3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– His Excellency the GovernorGeneral having commissioned me to form a Ministry, I communicated with the honorable gentlemen whose names I shall mention, and they accepted the offices attached to their names : -
The Right Honorable Sir John For rest, P.C., G.C.M.G.- Treasurer ;
Senator the Honorable Sir Robert
The Honorable Patrick McMahon Glynn. - Attorney-General ;
Senator the Honorable Edward Davis Millen. Vice President of the Executive Council ;
Colonel the Honorable Justin Fox Greenlaw Foxton, C.M.G. - Honorary Minister.
I shall hold the position of Prime Minister, without portfolio.
– I wish to ask the Minister representingthe Minister of Trade and Customs if he will consider the advisability of placing on the table of the Library, for the information of honorable members, the papers relating to the importation of dress goods. I understand that his predecessor would have done so had not a change of Government occurred.
– I shall ask my honorable colleague if that can be done.
– I wish to ask the new Prime Minister, without portfolio, a question. There have been many rumours, and many contradictions-
– Is this a question ?
– Yes, and the honorable member will not prevent’ me from asking it. I wish to know what is the arrangement to which the Prime Minister has pledged the Protectionists who follow him. I ask the question, not only in the interests-
– The honorable member may not make a speech.
– I shall not do so.
– Why does he not ask his question ?
– I shall not be dictated to by the honorable member. I shall ask my question in my own way, which is the proper way. I ask the Prime Minister whether he intends to make a statement, so that the country may know what has been done, and to what his followers are pledged. Ifhe does not intend to make such a statement, will he give to honorable members, if not at once, as soon as possible, a copy of the written agreement between the parties forming the coalition which he now leads, supposing such an agreement to have been made?
– When the Government again meets the House, I shall make a statement covering the business to be put before Parliament, and any other matters appearing to call for reference. There will be no difficulty in supplying the honorable member with the information which he desires.
– I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday, 23rd instant, at three o’clock p.m.
– Make the date of reassembling the 1 6th June.
– This morning I suggested to my colleagues that, as when the previous Administration which I led was formed, a fortnight had been taken for the preparation of measures, a similar adjournment should be moved for on this occasion ; but it was recalled to my memory that our Administration met Parliament in consequence, under circumstances of great difficulty.
– The difficulties will be even greater this time.
– That may be so. We found the period allowed too short for the proper consideration of the matters requiring to be dealt with to enable Parliament to be put into full possession of its business. Actual experience having thus proved a fortnight insufficient, I think that the House will not consider three week’s too long an adjournment, seeing that the whole of the business of the session, so far as that is possible, has to be taken in hand by the new Ministers, to enable them to present their programme in a prompt and efficient fashion.
– Ministers had all last week to prepare a programme. What about the petition which the honorable member sent to the Fisher Administration, praying for the earlier calling together of Parliament?
– Had our request been complied with, the preliminary matters with which we are now dealing might have been disposed of by this time.
– Then the early calling together of Parliament was desired so that the honorable member might obtain office a few weeks sooner?
– The honorable member has made a very unfortunate admission.
– Honorable members only partly appreciate my meaning, which refers to ordinary preliminary business; they fail to remember that I am speaking after another event, with their recognition of what has happened. The honorable member for Wide Bay knows why he was: asked to call Parliament together earlier.
– He was asked to agree to an earlier re-assembling of Parliamentat a time when the honorable member was supposed to be a loyal supporter.
– It is a very simple matter of business - a question as between a fortnight and three weeks. A fortnight proved insufficient last time. We suggest that three weeks is not toogong this time.
– I desire to intimate that I have the honour to occupy the position of leader of the Opposition. May I offer my congratulations to the members of the Government?
– Especially the honorable member for Darling Downs.
– I should say if I were offering individual congratulations that they should be offered particularly to the honorable member for Parramatta, because I see that he has captured the Government bv a majority and otherwise. I have already indicated to the Prime Minister that I think an adjournment of three weeks is too long, and I find that my colleagues are in accord with that view. I desire to afford the Prime Minister and his colleagues every possible opportunity to prepare to meet the House, but it is within the recollection of honorable members that the Prime Minister and those previously associated with him incessantly stated that the fault of the previous Government was in not calling the House together earlier than it did. Certain correspondence passed between him and 1 myself on that matter, which with his consent I shall be delighted to allow the public to see as early as possible. I took then the step that I thought was necessary and proper, and I did so because I was committed by a promise to individuals who were not then in Australiaa promise which I made before the House rose in December ‘last. There could, therefore, be no doubt as to what was in my mind regarding the time when Parliament should again be called together. The Prime Minister communicated with me later on and suggested that Parliament should be convened earlier, because of the urgency of the Dreadnought proposal and other matters. I did not think that proposal was necessary at that time, nor do I think so now. I was not in doubt at any time regarding it, but that will do for another occasion. If any Ministry could proceed with business at once, this one should. The principle of the fusion which has taken place has been continuously discussed by the honorable member for Parramatta arid *he Prime Minister since early in this year.
There is no more experienced parliamentarian than the Prime Minister, and he has associated with him the right honorable member for Swan, who is also one of our oldest parliamentarians ; the honorable member for Parramatta, who had Ministerial experience many years ago; and the honorable member for Angas, who has also had great experience; while the Honorary Minister, the honorable member for Brisbane, has also had experience of Ministerial office. What is .perhaps even more important in this matter is that the Ministry are te’n in number - the largest that has ever been suggested. I should like to hear the Prime Minister on that aspect of the question. If that sort of thing were to continue it would be possible to suborn Parliament. If an indefinite number of Honorary Ministers are to be appointed to suit a peculiar situation, then this Parliament should seriously take the matter into consideration. I cannot congratulate the Prime Minister on his attitude in that regard in forming this Government. Moreover, of these ten capable and experienced men, no fewer than seven are lawyers. The Prime Minister himself, the honorable member for Darling Downs, the honorable member for Illawarra, the honorable member for Bendigo, the honorable member for Angas, Senator Best, and the honorable member for Brisbane are all lawyers. The only three who are not lawyers are the honorable member for Parramatta, the right honorable member for Swan, and Senator Millen. That is the kind of Government who are asking for a long adjournment, and they are led by the very honorable member who said, regarding the Governor-General’s Speech, that everything was ready to go straight on, and that the majority of those who were then on this side desired to proceed immediately with the business of the country. He has now had his opportunity, yet he asks for three weeks’ adjournment. May I remind him that he said that the reason for the sudden death motion which put the late Government out was a desire to get on with business at once? The Prime Minister shakes his head. I cannot say whether that is a literal interpretation of his words or not.
