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Thursday, 5 October 1911

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) .- At first I thought that Senator Chataway had brought this subject before the Senate quite unnecessarily. But I now see that if the debate serves no other purpose than to let the public know what kind of petty tyrants would govern this country if persons like Senator St. Ledger, Senator Keating, Senator Chataway, and Senator Sayers were in control of the government-

Senator Sayers - I rise to order. Is the honorable senator in order in referring to other honorable senators as " petty tyrants"?

The PRESIDENT - I do not think that Senator Gardiner said anything that was out of order. I understood him to say that the public could understand from what had taken place what " petty tyrants" would do if they had the power.

Senator GARDINER - I have no desire to say anything that is offensive to honorable senators opposite.

Senator Sayers - If the honorable senator says things that are offensive to us he will have things that he does not like said to him in return.

Senator GARDINER - I should be the last to say anything that I thought my honorable friends would take exception to; but, as they have taken exception to newspapers going through the post because they express opinions differing from their own-

Senator Sayers - What about a " petty tyrant " who, because he was the stronger, would pull the nose of another man?

Senator GARDINER - The honorable senator really should let me off, because that is a very tender spot with me ! One thing to which I take exception was the statement of the Minister that he would interview the Postmaster-General and see whether publications of this kind could not be prevented from being transmitted through the post. The sooner we have the post-office managed on the lines of a commercial institution, and do not use it according to the views of different parties who wish to stop the circulation of newspapers with which they do not agree, the better it will be. In introducing the system of compulsory training in this country, we took a step that the people in the Old Land always refused to take, out of consideration for individual rights and interests. To think that we could take such a step in this country, where we boast of a greater measure of freedom than is enjoyed anywhere else, and escape criticism and the expression of strong opinions, would be altogether unreasonable.

Senator Sayers - No one objects to criticism.

Senator GARDINER - Then what was the objection ?

Senator Millen - The objection was inciting to a breach of the law.

Senator GARDINER - What was the statement of Senator Chataway? In his opening remarks he said that there were people who years ago thought they could ignore the Labour party. The only inference from that remark was that if he had been in power at that time he would have crushed the Labour party out of existence. He and his friends have now found out their mistake.

Senator Chataway - My argument was that, because a mistake was made in ignoring the Labour party, we should not ignore these incitements to mutiny, but should take steps to prevent them.

Senator GARDINER - If these alleged incitements confer such benefits upon the community as the growth of the Labour party has done, we should certainly allow them to continue. But what was the proper inference from the honorable gentleman's statement? It was that the Labour party has grown so strong that it is now too late to put it clown, even if his friends got into power. The argument was that there must be an early suppression of views with which the honorable senator and his friends do not agree.

Senator Sayers - No such thing.

Senator Chataway - Thatis all rubbish.

Senator GARDINER - That is what it amounted to.

Senator Chataway - Is it the honorable senator's proposition that the cadets should refuse to obey orders? If that is so, we know exactly where we are.

Senator GARDINER - There is certainly one thing in connexion with compulsory training to whichI do object, and for which there is not the slightest necessity. In my opinion it is a mistake to compel the youths of this country to take oaths that they will do certain things when they are trained. The sooner we get away from that practice the better. We should not require our youths to take oaths which would compel them to shoot down their relatives because they were concerned in a union. We are training our young men to fight for something different altogether. I do not know whether there is any necessity for oaths at all in connexion with military training in this country.

Senator Chataway - The honorable senator took an oath when he came into this Senate.

Senator Rae - There was no necessity for that. .

Senator GARDINER - None, whatever.

Senator Chataway - Still, the honororable senator took the oath.

Senator GARDINER - I took the oath as a loyal subject - though I am a little more loyal than the honorable senator himself is.

Senator Rae - It is only a matter of form, anyhow.

Senator St Ledger - What ? The oath only a matter of form ?

Senator GARDINER - I think that we should consider this question in the light of experience. What has been the experience of the last twenty years? We have had frequent misuses of the authority of Governments by the party to which honorable senators opposite belong. It is that which has excited mistrust throughout Queensland. Nobody can wonder at such a result who knows anything about the recent history of Queensland.

Senator Chataway - One of the documents that I quoted came, not from Queensland at all, but from New South Wales.

Senator GARDINER - I understood that the honorable senator quoted from a Queensland newspaper, and I can quite sympathize with any man who has grown up under the misuse of authority by past Queensland Governments. I can quite understand such a man writing articles stronger in their terms than would have been the case if he had lived, say, in Tasmania. There has been a constant misuse of the authority of Governments supported by people like Senator St. Ledger, Senator Chataway, and Senator Sayers. I do not think that they will object to my using their names in this connexion. ' These people now want to suppress newspapers, because they publish strong articles now and then.

Senator Vardon - Does the honorable senator think that the newspaper quoted was absolutely right.?

Senator GARDINER - I had never seen 'the newspaper until Senator Chataway read a small portion of an article from it. I wish he had given us the benefit of the whole article. I venture to say, however, that if one of us had produced in the Senate, not a small publication like that, enjoying a trifling circulation, but a newspaper like the Sydney Daily Telegraph, or the Sydney Scorning Herald, containing an announcement' that a branch of one of the Liberal organizations in New South Wales had said that they would hang the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, and if we had contended that that newspaper should not be sent through the post, honorable senators opposite would have laughed at us, and called us ridiculous. Yet such a thing as 1 have' described has occurred within the last fortnight.

