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Thursday, 19 October 1911

Senator FINDLEY -The insinuation is utterly unwarranted.

Senator MILLEN - When you see a Bill shaped with the deliberate purpose of hamstringing political opponents, one is justified in suspecting every provision contained in it.

Senator Findley - Senator Pearce said that the Opposition had been finding the motor cars, and we had been riding in them.

Senator MILLEN - Is that the reason why the provision to which I have alluded is to be struck out? I do say that it is a remarkable thing that, after all these months which the Government have had to mature this Bill, it should come before the Senate and be placed upon the table side by side with an amendment to strike out that remarkable proposal. If the Bill had been hastily prepared, this would have shown a great want of vigilance and care on the part of the Minister and the Department. But I say, again, that the Government are proposing to strike out this clause dealing with vehicles because they found that they were going to offend the very large vote of those interested in the provision of vehicles.

I should like, before sitting down, to ask the Minister whether it is intended in this Bill that the provisions with regard to the expenses of associations and the amounts received by newspapers shall apply with regard to referenda?

Senator Findley - Yes, they will apply to referenda.

Senator MILLEN - It is interesting to know that, because we shall have this position : If, in the course of a referendum campaign, any public association, in the exercise of its undoubted rights, takes a hand, as every body of electors is entitled to do, the Government will come along and want to know what that association has spent; whereas honorable senators opposite, by means of their organizations, can do the same thing, and will be under no such obligation, because the industrial side of their unions is not compelled to make any return at all.

Senator Rae - We are quite agreeable to make a return.

Senator MILLEN - Of course, they are agreeable. The answer will be, " We have collected so many thousands of pounds, and have spent them through our unions." We know, however, that the bulk of the money goes for political purposes.

Senator Rae - It does not.

Senator MILLEN - I have shown that one-third of the money paid by members of the Shearers Union goes towards the support of political newspapers. But that is not everything. Other portions of the funds also go for political purposes. The organizers of these unions are political organizers, pure and simple. I do not mind that. I have no objection.

Senator McDougall - Then what is all the bother about?

Senator MILLEN - Because honorable senators opposite will not allow us to do what they are doing themselves.

Senator McDougall - The Opposition party can do the same thing.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator should not forget that he has the Free Workers Union on his side.

Senator MILLEN - I have yet to learn that there is any union on my side; but honorable senators opposite have a hireling press supported by their unions.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - A hireling press?

Senator MILLEN - Yes, I repeat it. The only party papers, pure and simple, in this Commonwealth - the only papers which are bought and sold - are the Labour papers. We have no distinctively party papers in Australia apart from the Labour papers. There are party journals in America and in Europe; but I repeat there are none in Australia, except the Labour journals.

Senator Long - The honorable senator is not serious, surely?

Senator MILLEN - I do not wish to speak offensively ; but if honorable senators know anything about party journals in other parts of the world, they will know what is meant by the term. There are not only party journals in America and in Europe, but there are even personal journals, which are conducted in the interest of particular individuals. We sometimes see references in the cables to the expressions of opinion made by the organ of so-and-so. In Australia, I say again, with the exception of the two Workers, we have no party journals. I am not cavilling at my honorable friends having those newspapers.

Senator McDougall - What are the other newspapers, if they are not party journals ?

Senator MILLEN - They are not party journals in the sense in which that term is understood in Europe and America. When the Worker in Sydney publishes a single complimentary reference to a political opponent I shall be prepared to modify what I have said to-day; but I have seen no references to a political opponent in that newspaper, which would not be a disgrace to the lowest gutter journal published anywhere. We never see the other journals of Australia adopt the methods of criticism which are adopted by the Worker.

Senator Rae - Dothey not?

Senator MILLEN - No; my honorable friends opposite cannot find, in any of the leading journals of Australia, any such references to their opponents as can be found in any issue of the Worker.

Senator McDougall - What about the Sydney Morning Herald's reference to hanging Willis like a dog?

Senator MILLEN - That was an item of news, and not an expression of opinion by the newspaper. But when I find the Worker, as it did at the last referenda, saying, concerning an utterance delivered at the Sydney Town Hall, by the leader of this party, that his remarks were " blithering," I say that this is a fair illustration of what party journalism can come to in the hands of my honorable friends opposite. The other newspapers of Australia do, at least, deal with their political opponents in a fair and reasonable spirit. They may combat the views of my honorable friends opposite; they may denounce them, but, at any rate, they do so respectfully, and frequently give them credit where credit is not their due.

Senator Long - Look at the way the Worker speaks of Mr. Willis.

Senator MILLEN - What has Mr. Willis to do with this matter? It must not be assumed that I am cavilling at the attitude of the Worker. I am not. All that I am doing is to show that it is the only party organ that I know of in existence in Australia, and at the same time, I am showing that, under no circumstances, will that organ do anything seriously to criticise its political friends ; nor will it, under any circumstances, see any virtue in its political opponents. That is party journalism as exemplified in the Worker.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - That is the position of the Adelaide Critic, the dirtiest rag we have in South Australia.

Senator MILLEN - I suppose it does not give Senator W. Russell all the notice that he thinks he is deserving of. I have been induced, by interjections, to continue longer than I had intended, and perhaps to digress in a way that was not altogether material for the purposes of my argument. My position is, however, that this Bill has been introduced for the purpose of reducing public facilities by taking away from a very large number of electors opportunities for voting which they enjoy at present. At the same time, the party opposite are seeking to handicap and hamstring their political opponents, not by appeals to the intelligence of the electors, but by using the power which, as a majority, they possess, to place legislative shackles upon those who are opposed to them. These disabilities, too, are being imposed under the pretence of merely perfecting the electoral machinery of the country. I mentioned, earlier in the debate, the term " gerrymandering." We all know the object and purpose which the ingenious individual, from whose name that term is derived, had in view. This Bill seeks to do the same thing in another way. In that instance, there was an attempt, by means of the manipulation of electoral boundaries, to secure unfair results for the benefit of a particular political party. The Government have brought in this Bill for the purpose of attaining the same object by different means. This Bill has not been brought in to remedy any public evil. It has been brought in simply because honorable senators opposite think that they can, by imposing disabilities upon certain voters, so handicap and hamstring their opponents as to make their own position more secure. We are, therefore, impelled to the conclusion - unless we must give up all hope of fair play being extended by the great body of the electors of this country - that, by legislation of this kind, the Government are simply erecting a gallows upon which they themselves will be hanged.

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