– The honorable member should not forget that we saved three weeks’ debate on the Address-in-Reply.
– May I remind the honorable member that the debate on the Ad-. dress-in-Reply has still to come? A debate may take place on the statement of the policy of the new Government, and, in addition to that, I would remind the honorable member that the debate on the AddressinReply was simply adjourned, and must also be called1 on. Consequently, the Government are looking forward, not only to an adjournment of three weeks, during which they will be under no parliamentary control, and will bring nothing before Parliament, but also to a further three weeks of debate on the Address-in-Reply, according to the honorable member for Lang, thus giving them six weeks before any Bills will be brought forward.
– Does the leader of the Opposition intend to stonewall the Addressin -Reply ?
– It may foe the desire of the Government to attempt to stifle discussion altogether. They may wish to pursue the same kind of tactics as they pursued earlier this session. In view of the action which they took then, it will be quite fitting if they do so. The new Minister of Defence referred to his present leader’s party, when speaking at Ipswich not long ago, in terms the effect of which was that “The Deakin Party were like a lot of fowls out in the rain, poor- “
– He also said in the same speech that the honorable member for Ballarat was “ despised and rejected of men.”
– I was going to quote the phrase, but it is an offensive one, and perhaps I had better not. Shortly, the honorable member said that the Deakin Party were a bedraggled lot. He has them within his coop, and, with a majority of five, he can do as he pleases with the Ministry. So far as I am concerned, no time of the House will be wasted ; I shall do my utmost to discuss any matters brought forward in the interests of the people. But, as I said before, I think the adjournment asked for is excessive. I. can remember the right honorable member for Swan, when the honorable member for South Sydnev asked for an adjournment for three weeks, at a time when the Ministers were all practically new to the business, attacking the Government at once, and desiring not to give them even a day.
– The honorable member for South Sydney had not a majority.
– I can also remember the taunt being thrown at the honorable member for South Sydney about “ another day’s pay.” At any rate, we are now asked to adjourn . for three weeks by this Ministry of all the talents. I beg to. move as an amendment -
That “ 23rd “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof “ 16th.”
In my opinion tin adjournment for a fortnight is fair and reasonable, and, in no hostile spirit, I ask the Prime Minister to assent to it. The honorable gentleman knows that I have expressed this view before, and, failing his consent, I shall press the motion to a division.
.- I cannot say that I am astonished at the request of the Ministry for an adjournment of three weeks.
– I wonder they do not ask for three months !
– I am a little amazed at their moderation. But their demand has, at least, deprived the Prime Minister of the only excuse he could put forward on Thursday and Friday last for declining to consider the policy of the late Government. The Prime Minister, when leader of the Opposition, pointed out that all he desired to do was to conserve the time of the country, and to get to public business, and this is how he proceeds to do it. I feel sure, however, that nothing any one can say on this side would be of the slightest effect, in view of the solid phalanx on the other side, who, for the best of all reasons in the world, have decided to do what they have done, and are compelled now to remain, while they are permitted to remain, for as long as possible.
– Cannot” the honorable member find a new gag?
– I cannot blame them, and I shall not now reproach them. The leader of the Opposition has pointed out the fact that there are ten Ministers in this ‘ new Ministry, and that seven of them are lawyers. I have always had the greatest respect for my profession; and when some of mv colleagues have had hard1 words to say about the law, I have always reminded them of the “profits.” But there surely never has been a more signal and convincing proof of the value of that profession than the instance now before us, although I still see, unhappily, on the benches above, some representatives of my profession who have been unable to find a resting place.
– They are not growling over it.
– That may be; and I was going to say that that is probably because the billets were so few, or the lawyers were so many. It may be that we have not seen the end of this canvas, and that there are still more films to be unrolled - that more golden opportunities are yet to be displayed, because on the majority of the faces, I see some small remnants of that expectant smile that marked them a little while ago. But I understand that this is a method invariably resorted to from the beginning of coalition governments- in order to placate gentlemen whose intentions, as well as their political views are somewhat uncertain- and that the Prime Minister has done his best with the means at his disposal. I understand, however, that there is another billet, at any rate, clearly in view, seeing that some honorable member has to go to England with the Minister of Defence. That disposes of eleven; and there is yet another billet, which will dispose of twelve.
– What is the other billet?
– I can understand the chagrin of the honorable member.
– Not chagrin, but expectancy !
– The honorable member has been unfortunate in his choice of a profession which does hot find such favour in the arena of polities as that of the law.
– There are three of us on this side !
– Quite so. However, I shall not further indicate the billet to the honorable member ; I feel sure it will occur to him if he throws his mind back a little, and also to certain other honorable members. I see that the Prime Minister, in the course of a debate last week, said -
I am inviting honorable members to exercise self-restraint in order that the business of this Parliament may be advanced at once to some important stage.
It was this stage which the honorable gentleman had in his mind, and it is a stage broad, and capable of holding many performers for what they fervently hope will be a very long while. It is a play we are to be treated to with an interminable number of acts, in which the various characters will play many parts, a role for which, I venture to say, the leader is admirably fitted. However, I should like to ask some honorable gentleman - I do not know whom - whether all the ten members of the Ministry have been sworn in?
– All excepting the Honorary Minister - who could not be found after two hours’ searching, in order to tell him of the time.
– Who is that one?
– He is one of the best of them.
– Do I understand that the Honorary Minister has not been sworn in yet?
– The Honorary Minister was swearing at a dentist just about that time.
– I can see that it is quite immaterial what one says or what one does. Both the statement of the leader of the Government and the circumstances under which it is made fittingly follow his actions of last week, and supply all that is required to prove to the people what has been done, and why it has been done. There are some honorable members on the Treasury bench whom I can heartily congratulate, for, as far as I am aware, they have made no sacrifice. They take office under circumstances in which their reputation and their honour are unsmirched. I notice, however, that some honorable members have been included in the Ministry who were not particularly desirous of entering it, and that many have been excluded who, from what one’ could see, were very anxious to be selected. We shall await with what patience we may the submission of the Ministerial programme, but I venture to say that the Government know very well that no programme of the slightest service to this country that they will bring forward has the remotest prospect of being placed on the statute-book this session. No one knows that better than does the Prime Minister himself. No one knows better than he how urgent it is that the defence of the Commonwealth should be put on a proper footing ; yet no one has done more than hehas done to prevent it being so placed. I shall be ready to grant the Ministry a fortnight’s adjournment. I do not think that they ought to ask for more. Indeed, they do not require more time. Their programme, we were given distinctly to understand, has already been completed, so that preparation under the circumstances becomes unnecessary. The business of the country demands immediate attention, and in the words of the Prime Minister himself. I now invite honorable members “ to exercise self-restraint, in order that the business of the Parliament may be advanced at once? to some important stage.” I shall vote against the proposed adjournment for three weeks.
