The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72
It would be a curious commentary upon the ways of Liberalism if the Newspaper Libel Bill introduced by the Hon. John McKenzie should pass into law. It is not surprising, perhaps, that the Minister of Lands, who has never been on the best of terms with his public critics, should wish to curtail the liberty of the press, but it is difficult to understand how his colleagues can ever have even contemplated a direct attack upon, the anonymity of English journalism. The introduction of the signed article—which is really the leading principle of the Bill—would change the whole character of the colonial press. Instead of a newspaper standing on its merits as an exposition of public opinion, it would go forth to the world as the expression of the views of an individual. This is possibly what Mr. McKenzie desires—a lessening of the influence of his critics—but there is little danger we think of a majority of the present House of Representatives assisting the Minister and his colleagues in such an unworthy attempt to abolish a long-established custom and a national privilege. The people are too closely interested in the independence of the press to allow their representatives to take a single step that could endanger the fruit of long years of earnest labour and patient sacrifice.