House of Representatives
7 July 1905

2nd Parliament · 2nd Session



Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.

page 152

QUESTION

NEW ADMINISTRATION

Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat - Minister of

External Affairs). - I have the honour to announce that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral has been pleased to accept the resignation of the right honorable the member for East Sydney and his colleagues, and has been pleased to appoint the following gentlemen to the offices attached to their names : -

The Honorable Alfred Deakin - Prime Minister, and Minister of State for External Affairs;

The Honorable Isaac Alfred Isaacs - AttorneyGeneral ;

The Honorable Sir William John Lyne - Minister of State for Trade and Customs ;

The Right Honorable Sir John Forrest - Treasurer ;

The Honorable Austin Chapman - PostmasterGeneral ;

Senator the Honorable Thomas Playford Minister of State for Defence ;

The Honorable Littleton Ernest Groom - Minister of State for Home Affairs ;

The Honorable Thomas Thomson Ewing - Vice-President of the Executive Council j

Senator the Honorable John Henry Keating Member of the Executive Council.

Mr REID:
East Sydney

– I wish to take advantage of the usual liberty allowed to the leader of the Opposition on the announcement of a change of Government, though I may say at once that I do not propose to make any long series of observations now. I shall reserve my right to make an extended criticism of public affairs until a more convenient opportunity, when the Ministry come down with their proposed policy. But, before we pass from this new phase of political development, it would be well to try to ascertain a little more clearly than has been done up to the present what is the precise position of parties in this House. I think that this Parliament will be known in the future as the Alliance Parliament. When the present Prime Minister was in office, at the beginning of this Parliament, he had, for some slight period, the support of that very large section of the House known as the Labour Party. The two parties sat together, as they do now. There was no written alliance, no written understanding ; but that was practically the state of things when this Parliament first met. The then Deakin Administration having been defeated; or having resigned, a Ministry came in which represented a party to which the honorable and learned member for Ballarat had up to that time made no pointed reference, except to compare it to one of three cricket elevens; but the moment that an Administration was formed by my honorable friend, the member for Bland, a new set of things was created, and the honorable and learned member for .Ballarat, on the basis of a fiscal truce which had been decreed by the people, rushed into my arms, and suddenly developed a very pointed spirit of antagonism to his former allies. He found that the voters who returned them were pawns, that the members who were returned were dummies, and that the Ministers of the party were figure-heads. He also discovered that their methods of organization outside, and their methods inside, were such as were subversive of the true principles of parliamentary government. I cordially agreed with him in that view, and we drew up a statement, to which I do not wish to refer, except to say that it pointed out the absolute inequality of the position with reference to these honorable gentlemen. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat and myself having formed an alliance.. I must now acknowledge the devoted assistance, and recognise the ceaseless energy of the efforts with which he, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro - whose capacity for negotiation is so well-known - and the honorable member for Richmond aided me in dislodging the Labour Ministry. That task, which I could not accomplish by myself, was happily accomplished with their very able assistance. Then a new alliance was formed between the Labour Party and some mysterious party known as Mr. Isaacs’ party - the party of the honorable and learned member for Indi. This alliance was not only ample in its terms, but was to be of very long duration ; it was to exist during the whole of this Parliament, and the whole of the next Parliament. It got so far as an arrangement for a joint committee to control contested elections, so that the real danger feared by its members should be properly provided for. Is that alliance still in existence? I was assured by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat only a day or two ago that our alliance was intact, and that he went, to Ballarat as a loyal supporter, in order to help me in my arduous task of carrying on the Government. I do not wish to be accused of any breach of any understanding that I have entered into, but I do not at present know whether I am or am not bound by my written agreement with him. There are also some explanations due to the House and the country as to the alliance between my friends of the Labour Party and the honorable and learned member for Indi. Is that alliance still in existence? I have often been abused by the application to me of an epithet, harmless in itself, but intended to be offensive, when I have been called a “ yes-no “ politician. Now we have something in the nature of a concerted Ministerial duet. We have three Ministers who agreed with me that the methods of my honorable friends who now sit on your right, Mr. Speaker, below the gangway, were utterly subversive of parliamentary propriety, and were wrong inside and outside ; that their influence was pernicious to parliamentary government, and proper parliamentary independence; that they were aiming at extreme socialistic measures, which it required the foundation of the National League at Ballarat to repel. We were told all of those things by the Prime Minister, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and the PostmasterGeneral. On the other hand, the AttorneyGeneral, the evergreen Minister of Trade and Customs, and the Minister of Home Affairs drew a sharp line of distinction between themselves and their present colleagues. They had nothing to find fault with in the Labour caucus, or in the political organization of the Labour Party outside. On the contrary, they proposed an alliance with them under which there should be a joint committee to work the political organizations outside in harmony with the views of representatives in. this House. As for Socialism. I do not know whether they are actually Socialists, but they are ready to become Socialists on the shortest notice. So that we have this galaxy of six Ministers, three of whom sing one tune, and three another ; three of ‘ whom see nothing good in the Labour Party, its methods, principles, or organization - at any rate, so far as State Socialism is concerned, or as to their parliamentary methods, their caucus, and their leagues ; while the other three are in an alliance with the Labour Party - with those whom their three colleagues denounce as the enemies of parliamentary institutions - which is to be practically perpetual, because it is to last for two parliaments. I call this a “Yes-no” Ministry.

page 154

GOVERNOR-GENERAL’S SPEECH : PRESENTATION OF ADDRESSINREPLY

Mr SPEAKER:

– I have to inform the House that His1 Excellency the GovernorGeneral has appointed a quarter to 3 o’clock this afternoon as the hour at which he will receive the Address-in-Reply in the Library, and I shall be very glad to be accompanied to that place by as many honorable members as may choose to come with me to present the Address.

page 154

SUPPLY BILL (No. 1)

Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the Govenor - General recommending that an appropriation be made from the Consolidated Revenue for the purposes of this Bill.

page 154

PAPERS

Ministers laid upon the table the following papers : -

Report by the Administrator of British New Guinea respecting certain matters brought under notice in the House on 23rd November, 1904.

Technical descriptions of proposed Victorian electoral divisions.

Pursuant to the Immigration Restriction Act 1901, a return showing (a) persons refused admission to the Commonwealth during 1904; (b) persons who passed the prescribed test during 1904; (c) persons admitted without being asked to pass the education test during 1904.

Mr. SPEAKER laid upon the table

General index to Votes and Proceedings and Presented Papers, 1901-1904.

The Clerk laid upon the table

Return to an Order of the House, dated 27th October, 1904, showing the number of Chinese and Japanese resident in the Commonwealth who have become naturalized British subjects.

page 154

QUESTION

ELECTORAL RE-DISTRIBUTION

Mr JOHNSON:
LANG, NEW SOUTH WALES

– Is it the intention of the Government to submit without delay for the consideration of this House the proposals of the Commissioners appointed to redistribute the electoral divisions, in accordance with the terms of the speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General on the re-opening of Parliament on the 28th June last?

