2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. G. B. EDWARDS presented a petition from the Chamber of Manufactures, Sydney, against the provisions in the Trade Marks Bill relating to union labels.
Petition received and read.
Mr. DEAKIN presented a petition from certain residents of Appin, praying that stringent legislation be enacted to prevent the importation of opium for smoking purposes into the Commonwealth.
Mr. BATCHELOR presented a similar petition from certain residents of South Australia.
Sir LANGDON BONYTHON presented three similar petitions.
Mr. GLYNN presented two similar petitions.
Mr. HUTCHISON presented three similar petitions.
Mr. POYNTON presented forty one similar petitions.
– Yesterday I asked the Minister representing, the Minister of Defence a question with regard to the manufacture of guns, small arms, and cordite within the Commonwealth. The Minister promised that information would be afforded later on. I wish to know whether he can give me an answer to-day ?
– I regret to say that I cannot give the honorable and learned member a reply to-day. Upon consideration, the matter has disclosed some amount of difficulty, and it is hot possible to furnish a reply at a day’s notice. The honorable and learned member will be fortunate if the Minister of Defence is able to furnish a reply within a week - I do not think it can be done within that time.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer whether he has ascertained that he was correct in stating last week that the case of Messrs. Bartholomew and Frizzell, in which claims were made for retiring gratuities, had been settled by him?
– I have not yet ascertained, but I shall do so to-morrow.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Are the military clerics who were in the employment of any State at the establishment of the Commonwealth, eligible for appointment to a position in the corresponding division ofthe Public Service of the Commonwealth under section 33 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act?
– On behalf of the AttorneyGeneral, I have to inform the honorable member -
This question involves the consideration of the Public Service Acts and the Defence Acts of each of the States prior to Federation, as well as the Commonwealth Public Service and Defence Acts. It also necessitates precise information as to the status of the military clerks referred to under State laws prior to the Defence Departments being transferred. Inquiries are now being made for the purpose of ascertaining the position, anil if the honorable member will be good enough to further postpone his question an answer will be given as soon as possible.
WORK PERFORMED FOR STATES GOVERNMENTS.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he will approach the various State Governments with a view to recompensing those officers of his Department who have performed State work referred to in a question asked by Mr. Watkins yesterday ?
– In reply to the honorable member -
This is one of the questions which was discussed at the Conference between the Commonwealth and State Ministers held in Hobart in February last; no decision was, however, arrived at, and the matter is still under consideration.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until a quarter-past three o’clock to-morrow.
– I have no objection to the motion, but I should like to know whether the time lost owing to our meeting at a later hour than usual will be deducted from that usually devoted to the consideration of private business. I think it is only fair that any deficiency should be made good, say, after the adjournment for tea. The first three motions on the noticepaper are of extreme importance, and I think that my suggestion might fairly be adopted.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat- Minister of External Affairs). -If the time at our disposal to-morrow afternoon proves insufficient for the first motion, I shall take care that an extra three-quarters of an hour is allowed for further discussion at some time during the evening.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
SUPPLY BILL (No. 2).
Attorney-General’s Retainer from South Australian Government : Rifle Ranges at Toowong and Sandgate: Post-offices at Drysdale and Geelong : Importation of Opium : Telegraph Employees : Public Service Classification : Divisional Returning Officers : Treasurer’s Advance Account.
In Committee of Supply:
Sir JOHN FORREST (Swan- Treasurer). - I move -
That a sum not exceeding £363,283 be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1906.
The last Temporary Supply Bill, for the month of July, provided for £418,751, made up of £356,751 for ordinary votes, £12,000 for refunds, and £50,000 for the Treasurer’s Advance Account. The present Bill provides for ordinary votes amounting to £283,283, refunds amounting to £10,000, and for £70,000 for the Treasurer’s Advance Account. Honorable members will notice that the sums appropriated towards the Treasurer’s Advance Account in the last Supply Bill, and in the present measure, together represent a total of £120,000. It is customary to provide on the Estimates for £200,000 for the Treasurer’s Advance for the year. It may strike honorable members that we are now asking for an excessive sum, but I would point out that £50,000 isrequired for the purpose of making progress payments in connexion with new works and buildings which were commenced before the end of the last financial year, and are still being carried on, and £25,000 for the construction and extension of telegraph and telephone lines, which are still in progress. Payments in connexion with the purchase of Defence material will absorb ^10,000, and a margin of only ,£35,000 will be left until the Appropriation Bill is passed and the various votes are recouped. No provision is made in this Bill for the payment of any increases under the Public Service Classification Scheme. None of these will be paid until Parliament has authorized them, and that cannot be said to have been done until the Appropriation Bill is passed. I think that that is a reasonable and proper way of dealing with increases generally, whether under a classification scheme or otherwise. There is nothing in the Bill that calls for special comment, because it merely provides for the expenditure upon the public service in- accordance with the votes of last year.
-! presume there will be no objection to this Bill. 1 accept the statement of the Treasurer that the Bill provides merely the necessary instalment for the ordinary expenditure of Government, and there being in it no special items of a debatable character, I know of no reason why it may not be allowed to pass. But I wish to take this opportunity to raise a question which concerns the Attorney-General chiefly, and I very much regret that that honorable and learned gentleman is not in the Chamber. That, however, is not my fault, as I sent him word by the Government whip that I proposed to raise this question.
– I think that the information has only just reached him.
-The question to which I wish to draw attention is, as I view it, of very serious importance. affecting, as it does, the relation of the AttorneyGeneral to the judicial powers of the States and the Commonwealth. As honorable members know, the South Australian Hansard is not the equal of our publication, because the reports of debates have to filter through the newspaper offices before becoming .part of the permanent record. I have tried to get the latest issue of the South Australian Hansard, recording certain statements which were made in the House 6f Assembly there, but as it has not yet arrived, I will quote a newspaper report - I think of the Adelaide Advertiser - which, J believe, generally gives an even better account of the business transacted in ;the local Legislature than does the official record. At any rate, I think that the report in this newspaper is substantially correct. The statements to which I wish to draw attention read as follow : -
In the House of Assembly on. Thursday afternoon Mr. McDonald asked if the Treasurer could give the House any information as to the present position of the Murray waters question. Mr. Peake, in reply, said the Government were trying to get that matter pushed on as fast as possible. The small retainer paid to Mr. Isaacs would expire within a day or two, and he had authorized the continuance of his retainer. With the object of getting the matter dealt with as soon as possible, he had arranged to hold a consultation with Mr. Glynn on Monday morning. In the meantime Mr. Glynn had informed him that he had consulted counsel in Melbourne, and he was hoping that Mr. Glynn would be in a position to advise him definitely as to when the case would be taken, up. It was thought the High Court would before long be sitting in Adelaide, arid he would like to arrange, if possible, that the case should be taken then. . . . Mr. Rounsevel asked on whose advice Mr. Peake was acting as to the South Australian riparian rights at the present time - that of Mr. Glynn, Sir Josiah Symon, or Mr. Isaacs. Mr. Peake said the position was that Mr. Glynn was acting as solicitor for the Government, and Sir Josiah Symon and Mr. Isaacs, King’s counsel, had been retained by the Government. The three lawyers named were acting in conjunction.
My point is that the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth ought not to bq retained by a State Government on any such important matter as this.
– Against the Commonwealth Government.
– Not necessarily, but possibly, against the Commonwealth Government.
– The Attorney-General of the late Government was similarly retained.
– That does not alter my view of the case.
– Why. did not the honorable member raise the question then?
– I expected some such objection as that from honorable members seated on the corner benches, and it has come. Surely the AttorneyGeneral might have been left to make that kind of apology. Whoever may be involved, my view of the case is the same. My point is that the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth ought not to be in a position in which his functions as the representative of the Commonwealth Government may conflict with obligations which he has undertaken to a State Government. There are innumerable possibilities for conflict arising in connexion with this very thorny question of the control of navigation and irrigation,. and I submit that, in regard to it, the Attorney-General should not hold his present anomalous position.
– lt is not a question arising between a State and the Commonwealth.
– The question of the control of rivers and water rights is intimately connected with the question of Inter-State commerce, and to show how thorny it is, and how very readily points of conflict may arise between the Commonwealth and States authorities, I should like to direct the attention of the House to a short statement in Quick and Garran’s Annotated Constitution. Speaking of the concurrent powers of the States, they say -
The navigation power being part of the trade and commerce power, is not “exclusively” vested in the Parliament of the Commonwealth, and, therefore, the concurrent power of the States to deal with Inter-State navigation and with navigable waters will continue, subject to be ousted in part or in whole by Federal legislation.
Later on, they say -
A State may not only, in the absence of Federal legislation, improve the navigability of rivers, hut may even obstruct navigability.
The trend of the statement there made is that in the absence df Federal legislation the States may take their own course with regard to the waters running through their territories. The only power that may say them nay is the power of the Commonwealth Government, interposing in the interests of unrestricted freedom of trade and commerce. The quotation continues -
It would seem therefore that, in the absence of Federal legislation, the States may exercise concurrent control over all navigable waters within their jurisdiction; subject, of course, to: all the constitutional conditions, such as the prohibitions against interfering with freedom of trade and against discriminating against the citizens of other States by which the exercise of State power is controlled.
The States having these large powers over their waterways, it is quite clear that we may at any time come into direct conflict with any of them in regard to the question of the navigability of the waterways, and also with regard to a possible interference with trade as between one State and another. As this Federal power stands thus related to the States, the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth ought to hold himself free to exercise it at any moment which may be necessary. In other words, he is the watchdog of the Commonwealth with regard to the question of Inter-State free dom of intercourse, and the preservation of the navigability of the waters of the various States. It is quite clear, however, that he cannot be our legal watchdog, and, at the same time, the legal watchdog of the South Australian Government. The old saying that no man can serve two masters applies in this case.
– Lawyers are an exception
– I do not think that lawyers should be an exception in an important matter of this kind. It is quite clear that the Attorney-General cannot be for us against South Australia, and for South Australia against us at one and the same time, unless he has a dual personality like that of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I know that at times lawyers do very strange things, but I think that we should keep the domains of these functions very clear, and should see that our law officers are in a condition of absolute independence. If the Attorney-General has advised the South. Australian Government on this matter, as I understand from the newspaper report hie has, the procedure laid down is that the honorable and learned member for Angas, a respected member of this House, is acting as solicitor for the South Australian Government in the case.
– Is that proper ?
– I see a very great distinction between the position of the Attorney-General and that of a private member of this House. It might happen at a later stage that the honorable and learned member for Angas might be somewhat fettered in dealing with these questions when they come before the House for discussion and decision, but that is a very different thing from the position of the AttorneyGeneral, to whom is intrusted the . prime responsibility of safeguarding the judicial powers of the Commonwealth. Whether it is right or wrong, proper or improper, for a private member to be concerned in this matter has nothing to do with the point which I am discussing. If the Attorney-General has advised the South - Australian Government on the questions ‘ of the navigability of rivers and of water rights, as they affect South Australia, he ought not to continue to hold his present office in the Government, because he will not be in the independent position which he ought to occupy in dealing with conflicting rights should any question ‘happen to arise respecting them.
– Perhaps the honorable member would like to see the Attorney-General out of the Government?
– I have not the slightest wish to see him out of the Government.
– Surely this is a legitimate point to raise.
– It is a very strange thing that these actions are defended by members of the Labour Party. I admit that the caucus can do with impunity any kind of political wrong, so long as it is solid ; but if any set of men in creation should raise a matter of this sort it is those who are deriding me for my present effort to see that the question is set right. I am not going to labour the subject. I shall be very much interested in hearing, after I have sat down, the defence of the Attorney-General by those who are now interjecting. The honorable and learned member has bound himself by oath to guard the judicial power of the Commonwealth, and, therefore, he should not be retained by a Government whose interests may conflict at any given point of time with those of the Commonwealth. I remember a somewhat similar case in New South Wales, in which two members of the local Legislature, who are now Justices of the High Court, were involved. They had accepted retainers against the Railway Commissioners of New South Wales, and the New South Wales Legislative Assembly censured them for doing so in the severest terms that it could use. As a consequence, they resigned Ministerial positions to save the Government to which they belonged. This is a somewhat similar question. I submit that the Attorney-General ought to be able to tell the House that he is absolutely free and untrammelled in his office - which I venture to say he will have some difficulty in doing in view of the facts as we know them - or he should no longer retain his position as supreme guardian of the rights of the Commonwealth against the States. I have no word to say of the honorable and learned gentleman in his private relations. He is as free as any other member of the Chamber to conduct his private business in his own way, and no one Kas a right to cavil at him for pursuing his private avocations so long as they do not conflict with his public duties. In this case he appears to’ be exercising a dual function for two public bodies, the Parliament of a State, and the Parliament of the Common- wealth, and he cannot serve them both with independence and without limitations. I do not impugn his honour in any way. My own impression is that he is committing an error of judgment in accepting these retainers. I understand that he has not accepted a retainer since he assumed the position of Attorney-General. The newspaper statement is to the effect that his retainer will expire in a few days.
– Has he not already relinquished his retainer?
– Not that I am aware of.
– Why should he?
– If that is the view entertained by the Prime Minister, I shall, be glad to hear the reasons which he has to assign for it. I say that where the States are guaranteed such large powers of control in respect of the rivers of the Commonwealth, and where the Federal jurisdiction may, at any moment, clash with the State jurisdiction, the Attorney-General ought to be free from any State engagements in dealing with the question from a purely Federal stand-point. He cannot be said to be free so long as he is in the pay of a State Government.
– The honorable member did not discover that fact when Senator Sir Josiah Symon filled the office of AttorneyGeneral.
– What has that circumstance to do with the matter? The facts were only published in the newspapers last week.
– They have been known for months.
– I assure honorable members that the statement which I saw in the newspapers last week was the first intimation that I had of the facts, and I do not hesitate to say that if I had known that Senator Sir Josiah Svmon when Attorney-General, had been retained by the South Australian Government in such a matter, I should have instantly brought it under the notice of the House. If the honorable member for Hindmarsh and the Prime Minister have been cognizant of the facts they have failed in their duty by neglecting to bring them immediately before this Chamber.
– Surely the right honorable member for East Sydney could not have failed in his duty. He knew the circumstances of the case when he was Prime Minister.
– May I say to the honorable member that I do not know what the right honorable member would or would not do. In this matter, fortunately, 1 am not like the honorable member .for the Barrier. I have not to consult the caucus before coming here. The moment that I saw this announcement in the newspapers I decided to bring the facts before the House, and, in the discharge of what I conceive to be an obligation upon my part, I am making, these remarks. I should be very glad indeed to hear the AttorneyGeneral’s statement upon this matter. If he can show that there is no possibility of a conflict arising between his duty to the South Australian Government - a duty for which he is being paid - and his duty as the defender and guardian of the judicial power of the Commonwealth. I shall have no more to say upon this subject. In my judgment, however, he cannot simultaneously accept payment from a State Government and from the Federal authorities, and still retain his independence absolutely. I understand that the honorable and learned gentleman is being instructed in this matter by the honorable and learned member for Angas. It is not difficult to imagine the Attorney-General having this same matter presented to him subsequently by our own Solicitor-G’eneral, and I venture to say that, on the presentation of the case by the honorable and learned member for Angas, and its presentation by the SolicitorGeneral of the Commonwealth, a very different opinion might be pronounced. That is the fact which we have to face. After being advised by the honorable and learned member for Angas, and after having furnished an opinion to the South Australian Government upon this matter, the identical question may again come before the Attorney-General on the presentation of a case by the Solicitor-General of the Commonwealth, and the honorable and learned gentleman will then be confronted with the statement which he has previously made to the South Australian Government, and for which he has received their pay. I say that the Attorney-General is paid a salary by the Commonwealth for the especial purpose of keeping him free and untrammelled from retainers from any other quarter. I submit that, so long as he holds his position as Attorney-General, he has no right to be in the pay of any State Government, or to give them any legal opinions whatever.
– The honorable member’s remarks are very severe upon Senator Sir Josiah Symon.
– I cannot help who they are severe upon. I regret it if they are. The honorable member might be at a little less trouble concerning Senator Sir Josiah Symon. This is not a question as to who is affected. I believe that a great principle is at stake in this seemingly simple matter, and, believing that, I take this opportunity of bringing it before the House at the earliest possible moment. I understand that the Prime Minister knows all about the case. At any rate, from his interjection, I opine that he is entirely in accord with the AttorneyGeneral in this matter, and sees no reason why that honorable and learned gentleman should separate himself from the South Australian Government. In other words, he sees no reason why the AttorneyGeneral should not occupy the dual position of adviser to the South Australian and the Federal Governments upon a matter which at any moment may bring his duties as between that State and the Commonwealth into conflict. In bringing this question under the notice of honorable members, I feel that I am discharging a simple duty - a duty in the interests of the purity of the administration of the judicial powers of the Commonwealth. I hope that we in this House shall always be sensitive upon matters which relate to the purity of the administration of justice. I wish that the Attorney-General himself had been present, and I shall be glad indeed to hear what he has to say upon this important matter.. I should be pleased to learn that he has decided not to accept any other retainer from the South Australian Government. If that were the case, I should have no more to say upon the subject. The retainer which he at present enjoys is, I understand, just about to run out, and if he declares that he will accept no further retainer from that Government I shall be satisfied. It seems that he accepted this retainer before he became AttorneyGeneral.
– But he is still acting for the South Australian Government.
– My own impression is that the moment he became AttorneyGeneral he ought to have ceased to have the slightest connexion with the South Australian Government upon this matter. However, he has chosen to take another course, and I can only leave the matter to the judgment of the House.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat - Minister of External Affairs). - My own knowledge of this matter is not absolutely complete, but I suppose that, like the bulk of newspaper readers, I have been acquainted for more than a year with the fact that Senator Sir Josiah Symon and the honorable and learned member for Angas, as well as my learned colleague, have been retained by the South Australian Government in connexion with the claim of that State to the use of the Murray waters. Of course, my honorable friend, the deputyleader of the Opposition, is not to be censured for using terms, in the course of his argument, which occasionally apply to a case at law, which occasionally apply to the offering of an opinion, which sometimes apply to the action of the AttorneyGeneral as Attorney-General, and at other times to him as a member of this House who happens to practise at the Bar. I do not pause to disentangle these matters,although they are capable of conveying false impressions, unless they are discriminated. The retainer from the South Australian Government, I understand, was not given to the Attorney-General as a preliminary to any judicial proceeding. No judicial proceeding has commenced, and no judicial proceeding need follow. That retainer is one to furnish an opinion to the State of South Australia in relation to its claims to the waters of the Murray as against the States of New South Wales and Victoria.
– That is a question in which the Federal jurisdiction may be involved at any moment.
– I will come to that matter in an instant. In the first place, these retainers were given, I think, before Senator Sir Josiah Symon accepted office. I do not think that they were granted during the time that he held office as AttorneyGeneral.
– He should have retired too.
– Perhaps those who do not clearly understand what is the nature of the facts or the duty to be performed should not be so ready to pass judgment. They would not venture to do so if they were summoned to act as jurors, and were called upon to decide as to the life or reputation of a fellow citizen. Because they are members of
Parliament they are not relieved of their obligations in relation to another member of Parliament, even if they are politically opposed to him. Before passing judgment they ought at least to know the facts.
– No one has impugned the honour of the Attorney-General.
– Then what do the remarks of the honorable member mean ? I communicatedwith the Attorney-General the moment the honorable member for Parramatta rose to address the Committee, and informed him of the fact that this matter was about to be brought forward. He stated in reply that he would be here as soon as the engagement upon which he had entered would permit. I would point out that the three learned members to whom I have referred are engaged in framing an opinion upon behalf of a State with regard to its riparian rights as contrasted with the rights of other States. I only know in a general way to what that opinion relates. It may be framed in such a way as to render any consideration of the relations of the Commonwealth to the States almost impossible. It may be framed in such a way as to render a consideration of Commonwealth rights highly improbable, or it may be framed in such a way as to involve them. But the fact remains - a fact to which I should not have called attention had it not been already referred to - that the Attorney-General of thelate Government during the whole period that he occupied that office, remained one of the advisers of the South Australian Government on this matter without recognising that, in so doing, he was guilty of any dereliction of duty.
– He should have resigned. If Parliament had been sitting he would have been compelled to do so.
– As I have already said, I deprecate the judgment of the honorable member upon the late Attorney-General as not being justified by the knowledge which he possesses. If an opinion is asked upon a question of riparian rights-
– I have passed no judgment.
– But judgment has been passed by those all round the honorable member. If an opinion has been asked by the South Australian Government, not in relation to any case, but merely as a piece of legal advice, it need not involve any consideration of the rights of the Commonwealth, and if it does not, nobody can suggest that any of these three honorable gentlemen have taken a course which is not perfectly open to all of us. The honorable member for Parramatta is not capable of deciding. I am not capable of deciding, nor is any one, except the three gentlemen themselves. I am perfectly sure thatif the present Attorney-General or the late occupant of that officehad found in the course of giving an opinion to the South Australian Government that they were in any way hampering their absolute freedom of action in regard to the Commonwealth they would at once have ceased to advise that State or to hold a retainer upon its behalf.
– It would have been a different thing if they had accepted a brief.
– Exactly. But whether such a point has arisen we cannot decide. The question of Commonwealth rights may never be raised1, and under such circumstances it would be preposterous to say that, in a dispute between different States, any honorable member is not justified in advising a State Government upon its rights just as much as he is warranted in advising a private client upon a private question. The only objection that can be urged by any honorable member who criticises their action is that possibly in some unknown way the rights of the Commonwealth may be prejudicially involved, and that the AttorneyGeneral may then conceivably be prevented from taking that complete view of Commonwealth interests which he otherwise would do. I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that under such circumstances both thepresent AttorneyGeneral and the late Attorney-General would at once have placed their duty to the Commonwealth before that of any client, even if that client happened to be a State Government. In these circumstances thematter requires no argument upon my part. Every member of this House, except one or two, must have been aware that the gentlemen to whom I have referred were being consulted upon a matter of opinion - upon a very difficultquestion, and one involving a great many considerations of a strictly legal character - questions as between the States which require solution. Until it is shown insome way that the public duty qf these honorable members or any one of them clashes with his professional dutv to his client, this debate is quite beside the mark. When that posi tion arises it will not be necessary for anybody to call attention to it.
– But if it did arise would it be advisable for the AttorneyGeneral to be mixed up in it?
– It would be perfectly immaterial. He is merely asked to give an opinion. If he finds that he is called upon to deal with the rights of the Commonwealth it will be an easy matter for him to refrain from offering that opinion.
– An opinion which he is paid to give?
– He accepted this retainer long before he became AttorneyGeneral. How can this House discuss the question on the simple assumptionthat, because the rights of certain States ate in dispute as between themselves, the rights of the Commonwealth are necessarily involved ? No one can say that, and until if can be said there can be no foundation for the argument that the rights of the Commonwealth are in any way involved. If the position of the Commonwealth is not affected, this discussion has.no meaning, and can have no issue.
– Is not the action of the Attorney-General tantamount to the acceptance of an office of profit under the Crown ?
– When any conflict does arise, we can rely on the AttorneyGeneral, or any other honorable member who is placed in a like position, dealing with it.