.- I feel constrained to avail myself of the present opportunity to offer my congratulations to the honorable gentlemen who have been so recently elevated to the Treasury bench. I offer my special congratulations to the Prime Minister on the team he has selected to work with him during the present session. I do not agree with the view expressed by an honorable member who has preceded me, that it is unnecessary at the present stage to have in the Cabinet so many members of the legal profession. It seems to me absolutely clear that such ateam, constituted as it is, and representing what it does, needs all the legal advice possible to clear its path of the intricacies that will ultimately beset it. Some people may be disposed to say that as there are seven lawyers in the Cabinet it is the “ Devil’s Brigade.” I shall not apply that epithet to it. I think, however, that the public will consider it, to say the least, remarkable that in such a Parliament as this a Cabinet cannot be formed without the selection of seven lawyers. I do not object to them personally, but I do object to so “many legal men being at the helm of any Government, whether it be that of the Commonwealth or of a State. I have a decided repugnance to the presence of so many lawyers in a Ministry, for authorities have declared it to be dangerous to have too many members of the legal profession manning the ship of State.
– Are we to understand
– The honorable member has my sympathy in that he has not been made a -member of the Cabinet j but I feel confident that he and the other members of his profession in the House will have plenty to do in connexion with the Ministry before the session is over. The honorable member and his brother medicos in the House need have no fear of being unemployed; they will have plenty of work in soothing the nerves of those who now occupy the Treasury bench. I congratulate the Prime Minister upon having included in his Cabinet an honorable gentleman - not yet sworn in - who was in times gone bv a champion of black labour in another State. To the credit of the Prime Minister be it said, that up to the present time he has fought courageously and patriotically for a White Australia. What, then, will the people say when they find in his Cabinet honorable’ members -whom he himself described not long ago as “ the wreckage’ of the black labour party.” For my own part I ask for nothing better than the Ministry now facing us; we could not wish to see the Government differently constituted. We are told that those whom the gods seek to destroy they first make mad, and I think that will be applicable to the Government when they go before the people in the days to come. I wish them well, and shall endeavour to observe the forms of the House, although I shall feel it my duty to oppose a Ministry constituted and supported as is this newGovernment.
.- I do not wish to speak at length, because, whether we adjourn for a fortnight or for three weeks, we shall soon have an opportunity to fully discuss the proposals and the constitution of this hybrid Ministry. I take this opportunity of congratulating the Prime Minister on his new phase of topsyturvydom, and the shandy-gaff conditions under which he now holds office.
– It is a case of halfandhalf, for some are “ black “ and some are “ white.”
– I shall refer presently to that phase of the question. I am sure that I shall not be misunderstood when I say that I am deeply grieved to find the Prime Minister, who was once my chief, and with whom, and for whom, I once worked so ardently, mixed up with such a motley crew.
– Is that remark in order ?
– Yes ; the honorable member is one of the motley crew. I am greatly grieved to find the Prime Minister associated with honorable members, sharing with him the highest positions in the service of the Commonwealth, who are mixed in policy, and also mixed in honour. I am not complaining of those who have swallowed the late Protectionist party. They have always been opposed to us and to our Tariff, though some of them have not carried out the pledges which they gave at the last election, and by means of which they were returned. I congratulate and compliment the Prime Minister on the alteration of his feelings towards these honorable members since he made the remarkable speech, describing them as the rag-tag and bob-tail of the House, which has been quoted on several occasions. I think there never was an instance in the history of the world, I might almost say, which parallels ihe present case. There never was a time when, if I may make the remarks without applying them personally, so much was done for the degradation of a Constitution and a policy, and to foster everything that is worst in the politics of a country. If I may assume the role of prophet, I say that the present state of affairs will not be tolerated by the honorable and honest citizens of Australia. Dishonesty in politics is a serious offence, for which every man who sells his principles should be branded tis traitor on the back, the shoulders, and in fact all over. It is better for an honorable politician to stand alone, or to retire with honour and his good name from public life than, through greed of power or lucre, to accept unholy office, selling principles which have been fought for, not by him alone, but by others for so many years past. There is in some of the Constitutions of the States - and the practice is observed under the British Constitution - what I am beginning to regard as a wise provision, namely, that upon a man taking office, he shall present himself before his constituents for re-election. I, at one time, considered that form superfluous, but occasions such ‘as this emphasize the fact that it is not. I undertake to say that the constituents of the honorable member for Darling Downs would not condone his action had they an opportunity to express their opinions, and I question whether those of the Prime Minister would not revolt at the accursed action which has taken place.
– They are revolting.
– I think that they will do so. I mention these facts to show that there was good reason for asking that the constituencies should be appealed to. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth Constitution does not require new Ministers to present themselves for re-election, and, without impeaching anything that the GovernorGeneral may have done, I say that this affords a good justification for an appeal to the country at the present juncture, before an attempt is made to proceed with business. What is the position? An adjournment of three weeks is asked for, which I think is longer than has been proposed on former occasions.
– Yes; longer than has been proposed on any other occasion.
– The Watson Administration obtained an adjournment of fully three weeks - from the 18th April to about the middle of May.
– The Prime Minister stated, as his reason for the action which he took against the Fisher Administration, that he wished to save time, so that there might be no delay in getting on with business ; but it seems to me retrograde progression to now suggest an adjournment of three weeks. No Address has yet been voted by the House in reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s opening speech, an unheard of state of affairs. The constitutional course would have been to deal at once with the Address-in-Reply, amending it so as to meet the wishes of the majority. The House is placed in a most extraordinary position by reason of that not having been done. When the Ministry brings down its forlorn policy, which has been pecked at by every hen in the Cabinet, we shall be asked to resume the consideration of the proposed Address. I wish to direct the attention of the country to the position regarding the combination of parties opposite. Honorable* members do not know on what basis the coalition is formed. I read one statement of the agreement in the Argus, and another in the Age of the same day, while I also read an account of an interview in Sydney with a former leader of the Opposition, the right honorable member for East Sydney, in which he deliberately stated that the protectionist policy is not safeguarded, and that the majority of the Ministerial party can at any moment refuse to allow any proposed alteration of the Tariff for the correction of an anomaly, and vote against any proposed increase in duties; that the free-traders in the party have a free hand to do as they please in regard to the Tariff.
– I intend to vote as I like.