Senator Chataway - Why not produce the newspaper?

Senator GARDINER - It is just as well t'o produce it. I have before me an extract from the Sydney Morning Herald containing the following paragraph -

Stuart Town's Anger.

The Liberal League - at Stuart Town (which is situated ' in the Robertson electorate, for which. Mr. Willis was defeated at the last election), evidently takes a desperate view of Mr. Willis' recent action. At the last meeting the following resolution was passed and ordered to be sent to the daily papers : - The Liberal League at Stuart, Town is greatly (Surprised -at "Mr. Willis' -action in accepting the Speakership. He was always treated as a gentleman when member for this electorate. If he dares to show his face in Stuart Town he will be hanged like a dog." - Senator- Chataway. - Would not the honorable senator prosecute people if they did hang a man like a dog? -

Senator GARDINER - If we are to follow the argument , of Senator Chataway, and those who are supporting him, a newspaper that published a paragraph such as I have quoted should be brought to book, and ' the Postmaster-General should be moved, to stop the. circulation of the-'-journal through the post, "because, this journal actually published a paragraph inciting the people, of -Stuart' Town to hang- a man like a dog-not because he had deserted his party, but because he had accepted the Speakership of- the Legislative Assembly. The Postmaster-General "would have nothing else to do if he applied himself to. stopping the circulation through the post of newspapers containing statements of which he did not approve. ;

Senator Chataway - The Government' will not .carry letters through the post if they relate to Tattersalls'' sweeps, and yet they will carry newspapers inciting people to' break the law.

Senator Givens - Yes, they will ; I got a letter from Tattersalls' the other day..

Senator GARDINER - I do not think there is anything nearly so strong in the article quoted by Senator Chataway as in a' statement threatening to hang a man like a dog. But the attitude of Senator Chata-way, and his supporters, gives us a good: insight as to what their opinions are concerning the suppression of views contraryto their own.

Senator St Ledger - The Sydney Morning Herald did not advocate hangingMr. Willis like a dog.

Senator GARDINER - I am quite well aware that the newspaper did not make, the suggestion on its own responsibility,nor. was it made by any " member of the staff, but it was published and circulated, not in a few hundreds of copies, but by tens of thousands, which were scattered throughout'- the country. Honorable senators opposite have never disavowed the statement, nor have they made any adverse comment upon it. I hope to hear from my. honorable friends a repudiation' of _ suchsentiments as expressed by the .Liberal, party of Stuart Town. Honorable sena-. tors opposite can no more dissociate themselves from the Liberals of Stuart Town than they will allow us to dissociate ourselves from statements made in other newspapers with all 'of which we may not agree. It is. ridiculous,- in my opinion, to urge- that a newspaper should be prevented from being circulated through the post because it declaims, against the system of military training. I, myself, am in' favour of compulsory military training, because, 'I believe that it' may,' some day, be necessary for Australia to defend herself, and because trained and efficient Australians will be better equipped for the de'fence of their country-than untrained and inefficient men.; But I am well. aware' that this new- de:parture constitutes' a? great' inroad" on" individual liberty. This Parliament has said', " We will compel young men to under-, go military : training.'-' Side by side with that' it has -compelled- them, under cover of; the 'necessity for national defence," to take ah-. .oath... . ..

Senator Chataway - The honorable senator thinks that the statements contained in the article which has been quoted were justified.

Senator GARDINER - I do not know what is contained in that article apart from the very brief portion of it which was read by the- honorable senator. But I think that any writer is justified in giving expression to his opinions, no matter how strong they may be.

Senator Millen - Then we shall have to amend the law.

Senator GARDINER - I do not know that the law takes cognisance of the opinions expressed by any individual.

Senator Millen - The Defence Act provides for the punishment of those who may be guilty of treasonable conduct. That is the law of the land.

Senator GARDINER - It is merely the military law, and we are not yet under military law, although some honorable senators would like to put us under it without delay.

Senator MILLEN(New South Wales) f3 56] - 1^ there be one question which we ought to approach free from all party feeling it is that of compulsory military training. To the principle which it embodies all sections of this Parliament subscribed long ago. Indeed, it was the previous Government which laid down that policy. Yet, so far, honorable senators opposite appear, consciously or unconsciously, to have ignored the point which was raised by Senator Chataway. They have continually declared that they do not object to criticism of our Defence Act, thus implying that we do object to criticism of it, either by newspapers or individuals. Nothing, I am sure, was further from the thoughts of Senator Chataway, or of anybody else. The facts are that there is a demand amongst honorable senators upon this side of the Chamber, just as there ought to be a demand amongst honorable senators upon the other side of it, that the law of the country should be upheld. Every honorable senator who has spoken from the Ministerial benches has placed himself in the position of an advocate of those who break the law. The law has distinctly laid it down that what the newspaper quoted by Senator Chataway has done should not be done. Yet the Minister himself said, in effect, " Let these people break the law as much as they like. Provided that no harm results from their action we will not interfere with them."

Suppose that individuals were to go about the country inciting others to murder-

Senator Gardiner - Like the Liberal party did at Stuart Town.

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