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Thursday, 21 September 1972
Page: 1109

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES)

My question is directed to the AttorneyGeneral. I preface it by drawing his attention to part of an answer which he gave yesterday to a question asked by my colleague Senator O'Byrne. The AttorneyGeneral stated:

For the editorial in the 'Age' to say this morning that 1 am soft on such organisations and to make a host of other allegations, which are totally unfounded, reflects the inadequacy, the prejudice and the incompetence as editorial writers of a leading Australian newspaper nf those who write in the 'Age'.

Will the Minister agree that ali newspaper editorials of the Sydney and Melbourne dailies have been very critical of the failure of the Federal Government and in particular of the Attorney-General to do anything publicly of a substantial nature to apprehend those who were responsible for the bomb outrages in Sydney last weekend? Does the Minister therefore say. as he has said about the Melbourne 'Age', that all these other editorial writers also are inadequate, prejudiced and incompetent? If not, can the Attorney-General tell us which newspaper editorial or editorials he would like the public to follow on this issue?

Senator GREENWOOD - I certainly stand by what I said about the Melbourne Age' editorial yesterday because I think it was a particularly vitriolic piece of work in the light of the facts. I am not sure, as I have not read all the editorials of the leading Australian newspapers, whether what the honourable senator has said about them is correct. That they have been critical , generally speaking, is true. For my part T welcome criticism if it is based upon facts and if it is constructive in its approach. I think that generally speaking that has been the tone of most of the editorials which I have read. I do not know why the honourable senator asked his question unless it was to suggest in some way that there is a wide, sweeping rejection of criticism or the right to make critical statements. I feel that newspapers have a tremendously important role to exercise a criticism and a freedom of speech which makes the democratic system work. Equally, members of Parliament have the right to criticise newspapers when newspapers, as the Melbourne 'Age' did yesterday, and as 1 have known it to do over many occasions in the past, put forward a point of view which does not take account of facts which are on the record and seeks to build up a case either in ignorance of the facts or in total rejection of them.

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