Mr DEAKIN:
Minister for External Affairs · BALLAARAT, VICTORIA · Protectionist

-Will the honorable member kindly give notice of his question.

page 154

GOVERNOR-GENERAL’S SPEECH : ANSWER TO ADDRESS-IN-REPLY

Mr. SPEAKER, accompanied by honorable members, having proceeded to the library to present the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech-, and, being returned, said : - I have to report that, accompanied by honorable members, I waited upon His Excellency the Governor-General and presented to him the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s speech at the opening of Parliament, agreed to by this House on 30th June, and that His Excellency was pleased to express his thanks for the loyal address.

page 155

PERSONAL EXPLANATION

Mr REID:
East Sydney

– I am sorry that I have to trouble the House with a personal explanation. I do not, as honorable members know, often draw their attention to myself in that way, but I feel that statements which were made yesterday, and with which I could not deal yesterday in the House, are of a character which go so far beyond the bounds of political decency or truthfulness that I must ask honorable members to allow me their generous indulgence whilst I refer to them. These statements appeared in yesterday’s leading article of a newspaper that is known, according to the newspaper law, toy the name of the Age, and which is equally well known by another name, which is not registered, but which is notorious. This statement was made by that newspaper, and I must ask honorable members to bear with me in view of the seriousness of the language which was used -

The reunited Protectionists can afford to breathe freely again, with a sense that they have escaped from a great danger. They learned in Mr. Reid’s speech of Thursday last, for the first time, of the full extent of his treachery towards the cause. Under the pressure of Mr. Deakin’s argument that the Tariff Commission and its promised report radically modified the compact of a fiscal truce, Mr. Reid made the naive confession to Parliament that he had never an idea of permitting the Tariff Commission’s report to be brought before this Parliament at all.

That statement is absolutely without foundation. In my speech on Thursday night there was absolutely not a single word which could be distorted into that meaning.

There was a momentary gasp in the House -

I did not observe it. when the late Prime Minister made this astounding admission of almost incredible treachery to Mr. Deakin and his Protectionist supporters ; and inquiring eyes were turned on Sir George Turner and Messrs. M’Lean and M’Cay to ascertain if they, too, had been parties to this deception.

The whole thing is a piece of absolutely wicked manufacture from beginning to end. There is not a singe word of truth in these statements. I notice that in an interjection which I made when the honorable and learned member for Ballarat was speaking, I said -

I told the honorable and learned member then that there was not the remotest possibility of a report being brought up by the Tariff Commission during the present session, because its members have to go all over Australia before they can report.

That interjection mentioned no word about the Government or myself, or any intention to prevent the report of the Commission from being dealt with when it had been arrived at. I pointed to the remote possibility of the report reaching the House during the present session, and I had good reason to do that, because the Commission had not yet dealt with the subject which was thought in Victoria to be of the greatest urgency, namely, the iron industry. They had not yet dealt with that subject in any of the States, and therefore it seemed impossible to expect their report during the present session. That, however, is not all. The Age goes on to say -

We do not remember any previous example in Australian public life that can parallel this as an instance of duplicity in which a man has been convicted out of his own mouth.

Words are put into my mouth which I never used, and then I am stated to have been convicted out of my own mouth on the strength of the falsehood imputed to me. I think this reaches a depth of gutter literature which is beyond our ordinary experience. Then, again, there is another remark -

Mr. Reid had accepted it quite frankly as a body that was to inquire into the industries which had been strangled by the Tariff.

That is another absolute fabrication. There were two issues before the House as to the appointment of that Commission. It was proposed to limit the Commission to an inquiry into certain specified industries, alleged to have been suffering severely, but I took up the broad ground that if there was to be any inquiry it should deal with the whole range of Australian industries. Honorable members will recollect that perfectly clearly. At the end of the article the following statement is made: -

It was the culminating act of ten months of treachery ; and, as we have said, it wound up with the shameless admission that, as Prime Minister, he never intended permitting the Tariff Commission to make a report to Parliament. In contemplating this long course of underhand dealing we have no hesitation in saying that Mr. Reid’s Ministerial life presents the most glaring instance of political deception that any Australian Parliament has a record of.

That is stated despite the fact that not one of my bitterest enemies has imputed to me the slightest breach of the honorable understanding I had with the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. I want to point out that, before this Commission was appointed, I made my position absolutely clear. When the honorable and learned member for Indi moved an amendment specially dealing with this matter - I think it took the form of a proposal to reduce Supply by £1 - he made a remark as to certain hardships, and as to dealing with hardships which might arise under the reports - progress reports or otherwise - of the Commission, and I was careful to say to the House and the country on the 26th of October, some considerable time before the Commission was appointed, that there must be no misunderstanding upon one point. I said -

The honorable and learned member for Indi quite inadvertently put me in the position of having made this great concession - that if any hardships were disclosed by the investigations of the Commission I should be prepared to remedy them. Hardships is an ambiguous term.

Then, after some interruptions, I again referred to the word “hardships,” and I said -

I wish to have no misunderstanding about this matter. At the present time, any duty which is below 30 or 40 per cent. is, in the opinion of some honorable members, a hardship to certain industries. Instead of duties of 20 per cent., they wish for duties of 30, 40, or 50 per cent.

Mr Isaacs:

– That statement is not accepted by all in its nakedness.

Mr REID:

– I am going to leave no opening for that sort of abuse which has been poured on my head from day to day, and from hour to hour, both in this Chamber and out of it. I have been industriously represented as one who is always endeavouring to arrive at amicable compromises, regardless of the weighty obligations which they entail, and, therefore, I am determined that there shall be no misunderstanding about this matter. I wish it to be clearly understood that while I hold my present position, I shall absolutely refuse, during the life-time of this Parliament, to allow anything to come before this House in the name of the Government, or in spite of the Government, which amounts to a reopening of the fiscal question. If the Commission reports the existence of a state of things with reference to any industry amounting to a hardship, but recommends what does not amount to a reopening of the fiscal question between the free-traders and the protectionists, I shall be willing to give the subject my best consideration. But any honorable member who twists my statement so far as to represent me as a Prime Minister who is willing to prove false to the faith in which I believe, by bringing protectionist measures before this Chamber, thinks me capable of a breach of my trust as a public man, which I shall never commit.

Mr McWilliams:

– Was that statement made prior to the appointment of the Commission ?

