SEDITION: WAR PRECAUTIONS WHETHER PROSECUTION LIES AGAINST CERTAIN NEWSPAPER FOR ALLEGED SEDITIOUS ARTICLE
WAR PRECAUTIONS ACT 1914, s. 6: WAR PRECAUTIONS REGULATIONS 1915, reg. 28
Mr McGrath, M.P., has drawn the attention of the Minister for Defence to the following passage in a leading article in the Argus of 23 November, relating to a judgment of Mr Justice Heydon in the Industrial Court of New South Wales:
Mr Justice Heydon has reached the conclusion that his rule that the labourer's wage should go up and down with the Commonwealth Statistician's tables on the purchasing power of the sovereign is altogether unsound, because the times are 'no longer normal'. The labourer's living wage, according to this rule, would today be £5 3s Od a week. Increases cannot go on forever at this rate. The rate of increase, if continued by the Industrial Court, would give the labourer a living wage of about £10 8s Od by the end of 1917; and about £20 18s Od by the end of 1919. In 1913 it was only £2 8s Od. Mr Justice Heydon has been forced into a 'slowing down' policy with respect to increases. He is utterly mystified by the facts; they are 'past his provision'. In his perplexity he directs the Government's attention to the circumstances, presumably with a view to investigation. It seems to have escaped the learned Judge's notice that the Commonwealth's having 'watered' the currency by the excessive issue of notes has reduced the value of money and disturbed the balance between the amount of available money and the quantity of available commodities. This has caused a marked inflation of prices. In addition we have had a drought; and in addition, too, every time a wage has been increased it has increased the cost of living.
Mr McGrath suggests the prosecution of the Argus, under the War Precautions Act, for disloyal and seditious utterances.
The Minister for Defence has referred the matter to me for advice.
I do not think that there is ground for a prosecution. It is true that ill-informed criticism of legislative measures may indirectly do much harm; but such criticism as this does not constitute the offence of seditious utterance, nor can it be said to be directly calculated to discourage recruiting.
[Vol. 14, p. 176]
- This opinion is unsigned in Opinion Book, but it is attributed to Mr.Hughes.