Tuesday, April 05, 2005



Sedition by Example XII: Walter Nash

Leader of the Opposition Walter Nash, speaking on the Police Offences Amendment Bill, 30th November, 1951:

Let me mention a personal experience, one which has often been twisted by members of the National party... I went overseas in 1920 - that was before I was in Parliament - for the purpose of obtaining agencies from various publishing organizations. I succeeded in obtaining the agency for several large publishers and I brought back with me specimen books. On the return jouney I travelled as far as Australia on the "Sutherlandshire," and when the vessel called in at Adelaide or Melbourne - I forget which - I went into the Socialist book shop run by a Mr. Andrade, who said to me, "You are in the Labour party, are you not, Mr. Nash? Could you sell some of our pamphlets?" I said, "I do not know, but I will have a look at them. Put some of them up," so he packed a parcel of twenty or twenty-four. I took the parcel and placed it in the case that I had the other samples in. I did not see what was in the parcel.

When I arrived at Wellington I was met at the wharf by Detective Lewis, who had been sent to meet me because I was on the national executive of the Labour party and had been to a conference in Geneva of what was called the Second International. The detective said to me, "Have you got anything in the nature of literature with you?" I said, "Yes, I have several cases of it." The detective then went through the cases and he picked out the parcel I had picked up in Australia. I told him what the parcel was and how it came into the case. He said, "Can I open it?" I said that he could, and he opened the parcel in my presence and then asked if he could take it away. I said that he could, and six weeks later I received a summons to appear at Court on a charge of importing seditious literature...

What happened next was reported by the Dominion of 1st March, 1921 (as read into the record later in the same debate):

Walter Nash was charged in the Magistrate's Court yesterday morning before Mr F. K. Hunt, S.M., with bringing into New Zealand a document entitled 'The Communist Programme of the World Revolution,' which encouraged violence and lawlessness. He was also charged with bringing into New Zealand a pamphlet, 'To the I.W.W., a Special Message from the Communist International, Moscow,' which indicated and encouraged, advised or advocated violence. Mr. Macassey, for the Crown, in opening, stated the information was laid under War Regulations which prohibited the introduction and circulation of Bolshevik literature, and quoted the regulations bearing on the matter. The defendant was a publisher's agent, and made a trip abroad last year in the interests of his business. He returned to New Zealand via Australia on 4 January, and was interviewed by Detective-Sergeant Lewis, who secured the documents.

The Magistrate described the material in question as being "as dangerous to the body politic as typhoid germs deliberately placed in a city reservoir", but accepted that it was not a serious case, as there had been no real intent to distribute. Nash was fined five pounds, plus costs. He later discovered that the forbidden works were present in the Parliamentary Library - but of course, they weren't "dangerous" there.

(Sources: Walter Nash, by Keith Sinclair, Auckland University Press, 1976; New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, 296 (1951), p1221 - 1229).

2 comments:

Wasn't Nash the Labour leader infamous for hording everything from pamphlets to bus tickets?

Posted by Lewis : 4/05/2005 10:48:00 AM

Yes. He apparantly has 700 feet of shelves in the National Archives...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 4/05/2005 03:46:00 PM