– It will then be too late to deal with it.
– It is absurd to say that. It is not a judicial proceeding of which complaint is made, but the giving of art opinion, and it is open to the AttorneyGeneral to stop at any point he pleases. He may not believe that a Commonwealth issue will arise, and such an issue may never be raised. The whole matter is merely one of speculation. It would be absurd to call upon the Attorney-General to do, because of his office, what the late Attorney-General did not feel called upon to do ; both have as keen a sense of honour as any membersof the profession.
– We have just listened to an appeal made by one member of the legal profession in defence of another, but I hold that the honorable member for Parramatta has performed a patriotic duty in bringing this matter before the
House. I would inform those who have suggested that the leader of the Opposition, while holding office, once acted in a case against the State Government, that he did not do anything of the kind. When he held the brief, to which reference has been made, Be was not even a member of the Government. As a matter of fact, he refused to accept a retainer against the Railway Department, holding that, as a public man, his hands would be tied if he were to do so. As to the charge which has been made by the honorable member for Parramatta, are we to understand that because a distinguished lawyer occupies a distinguished office in the Government we are to consider that the allowance attaching to that office is not sufficiently lucrative, and that he’ is to be at liberty to accept briefs in cases against the Commonwealth .
– No retainer was involved in the case in point.
– I contend_ that a public man’s first duty is to his country. I am astounded that the Labour Party should defend the action of a distinguished lawyer who, while acting as Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, is prepared to advise a State in a matter involving Commonwealth issues. The Prime Minister said that the mere giving of an opinion was a different matter altogether from the acceptance of a brief against the Commonwealth; but I would point out that the opinion in question may lead the State to take action against the Commonwealth. In that event the AttorneyGeneral ‘ would have to advise the Commonwealth Government to adopt a certain course. The experience of all Parliaments is opposed to the action taken by the AttorneyGeneral. The late Sir Henry Parkes laid it down, in connexion with a similar case that arose in the Parliament of New South Wales, that an honorable member’s first concern should be to see to the right government of the country, and that a member of the legal profession, while acting as AttorneyGeneral or Solicitor-General in a State Government should not take part in any proceedings that might ultimately involve the Crown. The Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General of Great Britain are not even members of the Cabinet, yet they never think of accepting briefs in cases against the Crown. I do not take the view of the honorable member for Parramatta as to the position of the honorable and Seamed member for Angas. I believe that he is only in a degree less blameworthy than is the. Attorney-General. HHe has given an opinion regarding the position of South Australia in a. certain matter, and when that question comes before the Parliament he will be unable to deal with it as a representative of the people. If the position of AttorneyGeneral is- not sufficiently lucrative the honorable and learned member for Indi should resign it; if, on the other hand, it is, he should refuse to accept a retainer in any case against the Crown, and should decline to act in such a case even when, as a. private member, he had accepted a retainer: The Attorney-General may be called upon at any time to act in defence of the Government, or of any of the Departments of the Commonwealth, and his professional interests must not be allowed to clash with the discharge of his public duties. Why should’ an honorable member, simply because he is a prominent member of the legal, profession, be allowed in the. morning to advise a private client contemplating proceedings against the Crown, and in the afternoon to attend in this House and contend that a certain course of. action should be taken relating to those proceedings ? If honorable members are anxious to secure large incomes, they should resign on finding that their public duties interfere with the carrying out of that desire. It may be said that if that course of action were insisted upon, we should have but few lawyers of distinction in the House; but even if that were the result, the Commonwealth would not suffer great loss. I am satisfied, however, that members of the legal profession are as anxious to serve the public as are any other members of the community, and are prepared to make sacrifices in order to gratify their desire. Although it has been pleaded that the Attorney-General has done no more than give a certain opinion to the Government of South Australia, it must be recognised that that opinion may induce the State to take action against the Commonwealth. In that event, the AttorneyGeneral would have to defend the ‘Commonwealth, and would find himself in a curious position. I trust that the Labour Party will accept my assurance that the leader of the Opposition has always refused to appear in cases involving the interests of the Government.
– The interests of the Commonwealth are not involved in the case in. point.
– They certainly are. The question of the navigability of the Murray may arise at any time, and in that event the Commonwealth would be at once involved in any proceedings by one State against another. We might have to take a stand in the interests of Victoria and New South Wales as against South Australia. The Attorney-General ofSouth Australia has said distinctly that he desires to bring a case before the High Court to determine questions affecting the waters of the Murray, and no doubt he will institute proceedings at no distant date. In that event, South Australia will defend what it believes to be its rights, as defined by the honorable and learned member for Angas, the Attorney-General, and the late Attorney-General of the Commonwealth.
– I see nothing criminal in that.
– I remember a time when the Labour Party had no very friendly feeling for the lawyers, but it appears that they have developed a desire to pose as the defenders of members of the legal profession in this House. We are not asking that the Attorney-General shall sacrifice his private practice while in office, but merely that he shall not act in any case that may involve Commonwealth issues. I heard of his position in this matter for the first time this morning, and although I spoke to eight or nine honorable members about it, I found that it had not previously come under their notice. We are assured, however, by the Prime Minister, that he knew of the position occupied by the honorable and learned member for Indi at least twelve months ago. All I can say is that we have brought the case before the House at the first opportunity, and have discharged what we conceive to be the true duty of an Opposition. Surely this is not a mad rush for the shekels on the part of the AttorneyGeneral? Surely he is not so strongly imbued with the desire to accumulate wealth that he is prepared on the one hand to be paid by the Commonwealth for the discharge of certain public duties, and on the other, to accept fees for giving opinions relating to a case that may involve Commonwealth issues. I have yet to learn that the private interests of an honorable member are to be considered paramount to his public duties.
– Honorable members of the Opposition appear to have for gotten an incident which took place in New South Wales, when the then Premier of the State acted for a ship-owner against the Newcastle Marine Board.
– He did not.
– It is useless for the honorable member to deny my statement, because the matter was discussed in the State Parliament. I should not have referred to it, but that the name of the right honorable gentleman in question has been mentioned during this debate. It has been said that he would not be guilty of such an action as that for which the AttorneyGeneral has been blamed, but I know that his connexion with the Newcastle case was considered by some honorable members to be improper.
– The honorable gentleman was amongst the number.
– Probably I was, but I do not think I said a word against him at the time.
– He threw up his brief.
– No. He appeared in Court, and it was in this way that the matter came under the notice of the State Parliament.
– Even if he did, that does not justify the action of the AttorneyGeneral in this case.
– Certainly not. But I fail to see why it should be said or inferred that the leader of the Opposition would not do such a thing as the AttorneyGeneral and the late Attorney-General have done.
– The case in which the. right honorable member for East Sydney appeared for a ship-owner was a very small one; it was only a two-guinea job.
– It was more than that. He appeared for a ship-owner in proceedings against the Newcastle Marine Board; and the point was raised that that Board was really in the same position as the Railways Commissioners of the State, and was part and parcel of the Government of New South Wales.
– He should have stood out of it.
– Has the Attorney-General acted rightly?
– I think that he has acted rightly in that, as the Prime Minister has said, he need not, even at the last moment, do anything likely to clash with the interests of the Commonwealth. The question of navigation is the only one affecting the waters of the Murray that could give rise to issues affecting the Commonwealth.
– The fact is that the Attorney-General is under contract to the Federation, as well as to the State of South Australia.
– Only in the matter of giving opinions. Even if he gave an opinion against the Commonwealth, it would not be compulsory for him to take any action inimical to the interests of the Commonwealth.
– Does not the honorable gentleman know that the AttorneyGeneral has been retained to accept a brief for. the South Australian Government?
– No. All that I know is that he has been retained to give a legal opinion. It is a singular thing that the honorable member for Parramatta did not raise any objection when the late Attorney-General adopted the same course. So far as I can see, no harm can result from the action taken by the honorable and learned member for Indi. The Opposition attack the AttorneyGeneral, forgetting that the right honorable member for East Sydney, whilst Premier of New South Wales, actually appeared in an action against the State.
Mr. HIGGINS. (Northern Melbourne).I think that the honorable member for Parramatta has referred to a very important principle which cannot be too carefully observed ; but in this case the principle does not apply to the facts. It appears that before the Reid Government took office, Senator Symon, the Attorney-General, and the honorable member for Angas, were retained by1 the South Australian Government, and were also asked to furnish them with an opinion upon the Murray waters question. Nothing, has been done by way of legal proceedings, but counsel have merely been asked to give their opinion. I understand that that opinion-, was prepared before the present Attorney-General took office.
– It is not completed vet.
– It is not in writing, but I understand that for the last two months counsel have experienced difficulty in meeting to finally settle and commit their opinion to writing. Practically the whole of the work was done before the present Attorney-General took office. Honorable members may hardly know the practice, but I have no doubt that as soon as the Attor ney-General finds that there is the least conflict between the interests of the Federal power and those of the State of South Australia he will stop. That is our practice.
– I say that it ought not to be left to the judgment of the Attorney-General.
– We must leave such matters to the judgment of an honorable man.
– Not at all.
– At all events, I prefer to trust the experience and honour of the Attorney-General, who knows the facts, rather than the experience and honour of men who are not acquainted with the circumstances. I appreciate the jealousy of the honorable member for Parramatta in these matters.
– We all share it.
– And so do other honorable members, and we are glad to have the rule enforced. I do not believe, however, in raising such principles unless they apply to the facts. ‘ We have to remember that nothing was done in ‘this case by way of legal proceedings, either before or since the present Government took’ office. Nothing has been done even in the way of writing an opinion, but the Attorney-General is perfectly entitled to write his opinion if he thinks fit. It is strictly allowable for counsel to give an opinion to one person and afterwards to be retained by another person. At the same time, so far as my experience has gone, counsel do not proceed that far. At one time, when I was a member of the Victorian Parliament, the proprietor of a certain industry consulted -me, and I advised him. I afterwards found that the matter was to be brought before the Victorian Parliament, and I said, “ I am your adviser, and I cannot speak or vote in Parliament upon that question.” That is the action we take as a matter of course, without being told that we are making our private interests conflict with our public duties.
– The honorable and learned member disfranchised his electors in that case.
– Yes, but I was not aware at the time that I began to advise the gentleman referred to that his case would come before Parliament. I agree thoroughly with the honorable member for Parramatta, that if public duties conflict with private duties the former should be regarded as supreme. If censure can be appropriately applied to the AttorneyGeneral, it can with equal force be directed to the honorable and learned member for Angas. He has a duty to honorable members of this House, and he has acted perfectly in accordance with the dictates of principle. Honorable members have no right to make a dig at the Government in this case. I am confident that if the Attorney-General finds that there is any conflict between his duty to the South Australian Government and to the Federal power, he will stop dead and say, “ I shall deal no more with South Australia.” Questions constantly arise which call upon counsel to decide which of two conflicting retainers they shall accept, and the ordinary course is to accept the first one. In the case, however, of conflict between public duty and private duty, the former must, as I have said, be supreme.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).I think that the honorable member for Parramatta should be complimented upon bringing this matter forward, because it is one of the greatest importance. I am convinced, from the remarks of the Prime Minister, that he regards the situation as very serious. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne stated that the position of the honorable andlearned member for Angas was analogous to that of the AttorneyGeneral, but I cannot agree with him, because the honorable and learned member for Angas isin the position of a solicitor acting for the South Australian Government, and stating a case to counsel for their opinion. Counsel have been retained for several months to give an opinion upon a question involving the interests of several States, and in which the Federal Government may have to interfere. The South Australian Government could not act on the opinion of counsel unless such counsel prepared a case prior to the institution of a suit. If the counsel at present retained were to resign their positions as advisers, no case could be filed. The Attorney-General says that he will continue to act under his retainer for several months to come. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne said something with regard to theresponsibility of counsel, but they have no responsibility. They act for fees, for the recovery of which they cannot sue.
– They can in Victoria.
– In New South Walescounsel cannot suefor the recovery of their retainers. The Attorney-General says that he will earn the retainer, to which he will not be entitled until the full period covered by it has expired. He is acting for one of the States against other States in the matter of a distinctly Federal character, in whichhe Commonwealth authorities may be involved at any moment. He may, therefore, be called upon to act for the Commonwealth as well. It has been laid down by that great constitutional authority, Sir Henry Parkes, that such a state of affairs should not exist in Australia. Justice Sir Edmund Barton and Mr. Justice O’Connor had to resign their Ministerial offices owing to their having accepted retainers in actions which were being brought against a State Government. We are on the eve of a crisis. Either the Attorney-General must resign from the Ministry, or the Ministry should go down. The members of the Opposition have a very serious responsibility cast upon them, namely, to direct a motion of censure against the present Government. We must bring the AttorneyGeneral to his feet on the floor of the House immediately, in order that he may make an explanation. The Minister has, however, said that he will put off his explanation until he has fulfilled a minor engagement in one of the Courts. This is flaunting the House. The Government would be treated very generously if they showed proper consideration to honorable members. Members sitting on this side of the House are perfectly free to support non-contentious measures, and they could render the Government independent of any clique or section of their own supporters. The Attorney-General, instead of fulfilling his duty to the whole Commonwealth and paying proper deference to this Parliament, the supreme Court of Australia, has stated that he will fulfil a minor engagement in possibly a lower Court in the State of Victoria before he meets us to answer a grave charge. The question involved is one which has caused the resignations of members in times gone by. We are told by members of the Labour Party that because Senator Symon, when Attorney-General, held a retainer, the present Attorney-General is equally entitled to do so. I venture to say that if honorable members on this side of the House had been aware of the position occupied by Senator Symon at the time that he was a memberof the Reid Government they would have taken action similar to that adopted on the present occasion. The fact that Senator Sir JosiahSymonhas done wrong does not make the action of the Attorney-General right. The Minister of Trade and Customs positively admitted that the Attorney-General had accepted a brief, and he justified that acceptance because he said that a similar thing has been done in one of the States.
– But he disapproved of it.
– Yes; he expressed disapproval of it in the local Parliament. Therefore the Government are condemned on their own admissions. I hope that the acting leader of the Opposition will take another course, and communicate with the leader of the Opposition, so that we may have the matter thrashed out, and the Attorney-General compelled to give a satisfactory explanation to the citizens of Australia. If such an explanation is not given, either he or the present Administration must go. That this House should be sent to the country is of very little importance compared with a matter of vital constitutional consequence such as we are now discussing. I hope that the leader of the Opposition will act definitely and firmly in this matter.
– I cannot be accused of personal feeling in this matter. It is only to-day that I learned of the positions which the late AttorneyGeneral and the present Attorney-General occupy, and I make no distinction between them in regard to this case. It would have been infinitely better if Senator Sir Josiah Symon had retired from the case when accepting office as Attorney-General in the late Administration, and the honorable and learned member for Indi should, before becoming Attorney-General, have immediately freed himself from any legal entanglements which might afterwards make his position a difficult one. The Prime Minister censured honorable members on this side of the Chamber for taking up a case of which, he said, they knew nothing; but, after telling us that it was perfectly right for the Attorney-General to act as he is doing, he admitted that he knew nothing whatever of the case. The Attorney-General should be in his place to reply to the charge which has been made against him. As a member of a State Parliament, and as a member of the Commonwealth Parliament, I have objected to the legal members of a Government assuming a position different from that of non-legal members. Ever since I have been in this House I have seen that the legal members of Governments neglect their Ministerial and Parliamentary duties for their private business, and I understand that the honorable and learned member for Indi is not here to-day to reply to the charge which has been made against him, because he is conducting a private case in one of the minor courts of the State. When a legal gentleman accepts the office of law adviser to the Commonwealth of Australia, he should not allow his private business to interfere with the performance of his public duties to the extent to which some of our Attorneys-General have done. If there is one question which, more than another, is likely to bring theCommonwealth into conflict with the States, it is that affecting the control of the waters of the Murray River. More feeling has been created in connexion with that question amongst the people of the three States concerned than in connexion with any other public question that has arisen in Australia, and it is generally believed that one of the first contests between the Commonwealth and the States will arise in connexion therewith. The control of the navigation and the preservation of means of commerce on the Murray River is absolutely vested in the Commonwealth. South Australia’s claim affects the control of the navigation of the Murray, and it will be almost impossible for the subject to be thrashed out: to the bitter end without the Commonwealth being brought in. I therefore ask the AttorneyGeneral to consider whether it would not be infinitely better for his own sake that he should be quite free from any entanglements created by the acceptance of a retainer from the State of South Australia. I should not have had any objection to his completing the work which he had in hand at the time of his acceptance of office, and to his placing before his employers the opinion for which he has been paid. But he should then have retired from his position as legal adviser of South Australia on all questions in regard to which the State and the Commonwealth may some day be in conflict. The less legal members of the House mix themselves up in questions which may afterwards cause conflict between the Commonwealth and the States the better it will be for the interests of the Commonwealth and for their own interests. I am not going to saya harsh word about the Attorney-General. If he had been a private friend of mine, and I had known that he was. interested in this case, I should have used all the personal influence I possessed to induce him to retire from his entanglement with the South Australian Government, and i hope that his good sense will yet lead him to do what he should have done immediately he accepted office as Attorney-General.
– He must do it. The country will not stand this kind of thing.
-If the facts of this case had been known a few months ago, and the late Attorney-General had been charged-
– The Prime Minister showed that the late Attorney-General is just as guilty as the present Attorney-General.
– Then the honorable member and his party should have charged him with the offence.
– We put him out of office directly we had the opportunity.
– No one would have been more indignant, or would have said more about the injury likely to result to the public interest from the present state of things, than would honorable members who are now trying to turn this matter into ridicule, supposing the facts had been made known when the late AttorneyGeneral held office.
– We would have supported the Opposition if they had raised this objection in regard to Senator Sir Josiah Symon’s occupancy of the AttorneyGeneralship.
– I have always understood that the honorable member’s political standards are not very high, but if he publicly admits that he would have hounded down one man for doing that which he is prepared to defend in another, because the one was in opposition to him while the other is acting at his dictation, I make him a present of his morality. I hope that we shall not have much conduct like that in this House. The matter deserves serious consideration, and I hope that in the interests of good government the Attorney-General will retire from such professional engagements as may bring his duties to his clients into conflict with his duties as watch-dog of the rights of the Commonwealth.
– Every one agrees as to that.
– Every one does not agree as to that. Lawyer after lawyer has told us that the Attorney-General is doing what is perfectly right, although they are not acquainted with all the circumstances of the case.
– He should not accept briefs the holding of which conflict with the performance of his duties as AttorneyGeneral.
– The Commonwealth will almost certainly be dragged into litigation in regard to the control of the navigation of the Murray, and all Attorneys-General should refuse to act as private advisers in cases in which they may have to act in a public capacity. I am sure that the deputy leader of the Labour Party must see that that position is the correct one. No Minister should, for Lis personal ends, perform duties which may be in conflict with his public duties. It is certain that, sooner or later, the Commonwealth will be involved in regard to the control of the navigation and preservation of the waters of the Murray, the question upon which the Attorney-General has given an opinion to the State of South Australia. I hope that honorable members generally will give the matter more serious consideration than some of them seem inclined to give to it, because, if ever the Commonwealth comes into conflict with the States, it will be very disadvantageous to us if the Attorney-General of the day - Whether Senator Sir Josiah Symon, the honorable and learned member for Indi, or any one else - has been acting on behalf of a State instead of on behalf of the Commonwealth, whose paid servant he is.
– The point raised by the honorable member for Parramatta is a perfectly plain one, though it is questionable whether it applies to the present state of affairs. He contends that it is inadvisable for an Attorney-General to act on behalf of any State or person when the opinion given in that relation may be brought into conflict with the opinion he may have to give to the Commonwealth on some future occasion.
– I say not merely that it is inadvisable, but that it is grossly wrong.
– If at the time he undertook work for the State of South Australia the honorable and learned member for Indi knew that it would conflict with the performance of his duties as Attorney-General, the strictures which have been passed upon him would have been justified. What has happened is that he has been asked for his opinion. He has not been retained to fight for or against a particular view, but to state exactly what his opinion is in regard to certain questions, and in arriving at an opinion he must act as judicially as he can.
– The Prime Minister said that he need not give his opinion.
– I think that what the Prime Minister meant was that an opinion has not been given in connexion with a judicial proceeding.
– The Attorney-General hai not given an opinion in connexion wilh any judicial proceeding.
– Judicial proceedings are evidently contemplated, because there is a proposed reference to the High Court.
– The obtaining of legal opinions often prevents legal proceedings. A lawyer who is asked to state an opinion assumes, so far as he can, the functions of a Judge. He argues both sides of the question at issue, and endeavours to find out what opinion would be likely to be given by the Court before whom the question would be tried.
– We pay the AttorneyGeneral not to be a Judge for the State of South Australia, but’ to look after our interests.
– Does not the honorable member see that he is now raising another point? He surely does not wish to di;bar barristers who are members of Parliament from taking legal work. In a case of this kind a barrister acts practically as an arbitrator. The honorable and learned member for Angas has .been referred to as the solicitor for South Australia; but I understand that he is really junior counsel in the matter. It has long been a practice, not only in the States, but in England, where a very high standard of action has been set up, that legal work of the kind under consideration is not within the ordinary scope of an advocate’s duties. Before giving an opinion, counsel dissociates himself as much as possible from an advocate’s methods, and assumes rather the judicial functions of an arbitrator. That is exactly the work which counsel is doing for the time being. I admit that in cases involving Commonwealth issues, if a member of this House who happens to be a barrister is called upon to give a legal opinion, it is desirable that he should refrain from doing so. But if a barrister refused to have anything to do with any case merely because somebody happened to mention it in Parliament, I do not know where the members of the legal profession would land themselves. The real point is that there is a substantial difference between a member of this Parliament - who happens to be a barrister - accepting outside work, and the Attorney-General, acting as the chief legal adviser of the Commonwealth, taking similar work. It appears, however, that the Attorney-General accepted this retainer, went into the case very thoroughly, and gave his opinion upon it, many months before there was any prospect whatever of his assuming Ministerial office. I understand from at least one honorable member who is engaged in this case, that the three gentlemen who have been retained by the South Australian Government have practically agreed upon their opinion, and that the whole reason why any charge can be laid against the present’ AttorneyGeneral is that they have not had sufficient time, apart from their parliamentary duties, to meet together and formally sign that opinion. Nevertheless, I think that the honorable member for Parramatta acted rightly in bringing the matter, under the notice of the House, because the position of Attorney-General should be very jealously guarded. We should guard against our chief legal adviser becoming engaged in a case in which there might be a conflict between, his duty to the Commonwealth and his duty as adviser to some other litigant. It seems to me, however, that the circumstances of this case are not such as to call for reprobation, unless we decide that no barrister who is a member of the Commonwealth Parliament should accept work of any kind whatever. I do not think that I need dwell any further upon the case. As far as I can see, no conflict of interests has arisen, and perhaps sufficient good hasbeen accomplished by calling attention to the matter.
– The honorable and learned member who has just re sumed his seat, like other members of the legal profession, is very anxious that no bar should be placed bv any action of this Committee in the way of their obtaining outside work. He stated that if the AttorneyGeneral had known at the time he was asked for this opinion that the Commonwealth, in which he occupies so high a position, might in time be brought into conflict with that sovereign power which was seeking his advice, all the strictures which have been passed upon him for the action which he has taken would have been thoroughly merited. That obviously refines his case down to a consideration df whether the Attorney-General did or did not know or think at the time he accepted1 his retainer that the Commonwealth would eventually be brought into conflict with the State of South Australia upon this matter.