– I do not blame the honorable member. The freetraders have scored a great victory. Are the protectionists and manufacturers of this community, and, ‘indeed, the people at large, to sit quietly twiddling their thumbs while nothing is done to give our industries the protection they need, or to provide encouragement for industries which might spring into existence ? What has the leader of the Government’ to say about the position of the oil industry in New South Wales?
– He sold it.
– lt appears to me that that industry will be crushed out of existence by the arrangement which has been made. What has he to say about the iron industry? An alteration of the Tariff is necessary to foster it. Are these and other necessary alterations to remain in abeyance, not merely for this, but for the next Parliament, a period of five years? The base hearts should be dragged out of those who are responsible for this state of affairs, which may be productive of revolution. Revolutions have been started by much smaller causes. The hearts should be dragged out of the traitors who would tie the hands of the protectionists for five years.
– Protection is up a tree.
– I hope ray re, marks will dwell in the minds, and sink deeply into the hearts, of those who have acted as traitors. But for the assistance of a large section of the Labour Party, and the assistance at times of those who are not altogether protectionists, I should not have” had ii ghost of a chance, in view of the attitude of the traitors then in the Opposition corner, of passing the present Tariff, low as it is. Yet, according to what I have seen and heard, it is proposed that that Tariff shall remain in abeyance for some years. No, sir, that will not do for me. I think I shall get enough electors outside, if I do not get enough members inside the House, to stop this wholesale ignoring of the people, who expected to be better protected. I do not blame the right honorable member for Swan, although he sold his present leader when he was in the Government before. The latter became ill, and the first thing the right honorable member for Swan did was to resign, and leave him in an awkward position. Now he is his .bosom friend again.
– We never quarrelled about it.
– There are certain ways of doing things without absolutely quarrelling. I have, perhaps, an unfortunate faculty and habit of using my speech to say what I think, but some people have the faculty of using their speech to hide their thoughts. It might be better for individuals like myself if we did hide our thoughts sometimes. I could not conceive that a man like the honorable member for Darling Downs would behave in the manner he has. I believe that his constituents are honorable men, and I am sure that they will never re-elect a man who has so dishonoured the principles about which he has prated for so long. There are others to whom I could refer. It is an audacious thing in the present condition of affairs to ask for three weeks’ adjournment. I know enough of the work of Governments to be pretty well sure that the programme of the new Government could’ be brought down to-morrow*. It is simply upsetting everything that has been donebefore, and allowing time for the storm’ to blow over. I wish again to say that .the Tariff stands to-day as a monument to a large number of the members of the Labour Party, and it would never have got to itspresent position without a personal promise- - I do not know whether others made it, but it was made by myself, who had charge of the Tariff - that it should never be made law without protection being afforded to the employes as well as to the manufacturers.
– The honorable member got hundreds of votes from me under that pretence, anyway. ‘
– It was no pretence on my part. It was under that promise that I got a large number of votes,, which appear now to have been obtained by fraud, not on my part, but on the part of others, unless that promise is carried out to the fullest extent. I do not know howmany members of the Employers’ Federation there are in the new Ministry, but there sit behind them the whole rank and file of that body, while in New South Wales, the new organization which I understand has. been proposed, supported and organized by the Prime Minister, has absolutely as its. keynote the policy of the Employers’ Federation. I always understood that that body was no friend of the labouring class. Yet those honorable members pose as the friends: of the labouring class, and as the friends of Liberals, and call themselves Liberals. The brand of Conservatismis indelibly stamped all over every one of the Ministers who have gone into the present Government. To use the word “Liberal” in describing them is to utter a diabolical untruth. There is no Liberalism amongst those who are sitting on that side. I see the President of the Victorian Employers’ Federation sitting on the Government bench. The time will come when, piece by piece, the whole of what has taken place, and the whole of the political life of those who have formed this extraordinary amalgamation and upset everything in this country - an amalgamation which they have not the slightest hope of making permanent and effectual - the time, I say, will come very shortly, and it should come as quickly as possible, when the covering will be torn off all these proceedings, and when they will be exposed to the people of this country in the fullest blaze and glare of publicity. It will be of no use for the Prime Minister to try, with his honeyed words, any longer to hoodwink the people. He has clone it once too often on this occasion, and those who have supported and believed in him before never can, and never will, believe in him again. If “they do, they ought to be sold again, just as he will slide out from amongst honorable members opposite one of these days, when it suits him. I was shown a paragraph the other day from a leading morning paper, in which an attempt was made to frighten me from making any further attacks on the party opposite, and to insinuate that if I persisted there would be an exposure of certain things regarding my political life and public policy, which had taken place in Cabinet or elsewhere. I say to them, “ Bring forward everything !’’ I challenge any paper and any Minister to point tome as- a man who deserted or misled in a cowardly way any of his colleagues, or to point to any unworthy action of mine during the whole of the time that I have been in public life, riot only in this Parliament, but in the Parliament of New South Wales, where. I gained my political education under one of the most honorable and upright men that, ever held office - the late Sir George Dibbs. He always stuck to his colleagues, and to those who would support his policy. I tell any one who attempts to prevent me from using every weapon in my power in the peculiarly disgraceful circumstances of the present moment that, if I am goaded, I will go very much further than they think, no matter where the threat comes from ; because if there is one thing which I can say regarding my public life, it is that I can dare any ] person in the community to try to find a stain on my record as a man, or in any other way. I shall proceed on my “own course to attack, for instance, the honorable member for Parramatta, as I have attacked him in the past. I challenge him to produce anything against mv public character. When charges have been hurled against me previously, I have not sat down quietly and let the thing blow over; but f have challenged my accusers at once with the demand of a Commission, and rammed down the throats of my detractors the detractions which they have uttered. So long as I live I will pursue that course.
– They have not discovered Mrs. Smith vet.
– They have now taken under their care Miss Grace Watson - perhaps she is sitting in the gallery now - the young lady who maligned me, who lied about me, and who was sent over by the right honorable member for Swan to try to work up the Womens’ National League in Western Australia. I challenge the lady, and-
– Did she discover Mrs. Smith?
– She admits it was a lie. I have challenged that lady, and she is the secretary of-
– The Liberal Association.
– Of the society ladies’ association of Victoria, at any rate.
– The black labour association !
– The black labour association, there is no question about it. It is a further taint on the sincerity of this Government that an honorable member, who has, I understand, always been an advocate for black labour, should be brought within its ranks. He is either brought in as a nonentity, or-
– Who is he?
– I understand it is the honorable member for Brisbane.
– What the honorable member says is absolutely incorrect !
