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Thursday, 17 November 1910

Senator McGREGOR (South AustraliaVice President of the Executive Council) . - I am very pleased, although rather astonished, at the attitude of some honorable senators. Since Federation, indeed, long prior to that event, I have heard a continuous song ' sung by those honorable gentlemen in praise of private enterprise, and the glories of free competition, and all that sort of thing. When, from that very source, comes the cry that private enterprise has failed to give general satisfaction as regards the production and publication of the utterances of members of Parliament, particularly of the Parliament of Australia, I think that there is room for astonishment. I agree with everything which they have said, and also with what has been said by honorable senators on this side. I know that, in the past, the way in which the speeches of members of Parliament were presented to the public by the daily - press gave very little satisfaction. I am certain that, as regards- the section of Parliament to which I belong, there was some justification for complaint. I think that the Government ought to be pleased to give any assistance they possibly can, in order to insure greater satisfaction. I am pleased that they may have an opportunity to do so. I know that the intention of Senator Millen is merely to ventilate the subject at present, to get an expression of opinion from the Senate, and, when Parliament reassembles, to take such steps as may bring about the inauguration of a system which will give greater satisfaction, not only to members of Parliament, but to the public. What do members of Parliament want? I know what I want. I do not want a summarized version of anything I say to go to the people, coloured by a partisan of either the Labour party or the Opposition party. I am sure that no other member of the Senate has such a desire. Summaries of speeches are all very well in their way; but, in a very short time, honorable senators would find them taking such a form that they would be bound to give dissatisfaction to some persons. To my mind, the only method is to give a full and fair statement of the case, as isgiven in Hansard. I agree with Senator Findley that we have a right to be proud of our Hansard. Every senator, when he reads his utterances, has a greater opinion of himself than, very probably, he had before.

Senator Walker - It is quite "true.

Senator McGREGOR -- Yes. Hansard contains a clear and distinct statement of what every honorable senator really meant. If there is not such a statement given in the proof report, he has the opportunity of submitting corrections, and making his speech convey to the public an accurate statement of what he said. I do not think that there could be anything better than that. I do not believe that any scheme could be arrived at which could give greater satisfaction than a proper dissemination throughout Australia of the' work of our Hansard staff. How that can best be done, the Select Committee to be moved for by Senator Millen next session will take into consideration, and, no doubt, they will recommend some means whereby . every State can have a simultaneous publication. That may cost a little money. But if it is worth the money in the interests of the people pf Australia, and in the interests of members of Parliament themselves, they ought not to be afraid to spend it. Is there any difficulty in the way? I know that a very large number of citizens read with very great interest the utterances of their representatives in Parliament. I know that, especially as regards South Australia, the supply of twenty-five copies of each Ilansard for distribution does not meet anything like the demand which is made upon a member of the Labour party.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It is not nearly enough.

Senator McGREGOR - Every member of the Labour party could easily distribute double that number. But he has no right to be put in that position. Senator Symon has stated that he does not distribute the whole of his copies. If he wishes to get friends in South Australia to send the unused copies to, I will supply him with names if I have his permission to do so.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - He is going to give me some copies.

Senator McGREGOR - If Senator Symon knew that .some of his speeches were being read with avidity by electors in South Australia, I suppose he would be just as anxious as any other senator to bring about a wider circulation of Hansard. The members of this section of the Senate have no reason to fear. They have no reason to object to anything they may say being published broadcast throughout Australia. I should prefer a daily issue of Hansard, published in the form of a daily newspaper, and containing, in addition to the parliamentary proceedings, other information which might be furnished through the High Commissioner, and our _ representatives in different parts of the world, and, of course, all the Government advertisements. It would take the form of not only a daily Hansard, but a Government Gazette. Besides that, it could be made public property. Every individual in the different States where it was published could send in his advertisements. If the circulation realized my anticipations, advertisers would be found rushing the Department with advertisements, and, instead of the official report costing more than it does at present, I believe that the larger the circulation became the more would be the profit. These are my opinions.

Senator Rae - Would you stop the publication during the recess?

Senator McGREGOR - No ; why should it be stopped during the recess? We could employ leader writers just as do newspapers, and publish , their writings throughout the year. It would be a Commonwealth daily newspaper - the Commonwealth Gazette. I do not think that our friends opposite would be very anxious to push anything like that to a legitimate issue.

Senator Findley - They are coming over rapidly.