– No. The question is whether he thought that he would become AttorneyGeneral.
– At any rate, the honorable and learned gentleman has not yet offered an opinion, so that it is not too late for him to withdraw from his anomalous position. In view of the most valuable assistance to this debate which the presence of the Attorney-General might give - for he alone can tell us his opinion as to whether or not the Commonwealth will be likely to be brought into conflict with the State of South Australia - it is infinitely to be regretted that .he ‘has not seen fit to come within the precincts of the House to explain the exact position of this mattei.
– Why should he do so? He is earning money.
– I should be the last to suggest that the Attorney-General should take his place in this Chamber every afternoon of the week - I think that that would be too awful a sacrifice for him to make. But when the Committee are entering upon a debate of supreme constitutional importance, it is at ‘least due to us that he should attend, and render all the help that he possibly can. Recently the House, and particularly the Opposition, have been subjected to a series of insults at the hands of the Government. Day after day we have seen the Chamber empty, whilst important public questions have been under discussion. That condition of affairs has been aggravated this afternoon by the absence of the Attorney-General. We are discussing his action, and under the circumstances it is only proper- that he should be present to explain it. For that reason I suggest most respectfully to the Prime Minister that this debate should be adjourned until such time as it will be convenient for the AttorneyGeneral to attend here for the purpose of rendering a true account of the circumstances under which he was asked to give this opinion, and of stating whether it will bind him in the future.
Mr. WILKS (Dalley).- The honorable member for Wentworth has suggested that the debate should be adjourned. I pro pose to put that request in “the form of a definite proposal, and I therefore move -
That the proposed vote be reduced by £1.
I think that will bring the AttorneyGeneral to the table. If ever a legislative body has been contemptuously treated upon a high constitutional question, certainly this Chamber has been so treated by the Attorney-General. The honorable and learned gentleman was apprised, by the Opposition whip at one o’clock to-day of the intention of the honorable member for Parramatta to bring this matter forward, and, according to the Prime Minister, he was again notified when the deputy leader of the Opposition rose to speak. His reply was that he was engaged in Court practice. Surely that is evidence that a high and distinguished lawyer regards his private practice - his own interests - as of paramount importance. My proposal will test not only the feeling of the Committee, but also that of the Labour Party. For years past that party has been preaching the gospel of one man one billet ; but to-day we find them defending the lawyers.
– Everybody is becoming a lawyer nowadays.
– According to the interjection of the honorable member, those who are not in favour of lawyers are fast becoming lawyers. As was stated by the honorable member for Parramatta, the course followed by the Attorney-General involves a principle which is dangerous to the credit of Governments, and perilous to the security of great public interests, and I cannot conceive of any House allowing this matter to pass in the way that it appears to be doing. To me it is apparent that the Opposition have been too easy-going in their attitude towards the present Government. As regards the position of the AttorneyGeneral, his duty is clear ; either he should resign his Ministerial office or relinquish his position as counsel for the South Australian Government. The dangers attaching to the dual position which he holds have already been emphasized. The Prime Minister has admitted that the honorable and learned gentleman enjoys a retainer to give an opinion to the South Australian Government. Should he refuse to do so, in the event of Commonwealth rights becoming involved, he will fail in his duty to his client. Surely the Prime Minister will not place the AttorneyGeneral in that position? Because the rights pf the Commonwealth are endangered, is he not to act faithfully to the South Australian Government? If he does offer an opinion upon State rights, or upon the navigability of the River Murray - a matter in which South Australia is vitally interested, and in which the adjoining States are even more interested - we shall find his duties as counsel upon one side and as Attorney-General upon the other in conflict. Instead of being the custodian and guardian of our highest rights, he is treating us in- a most contemptuous manner. Was any Chamber ever flouted more than this Chamber has been flouted by him? No more serious attack could be made upon any public man than has been made upon the Attorney-General this afternoon. Does he imagine that that attack is prompted by mere caprice or whim ? I ask honorable members to note that, although lawyer after lawyer has been defending the Attorney-General, not one has excused the course which has been adopted by him. We find the legal fraternity true to their union rules. Every lawyer who has addressed the Committee has defended the Attorney-General, but not a single member has declared that the course which he adopted is a good one. The VicePresident of the Executive Council, the Minister of Trade and Customs, the honorable member for Riverina, and others, who were formerly members of the New South Wales Parliament, must have a vivid recollection of the great fight which was made in connexion with the Proudfoot case, in which two of the present Justices of the High Court were engaged., In this instance, the AttorneyGeneral has been retained on behalf of the South Australian Government to give an opinion upon the Murray waters question. That Government desires to appeal to the High Court, which is composed of three Justices, two of whom were censured for having engaged in a similar practice.
– But that was a case in which litigation had absolutely commenced.
– Where is the difference between the two?
– In one case, counsel was asked for an opinion ; in the other, counsel appeared as an advocate.
– The honorable and learned member for Werriwa says that in one instance there was litigation, whereas in the case under discussion there has been none. I fail to see where the distinction comes in. The South Australian Government ‘has retained certain gentlemen, pre sumably because of their distinguished legal ability. The whole of these three gentlemen are members of the Commonwealth Parliament. When they furnish their opinion; the South Australian Government will act upon it. What is the use of a State ‘incurring expense to obtain an opinion if it is not to be acted upon ?
– Legal opinions frequently prevent proceedings being taken.
– From the newspapers we learn that the South Australian Government has been asked to decide whether they will refer the matter in dispute to the High Court or to the Privy Council. Apparently they are in favour of remitting it to the former tribunal. In these circumstances the Commonwealth will probably come into conflict with the Government of South Australia, and the Attorney-General, as principal law officer of the Crown, will not only have to advise what action shall be taken by us, but, as a representative of the people, will have to take part in any discussion that may arise in this Chamber in regard to the question. I hold that the honorable and1 learned member for Angas, ‘in a less degree, has also committed an offence.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that no barrister in the House should accept any brief whatever?
– He should not accept a brief against the Crown.
– But in this case the AttorneyGeneral has not accepted a brief against the Commonwealth. It is simply a States matter.
– The Attorney-General must decide once and for all whether he is to sacrifice his private practice or neglect his public duties. The honorable member for Parramatta has brought forward one of the strongest complaints that could be made against a Ministry, and, although it has been pleaded that the late AttorneyGeneral when in office acted for the South Australian Government, I can only say that the then Opposition failed in their public duty by neglecting to bring his conduct before the House. As soon as I learned of the position of the Attorney-General in regard to this case I brought it under the notice of honorable members. When the action of two law officers of the Crown in New South Wales, in connexion with the Proudfoot .case, was discussed in the State Parliament of New South Wales, it was condemned by the honorable member for
Riverina, although he said that he would not vote against the Government.
– The honorable member is entirely in error.
– I shall be able to support my assertion by quoting Hansard.
– If the honorable member turns to Hansard he will find that he is mistaken.
– I should not have submitted an amendment but for the flippant way in which the Prime Minister has dealt with our complaint. I shall test the Labour Party. If they believe in “one man one billet “-
– The honorable member should test his own party.
– I refer to the position taken up by the Labour Party, because in the early stages of the debate they interjected most persistently in opposition to the opinions expressed by the Opposition. The honorable’ member for Barrier, and also the honorable member for Maranoa, said that if the action taken by the late Attorney-General had been brought before the House at the time they would have voted against the continuance of such a practice.
– I said nothing of the sort.
– I understood the honorable member to interject that he would have done so. Does he think the practice is a proper one?
– I ask the honorable member to give notice of his question.
– We shall test the question. Those who vote against the amendment will signify their approval of the practice, whilst those who vote for it will show that they consider that the members of the legal profession in the House should not allow their professional interests to clash with the discharge of their public d’uties. If ever a party has been treated with contempt the Opposition has been today. The Attorney-General’s desire for the “shekels” is so strong that even to-day he is neglecting his public duty, and is earning a fee by appearing in one of the lower Courts. If honorable members support him on this occasion they can never complain if others adopt the practice which the Opposition have condemned.
– I regret that so much purely artificial warmth should have been generated bv honorable members opposite in dealing with this question. It seems to me that there was no necessity for the severe castigation to which the Attorney-General has been subjected. The honorable and1 learned member for Indi was for several years Attorney.General in a Victorian State Government.
– And the people ‘of Victoria know him very well.
– Every one who is familiar with the history of Victorian politics knows that the honorable and learned member made great financial sacrifices in his desire to serve the people of this State.
– I do not know that he made great sacrifices. The honorable member should tell us what they were.
– We know that he succeeded in passing some of the best measures that have ever been placed on the statute-book of Victoria to put down the ill practices of boodlering.
– He has been after the boodle ever since.
– There is a vast difference between the position of the Attorney-General and that of counsel in the Proudfoot case, to which reference has been made by the honorable member for Dalley. The Attorney-General months ago accepted a retained from “the South Australian Government to give a certain opinion, and that opinion may be the means of obviating the threatened litigation.
– It may have the opposite effect. The honorable member does not know what may be the result of- it.
– The honorable member for New England is in the same position. It is unfortunate that so many honorable members should be so full of latent superstition, or something else, as to cause them without evidence to jump to certain conclusions. They are prepared to condemn others to the uttermost depths of Hades without any justification whatever. Whilst they attack the AttorneyGeneral
– Why is he not here?
– -Because he has to appear in a case in which he was retained probably months ago. If the honorable member had retained the AttorneyGeneral before he took office to appear for him in a certain case, and he failed to carry out his agreement, what would he say ?
– Is the discharge of a private duty more important than the fulfilment of a public one?
– We must be reasonable. To attempt to reason with a man who possesses no reason is like giving medi- . cine to a dead rat. I do not wish to administer the medicine in this ease, but if honorable members opposite are anxious for it they can have it from me. It is much to be regretted that honorable members of the Opposition should be constantly attacking the private characters of others in this House, who ‘have made honorable reputations which will live when their antagonists are forgotten. In the Proudfoot case, two honorable gentlemen were retained to appear in Court against the Government. When the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth decides to appear in Court in an action against the Commonwealth Government it will be time enough to attack him, and I may say at once that in such an event I should not hesitate to condemn him.
– That might happen just as readily as in the case now before the House has occurred.
– That is the position. The peach is blooming and rosy, but it may be rotten. Are honorable members to be expected to depend solely on the paltry starvation allowance they receive, and to refrain from doing any private business ?
– Does not the AttorneyGeneral receive a very fair salary?
– Why is the leader of the Opposition absent - why is he in New South Wales to-day ?
– He is away earning fees.
– Because he cannot afford to remain day after day in this House.
– He is not AttorneyGeneral.
– He is the leader of the Opposition.
– But he is not in receipt of a salary as such. He simply has an allowance as a member of the Parliament.
– He is receiving£400 a year, just as I am. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to use a boomerang argument, but when they do they must expect it to recoil on them.
– Every honorable member is expected to be in attendance.
– Just as honorable members of the Labour Party attend from day to day. It is a disgrace that the Commonwealth - which was shown by the Treasurer yesterday to be one of the rich est countries in the world - should keep in members in Parliament on starvation wages.
– Why does not the honorable member and his party induce the Government to take steps to increase the allowance ?
– We cannot force the Government to do anything of the kind. Is the Attorney-General to stand condemned because he is absent fulfilling an engagement which was entered into, perhaps, six months ago ? The attacks that have been made upon himare unrighteous and unchristianlike. Is the House to be turned into a bear garden ? Is it to become a pugilistic establishment, at which honorable members are to attend and slog each other? That is really what honorable members opposite have been attempting to do for the last month. The members of the Labour Party sitting here in the corner have lately been acting as umpires. The Opposition and the Government have been slogging each other, whilst wehave been seeing fair play, and, lifting up the fallen ones, have placed them on their feet again. I shall vote against the amendment, and I call upon the honorable member for Wentworth to show his patriotism by moving that the allowance to honorable members be increased by £200 per annum. I trust that honorable members will pursue a more reasonable course, so that we mav conclude the business which lies before us by the end of October.
– The question before us is not whether the AttorneyGeneral should now be in attendance at the Law Courts or carry on a private practice, but whether he should be retained by the South Australian Government to advise them on a question in which the Commonwealth may become very deeply involved. He was perfectly entitled to accept his retainer at the time when he was merely a private member of this House; but in view of the fact that before his opinion was given, he became a member of a Ministry which has control over the rivers question, matters have become complicated. He has been retained by one of the parties interested in a question in which the interests of three or more States may conflict, and in which the Commonwealth mav have to intervene. I contend that when he became Attorney-General, it was his dutv to withdraw from his position as counsel for the South Australian Government as soon as the work upon which he was engaged was completed. There should have been no need for the display of heat in this matter, but the House has been flouted by the Attorney-General. Information was conveyed to him that this matter was to be brought forward, and if he had attended this afternoon there is very little doubt that the whole question would have been settled in a few minutes. The Government, however, having a strong majority behind them, or, rather, having umpires who are prepared, even at the sacrifice of their own opinions, to help the side that is in, have no hesitation about dealing cavalierly with members of the Opposition.
– Why was not this question raised when Senator Sir Josiah Symon held the position of Attorney-General in the Reid Government?
– Nothing was known about the matter. The only knowledge I had upon the subject was conveyed to me by the honorable and learned member for Angas, who told me that he was acting for the South Australian Government, and I was surprised afterwards to hear that Senator Sir Josiah Symon had anything to do with the matter whilst he was AttorneyGeneral. If the then Opposition were aware of the facts at that time, they failed in their duty in not calling attention to them. The dual position occupied by the present AttorneyGeneral should not be tolerated, and if this House has any respect for itself, or a proper conception of its dignity, it will insist upon the Attorney-General either resigning his position as counsel for the. South Australian Government as soon as his present work is completed, or retiring from the Ministry. He cannot now be in a position to do justice to all parties in the event of the Commonwealth becoming involved. No man should stand as counsel for both sides, and no Court in the world would permit of that being done, and yet this, the highest Court in the land, intends to permit such a state of things. .Honorable members opposite know that the present position is an improper one, and yet they do not dare to vote as their consciences direct them. I should not have said a word ‘against the Attorney-General if he had attended in the House ‘ and stated that he must complete the work which he had begun, but that when it was finished, he would withdraw entirely from the position.. I should have been perfectly satisfied with that explanation.
– Has the Attorney-General been sent for?
– I understand that: word was sent to him that this matter was cobe brought up. If he had even sent a letter explaining the circumstances, I should havebeen satisfied. However, he has not only abstained from attending in the House, but has. given no reason for his continued absence. The Proudfoot case has been . referred to, and I may mention that in connexion with, that matter I took the same view that I am expressing to-day. When a member of Parliament accepts a position as a member of the Ministry, he should at once retire from, every case in which the Government is likely to become interested. I shall certainly vote for the reduction of the vote, in order to show my sense of the treatment to which honorable members have been subjected’.
Mr. CROUCH (Corio).- After the trivialities with which the Committee has been occupied this afternoon-
– I would ask, Mr. Chairman, whether the honorable and learned member is in order in referring to any discussion as being made up of trivialities?
– The honorable and learned member is scarcely in order in using that term.
– If the honorable and learned member for Werriwa considers that I have been offensive to him personally, I cheerfully withdraw the remark so far as he is concerned.- I think the time has arrived when we should deal with matters of national importance, and I therefore propose to direct attention to the case of the Drysdale Post-office. The honorable member for Wentworth has occupied a considerable time in discussing a matter regarding which he acknowledged his ignorance, and I think I shall be justified in speaking upon a subject with which I am thoroughly acquainted. Drysdale, which is the centre of a very large farming district in the constituency of Corio, is situated on the road to Queenscliff. It is one of the oldest setlements in Victoria, and principally on that account, has had to put up with a post-office which was built many years ago for the purposes of a private dwelling. The consequence is that the accommodation at present provided is entirely inadequate, and particularly unsuitable. Persons using the telephone inside the wooden building, can be distinctly heard by others standing on the footway, and recently a local clergyman said that he was able to hear tips for the Melbourne Cup being communicated by persons at Drys- dale to their friends elsewhere. The present premises are being rented by the Postal Department, and in view of their utter unsuitability, the residents of Drysdale are highly indignant. I trust the PostmasterGeneral will endeavour to meet the desires of the residents. A stone building at present occupied by one of the banks would be suitable for the purposes of a post-office, and I believe the rental would not be very high. If that building cannot be secured, i hope the Postmaster- General will endeavour to provide other suitable accommodation. The late Postmaster-General of Victoria promised that a new post-office should be built.
– Was it in his electorate?
– No; but he was able to recognise the very proper demand that the residents were making, and a promise made by a State Postmaster-General should be kept by his successor, the Commonwealth Postmaster-General. The district is one of great importance, and we are not asking for the expenditure of a large sum of money. I also wish to direct the attention of the Postmaster-General to the need for placing a clock in the tower of the Geelong Post-office. The building was erected ten or twelve years ago, and four vacant spaces are left in the tower for the clock faces. These are at present boarded in, and are a standing disgrace to the town. There is a section in the Postal Act under which, if local subscriptions are raised for any purpose of this kind, the PostmasterGeneral is empowered to find the balance needed for the work; and I can make the proposal to the honorable gentleman that, if he will promise to place a clock in the Geelong Post-office tower, the local residents will subscribe £200 towards the cost.
– What would the cost be?
– About£600. I understand that this will be the first occasion on which the section to which I refer has been given effect to. There are several other matters to which I should like to direct attention, but I feel that it would be unwise to ask too much on this occasion.
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth). - I am surprised that the honorable and learned member for Corio thinks that the Drysdale postoffice is more worthy of the attention of the House than is the question whether the Attorney-General owes a certain debt of courtesy to the Chamber.
– This is a lawyer’s way of evading the question.
– I understand that the honorable and learned member has tried to raise new issues - such as the advisability of importing a clock from England to place in the Geelong post-office tower, although, one might think, such a clock might easily be made in Australia, and the money kept in the country - in order to take our attention from the fact that the Attorney-General has accepted from the State of South Australia what practically amounts to an office of profit. For he has been asked to give an opinion on matters connected with the control of the navigation of the rivers of the Commonwealth ; and he will be paid for that opinion in hard, solid coin of the realm. Honorable members of the legal profession always regard questions of fees as of the supremest importance. No one’s opinion on a legal point is worth more than that of the Attorney-General ; but, inasmuch as that honorable and learned gentleman is paid in solid cash for advising the Government of the Commonwealth on matters of law, it should not be possible, in the event of a conflict arising between the Commonwealth and South Australia, or any other State, for his opinion to be quoted against the Commonwealth. For him to occupy two positions in a matter of this kind is not in the best interests of the Commonwealth. It has been stated by the honorable member for New England, and not contradicted by Ministers, that the AttorneyGeneral has been sent for to answer the grave charges which have been made against him, and there can be only two explanations of his refusal to come. Either he thinks it safer to stay away and refuse to answer the charge, or he is contemptuous of this House; and we should not stand such contempt or such evasion from any servant of the House. The AttorneyGeneral is paid, as AttorneyGeneral, a certain salary - and no one is better worth it than he - for the discharge of certain services to the Commonwealth, and when the House demands that he shall attend to explain his actions, he has no right to stay away.
– The House has not said that he shall attend.
– The right honorable gentleman mav not want him to attend, though I am surprised at that, because no one has stuck so devotedly to office, or more loyally to his party - his late party - than has the Treasurer.
– No man sticks to office better.
– Either the AttorneyGeneral is flaunting this House, or he has no explanation to make ; and it is our duty to keep the discussion going, to give him an opportunity to come here to make his excuses. The fact that he has lucrative employment elsewhere is no proper reason for his absence. I do not contend that he should be kept pinned to the Treasury tench, but when the House wants him, he should attend. The honorable member for Darwin told us that the principle of one man one billet is not intended to apply to members of Parliament, and we have known for a long time past that members of the Labour Party in New South Wales do not so apply it. They used to march under a banner inscribed “ One man one job,” and they still insist that humbler people shall do so. But personally they take as many jobs as they can lay their hands on.
– So do other honorable members.
– Yes, but other members do not protest that no man should do more than one thing. Those who sit on the corner benches do not care twopence for their catch cries when their own private interests are affected; and they are ready to take two or more jobs if they can obtain increased emoluments, in which respect they are only human like the rest of us. But, as to their present attitude, is it to be expected that a party whose members are frantically anxious to become lawyer* should be other than careful not to curtail - I shall not say the prerogatives - but the claims of the legal profession? In New South Wales, where there are so many Labour lawyers, there are unions which, though a short time ago immensely wealthy, are now very poor. Will the honorable member for Newcastle tell the House that a union in his district which had a great amount of money to its credit has now as much as it had before the Labour lawyers and the Arbitration Court simultaneously made their appearance?
– They have as much money as ever.
– The labour lawyers, or the union ?
– The union.
– I think -that if the honorable member consults the facts he will see that his statement is open to correction. Honorable members who sit on the corner benches were at one time bitterly opposed to having lawyers in politics, or in any position of responsibility ; but lately they have begun to realize the importance of the positions which they may some day fill in the legal world ; and, not with a view to shortening procedure in the courts, nor for the benefit of the unions for which they appear, but for their own private advantage, hope to become lawyers and to obtain, under a self-created class prejudice, the legal business of the Commonwealth.
– Some men have not enough brains to become lawyers.
– The honorable member is one of the few men in the party who have not attempted to become a lawyer.
– He set out once.
– No, never.
– Am I to understand that when he said that some men had not enough brains to become lawyers, he was referring to the fact that he himself had tried, but had failed?
– AT-he honorable member for Parramatta had better withdraw that statement. He must know that it is not true.
– I at once withdraw the horrible charge that the honorable member had any ambition to become a lawyer. I am more than glad to see that the AttorneyGeneral has at last recognised the responsibility which he owes to this Chamber, but I deeply regret that immediately upon his entry he should deem the present discussion of so little importance that probably professional and private matters can completely claim this attention. _ I can assure him that this is no laughing matter. It is one of which this Committee has taken notice, and of which the country tomorrow will take notice. Members of the Opposition are asking the country whether a gentleman who accepts the high office of AttorneyGeneral owes his first duty to this House and the Government, or to himself and his professional position in this city?
– First and last, it is a case of self with the Attorney-General.
– The Attorney-General is under an obligation to the House, and I deeply regret that he .has not recognised that fact any more than he seems to recognise the common courtesy which he owes to this Chamber when devoting itself to his administration. I hope that he will not leave the chamber, because we have been waiting for him patiently since half-past two o’clock. Will he admit that he received a telephone message this afternoon asking him to be present in his place in Parliament ?
– I did not receive it until fairly late - until I was engaged in Court.
– Did the AttorneyGeneral receive that message before 3 o’clock t
– Yes; but I could not then leave the Court.
– Could not the honorable and learned gentleman ‘have “ trusted “ the Court? We have heard a lot of talk recently in that connexion. Besides, I presume that in all cases he has the assistance of junior counsel-
– This is most unreasonable. The honorable member could have mentioned the matter long ago had he wished to do so.