– I have heard the honorable member for Brisbane speaking on the subject, when he was a member of the Opposition, and before I made the statement, I inquired of several honorable members, including some Queenslanders, as to the fact. Of course, if it is not a fact, I shall be sorry for having given utterance to it; I wish it to be clearly understood that I make the statement now from information given to me within the last hour.
– To whom did the Prime Minister refer when he called the late Opposition the “ wreckage “ of the black labour crowd ?
– All that crowd are on the Government side now. I hope that we shall have quick submission of business, and that there will be opportunity to ventilate the scandal which has arisen in this new association and formation of parties - a change which has caused some to give up all they held dear. I hope that the Prime Minister will not ask for a longer adjournment than a fortnight ; but, whether we meet in a fortnight or three weeks, as sure as heaven is above us, the public will be enabled to clearly understand the position.
.- I congratulate honorable members who now occupy the Treasury benches, and express my sincerest sympathy with those who sit behind them.
– My. congratulations are heartfelt, I can assure the honorable member. I ask the Prime Minister whether he does not really think he can do all that is necessary within a fortnight.
– The Watson Government had a three weeks’ adjournment.
– The members of that Ministry were all new to office, whereas the present Ministry are old stagers.
– The Reid Government had an adjournment for twenty days.
– We must remember that no Labour Government had ever come down to Parliament with a policy prior to the Watson Government, and that, therefore, there was some reason for a longer adjournment. In the present case, I understand that the Government are merely proposing to continue theold Deakin Liberal policy - the Prime Minister’s old policy. We have been told ad nauseam for six months past, in the public press, that this combination is a natural one - that the country was calling for it, and that all the political circumstances of the last few years have led up to it. But instead of being able, as ought to be the case if it were a natural combination, to at once proceed with business, the Government ask for an unusually long time in order to get a policy together. Does the Prime Minister mean to say that all this talk about a policy having already been fixed up is so much humbug? Looking at the combination, one can very readily believe that it must be- as, indeed, it ought to be - exceedingly difficult to get a policy on which they can all agree. It must be very difficult to get a policy on which the honorable member for Batman and the honorable member for Wentworth, the honorable member for Corio and the honorable member for Parkes, the honorable member for Bourke and the honorable member for Flinders, and the honorable member for Darling Downs and the honorable member for Brisbane can agree. A policy on which those honorable members could come to an understanding must be an extraordinary one; and, really, having that end in view, I am astounded at the Ministers’ moderation, because I think they ought to have asked for an adjournment for three years at least.
– A rest of three years would do the country good !
– I can well understand how the honorable member would like a political truce for three years, because it is the only thing to prevent his being sent to that political oblivion which his present action deserves.
– Do not count the chickens before they are hatched !
– That is what the right honorable member did.
– Yes, and “fell in”!
– Does not the mere fact of asking for an unusually extended adjournment furnish the clearest proof that the Ministry has some difficulty before them? I admit I fail to see how they are going to face the situation - how they are going to combine policies so absolutely antagonistic in all’ essentials and details. No policy except a do-nothing policy can. be agreed upon, unless half of the honorable members opposite absolutely desert the principles on which they were elected to this House. In no way can they occupy common ground, except at the expense of sacrificing their principles. I shall not take up time further than to say that, while I personally congratulate the members of the Ministry, and declare that I have no personal ill-feeling against any one of them, I regard the combination as unnatural, and one, therefore, that cannot last ; and I believe I am expressing the opinion of the vast majority of the people of the Commonwealth when I say it ought not to last.
.- At this stage I do not intend to express any opinion regarding the composition of the Government, or endeavour to anticipate the programme they will submit for our consideration. I am aware that ample opportunity will be given at a later date to discuss the Government’s proposals. There is, however, one point on which I think the Prime Minister might enlighten the House, and thus afford information to which I consider we are entitled. It is generally accepted that a delegation will go from Australia to the Imperial Naval Conference, and I have no doubt that the present Government will carry out the intentions of their predecessors, and send representatives. Under the circumstances, I think that, if we consent to an adjournment for three weeks, and that, as any delegation is likely to be on the road to England before the expiry of that time, the Prime Minister ought to indicate to the House and the country the attitude which will be taken up by the delegation when speaking in the name of Australia. It has been stated in one of the newspapers, probably’ in an inspired paragraph, that the Minister of Defence will be one of the representatives.
– There could be no inspired paragraph. We have not yet met in Cabinet to consider that or any other question. We were only sworn in just before the House met.
– That is an answer to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– It is to some extent, but having regard to the views that I hold I think that I am justified in asking the Prime Minister whether the delegation to London is to be authorized to go so far as to pledge the Commonwealth to the gift of a Dreadnought to the British Government? That is a question to which we are entitled to have an answer. Leading members of the Ministry have expressed the view that a Dreadnought should be given by the Commonwealth to the British Government, and I hold that Parliament should have an opportunity to discuss that proposal before the delegation leaves Australia.
– Does not the honorable member think that our delegates should go Home to deliberate at the Conference with the object of learning as well as of putting their views?
– I have not the slightest objection to their going Home to learn certain things. I have no doubt that delegates from the Government side of the House will need to be .taught some lessons, but I wish to know whether the Government will authorize the delegation to pledge the Commonwealth to the gift of a Dreadnought.
– The Cabinet could make such an offer without any action on the part of the delegates.
– What ! Spend two millions f
– No money could be spent without the consent of Parliament.
– Apparently the Prime Minister is not prepared at the present time to replyo my qquestion. There are one or two other points in this connexion to which a reference is desirable at the present time. It is well known that the present Minister of Defence some time ago expressed the opinion that the naval subsidy should be increased. *
– Hear, hear.
– That statement is cheered. I have no objection to honorable members holding that the subsidy should be increased, but I wish to ascertain the view of the Government on the question before the delegation leaves Australia. The Minister of Defence has expressed himself in favour of an increased naval subsidy rather than the policy of constructing a flotilla of our own.
– An increased subsidy plus a Dreadnought.
– That is so. At a later stage the Minister of Defence advocated the presentation of a Dreadnought in addition to an increased naval subsidy. Some of the members of his party also declared that they were disgusted at the action of the Fisher Administration in ordering three torpedo boat destroyers and proposing to expend on their construction money that had been voted by the Parliament to the credit of a Trust Fund for naval defence purposes.
– Because it was promised that that fund should not be touched without Parliamentary sanction.