Mr REID:

– Some weeks before its appointment. I went on to say -

The only arrangement under which free-traders and protectionists can sit together on this side of the Chamber is one which, although we are prepared, even in connexion with the Tariff, to remove every sort of injustice or hardship which is brought to light, is subject to the understanding that if the opening of the fiscal question is involved to any degree worthy of serious regard, it will be our duty to go to the electors of Australia upon the subject with a distinct policy. If either wing of the Government finds that a difficulty has arisen under which the loyal protectionists and the loyal free-traders ‘find it impossible to continue together on the present basis, I think I can say for my protectionist colleagues, as well as for my free-trade colleagues, that from that moment we part company.

Mr Deakin:

– That statement, made months ago by the right honorable member, is exactly that which I made at Ballarat, and in respect of which I have been attacked ever since.

Mr REID:

– I do not know that the Age has lately attacked the honorable and learned member for making such a statement.

Mr Deakin:

– Other newspapers have done so.

Mr REID:

– The honorable and learned gentleman has “ got in out of the wet,” and has now been taken to the bosom of Sapphira. On the occasion in question I went on to say that -

We can remain in office as a united party only so long as I do not call on my protectionist supporters to prove untrue to their fiscal creed, and they do not call on me to be disloyal to mine. That is the basis on which the Government rests. The moment that that basis becomes impossible, the existence of the Government becomes impossible.

Notwithstanding this statement, I am falsely charged with having asserted that I would block the report of the Commission from coming before the Parliament - I am put before the country as treacherously breaking a promise to bring in some measure of protection to help industries that complain that they have not sufficient protection. I must apologize to honorable members for bringing statements of the Age newspaper before the Parliament, because its reputation is so notorious; but there are times when the fabrication is so audacious and wicked that it is necessary to make a public exposure.

page 157

QUESTION

QUESTIONS

Mr DEAKIN:
Minister of External Affairs · Ballarat · Protectionist

– I will ask honorable members to refrain from putting the questions standing in their names on the noticepaper, as the Government have not yet had an opportunity of considering them.

page 157

SUSPENSION OF STANDING ORDERS

Chairman of Committees : Supply

Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -

That the Standing Orders be suspended in order to enable the House to forthwith resolve itself into a Committee to consider the Supply to be granted to His Majesty, and to enable all steps to be taken to obtain Supply, and to pass a Supply Bill through all its stages without delay.

Mr REID:
East Sydney

– I have only to say that I am quite aware of the urgency of this motion, and that I cordially concur in the course which the Treasurer has taken.

Mr FISHER:
Wide Bay

– The motion that has just been submitted to my mind covers a great deal more than the mere passing or granting of Supply by this House. We are asked without notice to suspend the Standing Orders to enable Supply to be granted to His Majesty. If we agree to the motion, I am under the impression that it will involve the granting of power to elect a Chairman of Committees, in order that effect may be given to it. I shall be glad, Mr. Speaker, to have your ruling on the point.

Mr SPEAKER:

– The,motion, as it stands, if it be passed, will allow so many of the Standing Orders to be suspended as would intervene to prevent Supply being granted without delay. It would suspend no other Standing Orders than those. Incidentally to the granting of Supply, however, an honorable member will have to be appointed to take the chair, and therefore the Standing Orders will be suspended to the extent necessary to enable that to be done.

Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay). - I appreciate the view that has been expressed relative to the necessity for granting Supply without delay, but this will involve the appointment of a -Chairman of Committees.

Sir George Turner:

– A temporary Chairman may be appointed for to-day.

Mr FISHER:

– Quite so. I think the matter is one of great importance, and as we are creating precedents’ in a new Parliament, it is well that we should arrive at a clear understanding on the point.

Mr SPEAKER:

– Does the honorable member submit an amendment ?

Mr FISHER:

– I do not, for the reason that I have no wish to trespass on the functions of the leader of the Opposition.

Mr McDONALD:
Kennedy

– It seems to me that it would be much better to have two distinct motions - one relating to the granting of Supply, and the other to the appointment of a temporary Chairman of Committees - submitted to the House. A definite procedure has hitherto been followed by the House in dealing with Supply Bills, and I fail to see why we should depart from it. If we do, our action will be quoted on some future occasion as a precedent for the proposal of a Ministry, which may have a big majority at its back, to deal with a more important question than that of the election of a temporary Chairman of Committees. We are treading on very dangerous ground, and my advice is that the motion should be so altered as to agree with the procedure that has hitherto been adopted

Mr SPEAKER:

– On the point of order raised by the honorable member, I would remind the House that the motion which has been submitted by the Treasurer is precisely in the ordinary form, and does not cover the introduction of anything that is not essential to the obtaining of Supply. It would not permit of the appointment of a Chairman of Committees to-day, if Supply could be granted without the adoption of that course ; but as such an. appointment is incidental and indeed necessary to the obtaining of Supply, the passing of the motion would enable that step to be taken. I see no possibility of dividing it into two parts, because it relates to only one matter.

Mr JOHNSON:
Lang

– I would suggest, as a way out of the difficulty, that the motion be amended by the addition of the words -

But such suspension shall not apply to the election of a Chairman of Committees other than for this day only.

Mr DEAKIN:
Minister of External Affairs · Ballarat · Protectionist

, - I can assure the honorable member for Kennedy that in submitting the. motion moved by the Treasurer the Government have ‘not the least intention of taking the House at a disadvantage.

Mr McDonald:

– Quite so. I simply pointed out the danger of the course proposed.

Mr DEAKIN:

– The Government are not under compulsion to-day to do more than is essential to fulfil their purpose of obtaining Supply. In order to obtain Supply, however, it will be necessary to appoint a Chairman of Committees either for this d’ay only or for the remainder of the session. The honorable member’s suggestion, as I understand it, is that in some manner the question of Supply should be severed from that of the appointment of the Chairman, in order that if the House so desires it, the appointment may be for this day only- It appears that this could be accomplished by amending the motion in the way suggested by the honorable member for’ Lang. The Government desire to consult the wishes of the House in this matter, for the question of when a selection of a Chairman for the session should be made is’ one on which they are not entitled to dictate to honorable members. They are prepared to accept any proposal that will do justice to the consideration of the motion for Supply, and the passing of the necessary Bill. If the honorable member for Lang intends to test the feeling of the House by moving the amendment he has indicated, I would suggest that he should so amend it as to provide that Mr. Speaker be asked to take the chair. That would remove all cause of difficulty- It would avoid the selection of any one who is at present an unofficial member of the House, and! make the whole course of procedure absolutely official. If the honorable member will move an amendment on these lines, I shall invite the House to take it into immediate consideration, and we shall then be able to decide at once whether no not the course proposed shall be adopted. If it be not adopted. I shall hope to have an opportunity of addressing the House in regard to the method of electing a Chairman of Committees for the session in the event of a proposal being made to that end.

