The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72
It is not surprising to find the statements made public that the Hon. J. McKenzie's Libel Bill is universally ridiculed. When, a few weeks ago the Premier, in reply to a question, stated that his colleague, the Minister for Lands, would undertake the preparation of a Bill dealing with the libel law of the colony, it was generally accepted as an indication that the matter might be treated in a jocular fashion; but elephantine even as are Mr. Seddon's jokes, the most pronounced opponents of the Ministry never thought they could have been guilty of perpetrating such a huge farce as this latest emanation from the Minister of Lands would suggest. When by a combination of circumstances a man ignorant of all mental culture finds himself elevated beyond the sphere for which nature intended him, it sometimes happens that by cultivation and assiduous application he makes himself fitted to fill; if not to adorn, his altered station. Any hopes that might have been formed of Mr. John McKenzie's capacity to rise superior to his former environments, and to show himself worthy of his position as a Minister of the Crown, have been long dissipated. Any lingering doubt that may have existed on this point must surely have been dispelled by the Minister's Libel Bill. Mr. McKenzie bitterly resents the fact that there are in the colony newspapers which have declined to bow their heads to the brazen calf set up by the Seddonian Government. Though with the party has for the time rested victory, their triumph has only been secured by the most questionable means, and by a policy of imposture. The fly in the ointment for the Minister has been that the more powerful and independent section of the press have resolutely refused to be gulled and hoodwinked by the Government. They have mercilessly exposed the shallow sophistries the Government has endeavoured to pass as principles; they have not failed to lay open to public inspection the imposture of the protestations of the Government, and, more than all, they have absolutely refused to accept the value of the Minister of Lands as a politician at the price that gentleman puts upon himself. This is really the unpardonable sin of the journalists, and this is the reason why an endeavour is to be made to strike a fatal blow at the power, independence and usefulness of the press. Outside of France or Russia no such proposal as that made in the Libel Bill would be tolerated, and we venture to express the opinion that the people of this colony are too well satisfied by the benefit of a free press to permit the existence of a muzzled press like that sought to be instituted. We have too much confidence in public opinion to think that such a degrading proposal as that now made will ever be carried into effect. Of all the idiotic, senseless mistakes ever page 20 made by the set of political jugglers that have by a turn of fortune's wheel for the time being secured public office in this colony, none has so glaringly shown their incompetence and dense ignorance as the Libel Bill.