Reprint: Book Censorship: Minister Rejects Requests

The Minister for Customs. (Mr. White) yesterday declined to accept a suggestion made by a deputation from the Workers' Education Association that he should present a return to Parliament detailing the list of books banned in the Commonwealth.

Mr. White said this would give undeserved prominence to these books. The percentage of books retained by the department was very small indeed but extraordinary publicity was given to those which were held up even temporarily.

Urging relaxation of the regulations governing censorship of literature, Mr. George Fitzpatrick, who represented the W.E.A., requested the Minister to give consideration to the practicability of appointing a committee representing the booksellers, book buyers and the university of some other cultural body, and that where censorship was considered necessary, it should be done through the courts as, was the English custom, and not by arbitrary action.

Mr. Fitzpatrick said that three copies of "Britain and the Soviets" and one of ''China's Red Army Marches," had been seized. The copy of the latter had been withheld for a couple of months, although the book was obtainable from booksellers by the public. He pointed out that the association was a non-profit making body and the holding up of books had a serious effect on sales.

The Minister said there was much misconception regarding censorship. Some delay was unavoidable but an alternative system such as that suggested by Mr. Fitzpatrick, involving committees in various States, would mean longer delay, even if effective. One authority to decide whether certain literature was indecent or seditious was preferable to action in six States.

Regarding seditious literature, the Minister said that there could be little objection to the liberal view taken by the Attorney-General's Department whereby only, books which advocated and incited civil war within Australia were excluded. In special cases, where universities or bona fide students made special application, permission was given to release books which came within the terms of prohibition. Protests against prohibition were frequently premature and were, due to misunderstandings.

First published in The Canberra Times, 26 September 1936

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on August 19, 2009 11:47 AM.

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