Mr FRAZER:
Kalgoorlie

– In amending the motion of the Treasurer in the direction which has been suggested we should be taking what seems to me to be a dangerous step. A section of the House holds the view that the present is an opportune time to proceed with the election of a Chairman of Committees. The attendance of honorable members is fairly large, and as there are absentees from all parties, I do not think that any .one party in the House would be taken at a disadvantage if we proceeded to-day with the election. Some honorable members may desire to oppose the proposal to elect a Chairman of Committees for this day only, although they may be favorable to the granting of Supply, and if the motion were dealt with in the complex form which has been suggested, some honorable members, in order to make their position clear, would have to take a stand that might defeat the desire of the .Government to obtain Supply. We have no desire to bring about such a situation. I therefore suggest that we should take a vote on the question of the election of a Chairman of Committees quite apart from the issue as to the granting of Supply.

Mr. REID (East Sydney).- I think that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has really suggested the more convenient course. The principal motion ought not to be complicated with a matter of detail as to the election of a Chairman” of Committees.

Mr Deakin:

– I thought that that was the understanding all round.

Mr REID:

– It is not the present understanding, because the Prime Minister spoke of accepting the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Lang, if it were altered in a certain way.

Mr Deakin:

– No; I said that it might meet the suggestion of the honorable member for Kennedy.

Mr REID:

– It would be very much better if the question of the election of a Chairman were considered apart from this distinctive motion. It is an incident of the motion which can be dealt with when it arises.

Mr MAHON:
Coolgardie

– In view of standing order 215, I think that the amendment of the honorable member for Lang is totally unnecessary. That standing order provides -

A member shall be appointed by the House each session to be the Chairman of Committees, who shall hold office till his successor is appointed, and who shall take the Chair of all Committees of the Whole.

Under these circumstances, I contend that we already have a Chairman of Committees, in the person of the honorable member for Laanecoorie.

Mr Fisher:

– No.

Mr MAHON:

– What is the use of the honorable member exclaiming, “No “ ? The standing order to which I have referred says that “ a member shall be appointed by the House each session to be the Chairman of Committees, who shall hold office till his successor is appointed,” &c. I wish to know if a successor to the honorable member for Laanecoorie has been appointed.

Mr Fisher:

– The Chairman of Committees is appointed for the session only.

Mr MAHON:

– No. The Standing Orders provide that he shall be appointed each session, which means at any time during the session. Until a Chairman of Committees has been appointed for the current session, I maintain that the honorable member for Laanecoorie holds that office.

Mr Fisher:

– Why does not the honorable member raise that point of order?

Mr MAHON:

– That is the point which I desire to emphasize. I claim that the honorable member for Laanecoorie is the Chairman of Committees de facto.

Mr SPEAKER:

– So far as I can form any opinion as to the exact meaning of standing order 215, the obligation is thrown upon the House each session to elect a Chairman of Committees. In no session is any honorable member entitled to perform the duties of that office unless he has during that session been appointed to the office. Therefore, it is necessary, if any honorable member takes the chair to-day, that he should be appointed, either temporarily or for the session, by the House.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Mr Deakin:

– Do I understand that the passing of the motion - if no other proposal is submitted - will require us to proceed today with the election of a Chairman of Committees for the rest of the session?

Mr SPEAKER:

-The passing of that motion permits all steps to be taken in order that Supply may be granted. I shall presently have to vacate the chair, and before I do so some honorable member must be appointed to act as Chairman of Committees - -an office which will then exist.

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I wish to suggest that Mr. Speaker be asked to take the chair. I know that precedents for this procedure have been set in some of the State Parliaments; and by adopting that course we shall overcome what appears to be a temporary difficulty. It seems to me that if no steps whatever were taken in this matter, Mr. Speaker would naturally be called upon to fill the office of Chairman when the House resolved itself into a Committee.

Mr Fisher:

Mr. Speaker has pointed out that before he leaves the chair a Chairman of Committees must be appointed.

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I move-

That Mr. Speaker be requested to take the Chair as Chairman of Committees for this day of sitting only.

Mr. FRAZER (Kalgoorlie).- It is wry rarely that an honorable member finds himself in disagreement with a proposal to place Mr. Speaker in a position of responsibility. On this occasion, however, I am bound to say that no sufficient reason has been advanced why the House should not now accept the responsibility of selecting a Chairman. Upon the very day of the opening of last session a proposal was submitted to appoint a Chairman of Committees. Now, when there is work which requires to be done, and it is necessary that the position should be filled, why should we be asked to delay? I say that it is the intention of standing order 215 that at the earliest possible opportunity, when the necessity for so doing arises, a Chairman of Committees should be elected for the session. Why cannot we shoulder the responsibility of appointing him? It is not reasonable to suppose that we shall obtain a better attendance of honorable members, if the appointment be deferred. Consequently, I claim that we should proceed immediately with business. I intend to oppose the proposal of the honorable member for South Sydney, and I think a majority will be found in favour of my view that we ought to accept the responsibility of electing a Chairman without delay.

Mr THOMAS:
Barrier

– I agree with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie that we ought to elect a Chairman of Committees to-day. Consequently I shall be placed in the painful position of having to vote against the proposal that you, sir, should be called upon to fill that office temporarily.

Mr ROBINSON:
Wannon

– I indorse the remarks of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, and hope that the House will come to a vote upon this matter to-day. We have about as good an attendance of honorable members as we are likely to get during the session, in the absence of a no-confidence motion. There is another reason why the selection of a Chairman of Committees should be proceeded with without delay. There are a number of candidates in the field, and so far I have not been asked to support one of them. I should like to be able to ca’st my vote without having any unpleasant pressure put upon me.

Mr BATCHELOR:
Boothby

– Of course this is a non-party question, and it is very evident that all parties are divided upon it. Personally, I think that the balance of convenience is in favour of delaying the appointment of a Chairman of Committees for the reason that no notice of the intention to arrive at a decision upon that matter has been given. Honorable members should have been apprised of the fact that the question was to be decided to-day. I intend to vote for the motion, although the matter it not one of verv great importance.

Mr KENNEDY:
Moira

– I am at a loss to understand why we cannot select a Chairman of Committees at once. It seems to me that the House has got into the position of consistently refusing to do today what it can conveniently postpone until to-morrow. No reason whatever has been advanced for delay. Surely the House to-day is just as well, informed of the qualifications of the various candidates for the office as it will be in the future. Is the appointment to be deferred in order to provide ari opportunity for the exercise of a little more finesse? We all know the gentleman who previously occupied the position, and we know the qualifications of those who are eligible for the office. Then why not proceed with the appointment today ? Why establish a new precedent ? I intend to vote for a settlement of the question without delay.