– The honorable and learned gentleman states what is incorrect. I had no knowledge that any previous AttorneyGeneral had ever accepted any office of profit under the Crown.
– To what does the honorable member refer?
– I presume the AttorneyGeneral will admit that this retainer is being paid. When a man receives a certain sum for performing certain work, I ask any layman in this Chamber whether that work is not one of profit. Although I mav not be fully seized of these legal refinements, I say that the Attorney-General has accepted a certain payment, and that the opinion which he has to give in return may eventually bring the high office which he holds into conflict with a State.
– Not at all. The question involved is merely one as between States, not as between the Commonwealth and any State.
– If two States quarrel about their rights and the interpretation of the Constitution-
– Over the locking of a river, for instance.
– Exactly. Let us assume that one State locks up a river, or demands for irrigation too great a supply of water to permit of the navigability of the stream, who is eventually to decide the matter in dispute? Is it not the Commonwealth? Will the Attorney-General deny that?
– We are bound to preserve freedom of trade.
– We are bound to see. that each State observes the right of every other State under the Constitution. The Attorney-General knows that, a’id he knows that the South Australian Government would not ask him for an opinion if they did not afterwards propose to state a case for decision by the High Court. When that case is stated, the matter in dispute will be contested. The Attorney-General’s statement is a mere quibble which is unworthy of the honorable and learned gentleman, lt is the veriest quibble to declare that the Federal authority will never be brought into the question. I bitterly regret that the AttorneyGeneral has seen fit to place his own professional business before his duty to this House. If he had been present this afternoon to make his explanation, we could have pressed on with what he has been pleased to term “ men’s business.” Now that the honorable and learned gentleman is present, I trust that we shall have his explanation forthwith.
– I have no desire to prolong this debate, but interjections have been made by honorable members concerning what the leader of the Opposition would do in the matter of neglecting his private practice if he found it more lucrative than attending to his parliamentary duties. I would point out that there is an essential difference between the position of a private member and that of a member of the Government. Private members are not in receipt officially of a salary. Members of the Ministry receive special salaries for the offices which they fill, obviously with the object of enabling them to- devote the whole of their time to public business without incurring any personal loss. And there is this to be said in reference to the leader of the Opposition - that whilst in office lie did not attend to his legal practice. He gave it up entirely, and devoted himself solely to the duties of his position as Prime Minister.
– He is suffering today as the result.
– When he occupied that distinguished position, the right honorable member for East Svdney resolved that his private interests would have to give way to has public duties. I do not say that the Attorney-General should be expected to abandon the -whole of his private practice, even for the emoluments of office, but I do say that in a special case of this kjind, in which a specific charge was made against him - a charge of a very serious character, and one affecting his position in the Ministry - it was an act of gross discourtesy on his part not to explain in answer to the telephone message which he received, why he could not attend here, or not to ask to be excused from attendance at the Court for the short period necessary to explain his position.
– That was impossible.
– I do not wish to condemn any person unheard. I admit that it is fair to await the AttorneyGeneral’s explanation for his absence. I can only say that by reason of his absence public business in this Chamber has been delayed, and to that extent the honorable and learned gentleman must be held responsible. One of the peculiarities of this debate has been the appearance of the Labour Party in a new role. In the past we have been treated to peculiar exhibitions of their capacity for changing their principles and tactics. Their attitude upon the present occasion, however, constitutes one of the most extraordinary somersaults that we have witnessed. Hitherto, they have always posed as the opponents of practices of the kind which form the subject of the present protest from the deputy leader of the Opposition. Now, however, we find them suddenly going back upon all their previous professions, and becoming apologists for the Attorney-General in his position of accepting a retaining fee on behalf of a State which may, as a result of his advice, be brought into conflict with the Commonwealth Government. It will be interesting to watch future developments, and to see the attitude which they adopt under similar circumstances towards any Ministry to which they hereafter are opposed1. The present debate will be interesting as a record for future reference in that connexion, and honorable members opposite may rest assured that it will not be forgotten. Now that the Attorney-General is present, I trust that we shall hear some satisfactory explanation from him.
– It is all very well for my honorable friends opposite to declare that time has been wasted bv reason of my absence from the Chamber. This is a matter which has been before the public for a very considerable time. Certainly it has been before honorable members for some months, and I should have thought that if any honorable member intended to refer to it the least he could have done was to give me timely notice, instead of waiting till I was actually engaged in the transaction of business in Court, it being then utterly impossible for me to leave or, in fact, to do more than I did. What I did was to telephone to the Prime Minister, asking him to make the explanation which I understand he made for me.
– The honorable and learned gentleman had notice of the intention of the deputy leader of the Opposition to bring this matter forward at 1 o’clock this afternoon.
– The honorable member must not say that. His statement is not correct.
– Pardon me. The Government Whip had the information at 1 o’clock this afternoon.
– I can only assure the honorable member that I did not receive it until very much later. As soon as I did I put myself in communication with the Prime Minister, with the result that I have mentioned. What is the position? Some months ago I received a retainer from the South Australian Government - a retainer that I was bound to accept as an ordinary practising barrister. It is not for me to choose my clients. I accepted that retainer, and I hold it still. The question which was put before me was one of riparian rights between States, and did not concern the Commonwealth in a single particular. As far as I am able to judge, there is no Commonwealth right involved. The Commonwealth is well protected as regards its powers over navigation. Section 100 of the Constitution Act provides that -
The Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade or commerce, abridge the right of a State or of the residents therein to the reasonable use of the waters of rivers for conservation or irrigation.
Under that provision “ States “ and “residents “ are put upon exactly the same footing, and if I could not accept a retainer for a State I could not hold one for an individual who might complain that his riparian rights had been interfered with. If Commonwealth rights were involved, I can only say that I should instantly retire from my position as adviser of the South Australian Government. I should not hold that position one moment, if directly or indirectly the rights or in- terests of the Commonwealth as a whole were involved. But until that occurs - and it has not occurred, and I fail to see how it can possibly occur - I am not only justified, but am bound to hold my retainer, and do my duty to my client.
– Until the honorable and learned member has discharged his obligations under the existing retainer.
– But the case is one which does not affect the Commonwealth. My predecessor in office, Sir Josiah Symon, held his retainer, in the very same way as I have done, throughout the existence of the Reid-McLean Government. Why was no complaint then made?
– We did not know of it.
– I have asked three of his colleagues, and they did not know of it.
– The Labour Party knew of it.
– I shall not venture to contradict the honorable member for Parramatta, but the fact that the late AttorneyGeneral did hold that retainer was absolutely public property, and it is astonishing that any one could have remained ignorant ofit. I hold that my predecessor was absolutely justified in the course he adopted. All that he was required to do was to advise whether New South Wales or Victoria was acting wrongfully to South Australia in regard to the diversion of water. That was the whole question between these States, and it mighthave been one raised as between individuals. Such a case might occur between a resident of New South Wales and a resident of South Australia.
– But was it not a Federal matter?
– Not a Federal matter as among the States themselves?
Mr.ISAACS. - A question as between the States would not be a Federal matter. My honorable friend will pardon me for saying that there is a clear distinction between a right as a Commonwealth right and a right as a State right. There are certain powers retained by the States, and in that regard the question at issue between South Australia and certain other States stands as if there had never been a Federation. It seems to be absolutely absurd, therefore, that any question, should be raised as to my action. I can only say that the whole matter rests upon two considerations - first of all, that up to the present - and so far as I can see it will be the same in the future - no question affecting the Commonwealth has arisen or can arise.
– At all events, no such question is before the honorable and learned memberas counsel in the case.
– Certainly not. In the next place I can only say that I shall always do as I did when Attorney-General of Victoria - that the instant my duty to a client conflicts with the interest of the Commonwealth, that instant I shall return my retainer and have nothing to do with the case. That is the whole position.
– Why did’ the honorable member not return bis retainer when he took office?
– Have I not explained that the position in which it would be my duty to do so has not arisen, and is not likely to arise? I venture to say that no lawyer in this House will say that I am not right.
– Here we have the union once more.
– I am prepared to appeal’ to the honorable and learned member for Wannon and to the honorable member for Werriwa to support the position I have taken up.
– The Attorney-General is absolutely right.
– Is a lawyer a better judge of political propriety than is a layman ?
– I do not say that he is a better judge of political insinuations, but a lawyer is in this case necessarily cognisant of the line of distinction existing between Federal law and interest and a State’s law and interest. I am ready to abide by the decision of the members of the legal profession sitting on the Opposition benches, as well as by that of the legal members on this side of the House, as to the course I have taken.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).- I wholly resent the statement we have just heard that there is one aspect of the judging of affairs of this kind which is peculiar to lawyers, and another that is peculiar to laymen. . Looking at the history of like cases, we find that the judgment of laymen has always proved to be sounder than that of members of the legal profession. I have yet to learn that the laymen in this House are not at least as well able as are the lawyers to judge of political propriety.
– Will the honorable member pardon me ? I did not observe the honorable and learned member for Corinella in the Chamber, or I should have added has name to those of the honorable and learned member for Wannon, and the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, when I appealed to them as to the propriety of what I had done.
– I have not spoken.
– If the honorable and learned member may appeal only to the lawyers of the Chamber to pronounce judgment, he has a very bad case. If he cannot appeal to the sound, solid, common sense of the House, apart from any professional knowledge, his case must rest upon a very poor foundation. I altogether resent the imputation that has been putupon the laymen of the Chamber by the AttorneyGeneral’s specific appeal to the professional opinion of the House.
– I thought that the AttorneyGeneral appealed to the lawyers on the Opposition benches as those most likely to be opposed to him.
– I have listened to the honorable member’s explanation. He says that it has been a matter pf public notoriety for months that the late AttorneyGeneral was retained by the South Australian Government while holding office, and that it is surprising that we did not take this action while the Reid-McLean Government was in office. I can only say that the first that I learned of the honorable and learned member’s action in this regard was from the newspaper, whilst on my way home on Friday last. I have asked three of Sir Josiah Symon’s late colleagues whether they had any knowledge of his holding a retainer from the South Australian Government, and they all deny that they had.
– Does not the fact that the late Attorney-General acted as I have done, afford proof to the honorable member that my position is a correct one?
– Not necessarily. May I remind my honorable and learned friend that two of the present Justices of the High Court defended the legal and constitutional propriety of a similar action taken by them when they were members of the State Parliament of New South Wales.
– It was quite a different matter.
– A very similar case.
– It was quite different. The opinion of the whole Bar at the time was against them.
– I repeat that it was a very similar case. Both those honorable gentlemen defended their position, but the State Parliament sent them to the rightabout, and they were deprived of their offices and their seats in the Legislature. This Parliament as a whole is just as well able to judge of what is an act of. political propriety as any individual member of the legal profession in the Chamber. The Attorney-General says that the case in which he has been retained is one which stands as if no Federation existed. I can only imagine that view to be the outcome of a legal mind.
– Does the honorable member desire an illegal mind?
– No. I want a bit of common sense on this matter.
– The honorable member heeds a great deal of it.
– I shall not go to the honorable and learned member for any, nor shall I go to him to acquire a sense of what is public propriety and decency. I shall be the judge of my own actions in that regard. Before the honorable and learned member came into the Chamber I quoted from Quick and Garran, upon the very question of the riparian rights of the States, to show that in the absence of Federal legislation a State might interfere with the navigability of a river, or remove any impediment from it, ‘in pursuance of what it deemed to be its riparian rights as a State. Surely the honorable and learned member will recognise that Inter-State commerce might be involved in the blocking of a river. If a State chose to interfere with the navigability of a river, in the prosecution of what it believed to be its riparian rights, would he not, as AttornevGeneral, have to advise the opening of. that river?
– But no such question has arisen.
– The honorable and learned gentleman should not place himself in a position which involves the possibility of such a thing.
– I quite agree with the honorable member.
– The honorable and learned member has no right to accept a retainer from a State Government, which makes it possible that he may have to retire from such a position. It is too late to retire when the trouble has been created. I respectfully submit that the very trouble which the. Attorney-General says has not occurred might arise in consequence of an opinion which he submits to one of the States and for which he is paid ; his opinion might provoke the very trouble which, as Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, he might subsequently have to correct. The honorable and learned member cannot serve two masters in this respect, and since there is the possibility of conflict always inhering in the relations between a State and the Commonwealth - and to none of those relations more closely and clearly than it does in matters affecting the water rights of , the various States - the honorable and learned member ought not to place ‘himself in such a position. The House has the first right to his services. He is the servant of Parliament, and it should have some voice in determining whether or not he should take up such a position as he has done. It is not a matter of legal interpretation, but one of which Parliament, in its corporate capacity, is the best judge. We have had some further statements on the part of the Prime Minister, who has deprecated the passing of judgment in this matter. In my opening remarks, I was extremely careful not to pass judgment on the Attorney-General. I simply said that I regarded his position in this regard as a grave constitutional anomaly, and asked for an explanation. That has been my attitude up to the present moment. The honorable and learned gentleman’s intimation to the House that he will continue to hold the retainer from the South Australian Government, until he finds that to do so will be to come into conflict with his Federal duties, is surprising. His position is absolutely untenable. Many a Parliament has visited punishment on those whom it has found taking up such an anomalous attitude. The honorable member for Darwin is the only member of the Labour Party who has spoken in defence of the Attorney-General, and he has certainly given some very strange reasons in support of his contention as to the propriety (of the Attorney-General’s action. Among other things he said that the honorable and learned gentleman by taking this action might really be preventing difficulties arising as between the Commonwealth and the States. If the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth is in a position to prevent trouble between the States and the Commonwealth by taking a fee from a State Go vernment, he must also be in a position to create trouble between them, and I, therefore, say that he ought not to be found placing himself within even the possibility of such a contingency. The very fact that his action as between the State and the Commonwealth may prevent trouble, only serves to illustrate the delicacy of the position in which he stands. Suppose that a solicitor for a private railway were engaged by a competing railway - and in this matter the interests of the States and the Commonwealth are possibly of a competing character, or they may so develop - would any one say that it would be proper for him to give an opinion upon a question as ito which the two companies were fighting, or upon which they might fight ? That is the position here ; but the doctrine is laid down that there must be one code of legal morality outside, and another code inside this House. I recognise no ‘difference /whatever. The AttorneyGeneral ought to be defending the interests of the Commonwealth, and ought to have nothing whatever to do with an outside body which at any moment mav come into conflict with this Parliament. He is paid to do our work. He has entered into an obligation to do it. As I have already said, he is the legal watchdog of the Commonwealth, and has no right to undertake to act as legal watchdog of any of the States. I regretted exceedingly to hear that he does not intend to discontinue to accept retainers from States Governments, because, if he takes one from the Government of South Australia, there is no reason why he should not accept one from each of the States Governments. He is under a contract to two bodies, which may at any moment come into conflict, and he may be asked to supply each of them with the legal material upon which they may carry on a fight. We ought not to permit any Minister to occupy such a position. I have done what I regard to be my duty in this matter, and I regret that the House does not take a sufficiently serious view of the question. I have seen Parliaments before to-day treat a matter such as this as one of the gravest concern, but all we can get now from those who ought to be the last to shower it upon us, is contempt for our efforts to preserve a proper constitutional attitude towards the States.
– I ‘did not feel able to say anything in regard to this matter until I had heard the exact facts of the case. I have now learnt them from the statement of the Attorney-General, and I do not know that I should have said anything, but for the fact that the Minister was good enough to mention my name. Much as I usually agree with my honorable friends’ in the questions they raise with regard to the action of Ministers, I am quite unable to understand the exact fault the Attorney-General has committed in connexion with this retainer, for which he is being blamed. I say frankly that I agree with those honorable members who have expressed regret that the AttorneyGeneral is unable to be here more constantly, because I think it is desirable that he should be in closer attendance at the House.
– I am here a great deal.
– Perhaps so, I am only expressing my own opinion in the matter. I may say that, as one of the colleagues of Senator Sir Josiah Symon in the Reid Government, I was not aware that he had a retainer in the case to which reference has been made.
– We were aware of it in the labour room.
– If I were in the labour room, I should know a great many things of which I am at present ignorant ; a great many things that 1 should be glad to know ; and, if I were not under a pledge of secrecy, a great many things 1 should be glad to make known to the public- I understand that the Attorney-General has accepted a retainer from one of two suitors in a matter which does not concern the Commonwealth, and which is not likely in itself, to concern the Commonwealth, but which may lead1 to some other matter in which our interference will become necessary. He is retained in this matter only, and “holds no general retainer from the South Australian Government in regard to all its suits, some, of which might involve action against the Commonwealth. He has a retainer in a matter involving two individuals, and a case in which the Commonwealth is rot directly concerned. If he were not competent to act in such a matter it would 1 not be open to him to accept a retainer from any suitor, because he could not feel assured that the Commonwealth might not ultimately become involved in the case.
– I have a general retainer in this subject-matter.
– That is as I understand it. The Attorney-General holds a general retainer upon the question of the rights of the various States with regard to the waters of streams that flow through more than one State-
– Upon a question in which the States and the Commonwealth stand closely related to each other.
– The general question of riparian rights is undoubtedly one in which the Commonwealth is interested; but it seems to me to ‘be impossible for the Commonwealth to become a party to the particular suit referred to. Consequently, it seems to me that we have no concern in this particular matter, or in what an honorable member of this House, who happens to be a barrister, may do outside, so long as hia action does not conflict with his duty to the Commonwealth. If the AttorneyGeneral were to accept a retainer from a State in a case to which the Commonwealth might fairly be expected to become a party, that would be a different matter.
– I would not even give an opinion in a matter to which the Commonwealth might become a party.
– The Attorney-General would act wrongly if, whilst holding his present position, he gave an opinion to another party in a matter that might affect the Commonwealth. I do not see, however, how this case could affect the Commonwealth. So far as I am able to judge - and I say frankly that I watch carefully everything that is done by the AttorneyGeneral and his. colleagues - I do not see how his position, as counsel for the South Australian Government in this particularcase, can affect his judgment as a member of this Parliament, or of the Ministry. What he would do, as counsel to the South Australian Government, would be to give an opinion upon, or argue, the law as it is, or the facts as they are, and that would not prejudice his opinion as to what the law ought to be in regard to the right of interference of the Commonwealth in riparian matters. It is only fair to the Attorney-General that I should say that it appears to me that the case in which he is concerned as counsel has nothing to do with the Commonwealth as a matter of litigation, and that therefore we cannot fairly take exception to his action in connexion with it.
Mr. CULPIN (Brisbane)’. - An interjection made by me during the time that the honorable member for Wentworth was speaking, was replied to by him, with the remark that the Labour Party used to object to lawyers. I may say that at the same time they also objected to publicans. I think it would have been a’ good thing if they had adhered to that line of conduct. I desire to bring under notice a question affecting the interests of my constituents, namely, the proposal to abandon the rifle range at Toowong, which fails to meet present requirements, and to construct a new range at Sandgate. I think that the new range will be much safer and more convenient for the members of rifle clubs, and I trust that its completion will be facilitated as rapidly as possible.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).- I listened with very great interest to the remarks of the Attorney-General, who appeared to attempt to justify his action in flouting this Parliament. He had an insignificant engagement down town which he regarded as of more importance than the necessity of answering the charge made against him by members of the Opposition - a charge which might have involved the very existence of the Government. Not only did the Attorney-General flout this Parliament, but, knowing that a majority was at his back, he said that he would continue to accept retainers from the States Governments. He has been supported by his brother lawyers in this House, who admit that the Commonwealth may become involved in the case in which the AttorneyGeneral’s advice has been sought, although they do not think it probable that it will be. That admission is quite sufficient to justify the attitude assumed bv members of the Opposition. If the AttorneyGeneral were retained as counsel for a State Government, and a suit involving the Commonwealth were entered upon, the AttorneyGeneral would be required to give us the benefit of his advice. He practically admitted his guilt when he pointed to the fact that a position similar to that occupied by himself had been filled by Senator Sir Josiah Symon. The late AttorneyGeneral was no more justified than is the present occupant of that office in holding a .brief from the South Australian Government, and although the Government may weather the present storm, they cannot claim that thev have achieved any great victory. The Attorney-General has acted most indiscreetly, not only in flouting honorable members, but in expressing his determination to continue to accept retainers such as those which he now holds, whilst he is receiving high fees as the legal adviser of the Commonwealth. He has appealed to his brother professionals in this House, and none of them have dared to say that he .has done wrong.
– We should not be frightened to say so, if we thought so.
– As a matter of fact,- that interjection shows that the honorable and learned member, and other honorable and learned members are frightenedThey have upheld the Attorney-General in working for two masters for the sake of the “ shekels.” Honorable and learned members are subject to intimidation. Even! the honorable and learned member for Corinella, who was disposed to take theview that the Attorney-General was not justified in retaining his present position, expressed an opposite opinion after he had been taken by the ear bv the AttorneyGeneral. I am not permitted to say all’ I know, but the honorable and learned member for Corinella knows that had he been called upon to speak before the AttorneyGeneral had made his explanation,, he would have expressed views verv different from those which he uttered. It was not until the Attorney-General had taken him by the ear that he came forward and spoke in the subjunctive mood as to what may or may not occur. But it is most unjust that the legal members of the House should band themselves together in support of the Attorney-General instead of speaking on behalf of the interests of the Commonwealth. The honorable and learned gentleman has been called upon to advise one of the States, and he has told us. that he would advise one or all of them against the interests of the Commonwealth.
– I did not say that.
– If the honorable and learned gentleman advises a State upon a matter affecting the Commonwealth, is he not advising it as to the position which it should take up against the Commonwealth? Would he be called upon to advise for any other reason ? The honorable and learned member for Angas has made himself famous for his advocacy of the rights of his State in regard to the waters; of the Murray River system, and1 he has stated a case for the opinion- of the Attorney-General and Sir Josiah Symon. These gentlemen have given their opinions, for which they have drawn fees.
– Why should they not do so?
– It is the shekels that they think of. No one has a higher opinion of the Attorney-General than I have. But I am thoroughly disgusted to hear him reiterate that he will continue to accept retainers and fees from individual States against the interests of the Commonwealth.
– I have not said anything of the kind.
– The honorable and learned gentleman has stated that he will continue to accept retainers to advise individual States in regard to these conflicting interests, which, as the honorable and learned member for Corinella said, may not concern the Commonwealth, thereby admitting that they may concern the Commonwealth. The AttorneyGeneral, because he has a majority at his back, has flouted Parliament.
– He is only flouting certain members of the Opposition.
– The wires are already at work, and to-morrow the newspapers of the Commonwealth will fire the public with indignation at what has been done. Honorable members may jeer in their fancied security, but were it not for the fact that Senator Sir Josiah Symon has also been culpable, and that the leader of the Opposition is absent, there would be something like a crisis on this occasion. I am familiar with Constitutional authorities, and I know that Governments have gone down on questions of this character. That I admit was in days when we had in Parliament men who were constitutionalists. They would not have suffered Parliament to be flouted by the Attorney-General, who caused the House to waste hours while he was earning shekels in a Court down the street. The laughter of honorable members does not disconcert me; it only shows how satisfied they are in their ignorance. The country will not stand this kind of thing, and the fact that we who object to it are in a minority in this Chamber should make our opposition all the stronger. Had the Attorney-General been alive to his responsibilities as a Minister of the Crown, he would have thrown up his brief and the fees attached to it, and come here at once to explain matters to Parliament. If he had done that, the debate might have ended in five minutes.