– The Government propose that we shall adjourn for three weeks, notwithstanding that the Minister of Defence is likely to leave for London before then, and that we have not yet had from a responsible member of the new Administration a statement as to whether or not they propose that the Commonwealth should) present a Dreadnought to the British Government or grant an increased naval subsidy. The position is certainly an extraordinary one. Domestic questions relating: to the Tariff, the New Protection, and several other subjects on which there has. been, and will be, serious disagreement amongst the members of the Government can be settled within the next two or threeweeks; but this Parliament should have an opportunity to give expression to its views; regarding the presentation of a Dread- nought, and as to what is to be done in the name of the Commonwealth Government by the proposed delegation before the members of it leave our shores. If the Prime Minister is not prepared to make a statement on this subject, the House will be ill-advised in agreeing to an adjournment extending over more than a fortnight.
;- Time brings many changes, and in the immediate past we have had an excess of them. I “shall not be divulging a party secret when I state that a few months ago the present Prime Minister communicated with the members of his then party with a view of ascertaining whether they were in favour of Parliament being called together earlier than was proposed by the Fisher Administration. The honorable gentleman communicated with me by telegraph, and I naturally concluded that he was very anxious that the business of the country should be proceeded with without delay, and believed that the recess proposed by the Government of the day was longer than it ought to be. I replied that I was prepared to agree to any arrangement that might be made between the honorable gentleman and the then Prime Minister, even if, as a result of it, Parliament were called together on the following day. What has since happened to render the transaction of the work of this Parliament no longer urgent? Is it not still urgently necessary to proceed with the business of the country? We find, however, that the first action taken by the honorable member for Ballarat on the meeting of Parliament gave rise to loss of time in that it led to the displacement of a Government that was prepared to go on at once with business of which I believed, and still believe, he approved. He now asks for an adjournment for three weeks. With what object? It cannot be said that it is to enable the new Government to frame a policy, for its policy has already been drawn up. As a member of the Liberal Party led by the honorable member for Ballarat, I was told that a policy had been drawn up and agreed to by the very honorable members who constitute the new Administration. That being so, why should there be any delay? Is it not true that in New South Wales, and more particularly in Victoria, the present Prime Minister made statements to the effect that honorable members with whom he is now associated were agreed to a certain policy and that it was to be the policy of Australia ? In these circum stances there can he no necessity for an adjournment of more than a week.
– Did the Prime Minister say that that policy provided for the gift of a Dreadnought?
– No, I am referring to the policy announced by the Prime Minister in the Melbourne Town Hall, and published in the Age and Argus as that of the coalition. The mere framing of a Bill would not take anything like three weeks. Is there not other business to go on with?
– The framing of a Bill will take more than three weeks if the opinions of the whole party are to be consulted.
– I have been given to understand that the party has accepted the policy announced by the’ Prime Minister last week in the Melbourne Town Hall.
– Did not the honorable member hear the discordant notes which came from the back benches of the Ministerial Party this afternoon?
– The honorable member to whose interjections the honorable member for Maranoa refers is not a Minister.
– He is one of those who constitute the Ministerial majority.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie has given a good reason why Parliament should not be adjourned for so long a time as would prevent us from expressing our opinions on the defence question before the Commonwealth delegates leave for the Defence Conference. I shall not now discuss the constitution of the Ministry. About that I shall have something to say later on. But if there is one reason stronger than another why we should not adjourn for three weeks, it is that an honorable gentleman has been’ allotted the portfolio of Minister of Defence who, out of his own mouth, has declared himself to be the absolute enemy of Australian defence.
– Perhaps he has since seen the error of his ways.
– Then we should be told so, and should hear his recantation. We have only his past statements to go on at the present time. If he is sent to England to represent the Commonwealth on the Defence Conference, and proclaims, as the opinions of the people of Australia, those which he has announced as his own, he will be declaring that this country desires something which is the reverse of what it really wishes for. I ask the Prime Minister, who,
I suppose, does not trouble much about my opinions now-
– He is of “ off with the old love and on with the new.”
– I ask him seriously to accept the suggestion of the leader of the Opposition, and agree to an adjournment of sixteen days as ample.
– The right honorable member for East Sydney was allowed an adjournment of twenty days, or one day less than three weeks, and the honorable member for South Sydney an adjournment of twenty-one days, or three weeks exactly.
– The right honorable member for East Sydney, after his three weeks’ adjournment, brought forward no policy at all. But the Prime Minister has declared his policy, and, if what we have been told is true, his colleagues have agreed to it. I understand that the programme which he has enunciated is that which the Government is going to pursue.
– With protection as its first plank?
– That is now called the rectification of anomalies. There are more anomalies than those in the Tariff, and, in my opinion, one of the chief is that at this critical stage in the history of Australia a member has been made Minister of Defence who has absolutely no sympathy with war, but is a man of peace.
– Surely we do not desire war?
– He has declared that the safety of Australia rests, not in Australians finding their own defence, but in relying on a Power 16,000 miles away. That is his opinion, as opposed to the opinions of the greatest naval and military experts of the day. Other honorable members opposite have made the same declaration. We have a right to know, before he is sent to England as the representative of the Government, what his present opinions are, and what he will be charged with by those responsible for sending him.
– We should know, too, who is going with him.
– That is not of so much concern. I presume that the honorable member for Wentworth, who is considered the greatest naval expert in this House, will be one of those sent.
– He is not too bad.
– I understand that the Conference is to meet in London on a certain date and it is absolutely necessary that the Australian representatives, to be in time, should leave within a fortnight. If, then, the House adjourns for three weeks, a representative will have been sent without our knowing what he is charged to say or do.
– The Government may be defeated immediately it meets the House again.
– Not only should we know what instructions have been given to our representatives, but the Ministry wilt meet the House without having a Minister of Defence to answer questions relating to that important Department.
– The Honorary Minister will answer for the Department, as has been done on similar occasions in the past.
– Each Minister should answer for his own Department. There is no warrant for an adjournment for three weeks. Personally, I think that one week’s adjournment would be ample, and shall vote for the amendment.
.- I congratulate the honorable and learned members for Illawarra, Angas, and Bendigo, on the attainment of Cabinet rank in the Commonwealth Parliament, and I wish them all sorts of good luck. As to the proposed adjournment, I have heard members sitting behind the Government say that they are prepared to go on with business next Tuesday, being ready to take up the remnants of the programme left by the former Deakin Administration. I do not know what is to prevent this being done. Seeing that some of their supporters are ready to get to work, and the Opposition is willing to agree to an adjournment for a fortnight, the PrimeMinister might well stretch a point, and do a graceful act, by accepting that compromise.
– He has said that the Cabinet will not let him; that he favoured a fortnight’s adjournment, tout that his colleagues would not agree to it.
– I said that I suggested an adjournment of a fortnight, but that I was reminded that, on the last occasion, that period was found insufficient.