Mr STORRER:
Bass

– The other day this House decided by a large majority, that it was prepared to proceed with the business. I trust that it will give effect to its determination by at once selecting a Chairman of Committees.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– I should like to point out to the two honorable members who have just spoken that we should not suspend our Standing Orders, which have been adopted for very good reasons, unless there is an absolute necessity for so doing. There is an absolute necessity in the case of granting supply.

Mr Kennedy:

– That has been done.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– There is no objection to that. There is an absolute necessity for suspending our Standing Orders, in the case of granting supply, but there is no such necessity in the case of the election, of a Chairman of Committees for the session.

Mr Kennedy:

– We are not asked to vote for the suspension of the Standing Orders, with regard to the Chairman.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– Under our Standing Orders, we could not appoint the Chairman of Committees without first giving notice of our intention. In the present instance, however, it is proposed that Ave should suspend the Standing Orders for the purpose of selecting a Chairman of Committees for the session.

Sir William Lyne:

– The suspension has taken pl3.cs

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

-But not with that object. It was specifically stated that the object in view was merely the granting of supplies.

Mr SPEAKER:

– It may save the time of honorable members if I state the exact position. At the present moment, the position is that the House has suspended all standing orders which might prevent the granting of supply forthwith. These would include the one to which the honorable member has referred - the standing order which requires notice to be given regarding the appointment of a Chairman of Committees. So far as that is concerned, the House has already determined upon it. The House is free, if it pleases, to appoint a Chairman of Committees for the remainder of the session, or it is free, if it pleases, to appoint him for this day only.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– I am aware that the House is free either to .appoint a Chairman of Committees for the session, or for this day only. I merely desired to point out that we ought not, in order to obtain supply, to act upon the suspension of our Standing Orders, so far as to do away with the notice which, under ordinary circumstances, would have been given - regarding the election of a Chairman of Committees for the session. I have no desire to delay honorable members, but I do say that it is well to maintain those safeguards which the Standing Orders provide in all cases where it is not absolutely necessary to suspend them. It is not absolutely necessary to suspend them in connexion with the appointment of a Chairman of Committees to-day and I trust, therefore, that the House will not persist in that course.

Mr MALONEY:
Melbourne

– I very much regret that this motion has been submitted. It is not pleasant for me to be obliged to vote against you, sir, being called upon to take the chair in. Committee, but it will bee my duty to do so if the motion is pressed to a division. If the honorable member for South Sydney can see his way clear to withdraw his proposal, he will re- move an unpleasant impasse, which would compel me to vote against you, sir, being appointed Chairman for the time being. After so many months, I think we ought to be prepared to say who shall be our Chairman, and, . personally, I am quite prepared to proceed with his election.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I am very anxious to assist the Government in passing the Supply Bill, but I also wish to preserve the rights of honorable members, and it was never intended, when the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders was agreed to, that an attempt would be made to appoint to-day a Chairman of Committees for the session’. I do not think the Government intended that. To make such an attempt would be to adopt a course of procedure which should be condemned by every honorable member. The usual practice is for notice of motion to be given in regard to the appointment of a Chairman of Committees. Would honorable members like to see the Government take advantage of the suspension of the Standing Orders, moved ostensibly to get a Supply Bill passed, to deal with- some question upon which they felt very keenly, and which they thought would not be dealt with except on motion according to notice? The proposal of the honorable member for South Sydney is no new proposal. I believe that in many of the States the Speaker takes the chair in Committee, as a matter of course.

Mr McDonald:

– Where?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I believe that it is often done in Western Australia ?

Mr Frazer:

– The honorable member is out of his latitude.

Mr Hutchison:

– It is done in the Legislative Council of South Australia.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I have not seen the list, so that I do not know what support is likely to be given to the various candidates for the Chairmanship of Committees. Indeed, I do not know for certain who are to be candidates, and, therefore, I am not speaking in the interest of any one member. What I am asking is that fair play shall be given to those honorable members who left the State a day or two ago, under the impression that no serious business, beyond the passing of the Supply Bill, would be dealt with this afternoon. The Treasurer himself told us that practically the only business for to-day was the passing of Supply, and I_ appeal to the House not to set what would be a dangerous precedent, by dealing -with business other than Supply under the suspension of the Standing Orders. I hope that we shall have the assurance of the Government that they will not be parties to any such trick, because it would be a trick, and one which might be played against them in the future when they little expected it. 1 hope that the appointment of a Chairman of Committees will be made only on a day of which honorable members will have notice, so that they may not be unwittingly absent.

Mr. REID (East Sydney). - I am sure that the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders would not have been accepted unanimously, as it was, if there had been any idea that, under cover of that unanimous vote, any such serious business would be transacted as the appointment of a Chairman of Committees for the session. As I have already said, the necessity for obtaining Supply is clear. If there had been no change of Government, I should have had to ask for this Supply, and I wish to assist the present Government in getting it. I, therefore, point out to honorable members who desire that the public servants shall not be left without their pay, that if we are to go into a debate involving the merits of the candidates for a permanent selection to the Chairmanship of Committees, it will be impossible to get the’ Supply Bill through to-day. Honorable members may spring a surprise nomination on the House, but they cannot prevent other honorable members-

Mr Frazer:

– That is intimidation.

Mr REID:

– No; I am suggesting that there may be free discussion of the matter, that is all. Surely honorable members can see that if we are to canvass the merits of the candidates for the Chairmanship of Committees, we shall enter upon proceedings which will retard the achievement of the object for which we have suspended the Standing Orders. I understand that there is to be more than one candidate, and I would suggest that it will be unfair, if there are, say, three candidates, to nominate any one of them first, because the supporters of the other two will then naturally combine forces to vote against him, and he will have to meet the opposition of two parties, who would not be so combined if his were the second and not the first nomination. When the Chairman of Committees is chosen, I should like to see the selection conducted in a way that would be fair to every candidate, instead of allowing one to be made the target of the supporters of the other two.

Mr Frazer:

– How will that object be achieved any better three weeks hence than how?

Mr REID:

– I think that there should be a ballot.

Mr Frazer:

– Then why not have a ballot now ?

Mr REID:

– A ballot would take an hour to conduct.

Mr Maloney:

– It would for an hour well spent, and we are well paid for the time we spend here.

Mr REID:

– We all know what the suggested procedure means. The supporters of one candidate think that they have things right for him now.

Mr Maloney:

– That is not worthy of the right honorable member.

Mr REID:

– That is the plain English of the matter. I do not object to any advantage that may be gained by any accident, but the spirit of the present arrangement was that the Standing Orders should be suspended to obtain Supply for the carrying on of the Public Service, and that other serious questions would be left over until another occasion. If Mr. Speaker takes the chair in Committee now, it will prevent any candidate for the Chairmanship of Committees from being prejudiced. They will all remain equal, and we can later on devise some fair way to give them the same chances.

Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay). - I am sure that no honorable member desires that Mr. Speaker’s name shall be dragged into a division, and therefore I ask the honorable member for South Sydney to substitute for it the name of the honorable member for Kennedy, who will not be a candidate for the Chairmanship of Committees.

Mr Reid:

– That will do; we will all accept that.

Mr FISHER:

– I think that the House is ready to adopt that suggestion, and the honorable member for Kennedy has informed me that he is prepared to act as Chairman on this occasion.

Mr. G. B. EDWARDS (South Sydney). - I willingly accept the suggestion, but I do not see-

Mr SPEAKER:

– If the honorable member makes a speech now it will close the debate, and I shall then have to put the motion in its original form, and in no other. I think the better course would be for the honorable member for Wide Bay to move the amendment of the motion by substituting the name of the honorable member ‘ for Kennedy for my name.

Mr FISHER:

– I will do that. I move -

That the motion “be amended by leaving out the words “ Mr. Speaker,” with a view to insert, in lieu thereof, the words “ Mr McDonald.”

Mr. G. B. EDWARDS (South Sydney). - I wish to point out that my motion took the form of a request for Mr. Speaker to take the chair on this occasion, and I do not think that he would have been in any way offended, whatever might have been the result of the division. I am glad however, to accept the suggestion of the honorable member for Wide Bay, that we should appoint an impartial man, who is not a candidate for the Chairmanship of Committees, to take the chair on the present occasion.

Amendment agreed to.

Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.

page 162

SUPPLY BILL (No.1)

Case of Gunner Sheehan.

In Committee of Supply:

Sir JOHN FORREST:
Trea surer · Swan · Protectionist

– I move -

That a sum not exceeding£418,751 be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1906.

I merely desire to say that this Supply is urgently necessary, and that the amount asked for is intended to cover the services of one month only. The items of expenditure set forth in the schedule, are in accordance with the Parliamentary Votes of last year. The money is required for salaries and contingencies, the payment of existing contracts, and of wages to men now employed, for the maintenance of works and buildings, and for buildings in course of construction. There is no new item in the schedule.

Mr KELLY:
Wentworth

– The Treasurer has told us what we already knew, that Supply is urgently needed; and for that reason, if for no other, I am as anxious as is any honorablemember to see the Bill passed. It has, however, been authoritatively stated in the public press of late that all measures proposed by Ministers have been laid before the honorable member for Bland for his consideration and approval, even the proposed constitution of the Administration having been so submitted. These facts being so-

Mr Deakin:

– These fictions !

Mr KELLY:

– I am glad to hear thePrime Minister give the lie to a statement which has emanated from his official organ, the Age newspaper. But’ I wish to know if this important measure has been submitted by the right honorable member for Swan to the honorable member for Bland for indorsement before presentation to the House. If it has not been so submitted, I deeply deplore the absence of the honorable member for Bland, because, as a member of the Opposition, I am naturally anxious that no honorable alliance shall be broken, as apparently this new alliance is being broken in the fetter, if not in the spirit. It’ is interesting to find that the right honorable member for Swan is now compelled to submit all the proposals which he wishes to place before the House to a gentleman whom he so roundly trounced during the recess. If, however, this slight departure from the letter of the alliance has been made, if made at all, with the approval of the majority of honorable members on the Ministerial benches, and of the real master of the Government, the honorable member for Bland, I have no further remarks to offer.

Mr JOHNSON:
Lang

– I have no desire to detain the House at any length, but I should like to point out that copies of the Supply Bill were not placed in the hands of honorable members until within the last few minutes, and that no opportunity has been afforded them to consider the items.

Mr Deakin:

– They were circulated this morning.

Mr JOHNSON:

– I did not see the Bill until just before the Treasurer rose to make his statement. I submit that honorable members should be afforded time to go through the schedule and ascertain what is expected of them. Under the present circumstances, that is impossible, and we can only accept the assurance of the Treasurer that everything is in order. I trust that in future copies of the Supply Bill will be placed in the hands of honorable members at least twenty-four hours before they are asked to vote the money.

Mr McCAY:
Corinella

– On Wednesday afternoon last, when the retiring Government were for a few minutes sitting upon the

Treasury benches, pending the completion of the Government that has now come into office, the honorable and learned member for Corio, without any notice to me, brought up a matter in connexion with which he made charges and statements which reflected on me to some extent. In the absence of the papers, I could not recall details, and consequently was not able to speak fully on the subject of the honorable and learned member’s allegations. Since then, through the courtesy of the Minister of Defence, I have had made available to me the file relating to the case of Gunner Sheehan. This matter was first Brought under notice on the 29th June by a letter addressed to me by the honorable and learned member for Corio, in these terms :-

I enclose, herewith the statement of William

Thomas Sheehan, now stationed at the Queenscliff Fort. He claims that he is unjustly detained, that he is unable to see the Commandant, and his applications to see you have been refused.

I may say, in passing, that that is incorrect.

Mr Crouch:

– It is true.

Mr McCAY:

– In the statement made by Sheehan, and enclosed by the honorable and learned member, there is no mention of any proposal to see me. I know nothing of these matters beyond what is disclosed by the papers that come before me, and I am now relying on the statement forwarded to me by the honorable and learned member. The letter continues: -

Under these circumstances, he has the right to see that you should inquire into the justice of his case, of which I herewith enclose his statement.

The substance of that statement I gave accurately from memory on Wednesday. It contains the allusions to vegetables and hats, which I quoted to the honorable and learned member for Corio, and of which he denied any knowledge.

Mr Crouch:

– Not at all.

Mr McCAY:

– On the same day that the letter was received I wrote a minute addressed to Colonel Hoad. I may mention that Sheehan had committed a breach of the regulations by sending a communication to the Minister through other than the ordinary channels. The honorable and learned member for Corio knows perfectly well the channels through which a member of the Defence Forces should approach the Minister. Sheehan himself does not make the complaint referred to in the statement forwarded by the honorable and learned member for Corio. I wrote this minute on the paper: -

Colonel Hoad. Kindly make inquiries into this matter without involving the man in trouble.

I did not want to get Sheehan into trouble for committing a breach of the regulations.

If his statements were correct, he has some grounds of complaint.

In order that the man might not be involved in trouble, inquiries were made impersonally. That is why the honorable and learned member received a reply stating that it was the practice to do certain things, instead of a statement that a certain course had been pursued in regard to Gunner Sheehan. On Wednesday I asked the Defence authorities to make further inquiries, and they did so, with the result that the papers now embrace full and specific statements by the sergeantmajor who enlisted Sheehan, and by the officer who swore him in, that he was fully cognisant of the regulations, and knew exactly the conditions under which he was enlisted- that he could not claim his discharge, but that, with the approval of the District Commandant, he could be discharged free in the first three months of his service. The District Commandant refused his approval, and that is the reason why the man did not get his discharge. I desire to point out that, so far as I was concerned, I did everything that a Minister could reasonably be expected to do, and made the fullest inquiry. I am not concerned with the rights or wrongs of the matter, which has passed out of my hands, and I desire merely to clear myself of the suggestion that I did not take the proper steps.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Resolution reported and adopted.