– If I were a client, no lawyer should treat my brief in that way.
– A citizen who sat in the gallery for hours this afternoon commented on the strangeness of the fact that this discussion should go on so long while the Attorney-General wa.s down the street earning fees. The honorable and learned gentleman has appealed to the legal members of the House, as if they were the men best able to judge of his position.
– Any one with a clear head can judge of it.
– I would not go to the honorable and learned member for clearness of head, notwithstanding his precocity. However, I am well satisfied with the turn the debate has taken. Two or three victories of this character will mean the downfall Of the Ministry. I know that the Attorney-General will not accept another fee of the same character, and to that extent the debate has done good. But he has no justification for allowing Parliament to discuss a matter for hours when it could have been decided in five minutes, if he had not been down the street earning fees.
– 1 am not responsible for the conduct of the honorable member in wasting time.
– The seriousness of the situation appealed to the Prime Minister, who told us that he had rung up the Attorney-General, and said to him, “ You are wanted in Parliament,” and that his reply was, “ I will come when this case is finished.”
– -That is not so.
– The Prime Minister stated that he had rung up the Attorney-General, who said …..al he would not come. I am glad to learn that the Attorney-General did not give that reply.
– And nobody said that I gave it.
– The action of the Prime Minister showed that he was alive to the seriousness of the situation. The Attorney-General has flouted his own leader, and the Government, which I thought stood pretty firmly upon a rock, is standing on sand when a Minister can do that. The Labour Party cheer the Government now, but they would cheer us tomorrow if they thought that it was necessary to support us to prevent a dissolution. For their own safety, they support a Government which will bring in measures which will enable this Parliament to spin out its existence as long as possible. I do not usually speak so warmly, or at such length, but this is a serious matter. If the Government continue to ignore the Opposition, they will find that, instead of being on a bed of roses, they will be on a bed of thorns. Their punishment will come from without, rather than from within, as all reforms come. It is only so long as we have the public with us that we can be secure of our positions, and it is because the members of the Opposition feel that the public will be indignant at the advising of the States by the Attorney-General against the interests of the Commonwealth that we so strongly resent his action.
– I think that the debate is not altogether a waste of time, because it will show the House how to avoid a similar occurrence in the future. Let us make a change by providing for an elective Ministry, and . requiring that every Minister shall give up private practice.
– If I were a Minister, how would the honorable member make me sit in a room with men with whose opinions I was not in accord?
– The honorable and learned member will never be a Minister. As a member of the State Parliament, I always held strongly, and still hold, that there should be elective Ministries and permanent occupancy of portfolios, with the giving up of private business. So long as the game of the ins and the outs continues, any Attorney-General would be foolish to give up his private practice. But if the leader of the Opposition will move for the election of Ministers and require elective Ministers to give up their private practice, I shall vote for the motion. Any one who has seen the large volume of type-written matter upon which the Attorney-General has been called upon to advise, knows that he has not had time since he has been in office to attend to the case, and that the matter is one which has been the subject of his consideration for over a year. He could not afford to give up his private practice under present .circumstances, because he may at any time lose his office by reason of a change of Ministry. But if he had security of tenure - and his abilities would warrant him in holding the office for life - I have no doubt that he would be willing to give up his private practice. But until that occurs, or until we adopt a common-sense method of electing Ministers, I trust that he will continue to act as he has been doing.
– I agree with a great many of the remarks of the honorable member for Robertson in regard to the time which has been consumed this afternoon as the result of the absence of the Attorney-General from this Chamber. The absence from the House, not only of the Attorney-General, but of Ministers generally, is a matter of public scandal from one end of Australia to the other. If the Attorney-General cannot find it convenient to attend here whilst the Court is sitting - if he prefers to neglect the business of .the country-
– I do not neglect it. I venture to say that I have done even more than my fair share of work.
– The Attorney-General has admitted that he received a telephone message before 3 o’clock this afternoon, requesting him to attend in his place in the Chamber. Had he been present, time would not have been wasted in discussing this matter, and money would thus have been saved to the country. To my mind, that circumstance furnishes another strong reason for our removing to the permanent Seat of Government as speedily as possible. The sooner we are all placed upon the same level in the discharge of our legislative functions, the better it will be for Australia as a whole. I know that there are members in this House representing New South Wales constituencies - and in this connexion I may mention the right honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable and learned member for Werriwa - who have been compelled to sacrifice a large portion of their professional practice since they entered this Parliament. I abandoned my practice the moment I was returned to the Commonwealth Legislature, realizing that I could not attend to it and at the same time efficiently perform my parliamentary duties. But there are some representatives who are not able to live upon their parliamentary allowance, and who are compelled to seek some additional source of incomeThe sooner the representatives of the other States are placed upon an equality with those of New South Wales, the better will it be for the Commonwealth. I cannot agree with all the remarks of the honorable member for Robertson. I am sure that the Attorney-General has not endeavoured to intimidate any member of the legal profession. Moreover, if any such intimidation were attempted, there is no body of men who would more keenly resent it than would the members of that profession. The members of the Australian Bar are, in all probability, the most independent set of individuals, so far as character and opinions are concerned, to be found from one end of the Commonwealth to the other. I hope that the ear of the honorable member for Corinella has not been very seriously hurt by the pulling which it received from the AttorneyGeneral, according to the description of the honorable member for Robertson. I take a different view from that of my fellow lawyers of this- matter. I regard the position occupied by the present Attorney-General and by his predecessor in office as one which is open to very serious objection. As far as I am personally concerned, I did not know that the question was to be raised until the deputy leader of the Opposition spoke to me about it just before I entered the Chamber ; but I recognise that the AttorneyGeneral is the legal watchdog of the Commonwealth, and I think that the anomalous position occupied by the honorable and learned member for Indi calls for very serious consideration on the part of the House and the country. I should like to refer the Attorney-General to page 885 of Quick and Garrans Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth. “Under the heading of “ Concurrent powers of the States “ appears the following :-
The navigation power, being part of the trade and commerce power, is not “ exclusively “ vested in the Parliament of the Commonwealth,” and, therefore, the concurrent power of the States to deal with Inter-State navigation and with navigable waters will continue, subject to be ousted, in part or in whole, by Federal legislation.
Lower down on the same page I find -
And a State may not only, in the absence of Federal legislation, improve the navigability of rivers, but may even obstruct navigability.
In the present instance, we find that the Attorney-General, according to his own statement, is advising the South Australian Government upon a question affecting the riparian rights of that State and some other States.
– Not as affecting navigability.
– - A decision as to the rights of the different States to the waters of a river may easily result in a question affecting its navigability. A State may not only improve, but may even obstruct navigability.
– Will ‘the honorable and learned member permit me to say that the only question involved, so far as I am aware, is as to whether other States have a right to take as .much water from South Australia as they have done.
– A sufficient quantity of water may be diverted from a river to block its navigation, and consequently to interfere with Inter-State commerce, which . is a matter that comes under Federal jurisdiction, and one with which the AttorneyGeneral would have to deal.
– If such a question could possibly arise, in acting on behalf of South Australia and endeavouring to prevent it, I should actually be acting “in the interests of the Commonwealth.
– That does not affect the question of the propriety of the Attorney-General acting as adviser to a State Government.
– Exactly. It does not affect the possibility of the AttorneyGeneral in his official position advising a State Government as to an obstruction of navigation. I was a member of the NewSouth Wales Parliament when a similar matter was raised affecting the position of two of the present Justices of the High Court. I think that the course followed by the Attorney-General seriously affects him in his official position. I was very sorry to hear him speak in such a confident way, and with so little regard to the strong opinions which have been expressed in this House. I regret that he intends to continue to hold a retainer from the “South Australian! Government.
– I did not say that.
– I think that the honorable and learned gentleman has been very indiscreet in this matter. I wish that hehad been more gracious to the Committee, and to the Opposition in particular. I sincerely trust that in future when great matters of this sort do arise, he will allow his private interests to give way to those of the public.
– If I had had any fair intimation at all I should have been present in the Chamber this afternoon. The honorable member for Parramatta said that he knew of the matter on Friday, and yet I never heard of his intention to take action until to-day.
– The whip went away to ring up the honorable and learned gentleman at a quarter to 1 o’clock thisafternoon.
– But the whip did not get him on the telephone.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- I could thoroughly sympathize with the honorable member for Robertson in the strong language which he has used, if the facts were as he represented them to be. It seems to me, however, that they are not. Indeed, I think that even the honorable member for Parramatta has misunderstood the position. If this were a case in which the Attorney-General, in his official capacity, had undertaken to give an opinion which might conflict with his duties as chief legal adviser of the Commonwealth, I should have indorsed every condemnatory word which has been uttered regarding his action. Probably I should have said a great deal more. But the honorable and learned gentleman said in effect, “ My case is of such and such a nature, and I appeal to the honorable and learned member for Wannon, the honorable and learned member for Corinella, and the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, as to whether I have not acted rightly.” I interpreted that statement differently from the honorable member for Parramatta’. I submit that the Attorney-General knew that we were so opposed to him generally, that if he had acted wrongly, we should have been the first to wipe him out. When the honorable member for Robertson suggests that, because we are members of the legal .profession, we would side with Wm in an iniquitous course, I am absolutely surprised. If the case were as the honorable member represented, I ‘should agree with every word that he uttered.
– The House is just as able to judge of a matter of political propriety as is a lawyer
– I think so, too. I wish that there were a little more political propriety and morality in this House. New South Wales would not then be denied the Federal Capital, or her right to an additional representative. The AttorneyGeneral was asked for his opinion by the South Australian Government before he accepted Ministerial office. If his opinion had conflicted with his present duties, I should have expected him to throw up his retainer at once, and he says that he would have so acted.
– The ground I take is that he has no right as Attorney-General to put himself in a position in which there is a possibility of that occurring.
– The honorable member is perfectly right in the position which, he takes up. But the facts are that the South Australian Government wish to know whether they have certain remedies against
Victoria, or New South Wales, or Queensland, if any of these States interfere with certain waters. That applies not only to the States themselves, but to the residents of those States. Surely a lawyer is entitled to give his opinion upon such a question. In my opinion it is better that lawyers should abstain from practice rather than incur the risk of conflict with their duties as members of Parliament. Since I entered the Commonwealth Parliament I have absolutely refused to deal with any cases in which the Crown is concerned, either upon one side or the other. But what does it entail? The sacrifice of the whole of my professional practice. That is why I complain so bitterly-
– Of the inadequacy of the parliamentary allowance?
– Quite so. It is absolutely impossible for an honorable member to attend both to his parliamentary ani professional duties. A barrister who happens to be a member of Parliament is perfectly justified, however, in undertaking any duty in his professional capacity that does not conflict with his position as a representative of the people. The case, as presented to us, is that the Attorney-General has been asked to advise what are the riparian rights of South Australia as against, not the Commonwealth, but Victoria, New South Wales, or Queensland, which is a very different thing.
– It might be against the Commonwealth.
– Does not the honorable member recognise that that position might arise in the very near future?
– And, therefore, the Attorney-General should keep aloof from the case.
– It has not yet arisen. The only provision in the Constitution dealing with this question is section 100, which provides “that -
The Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade or commerce, abridge the right of a State or of the residents therein, to the’ reasonable use- of the waters of rivers for conservation or irrigation.
– That preserves the rights of the States.
– The point is that we have not made any regulation or passed any law affecting these matters.
– That being so, the Attorney-General may have to step, in at any moment.
– There can be no conflict at present between the States and the Commonwealth. All that the Attorney-General has been asked to do by the South Australian Government is to give an opinion as to the rights of that State in the case of a conflict with another State.
– I hold that, as a possible umpire, he should have referred the questionto some one else.
– He cannot possibly become an umpire.
– Does not the honorable member for Parramatta see that a different position altogether would be created if such a thing were possible? As a matter of fact, however, the High Court, and riot the Parliament, must deal with these questions. It is the decision of the High Court - and not the decision of the Parliament - which is vital, so far as the rights pf the States in this respect are concerned.
– The AttorneyGeneral might have to place before the Court a case in which one State hadlocked a river, and interfered with trade.
– That case would have to come Before the High Court, and not before the Parliament.
– But the obligation is placed on us under the Constitution to preserve the freedom of trade.
– The moment any law or regulation abridging the right of a State to the use of the waters of rivers was passed, the Attorney-Generalwould be able to deal with questions pf this kind. He might then have to state acase for the opinion of the High Court,It the position were, as some honorable members of the Opposition have suggested, there could be no question as to what ought to be done. But the case is very different from what they suggest. When the Attorney-General appealed to the members of the legal profession in the House, I had to say, in all fairness, what, in my opinion, was the real position. I should be very glad to turn the whole Ministry out of office, and wish that I could have found some excuse for doing so in the complaint now under discussion ; but in justice to the AttorneyGeneral I must say that at present, if the facts be as he has stated, I see nothing in his conduct in this case that calls for condemnation. While I think it is a matter for regret that he was not in attendance a little earlier it* the afternoon, let me tell honorable members that clients will not always allow their counsel to leave a court at a moment’s notice-
– Should not the public be considered ?
– Was not one of the public being considered in a most vital matter bv the absence of the AttorneyGeneral from the House? Was he not seeking to help a member of the public to obtain justice?
– How much has the public been considered by this waste of time?
– If the position were as suggested by some of my honorable friends of the Opposition, I should say that time had not been unduly occupied in dealing with it. But I feel constrained to say that I think’ the Attorney-General has not acted improperly.
– That it is right for him to retain his retainer?
– If the case is one relating only to a dispute between States, he certainly Is right ; but if it were a . matter affecting a dispute between a State and the Commonwealth, his position could not be justified.
– Would it be proper for him to accept a retainer from every State in any matter affecting State rights ?
– He could not do that.
– Why ?
– Because such a position could arise only in an action by the States against the Commonwealth. The Attorney-General tells us that he has simply been asked to advise what are the riparian rights of South Australia as against other States.
– And the Commonwealth may be dragged at any time into the dispute.
– I wish the honorable member could show me that that is so.
– If there be a possibility of the Commonwealth becoming involved in the dispute, would it not be better for all concerned that the Attorney-General should be perfectly free?
– In my opinion, the allowance attached to the office of AttorneyGeneral should be such that on taking that office an honorable member ought not to accept briefs of any kind.
– That is what we are contending.
– If he had any security of tenure in those circumstances, he ought not to accept briefs.
– That is so. At present no such security exists, and, therefore, I do not think it would be right to “expect members of the legal profession to sacrifice their practice, at the bar on assuming office.
– Arebusiness men required to give up all their business on taking office?
– They are not.
– Many of them have to do so.
– In the present circumstances, no one expects them to do anything of the kind. A time will come, however, when it will be recognised that the duties of a Parliamentarian, if properly carried out, are such that no remuneration earned in the ordinary walks of life could be too high for him. As some reference has been made to certain cases that have arisen in New South Wales, I may say that the one now before us is absolutely different from them.
– It is only legally different from them.
– No. There is a vital difference. In the Proudfoot case, proceedings were taken against certain Railway Commissioners, and the subtle point was raised that the Railway Commissioners were not the Crown.
– Thequestion actually arose which may arise in this case.
– In the present circumstances, the case suggested bv the honorable member cannot arise. Does he mean to say that I should not appear to-morrow as counsel in a case, because a year, or twenty years hence some one might mention in the House that there was such a case?
– That is not . an analogous case.
– Does the honorable member assert that if the honorable member for Darwin did not receive his parliamentary allowance for a month, he would not be at liberty to bring an action against the Commonwealth to recover it, and that a member of Parliament ought not to accept a brief to appear in his behalf? Would the honorable member sav that if a member of this Parliament were injured by a Commonwealth law dealing with navigation, he should not be allowed to bring an action to secure redress ? Does any honorable member say that if a State, or even the Federal Parliament, imposed an income tax to which he objected, he would not be at liberty to fight in the Law Courts against its application to him ?
– Does the honorable and learned member say that the AttorneyGeneral would be justified in appearing for a State in an income-tax case against a member of this Parliament?
– He would be justified if he were a private member. If he were called upon as Attorney-General to deal with a case of that kind, the position would be entirely different. If the New South Wales Government decided to bring an action against the Federal Parliament, because it had declined to carry out the provisions of the Constitution in regard to the representation of the people, , and the Attorney-General accepted a retainer on behalf of that State, we should certainly do our best to turn him out of office at the first opportunity.
– I quite agree with the honorable and learned member.
– Does the honorable and learned member think that any lawyer in the House would do anything so indecent ?
– I do not think he would.
– All that I say is that the Attorney-General should not accept a retainer from a State in proceedings against the Commonwealth.
– There is no doubt that in that respect the honorable member’s contention is correct; but in fairness to the Attorney-General, I must say that there is no connexion between the case now before us and the supposititious one raised by the honorable member for Parramatta.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).- Before the Attorney-General made his statement to the House, I expressed my view that there was no objection to the AttorneyGeneral completing the work he had engaged to do for the South Australian Government under the retainer accepted by him, but that, as a matter of political propriety, he should retire from his present position as counsel for the Government of that State immediately his present obligations had been discharged. I still hold that view. The Attorney-General has declared his intention to continue to accept retainers from the States Governments, and) I think that he is adopting an altogether wrong attitude, because he should be absolutely free from anything that would create suspicion in the public mind.
– The honorable member heard me say that if anything should arise which might directly or indirectly affect the Commonwealth I would retire immediately.
– I understood so, but I think that the Attorney-General would consult his own dignity and the political proprieties if he broke off his present relations with the South Australian Government at the earliest opportunity.
– What would be the position if he stood by the South. Australian Government until the time for action came, and then left them?
– I say that that would be wrong.
– The honorable member for Parramatta entirely misconceives the position.
– The AttorneyGeneral says that the interests of South Australia and those of the Commonwealth cannot come into conflict in connexion with the matter in which he has been retained, because the interests of South Australia would be those of the Commonwealth in the event of any dispute arising. I do not know that that is quite the correct view to take. I can imagine a dispute arising owing to the diversion of waters from the rivers by New South Wales and Victoria, and a question being asked in this Parliament with regard to it. The Attorney-General would then he called upon to express his opinion, and if it were in conflict with the views expressed by the legal advisers of New South Wales and Victoria, it might be suggested that the Minister was influenced ‘by his connexion with the South Australian Government.
– The probability is that I should not answer the question, because it would mot be a proper one to ask.
– The mere refusal to answer the question might create suspicion that the Attorney-General was shirking his duty and I think that everything calculated <to operate in that direction should be amended. I do not wish to set myself up as .a pattern in this respect, but I may say that I have always declined to do anything that might create suspicion in the public mind with regard to my conduct or character as a public man. iT do not suggest that the AttorneyGeneral would do anything wrong, .or that ihe would allow his retainer to influence him one way or the other, but I think we should at its very inception express our strong objection to anything that would tend to prejudicially affect the character of Ministers, or suggest a divided allegiance on their part.
– I quite agree with that.
– It may be urged that the case in question is one of small importance, but it is better for us to take action in the right direction now rather than to wait until some momentous occasion arises. I quite agree that the Proudfoot case in New South Wales stands on a footing entirely different from that which has been under discussion, but I would point out that the complications which arose over that case would never have occurred if objection had been taken at an earlier stage to Ministers acting as counsel for claimants against the Government. Mr. Justice Barton, and M». Justice O’Connor would never have accepted briefs in connexion with the case referred to, but for the fact that similar action on the part of others had been allowed to pass without Question. I would urge upon the Attorney-General that, as a matter of political propriety, he should set a good example for the future, and withdraw from his present position at the very first opportunity. I am sure that he would not be involved in any great loss.
– That is not the question. If it were wrong for me to continue to act as counsel for the South Australian Government, I should not hesitate to retire from that position whatever the loss might be.
– That may be so, but I still think that the Attorney-General would consult his own dignity if he were to take the course suggested. I feel very strongly in this matter, and I shall certainly vote in the direction I indicated when I first addressed the House, because I think we should be very careful to avoid the slightest inroad upon the sphere of duty of Ministers.
– I wish to direct attention to a matter of considerable importance to a very large section of the community, namely, the prohibition of the importation ,of opium. I had hoped that the Government would have declared their policy upon that subject, and I trust that it will receive their earliest .and most careful consideration. Another matter I desire to mention relates to the Department of the Postmaster-General. A very serious accident recently occured to a workman who was engaged in painting telegraph poles, and I would urge the Postmaster-General to take all the steps in his power to secure the safety of the men occupied in this work by providing them with belts and scaffolding.
– Before alluding very briefly to the subject that has occupied most of the time of the Committee this afternoon, I should like to say that so far we are without information as to whether the Government have accepted the Public Service Classification Scheme’. I am surprised that the Government have not announced their intention in regard to the matter. I understand that no provision is made in the Estimates for the increases in the salaries provided for under the Classification. That might be taken as an indication that the Classification had not been accepted, and I think that we are entitled to some announcement on the subject. The Watson Government stated definitely what their attitude was, and I think-
– Did the Government with which the honorable member was associated indicate its attitude?
– We had not brought the matter forward.- We promised that an opportunity would be afforded to discuss the Classification Scheme, and when matters had reached that stage we should most certainly have indicated our attitude. I . stated most distinctly that, so far as I was concerned, I was prepared to accept the scheme, but I am not sure whether the Prime Minister made any definite announcement on the subject.
– He practically accepted it.
– Certainly, if an opportunity had been afforded to the Government with which I was connected to bring, the matter forward, we should have regarded it our dutv to declare our attitude with regard to it. I do not propose to prolong the debate that has taken place with regard to the propriety of the AttorneyGeneral continuing to act as counsel for the South Australian Government in the matter of the Murray waters question. Up to the stage of his announcement that he intends to accept a renewal of the retainer, I agree with those who found no exception to the action of the Attorney-General.. He, with other members of the Parliament,when not in office, undertook to give a legal opinion to the State of South Australia on the important matter of the rivers question. If that work had not been completed when he took office, I would not have objected to its completion, especially as during the brief period for which the retainer had to run there was no likelihood of any serious question arising in the matter which would affect the Commonwealth. So far as the honorable and learned member for Angas, against whom some reflections were made, is concerned, I think that he was right in accepting a retainer. He was, and is, a private member of the House, and I hold that a private member may fight a question, as he has fought that question, in Parliament, out of Parliament, in his State, or constituency, and, if he sees fit, in the law courts of the country.
– What about the action of the Attorney-General of the late Administration ?
– The statement in the newspaper the other day was the first knowledgeI had that either the honorable and learned member for Indi or Senator Sir Josiah Symon had been retained by South Australia, though I understood that the honorable and learned member for Angas had been ‘so retained. I learn from what . has beep stated that Senator Sir Josiah Symon, like the AttorneyGeneral, when a private member accepted a retainer to give a legal opinion to the State of South Australia. How far he did anything for that retainer while a member of the Ministry, I cannot say.
– He occupied the same position as I do.