Senator McGREGOR - Yes. The very fact that they are not satisfied with private enterprise at present is an indication that they . are eager for something of the description I have referred to being taken in hand. I wish now to refer to certain information which has been made public, but of which I do not think sufficient notice has been taken. Last Tuesday Senator Sayers asked a number of questions relating to Hansard. I do not know whether those questions were put in anticipation of this motion being submitted by Senator Millen. But, in any case, the information which is embodied in the replies given to them, may be made use of by honorable senators, lt will, I hope, enable the Government to afford the public greater facilities in the future for obtaining copies of Hansard. As I have already stated, all the members of the Labour party are overtaxed in the demands which are made upon them for copies of that publication. The information which was asked for by Senator Sayers related to the number of copies of Hansard purchased by the public in the different States. The honorable senator also desired to know what was the total cost of Hansard for the year 1908-9. Why he selected that particular year I do not know. He may have had some reason for it, but, in any case, I feel sure that he desired to obtain only accurate information. He was told that the cost of Hansard for 1908-9 was ^4,210 as. 8d. That is what its printing and publication cost. The honorable senator also desired to ascertain the total cost of Hansard - that is, its cost inclusive of the salaries of the official staff. Everybody knows the number of Hansard men who are engaged in this Parliament and the remuneration which they receive, and one has only to add the total of that remuneration to the ^4,210 os. 8d. to arrive at the aggregate cost of Hansard. I have been informed that if Senator Sayers had selected the year prior to 1908-9, it would have been found that the production of Hansard was then more costly. But I suppose that some explanation of that circumstance would have been forthcoming.

Senator Rae - Perhaps the parliamentary session was longer during that year.

Senator McGREGOR - It may have been. At any rate, the Government supplied the information in respect of the year for which Senator Sayers desired it, though I am informed that during the previous year the cost of Hansard was about 50 per cent. more. I believe that the small number of copies of Hansard which is purchased in the different States is due to the fact that the people do not know that they can obtain that publication at such a low price. I invite the attention of honorable senators to the figures in this connexion, because I want them to realize what a small percentage of our population has the remotest chance of becoming aware of what really transpires in this Parliament. In Victoria only 202 copies of the weekly number, in addition to twenty sessional copies of Hansard., are sold. The sessional volumes, I may explain, are bound either in paper or otherwise. In New South Wales, which has a larger population than Victoria, only 165 weekly copies, and eight sessional copies of Hansard are purchased by the public. Probably the people of Victoria, owing to the Commonwealth Parliament meeting in Melbourne, take a little moreinterestin its proceedings than do the people of New South Wales. That fact may account for the lesser number of copies of Hansard sold in the latter State. In Western Australia - and I wish to call the attention of the representatives of that State to the fact - only nine weekly copies and one sessional copy of Hansard are sold. So that the people in that part of the Commonwealth must be a benighted lot. In Queensland, which ought to be a more intelligent State, only twentyfive weekly copies of Hansard, and five sessional copies, are sold to the public; and in South Australia only sixty-six weekly, and five sessional, copies, are purchased by the public. South Australia, therefore, cannot boast very much about its inquisitiveness in regard to our parliamentary proceedings, although in proportion to its population it compares very favorably with the other States. Now I come to Tasmania, which requires more enlightenment politically than does any other part of the world.

Senator Ready - That is a very sweeping statement.

Senator McGREGOR - If the honorable senator objects to my statement I will say that Tasmania requires more education in a social and political sense than does any other part of Australia. How many copies of Hansard are sold in that State ? Only seven weekly, and no sessional, copies. Nobody in that island is sufficiently interested in the proceedings of the National Parliament to induce him to purchase a bound copy of Hansard.

Senator Ready - There will be an improvement now that the Labour party are in power.

Senator McGREGOR - I hope so. I am taking part in this debate merely because I wish to impress upon the minds of honorable senators the information which has been elicited by Senator Sayers, so that they may do all that lies in their power to make- it public throughout the length and breadth of Australia that any person can purchase Hansard for a session for 2s. 6d. There are hundreds of persons in Tasmania who, if they were aware of that fact, would undoubtedly purchase it, because they are anxious to learn what Senators Ready, Long, and others have had to say here.

Senator Walker - Does the 2s. 6d. include postage?

Senator McGREGOR - I understand that Hansard is transmitted post free.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Why cannot the public purchase Hansard in Adelaide?

Senator McGREGOR - I think that the Government ought to take a hand in this matter, and see that every railway book-stall has copies of Hansard for sale. I hope that this discussion, which has been initiated on the motion of Senator Millen, will have that result, so that, when next session a Select Committee is appointed to inquire into the matter, it will be able to take all these facts into consideration, with a view to evolving a plan under which a greater feeling of fellowship between the people of Australia and their representatives in this Parliament will be established.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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