Resolution of Ways and Means, covering resolution of Supply, adopted.

Ordered -

That Sir John Forrest do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolutions.

Bill presented by Sir John Forrest, and read a first time.

Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Mr JOHNSON:
Lang

– I should like to have the assurance of the Treasurer that future temporary Supply Bills will be submitted to honorable members atleast twenty-four hours before they are asked to vote upon them.

Sir JOHN FORREST:
Protectionist

– Instructions were given to circulate copies of the Bill last night, and 1 am sorry that one did not reach the honorable member before this afternoon. The intention was that the copies should reach the hands of honorable members this morning.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages, without amendment.

page 164

SPECIAL ADJOURNMENT

Mr DEAKIN:
Minister of External Affairs · Ballarat · Protectionist

– I move -

That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday, 26th inst.

This adjournment will enable the Government to prepare the measures which they desire to submit to Parliament, and will be rather shorter than has been customary under similar circumstances.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 164

ADJOURNMENT

Case of Gunner Sheehan

Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -

That the House do now adjourn.

Mr CROUCH:
Corio

– I desire to refer to the statement made at an earlier stage by the honorable and learned member for Corinella. He previously complained that I had given him no warning of my intention to refer to the case of Gunner Sheehan, and yet, although he had had the papers relating to the case in his hands for some time, this afternoon he did not think it necessary to give me any intimation that he intended to make an attack upon me. His remarks this afternoon were not intended to elucidate the matter, or to improve the position, but were rather designed to induce honorable members to suppose that I had made inaccurate statements. I have had an opportunity of glancing at the official file, and I acknowledge that the honorable and learned member has correctly read the letter addressed to him, in which I stated, amongst other things, that Sheehan was unable to see the Commandant, and that his applications to see the Minister had been refused. The honorable and learned member for Corinella remarked that the latter statement was incorrect. When I asked the honorable and learned member in what respect my statement was inaccurate, he practically admitted that every man had a right to see the Minister of Defence.

Mr McCay:

– I said that every man had a right, not to see the Minister of Defence, but to communicate with him through the proper channels.

Mr CROUCH:

– This man approached the lieutenant of his company, and stated that he desired to communicate with the Minister of Defence in regard to his complaint. He told me - and his statement is confirmed - that he was unable to see the Minister.

Mr McCay:

– That assertion does not appear in his printed statement, as sent to me.

Mr CROUCH:

– The honorable and Learned member asserts that my statement is inaccurate, merely because the man does not state in the printed memorandum, submitted by him, that he applied to see the Minister of Defence, and was refused. This shows upon what a slight foundation the exMinister is ready to make charges of inaccuracy against honorable members. He neglected to put before the House the information that I am now giving, and when I requested him to read a report by Company Sergeant-Major J. K. Paul, in answer to a series of questions by the present Minister of Defence

Mr McCay:

– The inquiries to which the honorable and learned member refers, were made in consequence of a memorandum that I prepared on Wednesday last. The honorable and learned member will find that memorandum among the papers.

Mr CROUCH:

– That makes the honorable and learned member’s conduct all the more reprehensible. If this information was obtained, as the result of inquiries made by him, we may be fairly certain that it must have been brought under his notice. He, therefore, did not only myself, but the House, an injustice in failing to call attention to the reply of that officer. Paragraph 9A of Part X. of the Regulation provides that-

Enlistments shall be carried out as follows : -

Every person offering to enlist in the Defence Force shall be given a notice in the authorized form, stating the general requirements of attestation and the general conditions of the contract to be entered into by the recruit.

I am informed by the honorable member for Maranoa, who has served in the British Army, that the Imperial regulations require that every recruit shall have a form setting forth the terms on which he is to be sworn in, placed in his hands.

Mr Page:

– He is asked first of all whether he can read.

Mr CROUCH:

– If he can read, a paper setting forth the full terms on which it is proposed to swear him in is placed in his hands, and he is requested to follow the commanding officer’s reading of the regulation at the very time that the attestation is taken. In this way the conditions of his engagement are made clear to him. What is the reply made by Company Sergeant-Major Paul to the Minister’s inquiries ?

Mr McCay:

– Will the honorable and learned member read the whole of it?

Mr CROUCH:

– I intend to read that part which the honorable and learned member omitted.

Mr McCay:

– I simply stated what the sergeant-major said he had done.

Mr CROUCH:

– Sergeant-Major Paul states that -

Para. 9, Part. X (a) of the Regulations, the authorized form, is only given when asked for, and it is not recollected whether Sheehan applied for one or received it.

The ex-Minister of Defence quite forgot to mention that part of the sergeant-major’s statement. Is it reasonable to suppose that a man offering to enlist, and totally unaccustomed to military procedure, would ask for a form setting out the terms of enlistment? And yet the form giving the whole conditions of employment is handed to a recruit only when application is made for it.

Mr McCay:

– How can I be held responsible for that?

Mr CROUCH:

– I did not seek to make the honorable and learned member responsible for it.

Mr McCay:

– I beg the honorable and learned member’s pardon.

Mr CROUCH:

- Hansard shows that as soon as the ex-Minister said that he would make inquiries, I replied that I was satisfied.

Mr McCay:

– After asserting that I was interfering with the liberty of the subject.

Mr CROUCH:

– I said that the Department was illegally detaining this man.

Mr McCay:

– Although he was legally sworn in.

Mr CROUCH:

– I made no charge against the ex-Minister of Defence, except that, as the official head of the Department, it was his duty to see that the regulations were properly carried out. If a man is illegally detained by the Department, the Minister must be held responsible. Such a state of affairs could not exist in the Imperial Army.

Mr McCay:

– The man is not illegally detained ; he was lawfully sworn in.

Mr CROUCH:

– I hold that the regulations should be properly carried out, and that the form to which I have already referred should be placed in the hands of every man who offers to enlist in the Permanent Artillery. It is admitted by SergeantMajor Paul-

Mr McCay:

– Will the honorable and learned member read the rest of SergeantMajor Paul’s memorandum?

Mr CROUCH:

– It is admitted by SergeantMajor Paul that the authorized form is supplied only when asked for.

Mr McCay:

– Will the honorable and learned member read the other part of the memorandum ?

Mr CROUCH:

– He says that Part X. of the regulations “ is always read to intending recruits.” The honorable and learned member for Corinella gave us a most unfortunate exhibition of spleen when he sought to prove that my statements were inaccurate.

Mr Page:

– I do not think that he did.