– I would have no objection to the Attorriey-General acting in this manner until he had completed the task which he undertook, and I have exonerated the honorable and learned member for Angas from any impropriety. But it is another thing for the AttorneyGeneral to announce to Parliament his intention to renew his retainer. An entirelynew situation now arises. I do not say that it is actually wrong for him to do this, but it is getting near the borderland,. and it is highly desirable, in my opinion, so that there may be no cause for suspicion, that he should come to another decision. It is all very well for the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, and other honorable members, to say that the questions arising between the two States concerned are not such as will affect the Commonwealth. The honorable and learned member for Werriwa stated that the only power given to the Commonwealth in the Constitution in regard to these river matters is contained in section 100, which says that -
The Commonwealth shall not by any law or regulation of trade or commerce, abridge the right of a State or of the residents therein to the reasonable use of the waters of rivers for conservation or irrigation.
– That does not give a power; it restricts the power of the Commonwealth.
– It implies a power. Quick and Garran say at page 874 of their Annotated Constitution -
The power to regulate commerce is the basis of the power to regulate navigation and navigable waters and streams.
To me it is evident that some of the questions affecting the Commonwealth must come up in any suit that is entered upon between the States with regard to the waters of the Murray.
– If a question arose between two citizens of the Commonwealth regarding their riparian rights, would it be improper for a Minister to accept a brief from one of them ?
– I do not say so.
– That is a similar case.
– Even in such a case, if the Minister knew that under the Constitution questions mightarise in regard to which the powers of the Commonwealth would be brought into consideration, and possibly into action, he should say,, “ I must hand back my retainer.”
– If the interests of the Commonwealth were in any wav involved, directly or indirectly it would be my duty, and I would carry it out at once, to return the retainer.
– It might be, as often happens in law cases, that the Commonwealth would have to be represented bv counsel in the case, and who would direct counsel if the AttorneyGeneral were briefed for one of the parties ?
– That situation is impossible.
-It is not impossible. I have shown what large powers the Constitution gives to the Commonwealth in connexion with navigable rivers and streams.
– The Commonwealth has power to regulate bills of lading. Am I, therefore, not to appear in a dispute between two merchants arising out of a bill of lading?
– That is not a case of the same sort. The Commonwealth is not the trustee of the States in that matter.
Mr.Isaacs. -It is not the trustee of the States in this matter.
– The Commonwealth must see that there is equality between the States.
– Would the Commonwealth have to interfere if there were a dispute about water rights between Victoria and South Australia?
– It might. The questions raised might trench on the trust of the Commonwealth, in which case the Commonwealth might have to interfere.
– It could not.
– I think it undesirable that a Minister should be bound to one of the parties of a suit by which Commonwealth interests may be affected.The proper attitude of the AttorneyGeneral is to stand by, ready to interfere at any moment when he sees the rights of the States which have been committed to his trust trenched upon. The honour, of a Minister is to a certain extent his own, but it is also in the possession of Parliament, and we should be particular to see, not only that it is not smirched, but that there is no appearance of evil. The consideration of this matter should be above party influence, but with all due respect to the Minister, without saying a word against him personally, or impugning his motives, I think that he has not come to the wisestdecision. I do not blame him for undertaking, before he became a Minister, to give an opinion.
– I have not completed the work yet.
– The task I know requires much learned research, tremendous labour, and grave consideration, and if the Attorney-General says, “I have not completed it,” I, for one, will not find the slightest fault with him for going on with it until he has brought it to a completion. But, to renew, the retainer is a different thing. The reason for which a retainer is given is that his services may be called upon by the State.
– But not against the Commonwealth.
– There might be a danger of a decision being given which would be against the interests of the Commonwealth, unless the Commonwealth intervenes.
– That is quite impossible.
– It may be improbable, but it is not impossible. Under the circumstances, I think it highly desirable that the Minister should keep his hands free.
– Should not other mem- bers do so, too?
– I see no objection to a lawyer, who is a private member, taking a brief against the Commonwealth, if he sees fit.
– Under the Constitution, he cannot accept a brief for the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member for Riverina, who, like myself, is a layman, has fought questions in this House, and outside, and if he thought right, and had the opportunity and the means, it would be open to him 1o pursue the matter in a suit at law.
– Not if my personal interest were concerned.
– I am speaking of matters affecting the interests of constituents. Similarly, a man may accept a brief for his State against the Commonwealth if he thinks that the Commonwealth is exceeding its powers. But the Attorney-General, whose business it is to look after the interests of the Commonwealth, especially in regard to legal matters, occupies a different position, and should have his hands perfectly free. He should not be tied to any party in connexion with litigation which may affect the Commonwealth interest.
– I quite agree as to that.
– I shall not vote for any motion moved in regard to this matter, because I do not say that the honorable and learned member’s action is absolutely wrong, but it is near the border line. Unless the Minister alters his decis:on, .we shall have to await later developments ; but the time occupied in this discussion will not have been wasted if it leads Ministers to exercise care in guarding their actions, so that the interests of their professions or business may not, in any case, overlap those of the Commonwealth.
– My apology for making a few remarks is that my name has been mentioned once or twice during the debate. In this matter, I cannot follow the lead of the honorable member for Parramatta. So far as I have been able to gather from the facts which have been stated to the Committee, no blame or impropriety whatever attaches to the Attorney-General. He has merely given an opinion upon certain matters. He has not appeared in any judicial proceeding. He has simply been asked for an opinion in reference to the rights of two States to the- waters of a river which flows through them. The interests of the Commonwealth are not attacked or concerned by the conflict between those two States, and to my mind the Attorney-General is perfectly justified in accepting a retainer from one of them, and if necessary in appearing in court, and arguing upon its behalf. If we are to take up the position that he is not to act for any State, simply because upon some future day the Commonwealth may be concerned in a dispute, we shall make the acceptance of Ministerial office a great bar to men capable of filling the position of Attorney-General. If honorable members accept that doctrine,, there is scarcely a transaction in ordinary business in which by a parity of reasoning the Commonwealth may not be affected. For example, an auctioneer, if he were a member of Parliament, might be prevented from giving a valuation of any land, because possibly at some future time that valuation might come before the Commonwealth Government as a basis of purchase. If that doctrine were pressed to its logical conclusion, not only members of the legal profession, but a great many others would be prevented from engaging in any occupation whilst carrying out their parliamentary duties. I think that the attitude taken up by the Attorney-General is the correct one, and that it is entirely within the bounds, not only of legal, but of ordinary propriety. The particular ground of the attack made upon the honorable and learned gentleman is that he has given an opinion regarding the rights of two States. The Commonwealth, at any rate, is not yet concerned in that dispute. How can any honorable member say that he has been guilty of any impropriety in accepting the responsibility of offering an opinion upon that question?
– Nobody has suggested that.
– Then why has he been attacked? As honorable members are aware, a case as to riparian rights might easily arise, not between two States, but between two individuals. The very same question as would be considered if two States took action would then be debated. Indeed, most of these important cases are decided, not as between States, but as between individuals in two States. If a person in South Australia sought to ascertain what were his rights in connexion with the waters’ of the Murray, the AttorneyGeneral would be quite justified in accepting a retainer from him, and in appearing in court upon his behalf. That being so, I hold that the honorable and learned gentleman has acted perfectly within his rights. His position is entirely in accord with professional propriety. Possibly honorable members may overlook the fact that under the Constitution lawyers labour under many disabilities. For instance, they are debarred from accepting any brief on behalf of the Commonwealth Government.
– And a good thing, too.
– It maybe a good thing for those who are suing the Commonwealth, but it deprives the latter of. the services of all the lawyers in the Commonwealth Parliament, and they include some of the ablest in Australia. That is a consideration which should not be overlooked.
– The Constitution also debars mercantile men from contracting with the Government.
– It does not debar them from contracting with the States Governments.
– I should like honorable members to recollect the discussion upon this very question which took place in the House of Commons some years ago. The result of that debate was that the salary of the Attorney-General was raised to£10,000 a year, in addition to which’ he receives fees upon all Crown briefs. The latter average about£8,000 a year.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral in England receive a salary of £10,000 a year?
– Yes. Altogether his emoluments run into about£18,000. All that has been said upon this question has merely confirmed my belief that the Attorney-
General has not done anything for which he can be blamed. I make that statement as one who has a perfect detestation of the honorable and learned gentleman’s political methods. Nevertheless, I am bound to say that he has acted in this case with strict propriety, and if he continues to hold a retainer from the South Australian Government, he will be justified in appearing in Court upon its behalf, so long as the case possesses its present complexion. We must rely upon his good sense to relinquish that retainer when he thinks that his duties as counsel will clash with the interests of the Commonwealth.
– Even when I thought that there was any possibility of the two thingsclashing, I should relinquish it.
-If the honorable and learned gentleman does not resign then, we have the power in our own hands to deal with him. I should be one of the loudest in my denunciation of any Attorney-General who accepted a brief in opposition to the interests of the Commonwealth Government.
– The honorable and learned member will denounce the Attorney-General when the offence has been committed.
– I shall not be a party, to debar any man - irrespective of whether he be in a large or a small way of business - from obtaining those rewards to which his ability and his merit entitle him. But while I say this in support of the AttorneyGeneral’s attitude, there is one matter to which reference has been made, and towhich’ I desire briefly to address myself. I think that during the past few weeks, the AttorneyGeneral has not paid honorable members upon this side of the House that courtesy to which they are entitled. Only the other day, we had a very important discussion upon the Trade Marks Bill. Some very subtle and learned criticisms of that measure were indulged in by the honorable and learned member for Angas, and the honorable and learned member for Corinella - criticisms that we had a right to expect the Minister would have listened to carefully, making notes upon them, and preparing to answer them. The whole of that criticism, however, by gentlemen whose abilities are well known, was delivered in the absence of the Attorney-General. I. felt very keenly upon that matter, and I trust that conduct of that sort will not be repeated. If the same thing occurs again I shall assist in whatever steps may be taken to check the practice of which I com- plain. Upon the main question, however, I see no impropriety in the conduct of the Attorney-General, or in his continuing to act for the South Australian Government until such time as the interests of the Commonwealth may be threatened.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I quite agree with the remarks of the honorable member for North Sydney regarding the attitude of the Government -with respect to the Public Service Classification scheme. There is no doubt that a promise was made by previous Administrations that nothing would be done in that matter until an opportunity had been afforded this Chamber of discussing it, and of arriving at a definite decision. We all know that it is open to this Parliament to make any suggestions which it may deem desirable, and we may rest assured that those suggestions will receive consideration at the hands of the Public Service Commissioner. I claim, however, that it is due to the House that the Government should come down with some definite statement regarding their views upon that scheme. So far we have not had any intimation from them as to their attitude upon it. As rule, I think that the Government should be the leaders of the House. In. this connexion I was very much surprised at the action of the Treasurer last night. In the course of his Budget deliverance, when speaking of quite a number of matters, he failed to intimate the opinions of the Government upon them, and when pressed for those opinions, he replied that the Cabinet had not had an opportunity of considering the matters referred to.
– What were the questions to which the honorable member alludes ?
– I shall deal with them when the Financial Statement is under discussion. /The Government appear to be waiting till they can ascertain what are the views of honorable members before committing themselves to any definite opinions.
– What are the questions to which the honorable member refers?
– The Public Service classification scheme is one. Then I understand that the Treasurer entertains a certain opinion in regard to the Braddon section of the Constitution. Upon important questions like these we should be told what is the attitude of the Government.
– There are a good many years to run yet. It will , be five years before the Braddon section expires.
– The time is rapidly approaching when it will be necessary for us to take some steps in that matter, especially in view of the small surplus in excess of the three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue which will be returnable to the States during the current year. As a matter of fact, that amount will be practically absorbed by interest upon the transferred properties, and by the establishment of a sinking fund. I think that the Government should submit some policy to the House upon matters of this sort.
– Why did not the Government, of which the honorable member was a member, submit a policy last year?
– Through the treachery of my righthonorable friend and a few others we were denied an opportunity of so doing. We came into office when most of the money provided for on the Estimates had been spent.
– And the appeals against the classification had not been heard.
– That is so. Since then the present Government have had an opportunity to consider the report of the Commissioner. The Treasurer knows that he hardly expressed a definite opinion on any one subject with which he dealt in his Budget statement. I have no hesitation in saying that the late Government would have clearly intimated its intention with regard to the Public Service Classification if it had had an opportunity to do so. These are matters, however, with which I shall deal more fully at a later stage. I am surprised that the AttorneyGeneral should have intimated his determination to* continue to advise the Government of South Australia in matters affecting the other States. No one could have taken exception to his holding a retainer for the South Australian Government as a private member, but there is great danger of the interests of the Commonwealth being neglected when its chief law officer acts as adviser to a State on a question, that may ultimately affect the powers of the Commonwealth.
– How could the powers of the Commonwealth be affected by this case ?
– That has been fully explained.
– No one has yet explained it.
– When an honorable member has made up his mind in regard to any matter, it is difficult to bring forward any facts calculated to induce him to take up a different attitude. The honorable member for North Sydney agreed that the Attorney-General had acted rightly up to a certain point, but that his determination to continue to advise the Government of South Australia in certain questions was unwise, as it might result unfairly to the Commonwealth. I indorse that view. I wish it to be clearly understood that in speaking in this way I am not influenced by any party spirit. The fact that we do not regard the matter from that stand-point is shown by the readiness with which some members of the Opposition have expressed their concurrence with the attitude of the Attorney-General .
– The legal members of the Opposition.
– Quite so. Although the Attorney-General has merely accepted a retainer to advise the Government of South Australia on certain questions, the acceptance of that retainer may lead to his holding a brief for that State.
– Not in any matter affecting Commonwealth interests.
– The AttorneyGeneral might advise the State on certain matters, and his advice might be eventually used against the Commonwealth. He ought to keep himself free from complications of this kind. The honorable and learned gentleman has said that if at any time he found that his acceptance of a retainer from the Government of South Australia imperilled the rights of the Commonwealth he would at once give up that retainer. But it might then be too late for him to withdraw. Proceedings might subsequently be taken bv the State, on advice tendered by him, with very serious results to the Commonwealth. When I was a member of the State Legislature of New South Wales, two members of the .then Government accepted a brief against the Crown, and the Parliament did not hesitate, notwithstanding that the Government of the day had a majority, to pass a resolution condemning their action. The result was that those members had to retire from office.
– Was not that a very different case from the one under notice ?
– I admit that it was, and have referred to it only to show that there is ai danger of a time arising when the Attorney-General may find himself in almost the same position that those members of the State Parliament occupied. As trustees of the people, we are expected to keep ourselves free from anything that may conflict with our duties to the Commonwealth. I do not take exception to an honorable member acting for a State while he is not in office, but as soon as he takes office the position is different.
– The Commonwealth is not involved1 in the case with which the AttorneyGeneral is connected.
– The rights of the Commonwealth may become involved at any time. There is a great deal of feeling between the Governments of South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales relative to the waters of the Murray and the uses to which they may be put. The AttorneyGeneral’s own constituents are anxious that the rights of Victorians living near the banks of the Murray should be preserved, and yet the honorable member for Maranoa would allow him to continue to advise the South Australian Government, and eventually perhaps to accept a brief on behalf of that State in a case that might give rise to Commonwealth issues and result in great injury to the other States. I hope that even at this late stage the Attorney-General will withdraw from the position he has taken up. I express the hope with no feeling of hostility towards him. I have always held strong views on this question, and took a prominent part in the debate in the New South Wales Parliament relative to the case to which reference has been made.
– Why did not the honorable member call upon the late AttorneyGeneral to return his retainer?
– I was not responsible for his action, and should like to hear what he has to say with regard to the matter. 1 first heard of this case last evening, when the honorable member for Parramatta showed me a newspaper paragraph dealing with it. I do not for one moment impugn the honesty of the AttorneyGeneral, but hold that he should1 withdraw from the case.
– Why did not the honorable member deal in this way with his late colleague i
– He could not. What could he have done against his colleague ?
– I was not aware at the time that he held a retainer from the South Australian Government. The Treasurer says that I could have done nothing against a colleague. It was no doubt a feeling of that kind that led him to remain a member of a former Administration, although, as he has told us, he had to eat a lot of dirt.
– I never said anything of the kind, and the honorable member ought to withdraw the statement.
– I accept my right honorable friend’s denial, but I know that he ate a lot of dirt while in office on a previous occasion.
– I could never eat as much as the honorable member has done if I lived a hundred years.
– I have been twenty-four years in public life-
– Eating dirt all the time.
– I defy the honorable member to point to any case in which I acted improperly.
– The honorable member has been grovelling all the time.
– Order ! These interruptions must cease. I also appeal to honorable, members to restrain their hilarity as far as possible, as it is difficult for the honorable member for Macquarie to proceed.
– I have been in public life for twenty-four years, and no one can say that there is a mark against me.
– Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
– I defy the right honorable member to point to any act of mine during my public career that reflects in any way upon me.
– And so with me.
– Will the honorable member for Macquarie-
– Will the honorable member for Barrier be good enough to observe the request I have just made ? I must also ask the honorable member for Macquarie to address himself to the question before the Chair.
– I am not going to allow any honorable member to impugn my honesty. The Treasurer must not think that he is in the Parliament of Western Australia. When he was a member of that Legislature he used to tell honorable members that if they did not do what he desired they would be thrown out of Parliament.
– If we had1 the honorable member in Western Australia we should make him “ sit up.”
– I think that the people of Western Australia will make my right honorable friend “ sit up “ when next he goes before them.
– If the honorable member throws stones at me he must expect me to throw some at him.
– The fact that I have always been returned by large majorities, and that no one has been able to say anything against my character, enables me to hurl the insinuation back at the right honorable gentleman. I shall have something to say with regard to him when the debate 011 his Financial Statement is continued, and I shall postpone any further criticism I may have to offer until then. I only regret that the Minister lost his temper.
– If I did so, it was the honorable member’s fault.
– Let the Treasurer alone ; he now has to obey the caucus.
– As the honorable member for Parramatta used to do.
– Honorable members in the Ministerial corner are very ready to gird at the honorable member for Parramatta. I have had a long association with him, and I have found that at all times he has had the full courage of his opinions, even to the point of objecting to sign the labour pledge in New South Wales. The respect in which the honorable member is held by the working classes; is shown by the fact that he represents Lithgow, one of the strongest labour centres in New South Wales. It must be admitted that those with whom I have been associated in politics have done as much as have the members of the Labour Party for the working classes of New South Wales. We differ from- members of the Labour Party as to methods, but we are as anxious as they are to further the interests of the people whom we represent. I rose for the purpose of entering my protest against the action of the Attorney-General in continuing to act as counsel for the South Australian Government. I believe that the Minister would best serve his own interests and those of the Commonwealth if he determined to give it the benefit of his best abilities. The Murray River question seriously affects the interests of New South Wales and Victoria, as well as those of South Australia, and the Attorney-General should undoubtedly keep himself entirely free from all connexion with any particular State, in order that he may give the Commonwealth the very best advice upon this important matter-
Mr. WILKS (Dalley).- Some hours have elapsed since I moved my amendment, but the delay that has occurred may fairly be attributed to the absence from the Chamber of the Attorney-General during the early stages of the debate.
– 1 have been here for some hours, and yet the discussion has not closed.
– That is because the AttorneyGeneral was not only discourteous to his own leader, but, when he did attend here, flouted the House.
– That is not correct.
– The Prime Minister informed us that he had telephoned to the Attorney-General’, and that he expected him to reach the House very soon, but several hours elapsed before his appearance.
– On a point of order, I desire to know whether it is in order for an honorable member to indulge in vain repetitions. The statement now being made by the honorable member for Dalley has been repeated over and over again.
– Tedious repetitions are undoubtedly out of order, but I cannot say that the honorable member for Dalley has been guilty in that respect since he has risen on this occasion.
– I am not in the habit of repeating my statements, and I can only attribute the interposition of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to the influence of his romantic imagination. The debate has been distinguished by one or two striking features. Every honorable and learned member, except the honorable and learned member for Illawarra, has supported the position taken up by the AttorneyGeneral, whereas, with one exception, every lay member of the House has condemned it. The question as to the position of the Attorney-General has not been raised as the result of any concerted action on the part of the Opposition. That has been definitely shown by the divergencies of opinion amongst its members. By introducing . this matter, the honorable member for
Parramatta has performed a most valuable service to the Commonwealth, because it is important that we should adhere strictly to constitutional practice and procedure, and that the purity and proprieties of public life should be maintained in this Parliament as. in the British Parliament. In England, the Attorney-General has not even a seat in the Cabinet, but is expected to act as the legal adviser of the Crown and the public of England. The Attorney-General of the Commonwealth should occupy a similar position. The honorable member for North Sydney showed that there was great probability of the interests of the State of South Australia and those of the Commonwealth overlapping in connexion with the Murray waters question, and urged that the Commonwealth should not be deprived of the advantage of an absolutely unbiased opinion from its principal legal adviser. It seems to me that the Attorney-General cannot, in justice to himself or the Commonwealth, retain his present position. It is important that we should preserve the purity of Government, and insure the proper conduct of public business. The AttorneyGeneral has stated that if anythingwrong occurred he would retire from his present position as counsel for the South. Australian Government.
– J did not say that. What I said was that if there was any possibility of Commonwealth interests being affected, I would retire at once.
– That amounts to an admission of the possibility of Commonwealth and State interests overlapping, and, surely it is important that the Attorney-General should be perfectly free to act in the best interests of the Commonwealth. If Senator Sir Josiah Symon was knowingly permitted to occupy a position similar to that .now filled by the present Attorney-General, honorable members then in Opposition were to blame. It has been pointed out by the honorable member for Wannon that the Constitution precludes members of the legal profession, who are also members of this Parliament, from accepting briefs for the Commonwealth. There must have been some strong reason for inserting that provision, and equally strong arguments can be advanced in favour of prohibiting members of Parliament, and especially Ministers, from accepting briefs on behalf of those who are taking action against the Commonwealth. The Attorney-General holds a high and distinguished position at the Bar, but lie also occupies a high and distinguished position in this House, and I would ask him which position he respects the more?
– I respect both.
– The Attorney-General must respect one position more than the other, and I take it that his greater respect is due to the position he holds here.
– I agree to that.
– To my mind, there is imminent danger of a conflict between the public and private duties of the Minister. In moving the reduction of the Estimates by £1, I am merely imitating the action of the honorable and learned member for Indi some months ago, when he moved a reduction of is., so I am going 19s. better. I intend to force a division on the amendment. Those who are indorsing the action of the Attorney-General seem to look upon this as a mere party attack, whereas what we are contending for is the proper observance of right constitutional principles. The amendment is a protest against the action of the Attorney-General in continuing to hold a retainer for the South Australian Government. What he did anterior to his acceptance of office is no concern of mine.
– The honorable member moved the amendment before Ihe heard the statement of the Attorney-General.
– I moved it after I had heard the statement of the Prime Minister, and the speech of the Attorney-General gave me no reason for withdrawing it. Throughout the debate, we have been met with hostile interjections from the labour corner, but the honorable member for Darwin is the only member of the Labour Party who has addressed the Committee against the course which I am taking. The honorable member for Melbourne condemned the action of the Minister, and advocated the election of Ministers. He said that he was in accord with the honorable member for Parramatta.
– The honorable member is mistaken.
– The honorable member for Melbourne said that he would support the action of the Attorney-General while the present system lasted.
