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Friday, 13 October 1911

Senator CHATAWAY (Queensland) . - There are one or two matters to which I desire to refer before the motion for the first reading of this Bill is agreed to. In the first place, I wish to direct attention to an extraordinary article which appears in the Standard of Empire - a newspaper in which the Commonwealth advertises largely - in regard to the press cable service, that the Commonwealth is subsidizing. This matter might not be of so much moment if the Standard of Empire were not a paper of such high standing, and if it did not excuse the article in question by declaring that the Commonwealth Government are manufacturing war scares by the aid of this press cable service, in order to encourage the people of Australia to adopt compulsory military training.

Senator Findley - We have adopted that principle already.

Senator CHATAWAY - The Standard of Empire of 8th September of the present year - the last issue which has reached Australia - in an introductory paragraph, apparently editorial, says -

An Australian in London writes asking if he may be permitted to draw attention in England to what he regards as the " dangerous misleading of Australian public opinion." It must, of course, be remembered that the most intelligently patriotic section of the community in Australia has had, and may still be said to have, a great task to perform, in arousing in the minds of the Australian public a full and alert sense of citizen responsibility for National and Imperial defence. Australia's isolated position and sparse population make very urgent indeed the need of public-spirited realization and action where defence is concerned. We feel that these facts should be borne steadily in mind in judging the tenor of newspaper interpretation of despatches dealing with an undoubtedly critical situation. We print our correspondent's statement hereunder.

This is the article in question -

If the people of Australia paid much regard to the cable service of the new Independent Association they ought to have been greatly alarmed over the information supplied by that organization respecting the Morocco crisis. The two daily papers served by the Independent service are the Sydney Sun and a new Labour paper, the Adelaide Herald. These and some weekly papers publish syndicated cablegrams, in nil respects alike. The news is mostly gathered at Vancouver from Transatlantic sources, and cabled across the Pacific at threepence a word. Press messages from England cost ninepence a word.

The cablegrams selected in Vancouver from Transatlantic sources (unfortunately Canada is largely served by United States organizations) frequently show a tainted origin, and are sometimes absolutely groundless.

On July 29 there appeared the following, with big double-column headlines : " Is it War?" " Moroccan Crisis." " Fleet and Army Preparing." " Serious Outlook." And then these words, displayed in heavy type : " An official cable was received in Sydney yesterday to the effect that Great Britain had issued an ultimatum to Germany on the Moroccan question." Next came a few words setting forth Mr. Asquith's statement of July 27, and more headlines : " Immense Excitement." " Prepare ! Prepare !" " The excitement in London reached an unusual pitch of intensity when it became known that rush orders ' had been sent by the Admiralty to all the naval depots. Similar orders have been sent from the Horse Guards to the Woolwich Arsenal. These sensational actions have convinced the British public that ' the day ' long toasted by German officers is very near, and may possibly come before many hours are over."

I would remind honorable senators that this is the sort of stuff for which the Commonwealth is paying £2,000 per annum. The article proceeds -

This is followed by another scare headline : " Bitterness in Germany," and the sentence : Mr. Asquith's speech has not been well received in Germany, and armed class bitterness has been displayed over it." Another big headline is : " Volunteers Mobilising," and the cablegram proceeds : " As the Volunteers are mobilising for the annual manoeuvres Britain will be found with her Army primed and ready. Throughout London the excitement is intense, and eager crowds are watching the bulletin boards for the final word. The King is positively ill with worry and fatigue over the foreign tension, and the constant conferences that he has been holding." - Still more startling was the news published in this Adelaide paper on July 3r. Two or three inches of headlines contained such statements as : " Remarkable International Activity," " British Fleet under Full Steam," " France Hopeful," " Germany and Lloyd George." Then followed a telegram, professedly from " Paris, dated July 29 " :- " All the French cavalry regiments have been ordered to be in readiness for active service, and train-loads of arms, munitions, and provisions are being rushed to the forts along the German frontier. Also leave of absence for all soldiers has been cancelled." Then comes a cheerful ray of sunshine in a cablegram from London, under the usual heavy-typed headlines, " A Hopeful Sign." And this is the sign : - " The King has definitely arranged to attend the regatta at Cowes. This is regarded as a hopeful sign. Also, the Ministers are preparing to leave town for the week."

Nevertheless, the clouds have not wholly rolled by, for we read in the next sentence, under more crushing headlines : " Throughout last night Portland Harbor was a hive of industry. Orders were given to the First Division of the Home Fleet, including the Dreadnoughts attached thereto, that all provisioning and coaling should be completed at 5 a.m. The orders were obeyed to the letter, and at 4 a.m. the last ship signalled ' All ready.' " Next follows a most disturbing announcement, dated London, July 30, to the effect that " Germany has demanded the dismissal of Mr. Lloyd George for his bankers' banquet speech on the intentions of the British Government." Though the newspaper in question admits that this story requires confirmation, it compares the incident to the dismissal of M. Delcasse on Germany's demand in connexion with Moroccan affairs six years ago. On the following day the Herald's cablegram from London, dated July 31, reverts to the fate of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It sets forth that " telegrams from Berlin contain indications that there was some truth in the story that Germany may demand Mr. Lloyd George's dismissal. This is causing increased bitterness in some quarters against the Germans." In the same telegram Australia is told that the Second Destroyer Flotilla has left Portland with sealed orders, and it is popularly supposed they are going to Agadir. It is sententiously added : " Many people regard this as a serious move."

This is the comment of the paper -

This is curious stuff with which to feed Australian readers, and the circumstance is the more remarkable when we remember that the new cable service is supported by the Federal Government of Australia. The Commonwealth Parliament grants it a subvention of .£6,000, spread over three years. That sum was advanced on the demand of Labour members. The political intelligence sent from England by this service is equally grotesque with anything above described.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Do the Government advertise in the Sporting and Dramatic News?

Senator CHATAWAY - Not to my knowledge. I have absolutely nothing whatever to do with that newspaper, though I have often had occasion to quote the remarks made by Labour members which have appeared in it.

I did so in the recent referenda campaign, and the result seems to have justified my action. Is it reasonable that we should subsidize a press cable service which produces such absolute rubbish as that which I have read?

Senator Findley - It is a far better service than is the other one.

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