– When, as leader of the new coalition, the present Prime Minister was attacking the Fisher Administration, his chief anxiety seemedto be to get on with the business of the country.
– The best way to obtain expedition is to allow for the due preparation and maturing of measures.
– That is a matter of opinion. Why was the honorable gentleman so desirous that the Fisher Administration should call Parliament together six weeks ago? Was it, as has been suggested, that he might murder that Government a little earlier, or was it to give an opportunity for voting a Dreadnought for the Old Country ? The newspapers which I saw when out in my constituency - they were three or four weeks old when they reached me - made evident the desire of the honorable members for Ballarat and Parramatta to bring about a fusion of parties. The present action of the Prime Minister reminds me of the manner in which a blackfellow on the Cooper, near the South Australian border, makes his advances to a gin. If she will not come with him on a certain day, he, with two or three others of the tribe, bludgeons her, and carries her off. That is what the honorable gentleman has done with those sitting behind him. How are the honorable members for Lang and Batman to appear on the same platform? Directly the new Ministry was announced, there were signs of discontent on the back benches. The honorable member for Lang is sitting as far from the Treasury bench as is possible, without leaving the chamber.
– He wishes to get out of the draught.
– If he is not careful, he will get beyond his draught, and be drowned. Both he and the honorable member for Batman are afraid of getting into deep water, and being drowned.
– There is not much fear for the honorable member for Batman.
– Perhaps there is not much fear for the honorable member. When the honorable member for Kalgoorlie was speaking, the honorable member for Corio interjected, “ The Cabinet can offer a Dreadnought.” Surely the Cabinet is not going to spend£2,000,000.
– No Cabinet would do that.
– That is my opinion. But on one occasion the right honorable member for Swan, standing at the end of the table, said, “ Why talk of paltry sums? As Premier of Western Australia I spent £600,000 without the consent of Parliament.” How do we know that he will not try to spend £2,000,000 without the consent of this Parliament?
– £2,000,000 would be nothing to him.
– It is a great sum of money, as the honorable member would find if he tried to count it. Some weeks ago, certain honorable members opposite appeared desirous of havingParliament called together to provide for the voting of a Dreadnought to the Mother Country. Why does not the Prime Minister now propose the voting of £2,000,000 as a gift to Great Britain? The discussion of that proposal would take a week at least, during which time Ministers could consider their policy. Indeed, the honorable gentleman would be satisfied if he got it through in a week. He knows how the public would treat any such proposal, and the derision with which the mention of it was received the other night by the meeting at the Exhibition Building. It would have done the honorable gentleman’s heart good to hear then the vociferous cheers for the honorable member for Hume, as the father of Protection. I heard many say that they had him to thank for Protection, a statement which I indorse. But had it not been for his promise to me that, under the new protection to be proposed by the then Administration, the workers would get their share, I should not have voted for his proposals, because hitherto, while the manufacturers have benefited by Protection, the workers and consumers have not been considered. Now the Prime Minister is sacrificing the new protection to what he termed the “ ragtag and bob-tailed party,” to the party which he said was made up of the wreckage of every other party under the sun. The political ideals of the honorable members for Darling. Downs and Brisbane are as far apart as the Poles.
– They were.
– They are. When the tugofwar comes, the honorable memberfor Darling Downs will not be able to obtain satisfaction forhis principles, except at the expense of leavingoffice. Ministers and those sitting behind them-
– The black labour party.
– With every Administration in which, in Queensland, the honorable member for Brisbane was a Minister, it was the black labour policy - first, last, and all the time.
– He was in favour of it in 1902. Here is Hansard if the honorable member wishes to quote it.
– We shall have plenty of time to go into that matter. I merely make reference to it in passing. I should like to move if I were in order that all Hansards up to date, both Federal and State, be burnt. It is not regarding the past, but the present and the future, that we want to fight. I am thinking of the millions who are to come in Australia when we are under the turf. Our party are thinking of those people. I wish Honorable *members opposite had seen the meeting that was held on Monday night in the Melbourne Exhibition Building. It has filled me with an inspiration that will make me go on for ever in my present path, and I am sure that to-day I am on the right track. I feel as. confident that our party will come to the top as I am sure that I am standing here. There was the writing on the wall for the Prime Minister and his party to read. I, am satisfied’ that our party are going to be the Protectionist Party of Australia, both industrially and politically. I can see nothing else for it. If we are going to be a factor in this National Parliament, we must take up either one position or the other regarding fiscal matters.
– The Labour Party has never done that before.
– It is never too late’ to mend. I am sacrificing no principle when I sa.y that so far as I am concerned I am an out-and-out protectionist from the night I saw that meeting in the Exhibition Building. I am satisfied that that is the only policy for Australia, and that when we take up those cudgels our party will submerge the Deakin Party. Whether the Prime Minister agrees to an adjournment for a fortnight or for three weeks, I am confident that the Government will not last three months. I do not want to prophesy, but you, Mr. Speaker, must have heard the signs and mutterings of thunder from the back bench, and so did honorable members opposite. They are only the beginning of the end. Directly the constitution of the Government was announced, there were signs of discontent. I want to know how the honorable member for Angas is going to swallow the platform of the honorable member for Dalley, and how the honorable member for Dalley is going to swallow the platform of the honorable member for Angas. The situation is most amusing when one analyzes these facts. I would ask the Prime Minister to be graceful even if he has a big majority behind him, and to give way on this occasion. Many of us have come thousands of miles to attend Parliament, and I for one am not anxious to- kick my heels around Melbourne for three weeks. I have come here to do the business, not of the State, but of Australia.. This is the first time that we have asked a favour of the Prime Minister.
– Honorable members opposite have not asked a favour; they have moved an amendment.
– There was nothing else todo. The Prime Minister sat like a sphinx. He did not nod or move or open his mouth, until the pin was put in to prod him. I am sure that if he asks the leader of the Opposition to withdraw the amendment, and moves an adjournment until the 16th, the leader of the Opposition will be only too pleased to meet him. I can say safely that the amendment was not moved in any hostile spirit to the Prime Minister or the Government. It was moved simply in the full knowledge and belief that a fortnight’s adjournment was long enough.
.- Although an adjournment of three weeks would suit me very well personally, I must take into consideration the present position of the country arid the fact that an adjournment of that duration would bring us within a week of the end of the financial year. A Supply Bill would then have to be passed to meet the emergencies of the month of July, no money would have been passed for works, and contractors throughout Australia would be kept out of their money until such time as the Estimates for the next financial year were passed.
– That will not be so. The contracts in existence will be paid.
– I am glad the new Treasurer has learnt to improve on what was done when he was Treasurer previously. In fact, it has often happened that those engaged on contracts were refused their money because the House had not passed the Estimates.