– He invited me to move a motion.
– He probably thought that he could not vote for the amendment, as it was a party one, but he is prepared to vote in condemnation of the action of the Attorney-General on a definite motion. I do not think that the deputy leader of the Labour Party has grasped1 the importance of the position.
– The honorable member for North Sydney said that he would not vote for the amendment.
– That shows that the Opposition are not governed “by cast-iron rules, and that the amendment was not prompted bv party motives. The members of the Labour Party will shortly have reason to seriously regret their action if they vote against the amendment.
– I should not have risen had it not been for what fell from the honorable member for Macquarie, in regard1 to the rights of my constituents in respect to the River Murray. As I understand the position, it is this: A dispute has arisen between the States of South Australia and Victoria as to the right of Victoria to divert a certain volume of water from the Goulburn River. There is no probability of any conflict with the Commonwealth Government. The honorable and learned member for Werriwa quoted section 100 of the Constitution in support of this statement, but sections 99 and 101 also deal with the powers of the Commonwealth in “this connexion. The Commonwealth may deal only with the navigability of rivers, which is tobe controlled by a body - the Inter-State Commission - which has not yet been called into existence. The Attorney-General has been asked by the State of South Australia to give a legal opinion as to the rights of that State - not with the object of coming into conflict with the Commonwealth, but so that it mav ascertain from the High Court of Australia what its position really is. I will read the sections of the Constitution to which I have referred, to show that there is no probability of any opinion given bv the AttorneyGeneral to the State of South Australia affecting at any time, in the slightest degree, the interests of the Commonwealth. Section 99 says -
The Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade, commerce, or revenue, give preference to one State, or any part thereof, over another State, or any part thereof.
The Commonwealth’ has not enacted any such law or regulation, and there is at present no intention to introduce legislation of that kind. Section 100 says -
The Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade or commerce, abridge the right of a State or of the residents therein to the reasonable use of the waters of rivers for conservation or irrigation.
The Commonwealth has made no attempt, and is making no attempt, to interfere in this direction. As I have stated in my constituency, and my electors are in agreement with me in regard to the matter, the true solution of the difficulty lies in the taking of power by the Commonwealth to deal with the whole question.
– The Commonwealth cannot do that, so far as the diversion of water is concerned, without the consent of the States.
– The Commonwealth has power over the water, but not over the banks. No doubt the work of his office demands as much time as the AttorneyGeneral can give to it; but if he is to be denied the right to practice his profession, the same rule should apply to every member. In this matter there is, in my opinion, no difference between a member who does not happen to be a Minister, and one who is a Minister. It is very strange that, although the late Attorney-General received a similar retainer some months ago, we did not hear’ a word about the matter from the members of the Opposition until the present occasion.
– We did not know of it. I cannot find any one on this side who knew of it.
– The circumstances seem very peculiar ; but I do not wish to engender any more heat. I cannot see the probability of the action of the AttorneyGeneral in this matter conflicting with the interests of the Commonwealth. If I did, I should say that he should retire from office; but, under the circumstances, he is the best judge of his own conduct.
– He is the servant of Parliament.
– Yes ; but while there may be a conflict as to their rights between the States of South Australia, New South Wales, and Victoria, I do not see how it can affect the Commonwealth. I hope that the debate will shortly close, so that we may get on with business.
– I knew nothing about this matter until I entered the Chamber to-day; but having listened carefully to the opinions expressed, I have formed an opinion of my own, to which I now think it my duty to give utterance. I know nothing about the particulars of the dispute in question, and wish to sweep away all legal technicalities. In my opinion, there are too many lawyers in the House,, and too few medical men. Lawyers look at questions from a point of view which differs from that of laymen, and by their subtle arguments, are apt to confuse those who have not studied law. I have endeavoured to look at this matter from the point of view of a layman. I gather that there is a dispute between two of the States, and that the Attorney-General - a gentleman of great eminence in his profession, with a reputation for legal learning second to none - has been retained by one of them ; but, inasmuch as he is paid an exceedingly handsome fee to advise the Commonwealth on legal matters, I think that he should act for the Commonwealth alone, and not for any State. I regret that the average member receives by way of remuneration what is no more than a pittance - .£400 a year. But a Minister of the Crown receives the handsome sum of ^2,000 per annum. I do not consider that that sum constitutes merely a reimbursement to him, as does the smaller amount, which is received by a private member.
– The amount mentioned by the honorable member is a little more thana Minister gets.
– It is not more than he deserves. A Minister should regard his salary as a. payment for his services, and when he accepts office - whatever his position in life - he should be prepared to devote the whole of his time and energies to the service of the Commonwealth. I regret that, under existing conditions, many of the represent tatives of other States, who are poor men, are obliged to abandon their means of livelihood, because they have to reside in Melbourne during the parliamentary session, whereas the Victorian representatives are able to carry on their ordinary vocations.. I merely desire to. point out to the AttorneyGeneral that, as he is retained by the Commonwealth his first duty is to the Commonwealth. _ In the action that he has taken he is establishing a precedent which will be quoted in the years to come. This amendment will be pressed to a division. Of course the Attorney-General will be supported by the members of the Labour
Party, who realize that if the division went against the Ministry they would be compelled to face their constituents. It is a singular fact that all through this debate members of the Labour Party have practically remained dumb. Only one or two of them have had the courage to express their opinions, notwithstanding that throughout the length and breadth of the country this discussion is being watched with the keenest interest. I hold that -the AttorneyGeneral, like Caesar’s wife, should be above suspicion, and if only two, three, or four members vote for the amendment, I trust that he will retire from his position as legal adviser to the South Australian Government. ?
– Honorable members opposite seem to experience some feelings of annoyance because those sitting upon this side of the Chamber have not regarded the question that has been raised very seriously. The charge levelled1 against the Attorney-Genera] is simply a reflection upon their own intelligence and “ up-to-dateness,” because full publicity was given to this matter in the press some three months ago. At that time paragraphs appeared in the Melbourne newspapers mentioning the names of the counsel who had been retained on behalf of South Australia in this particular case.
– Was not Parliament in recess at that time?
– Parliament was not in recess when the late Government were turned out of office. It was prior to that time that the announcement appeared in the public press, and it is a singular circumstance that members of the Opposition only discovered the facts of the case today. I am of the same opinion now as I was when I first read the statement in the newspapers concerning the position occupied by the present Attorney-General and his predecessor in office. I see nothing wrong in their acceptance of a retainer to advise the representatives of a State in regard to its claims upon another State. The same conflict of opinion might arise in respect of the riparian rights of a private individual. I regard the exhibition which has been indulged in this afternoon merely as a waste of time that has been promoted for party purposes. That is my candid opinion.
– Then the honorable mem: ber agrees with the Attorney-General.
– Yes. It is strange that not one legal member upon the oppo site side of the Chamber is to be found supporting the action of -the deputy leader of the Opposition. Of course, the honorable mem>-»er for Robertson is prepared to discount all their opinions, but upon constitutional questions, to whom must we look for light and leading? Undoubtedly, to the legal members of the House. As I understand it, the position is that a question has arisen between South Australia and Victoria regarding an alle’ged improper diversion by the latter State of water from the river-bed of the Murray. South Australia has objected to that diversion, and has sought legal opinion as to the rights of the Victorian Government under its Constitution. It may be that the rights of New South Wales will also come under consideration. As I understand the situation, there is no possibility of the interests of the Commonwealth being involved in the diversion of those waters, except so far as the navigability of the river is concerned, and that question has not arisen up to the present time.
– Does not the Constitution say something about the “ reasonable use “ of the waters ?
– Yes. The rights of the States, or of individuals must not be abrogated for irrigation purposes, except so far as the “ reasonable “ use of the waters is concerned. The language is necessarily vague.
– That is where the trouble comes in.
– Hut that trouble has not arisen. It is a disadvantage to all the States that up to the present time they have not come into line upon this particular question. Although various attempts have been made to bring them into line by placing the water for irrigation purposes under the control of the Commonwealth Government, no finality has been reached. The position is that South Australia has eventually decided to resort to the Courts to determine once. and for a,ll what are her rights in respect to the waters of the Murray. Until that judgment has been obtained, there can be no possibility of Common wealth interests being concerned. Until there is a conflict of interests between the States and the Commonwealth I see no justification for any charge being levelled against the AttorneyGeneral for accepting a retainer for his advice. It would be equally just to level a charge against him for . accepting a retainer from an’ individual whose riparian rights were concerned. There is not the remotest probability of any Commonwealth interest being threatened whilst this question is under consideration. Consequently I have no sympathy with the charges which have been directed against the AttorneyGeneral, and I regard the present debate as a pure waste of time which has been prompted only by partv considerations.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).- I wish to say one or two words before the Committee goes to a vote upon this question. Honorable members have been talking all round it to-night, and particularly the legal members who take sides with the Attorney-General. Nobody has made any charge against the honorable and learned gentleman.
– This motion is intended as a. vote of censure upon me.
– My position is that if the honorable and learned member had not stated to-night that he intended to accept a further retainer from the South Australian Government, I should have, taken no steps whatever in the , direction of pressing this amendment to a division. But since he has declared his intention to accept a further retainer from the State of South Australia, I presume that he is at liberty to accept one from any State in the Commonwealth. The matter therefore becomes a very serious one, and I will show why. Honorable members will recollect that some time ago this question was raised in the House by the honorable member for North Sydney in connexion with the scheme which is being carried out at Waranga Basin. He put some questions to the then Minister of Home Affairs relating to the very matter which we are now debating.
– Who was the Minister of Home Affairs at the time?
– The honorable member for Hume. The first question reads as follows-
– What is the reference?
– The question is to be found upon page 16060 of Hansard for 1902. The first question reads -
Whether in the preservation of navigation it is not the right and the duty of the Commonwealth to inquire into and approve or oppose, as inquiry may justify, State enterprises for the storage or abstraction of the waters of navigable rivers or their affluents?
In reply, the Minister said -
I believe it is the constitutional right, and it the navigability was to be interfered with it is the duty.
Then in answer to a second question, the Minister said -
There is no necessity for inquiry unless it is apparent that the effect in No. 1 question will be produced.
– That is exactly the position which I have been putting.
– It was laid down by the Minister who answered these questions, that it was possible that circumstances might arise in connexion with these States schemes which would justify the Government in making inquiries upon their own account, and possibly opposing or approving any of the schemes. That is the whole case I have to pvSt against the Attorney-General. In the very scheme now under discussion, as between the States there may come a point, and that speedily, at which the navigability of the river may be interfered with, and then, according to the dictum already given by this Government, it will be the obligation of the AttorneyGeneral to interfere, and either to approve or oppose that scheme. I hold that the Attorney-General, ifhe accepts fees from one of these contending parties, cannot be in a position of absolute independence to take action on behalf of the Commonwealth, and in defence of its rights. That is the whole case. No one wishes to make any charge against the AttorneyGeneral. My sole object is to prevent any such scandals arising as have already occurred in the history of Australia. It will be too late when this conflict of opinion does arise for ‘the Attorney-General to shape his course. He would then be in this position : that he had taken a fee from and consented to be retained by the South Australian Government, and had acted for them right up to the point at which it was sought to give effect to the object for which that retainer had been given. Then, when the State was on the point of taking the action in respect of which they had retained him, he would leave them in the lurch. From the purely personal point of view that is a position from which the honorable member ought, if possible, to escape. If he accepts retainers from the States and acts for them until proceedings in the Court become necessary, he incurs a moral obligation to stand by them, after taking their hard cash.
– The honorable member ousrht to ask the lawyers about that moral obligation.
– No doubt they would express a different opinion. The Attorney-General will probably say, in reply, that he has been retained only to give an opinion. We have to remember, however, that the action of the State of South Australia may be shaped on that opinion - that the action taken upon that opinion may be one that will bring the States into conflict with the Federal Government.
– For what reason is the State seeking the opinion of counsel?
– As the honorable member reminds me, the very opinion itself may give rise to an action between the States, which may lead to the Commonwealth Government coming into the issue at any time. In order to escape from that position the Attorney-General ought not to accept retainers from the States. He cannot be in an independent position, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, so long as he is in the power and the pay of the Governments of the States.
Mr. ISAACS (Indi- Attorney-General). -I have listened for a good many hours-
– For an hour and a half.
– It seemed like a week and a half, especially when the honorable member was speaking. But I have listened for hours to observations by a very few honorable members in opposition to the views I expressed this afternoon. There is one matter that is very evident. It is a perfectly hollow pretence for honorable members to assert that had I been here at an earlier stage the discussion on this question would have been concluded long ago. I have been in the Chamber for hours, and the matter is still under discussion. It is a mere pretence for honorable members opposite, who are responsible for the waste of public time that has taken place, to hold up as an excuse for this prolonged discussion the fact that I was not here this afternoon when the question was first raised. This is an attempted vote of censure on myself, and so strongly do I feel that that is so, that I shall not- vote upon the question. It is also an attempt to injure the Government to which I belong, although I have to express my indebtedness to most honorable members opposite who have spoken - I cannot say this of all - in that no element of personal feeling has been introduced by them. I wish to acknowledge thatfact. The matter has been put very fairly indeed - although erroneously, I think - by most honorable members who have challenged my position. I make that statement with unaffected sincerity. Some honorable members, like the honorable member for North Sydney, have spoken more than fairly - they have spoken generously ; but I do not wish to take shelter behind any good feeling that has been exhibited or any sentiments of personal regard for myself. I desire to deal with this question on its merits. It is the duty of every public man to be prepared to meet any such challenge as this ; but the honorable member for Parramatta, who admits that he learnt of this matter last Friday, would have acted more fairly towards me if he had drawn my attention to his complaint at an earlier date, so that I might have been in my place to-day when the question was raised. As a matter of fact, I did not hear a word about it until 2.35 this afternoon, when. I could not possiblyleave the Court in which I was engaged. I wish to say that my constituents and my col leagues know full well that I am not in a position to give up the whole of my practice at the Bar. I cannot do it. When we hear of the AttorneyGeneral of the United Kingdom refusing to engage in private practice, we ought not to forget that he receives many thousands a year in fees, in addition to his salary, as compensation for that sacrifice.
– £10,000 a year.
– The Commonwealth cannot afford to make any such allowance, and I cannot afford to give up the whole of my private practice. Honorable members must not think for one moment that I do not lose a very great deal in consequence of the demands which my public duties make upon me. I give up much of my practice, but cannot sacrifice the whole of it. I wish honorable members to understand that I should lose the whole of my practice if it were thought that I could spend only half the day in Court. I think honorable members will bear me out when I say that I havenot failed to do a very fair share of the work of this Parliament sinceI have been a member of the Government.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– It is not only when the House is sitting that Iam attending to my parliamentary duties ; honorable members have evidence before them that I devote a considerable portion of my time to the work of the House when I am outside of it. It is fair to me,’ and to those who send me here, that I should make this statement. If I am not present at the opening of the House, it does not follow that I am neglecting the work of the Parliament. I was not present the other day when the honorable and learned member for Corinella and the honorable and learned member for Angas spoke. My absence was not “due to any disrespect to them, and I may say at once that I have carefully scanned their observations, and that they will have my best attention. Honorable members must understand that it is out of no disrespect to this Chamber that - I am not always present at the opening of the House. Coming to the question immediately before us, I wish to say that if I have taken up an improper position, honorable members will at once be able to show that that is their opinion. If it be a right position, I can have no justification for refusing to give my advice and opinion to the Government of South Australia unless I can offer them some fair, recognised reason for that refusal. But if my position in regard to that Stale were to bring me ever so slightly, or by any possibility, into con.flict with my duty as Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, the State of South Australia would have to stand aside so far as I was concerned.
-And so with Victoria.
– Exactly. Honorable members will recognise that it must be a strong; feeling of duty that impels me to accept a retainer from South’ Australia iri a case against Victoria, the State to which I belong. The position occupied by counsel at the Bar is a public one. He must not pick and choose his clients. When a client offers him a retainer, unless he has some fair and justifiable reason for refusing it, he is bound to give him his assistance as well as he can. In these circumstances, I was compelled to accept the retainer of the South Australian Government, and unless, as I say, the paramount duty that I owe to the Commonwealth is imperilled, or may be imperilled - I shall go as far as that - I have no right to reject that retainer, and do not intend to do so.
– The reason for that is a very good one; it is to’ prevent men being ‘ prejudiced by the refusal of counsel to take uo their cases.
– Certainly. With regard to the position of the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, I wish to repeat that if at any moment it appears to ‘me possible that a question may bring me into conflict with <my duty as Attorney-General, or if at any moment it appears to me possible that my opinions in the future, which I am bound to tender to the Government of the Commonwealth, may be affected by anything I do with regard to the South Australian, or any other case, my duty as Attorney-General must prevail, and everything else will have to go. That position has not arisen, and so far as I can see, cannot- arise. The very quotation which the honorable member for Parramatta read a few moments .ago justifies me more than anything else which lias been said in the course of this debate. On the 24th September, 1902, the honorable member for North Svdney put a question to the Minister of Home Affairs with regard to irrigation works. The question to which the honorable member for Hume, who was then Minister of Home Affairs, had to reply was -
Whether, in the preservation of navigation -
That is the whole key-note - it is not the right and the duty of the Commonwealth to inquire into, and approve or oppose, as inquiry may justify, State enterprises for the storage or abstraction of the waters of navigable rivers or their affluents ?
The whole point hinges on what is “the preservation of navigation.” The answer made by the Minister was -
I believe it is the constitutional right, and if the navigability was to be interfered with, it is the duty.
Then in the second answer he said -
There is no necessity for inquiry, unless it is apparent that the effect in No. 1 question will be produced.
That effect is an interference with navigation. That is the point that I have been seeking to put before the House. The question between South Australia and Victoria and New South Wales does not relate to navigation.
– Navigation may be involved.
– It can never be involved as ‘between those States. When I was a member of the Convention - and this can be proved by reference to Hansard - I made a very lengthy speech in the interests of New South Wales as a State having rights over the river, insisting upon its rights to the use of its waters for conservation and irrigation, and for the development of the continent. I believe that largely through my efforts on that occasion, section 100, conceding the reasonable rights of the States in this respect, was inserted in the Constitution. I am not forgetful of all that, but the question between South Australia and the other States is, “ What are the relative rights of the various States ? Outside the Commonwealth rights and powers, what are the relative rights of the States as between themselves, considering them to be individuals “? No decision on that point, so far as I can see, can possibly affect the paramount right of the Commonwealth as to navigability. There is no subtlety about that.It is a plain, straightforward position. I desire to say that when the honorable member for Parramatta moved a vote of censure to-day without giving me any fair warning-
– I moved no vote of censure.
– Some honorable member did, and the honorable member for Parramatta supported it more vigorously than did any one else.
– The Government whip knew what we intended to do at 1 o’clock to-day, and was asked to communicate with the Attorney-General.
– I am not in a position to know anything about that.
– He knew as soon as we did.
– Although this is a vote of censure against me, I heard an observation which fell from the honorable member for Hunter to-night, that seemed to me to be more serious even than any observations made regarding myself. I am happy to say that no impeachment of my honour has been made here, but there was an impeachment of the honour of the Labour Party to-night on the part of the honorable member for Hunter, which I was very sorry to hear.
– What did he say?
– He said that the Labour Party would vote in favour of the amendment if they were not afraid of a dissolution,.
– So they would.
– I want to say that I hope no vote will be cast for me on that ground. I trust that if there is any vote to be cast for me, it will be free from any such overwhelming and dishonorable considerations.
– The vote will be cast not for the Minister, but against us.
– It will be cast on the lines of common sense.
– I do not propose to make any observations with regard to that. I am in the hands of the House. I have tried to do what I think is right, and I have put my position clearly and fairly before honorable members, and it is for them to act as they think proper.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).The Attorney-General has accused me of not having given him fair notice of my intention to follow the course adopted today. When I came to the House I had no idea of raising this question in connexion with the Supply; Bill. That did not occur to me until nearly midday. Even when I came to the conclusion that that would be the proper course to adopt, I did not anticipate that the whole evening would be taken up in a debate of this kind. I thought that the Attorney-General would be here, that I would state the case from my point of view, that he would reply, and that there the matter would end.
– A question upon the notice-paper would have obtained all the information necessary.
– I do not think so. I think that we are obtaining information as the discussion proceeds. We have not yet derived as much information as we should have done. The moment that I decided to raise this question, I asked the honorable member for Dalley to see the honorable member for Bourke, the Government whip, and . request him to ring up the Attorney-General at once and let him know that it was likely that the matter would be mentioned in the House. Those are the whole facts of the case. Had I decided at an earlier stage to raise the matter, I should certainly have given the Attornev-General notice instanter.
– The honorable mem ber’s statement is perfectly true, but I was unable to find the Attorney-General.
– The AttorneyGeneral has spoken again to-night with regard to the waste of time that goes on in this House.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– Some honorable members are, no doubt, entitled to approvingly say “ hear, hear “ ; but it does not lie in the mouth of the Attorney-General, who is hardly ever in the Chamber, to make any remarks upon that subject. He comes here from the Law Courts, and begins to lecture the House as to how it should go on with the business. Whoever may have a right to speak in that way, it is not the Minister, who is here so infrequently. The moment he enters the House he sets up like a schoolmaster, and begins to talk to honorable members as if they were children, asking them to do “men’s work.” It strikes me that he is himself doing three or four men’s work, and is, therefore, not a good judge of a fair day’s work for one man. I commend the Attorney-General’s position in that respect to members of the Labour Party, who so strongly advocate a fair proportion of work for every individual in the community. The Attorney-General stated that if he found that his Federal duty as AttorneyGeneral conflicted with his private duty, that instant he would terminate his connexion with the State of South Australia. But I would point out that this is a matter that should not be left to the sense of honour of the Attorney-General. It is a question for the House to determine. The Attorney-General is the servant of Parliament.
– The honorable member has said that for the fourth time.
– I shall say it for the fifth time, if I think fit. I would advise the Attorney-General to be a little less impertinent. He has done nothing but insult honorable members on this side of the House, and myself in particular. I care nothing for his insults. I believe that I am doing my public duty, and all the honorable and learned gentleman’s insults will not deter me from pursuing the course that I regard as right. The Attorney-General is not to be the judge in this matter.
– That is why I am not going to vote.
– It is not sufficient for the Attorney-General to say that he will retire from the position he now occupies if he finds that a conflict of interests is likely to occur. We know that he is a perfect martyr to duty. He has said that he could not, under any circumstances, refuse to perform his patriotic duty to South Australia; but I venture to say that if he did not perform that duty, there are plenty of other lawyers in the Commonwealth not bound by the same limitations’ and obligations, who, somehow or other, would be able to get through with the work. However, that is a purely personal phase of the matter into which I do not wish to enter. I shall leave the matter in the hands of the House, after repeating that it is not fair to the Commonwealth for a
Minister to be in the pay of the Commonwealth Government and also in the pay of a State Government in connexion with matters which may at any time bring the State and the Commonwealth into conflict.
