we shall be able to remove whatever obstacles there may be in the way. I have suggested one method of getting, over the difficulty of expense. I ask honorable senators whether the commercial public of Australia would not be likely to advertise in such a publication, and, if so, what reason is there why we should not accept advertisements so as to make the publication a commercial success. We have various publications issued by the Governments of Australia in which advertisements appear. A very valuable mining; journal is issued by the Government of Queensland, which contains a large number of advertisements that contribute materially to the cost of the publication. There are agricultural journals published in the various States which are excellent publications in their way, and many of them contain advertisements. However, the handsof those conducting these publications are tied, because the influence of the proprietors of newspapers in the various State capitals has been used to prohibit these Government publications from publishing advertisements except of a particular kindSo successful has the exercise of this influence been in Queensland that the .Government of that State were induced to promise that only mining advertisementswould appear in the very excellent mining journal to which I have referred. If we issue a precis of our debates in a publication to be circulated broadcast throughout Australia, it will be the best medium for advertising in the country, and there is no earthly reason why we should not take advantage of that great commercial opportunity. Why should we not turn it to account, and even make a profit out of it ? By adopting that suggestion I am satisfied that we should meet the objection which has been urged on the score of expense. Running a publication on commercial lines in that way, we should secure a sufficient number of advertisements to pay for the cost of it, and the proprietors of the newspapers would not suffer in the slightest if we did. Even the great dailies published in Melbourne and Sydney have a comparatively limited circulation as compared with that which would be commanded by a daily Hansard. The newspapers would secure all the advertisements that they get now, but, through the medium of the daily Hansard, certain advertisers would be able to appeal to a larger circle of probable customers, and would not be slow to avail themselves of the unique advantage which such a publication would afford them. The Commonwealth would be well advised, in adopting such a course, to carry out the very excellent project which Senator Millen has advocated. I am in hearty accord with the motion, and I hope the matter will "not be allowed to rest until some definite means have been adopted to give the public of Australia that which they are entitled to, namely, a full and fair report of the proceedings of this Parliament and the conduct of their representatives therein.

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