Mr CROUCH:

– The way in which my interjections were received by him clearly showed that there was spleen on his part. In the course of his statement, the.exMinister of Defence said that I had simply forwarded a statement, made by Sheehan, to the effect that he objected to pay for vegetables for the- mess. As a matter of fact, I forwarded a statement, in which he complained that he was being illegally detained, and urged he had a right to be allowed to leave.

Mr Page:

– How could he be illegally detained after he was sworn in ?

Mr CROUCH:

– The regulations provide that a recruit shall be sworn in a certainmanner - that the conditions of service shall be clearly explained to him. When compliance is not made with those regulations - when a man is sworn in contrary to the regulations - it cannot be Said that he is legally detained. From a perusal of the papers I have gleaned the source of certain information relative to the Royal Australian Artillery, which appears in to-day’s issue of the Melbourne morning newspapers. It is stated in- both journals that many men enlist for service at Queenscliff in order that they may have the advantage of the summer season, and be able to flirt with the visitors at the seaside.

Mr McCay:

– I know nothing of the source of that information.

Mr CROUCH:

– Quite so; but among the papers I find a memorandum, by Colonel “Percy Ricardo, State Commandant of Victoria, which contains the following disgraceful statement : -

If it once becomes known that men can enlist in the R.A.A. and claim their discharges at the end of three months, it will be looked upon as a good way for the unemployed to put in the summer months at a popular seaside resort.

I am quite sure that it was never intended that the R.A.A. should be used for this purpose.

This is a most extraordinary statement for the State Commandant to make, and it indicates the source of some of the inspired paragraphs that appear in the press. I trust that the new Minister of Defence will show more consideration for the liberty of the subject^ than has hitherto been exhibited in connexion with this case. I do not say that the honorable and learned member for Corinella, as Minister of Defence, was personally responsible, but it was his duty to see that his subordinates carried out the regulations.

Mr McCAY:
Corinella

– I merely wish’ to read to .the House that part of the memorandum written by Sergeant-Major Paul, which the honorable .and learned member for Corio failed1 to read, although I asked him three times to do so.

Mr Crouch:

– Why did not the honorable and learned member read it?

Mr McCAY:

– Because I simply wished to show that I had taken every care, and had even caused inquiries to be made in such .a way as to avoid getting the man into trouble, although he had broken the regulations. In my minute to Colonel Hoad, I said that if his statements were correct, he had ground for complaint.

Mr Page:

– The honorable and learned member acted most fairly in the matter.

Mr McCAY:

– The statement which appears in Sergeant-Major Paul’s memorandum, and which the honorable and learned member for Corio did not read, is as follows : -

I am company sergeant-major, R.A.A., stationed at Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, for the last eighteen months. I was acting regimental sergeant-major at the time that Gunner Sheehanand others were enlisted at Melbourne. I distinctly remember explaining to Gunner Sheehan and others the Regulations and Orders, and particularly para. 18 of Part X., Australian Regulations ‘and Orders, referring to free discharge after three months’ service.

I was present when Gunner Sheehan and others were sworn in by Major Hawker, C.O., R.A.A., who, before swearing in, asked these men if they clearly understood the regulations under which they enlisted. . None of these men raised any question.

Mr Crouch:

– That statement does not appear in the memorandum received to-day, and that was the only one I read.

Mr McCAY:

– This is the statement of the sergeant-major concerned. I merely wish the House to know what it was that the honorable and learned member refused to read.

Mr MALONEY:
Melbourne

– It is all very well for the ex-Minister of Defence. to seek to put this matter aside in such a light and airy fashion as he has done; but we have to remember that there is a man’s freedom at stake. If Sheehan was induced to join under false pretences he should be’ detained no longer, whatever an ex-Minister or ten ex-Ministers of Defence may say. I shall ask the Minister of Defence to personally inquire into this case, and I have so much faith in his goodness of heart that I feel satisfied he will not allow Sheehan to be detained one day longer if he discovers that the Department is in the wrong. Surely we have not come down to the level of the barbarities practised in the armies of some of the continental countries. The exMinister, in common with the rest of the House, is to have a fortnight’s holiday ; and why should we allow this man to be illegally detained for even a day ?

Mr Page:

– Ha, ha !

Mr MALONEY:

-The honorable member for Maranoa would not laugh if the case related to a “toffy” officer. The statement that I have received from the men is that those who visit the big families in Toorak always received far more attention from the late Minister of Defence than did any man who was simply a gunner or a private in the ranks. I trust that the Minister of Defence will look into this case. It is said that a new broom sweeps clean. In this case the new broom will be handled by one who has at ‘ his back a far more liberal Ministry than that which has just been dispossessed of the Treasury Benches. Let the question be thoroughly sifted. The honorable and learned member for Corio has had as much military experience as has the ex-Minister.

Mr Crouch:

– No.

Mr MALONEY:
MELBOURNE, VICTORIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936

-Y. - Perhaps the honorable and learned member for Corio has not had as much experience as has the exMinister amongst the “swells” and “toffy” people of Toorak; but, at all events, he is prepared to act on information received. He believes that if the Minister will appoint a civil officer to inquire into the matter, it will be shown that he has correctly stated the facts. I appeal to the Minister to see this matter righted without a moment’s delay.

Mr PAGE:
Maranoa

– I do not know why the honorable member for Melbourne should have lashed himself into a fury in dealing with this case. When the honorable and learned member for Corio brought the matter before the House, I requested the then Minister of Defence to allow me to peruse the papers relating, to it. He willingly complied with my request, and, after looking through them, I arrived at the con.clusion that he had gone out of his way to shield the man from trouble. It cannot be said that a man who has been sworn in is illegally detained. It is idle to suggest, as the honorable member for Melbourne would have us believe, that Sheehan was taken by the collar of his coat, and dragged into the service. He volunteered, in company with others.

Mr Maloney:

– I did not say that he was dragged in.

Mr PAGE:

– The honorable member worked himself into a passion in talking about something of which he knew nothing. If this man had been in the Imperial service, he would have found himself in Millbank as the result of his action. When a man volunteers he knows what he is going to do, and we should have a curious army indeed if it were open to any soldier, at the end of three, months’ service, to retire, on finding that the work was not to his taste. Could the Commonwealth be expected to incur the expense of clothing and feeding a recruit, and teaching him his drill, if at the end of three months he might leave in this way? If we are to have a service on such lines, the sooner we appoint the honorable member for Melbourne General Officer Commanding the better.

Mr DEAKIN:
Minister of External Affairs · Ballarat · Protectionist

– My honorable colleague, the Minister of Defence, has undertaken to look into this matter immediately, and he will have an opportunity next week of indicating what is his judgment upon it.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 4. 1-5 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 July 1905, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19050707_reps_2_25/>.