Mr. LIDDELL (Hunter).- The AttorneyGeneral has done me the honour to takeexception to one of my remarks, and I appeal to him to be guided in this matter entirely by his own conscience, and not by the numerical value of the votes that may be cast in the division which is about to take place. I repeat that the Labour and Socialistic Party dare not vote according, to their consciences on this question. The Attorney-General may ‘be attracted by’ shekels, but they are bound by the shackles they themselves have forged - the shackles that they are endeavouring by legislation to forge upon the Commonwealth. I say that they dare not at the present juncture of affairs give any vote that would be inimical to the Government.
– I rise to a point of orderIs it in order for any honorable member to say that any section of honorable members in this House are not in a position to vote according to the dictates of their consciences ?
– I do not think it is in order to use any expression from which it could be inferred that an honorable member dare not vote in accordance with his conscience.
– If I have said anything I should not have uttered I apologize and withdraw. I cannot, however, help giving expression to my feelings, and I repeat that the Labour Party cannot afford at this juncture to give a vote which would be inimical to the Government which they support. When they first entered this Parliament they maintained that they would hold the balance of power, and cast out of office any Government that did not obey what they were pleased to call the will of the people.
– Honorable members are very much mistaken if they think that I am going to work myself intoa flurry or a temper owing to what the honorable member for Hunter has said. The members of the Labour Party do not vote according to their consciences, but according to their judgment. Some honorable members have convenient consciences’ which allow them to do anything or say anything, whilst their judgment remains dormant. So far as I am personally concerned, I have not held any conversation with any members of the party with regard to the matter under discussion. No consultations have been held, and members are free to vote as they please. The best evidence of the strength of the position occupied by the Attorney-General has been afforded by honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Werriwa and the honorable member for North Sydney - one of the ablest members of the Opposition - support the Attorney-General.
– No; the honorable member for North Sydney opposes the AttorneyGeneral.
– He admits that there is nothing wrong.
– The honorable member for North Sydney stated that he would not vote for the amendment.
– But he said distinctly that he thought the Attorney-General ought not to accept any more retainers.
– He said most clearly that he thought it would be an error of judgment on the part of the AttorneyGeneral if he renewed his retainer; but he did. not consider that he had gone further than he was justified in doing, if his own judgment was in opposition to that of the honorable member. So far as I know, a number of members of the Opposition are opposed to the action taken by the most militant spirits of that party, and I judge from present appearances that probably not more than half of the members of the Opposition will support the amendment. As a matter of fact, an amendment of this kind becomes a vote of censure, and I would ask whether it is necessary to take such action in order to bring a question of this character to an issue.
– We never thought of such a thing as a motion of want of confidence.
– The honorable member knows that that is what is meant by the action taken on this occasion.
– It only means that because the Attorney-General so regards it at this last moment.
– Honorable members bait a Minister, and then if he will not do exactly what they want they direct the whole strength of their forces against him and the Ministry with which he is connected. What Government and what Minister would be worth supporting who would conciliate an Opposition which had pursued tactics of that kind ? They first use every parliamentary means to humiliate the Minister in the eyes of the House and of the public, and then, because he will not concede the points which they wish to gain, they take the most extreme course open to them. I do not know what view the other members of the Labour Party take, but I trust that they hold the opinion in regard to this matter that I hold, and will, vote against the amendment.
Question - That the proposed vote be reduced by£1 - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 23
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
In the House:
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That the Standing Orders be suspended in order to enable all steps to be taken to obtain Supply, and to pass the Supply Bill through all its stages without delay.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).I should like to hear from the Treasurer a, reason for the suspension of the Standing Orders. If there is no urgency, we should not pass this motion.
Sir John Forrest. - Yes
– If the Treasurer says that this is a matter of urgency, I have no more to say, but I think that he should advance some reason for so grave a step as the suspension of the Standing Orders.
– As the honorable member is aware, Supply was taken in July for one month only, and as we are now nearing the end of August, we want another advance to meet the payments which come due in all parts of this vast Commonwealth within a few days. The obtaining of Supply is a matter of urgencv.
– I do not think that the Minister has advanced any strong reasons of urgency for the suspension of the Standing Orders.
– The honorable member reminds me that the Treasurer Kas replied; therefore the discussion of the motion is closed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution of Committee of Supply reported.
Motion(by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That the report be now adopted.
– I regret extremely that the suspension of the Standing Orders was agreed to.
– The suspensionof the Standing Orders having been agreed to, the matter cannot be further discussed. The question now before the Chair is the adoption of the report of the Committee of Supplv.
– I think that I shall be in order in giving reasons why we should not proceed further by adopting the report. I should have objected to the suspension of the Standing Orders had not the Minister’s action in closing the debate precluded me from doing so. on the ground that the Government should not be given Supply until two important matters, both of them affecting New South Wales, had been dealt with. Under the Constitution Act the Federal Capital must be established in New South Wales, but the present Government has refused to proceed with the matter in any way. The State is also entitled, as statistics show, to an additional representative in this House, but the Ministry refuse to state whether it is to be given that additional representation.
– The Bill will be in the hands of honorable members to-morrow.
– Had I been aware of that, I should not have objected to the motion.
– When we were asked to pass the last Supply Bill, I asked the Treasurer whether he would in future circulate similar measures amongst honorable members at least twenty- four hours before the time set down for their discussion. As far as my memory serves me, the Treasurer gave the House an assurance that that would be done.
– Copies of the Bill were circulated this morning.
– At any rate, a copy of it has only just been placed in my hands. But even if the measure was circulated this morning, I would point out that under ordinary circumstances we should not have been called upon to deal with it immediately the House met to-day. I protest against honorable members being asked to pass a measure involving an expenditure of £363,283 without being afforded a reasonable opportunity of perusing the items which it contains.
– The Estimates are now upon the table.
– But when we are asked to pass a temporary Supply Bill we have a right to the fullest information concerning the various items which it contains. I protest against the action of the Government, and if it is repeated I shall feel myself perfectly justified in using every legitimate means in my power to block the granting of Supply.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta). - I was given to understand by the Treasurer earlier in the evening that this Bill contains nothing beyond provision for the ordinary services of the Cpmmonwealth. That being the case, I think that we might very well allow it to pass through its remainingstages with the utmost possible despatch.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution of Committee 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 and second time.
In Committee -
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
– I,should like some information from the Minister of Home Affairs in regard to item No. 7, page 6, “ Cost of Commonwealth elections, £300.” To what does this expenditure relate ?
– The amount in question represents the balance of some claims which have been paid to certain returning officers. Certain claims were sent in and were allowed, and the sum mentioned covers the payments which have been made to the officers in question.
Mr. BROWN (Canobolas).- From the explanation given by the Minister, I am inclined to think that this item relates to a matter which created a considerable amount of trouble in the Home Affairs Department immediately after last election. It was alleged that both in New South Wales . and Victoria a promise was made that a tonus of £20 would be given by the Department to the Divisional returning officers. A considerable amount of correspondence ensued, and certain representations were made to the Minister in charge of the Department at that particular period. Indeed, I believe that he received a deputation of returning officers in Sydney in reference to it. I do not know what decision was . finally arrived at, or whether it was resolved to give those officers the £20 bonus, but I understand from some information which I recently obtained, that where they could show out-of-pocket expenses to the amount of £10’ they were reimbursed to that extent. I hope that this matter will be debated fully when the Estimates are under review. In the meantime, I ask the Minister of Home Affairs to carefully look into the papers relating to it with a view to ascertaining whether these officers are not entitled to the amount claimed.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs- Minister of Home Affairs). - The matter to which the honorable member refers was, I understand, decided by my predecessor. Several of these claims have since been presented, and have been determined in accordance with his decision. The honorable member will have an opportunity of again referring to this subject when the Estimates are under discussion, and if he will notify me of his intention to refer to it, I will have the papers in readiness,and be in a position to give him a complete answer.
– I wish to know from the Minister whether this item of £300 is intended as payment of the bonus which was promised by the Minister of HomeAffairs in the previous Deakin Administration to the divisional returning officers. At the last election, the returning officer in my constituency was promised a bonus of £20 for carrying out the arrangements in connexion with the election in a satisfactory manner, and because he was outside the civil service. Soon afterwards, however, a change of Government took place, and through some wonderful calculation, the returning officers, instead of receiving the £20 which had been promised them, were paid £15 for their half-year’s salary, and were given a gratuity of £7.
– There was a distinct breach of faith committed.
– Undoubtedly there was.
– There isno doubt that the promise was made.
– I am certain that it was. If the Minister feels disposed to argue the point, I ask him how the returning officers became possessed of the additional £7, if no mention of a bonus had been made. The least that a Government can do is to respect its pledges.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs). - The honorable member for Maranoa complains of a decision which was arrived at some time ago in connexion with certain returning officers. I can only pledge myself to look into the matter with a view to ascertaining whether the promise alleged was made. I have not the official papers before me at the present time. The item to which attention has been drawn represents simply the balance of the expenses incurred in hording the last Commonwealth , elections. I know that certain personal out-of-pocket expenses have been paid to returning officers, but probably there is some other question behind ihat which was decided by my predecessors.
– If the Minister finds that a bonus was promised to the returning officers, will he respect it, even though it was not a written promise?
– I can only ascertain if a promise was made, by whom it was made, and the character of that promise. I cannot say that I will honour any promise which’ may have been made by an officer irrespective of whether or not he had authority to make it on behalf of the Commonwealth. ‘ (
– It was made by a responsible Minister.
– If the Minister in charge of the Department had made any promise, I feel sure that it would have been kept.
– But he went out of office.
– I promise to look into the matter.
– I shall also look into it.
– I assure the honorable member for Maranoa that I and my colleague the Treasurer will look into the whole question.
– I am satisfied with that assurance.
– I was one of a deputation which waited on the Minister in regard, to this question, and believe the honorable gentleman will find it very difficult to ascertain by whom the promise was made, for no record can be found of it. The fact that returning officers in all parts of the Commonwealth - so situated that they could not have communicated with each other on the subject - agree that they were promised this bonus of. J&o should be sufficient to show that such a promise was made.
– Some of them retained the money.
– The officer in’ my electorate, on the strength of this promise, retained the £20 out of certain moneys which he had in hand. From what I’ hear, the Minister of Home Affairs will find it difficult to discover a record of the promise; but there can be little doubt that it was made by an officer purporting to act on behalf of the Government. Whether he was entitled to. do so or not remains to be seen .
– I wish to indorse all that has been said as to what the returning officers in question regard as a breach of faith. The promise of a bonus of ^20 was distinctly made to them bv an officer of the Department, and, coming from such a source, they thought that it was authoritative. According to their statements, it was made by an officer to whom they were directly responsible, and they considered that it was an official communication. We must be satisfied that such a promise was made when we have a general declaration to that effect by the various returning officers concerned. The Minister will doubtless find it extremely difficult to discover the authorship of the promise, because it is possible that the officer, although feeling that he was justified in making it, backed down on learning that it would not be indorsed by the Government. In these circumstances the returning officers in question may suffer a severe injustice by reason of the inability of the Minister to trace the source from which the original authority for this promise was obtained.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).- I wish to call attention to the item, “Advance to Treasurer, ^70,000. “ That is a very large item to pass in such a form in a temporary Supply Bill.
– I explained the whole matter when introducing the Bill.
– I certainly did not hear any explanation of this item by the right honorable gentleman.
– I have already explained that the amounts appropriated towards the Treasurer’s Advance Account in the last Supply Bill, together with those appropriated for the same Act in this measure, represent ^120,000. A sum of ^50,000 is required to make progress payments in connexion with new works and buildings that were entered upon before the close of the last financial year, and are still being carried on. In addition, ,£25,000 is required for the construction and extension of telegraph and telephone lines, which are still in progress, while payments iri connexion with the purchase of defence material will absorb another ^to,ooo. A margin of only £35,000 will thus be left until the Appropriation Bill is passed, when the Treasurer’s Advance Account will be recouped in respect of these amounts.
– How is the £Io;000 required for defence purposes to be expended ?
– The Defence fund requires to be replenished in respect of material ordered from England.
– There is no such fund in existence.
– We have a fund in the Treasury from which this payment must be made.
– The Government should not require the £10,000 unless they have given certain orders out of the new year’s vote.
-I am informed by the Defence Department that it is required in respect of material that has been ordered, and which we are ordering from England. As a matter of fact, the honorable and learned member, when Minister of Defence, ordered some of this material.
– The money was appropriated with the order.
– That is so; but this amount relates to a portion of the vote on this year’s Estimates.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).- I do not think that when a vote is required in respect of works and buildings- it should be dealt with in this way.
– The Treasurer’s Advance Account will be recouped byandby.
– Instead of these items being embraced by the vote, “Treasurer’s Advance Account, £70,000,” it should be distinctly shown for what purpose the money is required, and I hope that the Treasurer will see that that is done in future.
Sir JOHN FORREST (Swan- Treasurer). -Under the Constitution Act, the suggestion made by the honorable member could not be carried out. I propose to introduce to-morrow, or on Friday, a Works and Buildings Appropriation Bill, and when that measure has been passed, the Treasurer’s Advance Account will be recouped in respect of these items.
Schedule agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 22nd August (vide page 1267), on motion by Sir William Lyne -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– At this late hour, I should like to obtain permission to continue my remarks to-morrow evening.
– We adjourned the debate last night on the understanding that the honorable member would be prepared to continue his speech to-day.
– That is so; and I have been ready since the House met this afternoon to continue my speech.
– Isit the pleasure of the House that the honorable member have leave to continue his remarks on a future occasion ?
– I object.
– I have made arrangements for other business to be proceeded with.
– I withdraw my objection on the assurance of the Prime Minister.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 4 -
All Courts shall take judicial notice of -
the signature of any person. . . .
Senate’s Amendment. - That after the word “ the,” line 2, the word “ official “ be inserted.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This is a purely formal amendment, providing that all Courts shall take judicial notice of the “ official “ signature of any of the persons named in the clause.
Motion agreed to.
Senate’s. Amendment. - That after clause 11 the following new clause be added : - “ 12. Affidavits for use in the High Court or any Court exercising Federal jurisdiction maybe sworn before any justice of the peace without the issue of any commission for taking affidavits.”
Mr. ISAACS (Indi - AttorneyGeneral). - I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
It was suggested by the honorable member for Corio, supported by the honorable member for Maranoa, and I promised the House that it should be inserted when the Bill was before the Senate.
– Does the Attorney-General think it is a desirable provision ?
– I do. The circumstances of some of the States are such that a facility of this kind is necessary.
– As the Minister sees no objection to the amendment, I shall offer no opposition to it.
– It has worked well in Queensland, where it is the law of the land.
– I think it is a mistake to allow any justice of the peace to exercise this power. Justices of the peace are almost as common as grasshoppers in some parts of Australia, and the taking of an affidavit, especially when it relates to the High Court, is certainly an important matter in- some cases. I do not know whether any Federal justices have been appointed, but if they have they may be in a position to take these affidavits. To allow State justices of the peace to take them, especially when no commissions are issued, will be to hand over a very serious duty to the least experienced. That is about what it means. However, the proposal is popular, and I suppose we may allow it to pass.
Motion agreed to.
Reported that the Committee had agreed to the Senate’s amendments ; report adopted.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House is about to be asked to exercise the powers that it possesses under, section 51 sub-section xi. of the Constitution, which provides that the Parliament shall subject to the Constitution have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to, among; other things, census and statistics. This is one of the concurrent powers exercised under the Constitution - -that is to say, powers which are concurrent in the Commonwealth and in the States with respect to the passing of laws with regard to census and statistics generally. The object of the Bill is to enable the Commonwealth to establish a central bureau of statistics in order that it may furnish to the world statistical returns with respect to the matters under its special jurisdiction, and also publish certain statistics having reference to the affairs of Australia as a whole. In other countries, especially in Europe and the United States, statistical bureaux have been established, with a central authority, the idea being, instead of having a statistical bureau attached to each of the various departments, to establish a central bureau, so that the whole of the statistical information with regard to the various departments of State, as well as industries generally, may be focussed. As recently as 1903 in the United States, it being found that a’ number of statistical bureaux had grown up in connexion with the various departments, an Act was passed to place under the Central Department of Commerce a bureau of statistics, and the bureau of the census was also placed under this Department. They have concentrate!d their statistical inquiries as much as possible into the one department. One of the senators, in introducing the Bill, said -
The reason we do not want to leave the gathering of these statistics scattered in these several departments is that we want accurate statistics. We want them speedily gathered, because stale statistics are worthless, and J conceive that we would advance the interests of the business. world, the industrial world, the scientific world, if we would keep the Census bureau here in this Department (Commerce) and bring all these other statistical bureaux under the same organizing head that we propose to put in charge of this new Department. Then, without friction, without jealousy, simply with a view to the ascertainment of reliable results, organize one bureau that will do all the work and give us complete satisfaction with its results.
That is the position in which the United States have placed their statistical department. They have to a very great extent made this one central department, and have established their Bureau of Census on a permanent basis, so that it will not be necessary every ten years to organize a special census staff. They have a permanent department, in which officers of special skill and experience are engaged iri carrying on the work continuously. In Australia we are in a somewhat different position. Each State has a statistical department organized to supply information for its own special purposes. The States have organized their departments upon lines specially adapted to their own requirements, and they are engaged in the preparation of returns relating to their stock, agricultural operations, finances, local government, trade, factories, mines, and other branches of industry. Each State also acts on the uniform principle of a decennial census. Still there are divergencies of practice, and, further than that, until lately the States Governments have been estimating their increases and decreases of population upon different lines. Of course the States Departments were organized as special units and for special purposes. Now that the Commonwealth has been brought into existence, and the Constitution has conferred upon Parliament’ large powers both of legislation and administration, we have to look at the matter from a broader point of view. Our past experience has shown us that it is absolutely necessary that we should have some means of compiling Commonwealth statistics upon a uniform basis. Lt is not proposed to interfere more than is necessary with the existing States organizations. We start on the assumption that the States will require to have their own local statistics for their own purposes. Of course it is natural that they should desire this. They have their own local laws, and they may be regarded as the best judges of their own necessities. I think it would be advantageous for them to have one Commonwealth department; but, judging from the tone of replies received from them, I am1 inclined to think that some negotiations will be required before they will be prepared to hand over their own departments. There are two courses open. We might have a central statistical bureau, with branches in each of the six States, which could be used for State purposes as required. As an alternative, we could establish a central Commonwealth bureau, and enter into negotiations with the various States with a view to utilizing their departments to the fullest possible extent. During the early stages of the organization of the Commonwealth departments,- the latter will be found the most practical course to pursue. Of course we could negotiate with a view to taking, over the States departments. If they do not desire us to do that, we can arrange to co - operate harmoniously with them. The Bill is framed on that principle. It provides generally for administration. It proposes that a Commonwealth statistician shall be appointed by the Governor-General in Council. He will have certain powers, which are defined; but, if it is thought desirable by him, he may delegate them under his hand to other persons to exercise on his behalf in different parts of the Commonwealth. It is proposed to have power for administrative purposes to appoint a certain number of officers to be placed under the Statistician in the Central Bureau. Power is given to the Governor-General to enter into an arrangement with the Government of any State, providing for any matter necessary or con venient for the carrying out or giving effect to the measure. For instance, such an arrangement may be made for the execution by State officers of any power or duty conferred or imposed on any officer under the “Act or the regulations, the collection by any State Department or officer of any statistical or other information required to carry out the Act, and the supplying of statistical information by any State Department or office to the Statistician. Every officer executing these functions will have the powers conferred under the measure. The idea is that if the States desire to continue their existing institutions, and are unwilling to hand them over to the Commonwealth, we may ask them to furnish, certain returns, to collect certain information, to make certain inquiries necessary for industrial, mining, or agricultural purposes, and to send the result to the central Department, which will focus all information obtainable respecting Australian affairs. The desire, is to bring into line the statistics of the States for the purpose of comparison, to lay down a uniform method for the collection of statistics in the States for Commonwealth purposes, so that we may have a proper and fair means of comparing the industrial, social, and other conditions of the States. In addition to “that, the central Department will collect all information in regard to subjects specially controlled by the Commonwealth, such as exports and imports, trade, and commerce generally, including inter-State transactions, navigation, and snipping, postal, defence, and other matters. Provision is also made for the collection of a census, which shall be taken whenever directed by the GovernorGeneral. The reason for not providing for the collection of a census at specified periods is that at present the States have power to collect the census, but we hope that they will agree to allow the Commonwealth 10 organize the work, when the population of Australia can be numbered by a central authority on a definite and uniform basis. It is intended that the Commonwealth census shall be decennial ; but, of course, before any census can be taken there, must be a parliamentary appropriation to provide for the expense. The remaining provisions of Part III., which relate to the census, arc purely in the nature of machinery provisions, and need not be referred to now. Part IV. deals with the collection of statistics, and clause 16 provides that the Statistician shall, in addition to the census, collect annually vital, social, and industrial statistics, and statistics in relation to imports and exports ; inter-State trade ; factories, mines, and the productive industries generally ; agricultural, horticultural, viticultural, dairying, and pastoral industries ; insurance and finance, railways, tramways, shipping and transport, and any other prescribed matters. The remaining provisions of the Bill are purely machinery provisions, to give the Statistician adequate powers. As the Commonwealth is likely to soon establish the office of High Commissioner, it is desirable that we should have an organized Department, which can supply him witih Australian information upon Australian subjects generally - information collected upon sound and uniform lines, fairly representing the growth and development of the nation. Hitherto we have had to rely upon the information supplied by the Departments of the States. The Commonwealth Department will enable Parliament, the public, and the press to obtain Australian information on any subject. It will be able to conduct inquiries upon special matters, and will show the effect of our legislation, giving an accurate picture of the conditions of our social and industrial life.
– Does the honorable and learned gentleman say that it will give the press an opportunity to obtain information ?
– The press will foe able to obtain statistical information of an authoritative nature, and honorable members will be able to obtain information in connexion with the subjects with which Parliament has to deal.
– Why does clause 10 provide that the census shall be taken whenever directed by the Governor-General?
– It is permissive to enable arrangements to be made with the States. The Census Acts of the States have been enacted1 for the taking of each census. In the United States, provision is made in the Constitution for the taking of a decennial census, and the same remark applies to Canada. It is intended to have a decennial census here, but provision is made in the manner set forth in clause 10, pending negotiations with the States for the transfer of their Statistical Departments to the Commonwealth, or some other arrangement under which statistics of population may be collected’ by the Commonwealth.
– What is the practice in the States?
– In Queensland, there was a quinquennial Act, parts of which were repealed, and the decennial census was lately taken, under a special Act. In New South Wales, I understand, special Acts were passed for each census.
– Is there any danger of the Bill being used to block the redistribution of seats?
– Is the Government going to bring in a Bill for the redistribution of seats before providing for the taking of a census?
– The Bill referred to will be circulated to-morrow. This is an independent measure.
– Has it no connexion with the other?
– It may or may not have. This Bill is complete in itself, and deals only with the taking of general statistics for the Commonwealth.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Kelly) adjourned.
– I have much pleasure in moving -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is purely a formal measure, which provides for vesting the control of wireless telegraphy in the hands of the PostmasterGeneral. It has already passed through the Senate, where certain amendments have been introduced with a view to making it more restrictive, and providing for more severe penalties for offences.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed fro forma.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to the representation of the several States in the House of Representatives.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
House adjourned at 10.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 August 1905, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19050823_reps_2_26/>.