– That was in the case of new works.
– I am referring to contractors engaged in new works. In monthly Supply Bills we vote only money for the ordinary services. I hope the Prime Minister will agree to an adjournment for a fortnight, so that we may attend to the financial affairs of the Commonwealth and be able to pay amounts owing to contractors, engaged on new works when the money is due.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister before the division is taken whether during the recess he will take into consideration the necessity of taking a referendum whereby the people of Australia will be dominant over Cabinet Ministers, Parliament, and GovernorGeneral.
– I wish to congratulate the honorable member for Illawarra, the honorable member for Bendigo, and the honorable member for Angas on attaining Cabinet rank. I think that that is a courtesy which is due to any man who achieves that distinction. Regarding a subject upon which the Prime Minister was very emphatic the other day, I should like to ask him whether it is the intention of the Government to send a representative to the Imperial Defence Conference before the Address-in-Reply is adopted, or before the Government know definitely that they are going to retain possession of the Treasury Bench. The Prime Minister was particularly anxious that no representative should be sent to England unless there was an. assurance that he had a_ strong Government behind him and that he could voice that-Government’s policy. The honorable member knows that, until the new Government have stated their policy to the House and have obtained the approval of the House, they cannot legitimately and honestly say that they truly represent the wishes of this Parliament. Until that has been done, I maintain that nobody has a right to be sent from Australia to represent the Commonwealth at that Conference, and T hope the Prime Minister will not in any way attempt to appoint any of his colleagues to the position. I have heard a rumour to-day that one of them has already been selected. I am glad to see the Prime Minister shake his head.
– We have not had time even to meet once.
– Do I understand that the appointment will not be made until the policy of the Government is laid before, and approved by. the House?
– I do not say that, because I do not know yet whether the time will permit. If the present Government took that action and were deprived of their positions, of course, the representative, if sent, would have to be recalled, or could be recalled if it were thought necessary.
– Is not that the very thing that the Prime Minister complained about regarding the late Government - that they proposed to send one of their number to the Conference when they did not represent the wishes of Parliament? Until the
Government policy has> been (submitted, how can we know what the feelings of Parliament are regarding that matter? The honorable member now says that the Government will appoint some one and send, him, and that if their policy does not receive the support of the House they will recall him. Is that the way they are going to do the business of the country? The Prime Minister appears, as I have already said, to be subject to the dictates of those around him, and must do what he is told. If it was wrong last week for the late Government to take the course they propose, then it is wrong for this Government to take a similar course this week until they know that they-are secure in their positions. The Prime Minister appears to be under the impression that the first duty of the House, when it meets again, will be to consider his policy ; but let me remind him that the policy of ‘the late Government has yet to be discussed, and will be discussed to the .fullest possible extent as soon as the House meets, unless the Prime Minister is prepared to apply the closure to the debate on the Address-in-Reply. It is idle for the honorable member to say that he desires to save time. Why, if that is so, does he ask for an adjournment of three weeks now ? He himself has no particular anxiety, as he has no portfolio to administer, and has nothing to do but sign a few papers that may come before him from time to time, and to lead the House when he is present. His attention to the business of the House previously was the poorest that I have ever seen given by a Prime Minister or by the Premier of any of the States. During my career I have never seen a leader of a House pay less attention to his parliamentary duties than did the present Prime Minister when previously in office. He was hardly ever in the chamber, and the honorable member for Parramatta, who is now a Minister of the Crown, repeatedly complained - as did a number of other honorable members who were then sitting on this side - that they could hardly get a Minister present, with the exception of the honorable member for Hume, who during one long period spent a considerable amount of time in the Chamber. I hope the Prime Minister, now that he is relieved of anxiety with regard to the administration of a Department, will try to lead the House, and not allow’ it to run itself as it had to during his previous term of office. It will be in the best interests of this Parliament that the honorable member should attend the
House a little more frequently than he has done in the past.
Question - That “ 23rd,” proposed to be left out, stand part of the motion - put. The House divided.
Majority …… 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– I have received the following telegram from the Acting Premier of South Australia -
I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of your telegram conveying the resolution of the House of Representatives expressing its profound regret at the untimely decease of our Premier, also its deep sympathy with Mr. Price’s family and the people of South Australia. I have communicated the contents of the message to Mrs. Price, who desires me to thank the House of Representatives for its sympathetic message of condolence. I also desire to thank the House on behalf of the people of South Australia.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I should like to bring before the House a matter which, in my opinion,requires attention at the earliest possible moment. I have in my hand a newspaper, published in Sydney, which reports a lengthy statement by the Premier of that State in reference to the Federal Capital site. In the course of that statement, the Premier makes an attack on an officer selected by the Government of the Commonwealth to report on various matters connected with the site. He does this well knowing that the officer concerned is debarred from uttering a word’ in his own defence. The point I should like to emphasize is that Mr. Scrivener is an officer of the New South Wales Government, and has been selected to furnish a report to the Commonwealth. It seems to me that in the future the Commonwealth will be seriously hampered if an officer selected from a State to act for the Federal Government is to be attacked by a member of the Government which he serves.
– Is Mr. Scrivener a State or a Federal officer?
– A State officer; and a most excellent one. If this attack is to pass, then State officers will hesitate to undertake Federal duties. They cannot be expected to furnish impartial reports if by doing so they are likely to incur censure from their official superiors. Without going into full details, for this statement fills over a column in the newspaper, its general tenor will be gathered from editorial comments thereon : -
Mr. Scrivenerwas only one of a Committee of New South Wales Government officials detailed to deal with the question of the best place for a city within the prescribed area, and his duties were those of a licensed surveyor. It was no part of those duties to provide any report on his own initiative -
Mr. Scrivener provided nothing on his own initiative; he dealt with the matter acording to precise instructions - nor to meddle in questions calling for expert knowledge outside the range of that expected in a surveyor.
All one can say in reply to that is that Mr. Scrivener had been employed by a previous Government to report on other sites, and that his work earned the highest commendation of everybody concerned. The leading article goes on to say-
But Mr. Scrivener both supplied a statement of his individual views and discussed problems quite outside the limits of his field.
My reply to these charges is that Mr. Scrivener’s report is well within the authority he received. The leading article proceeds -
He did it too, with a precipitateness which is to say the least remarkable in a State servant. Taking his report as it stands, it is therefore easy to understand that it is neither a satisfactory nor a convincing document. Its unsatisfactoriness lies in the political bias which it exhibits. “Predilection for his old love - Dalgety” might well be the motive, as Mr. Wade suggests.
Taking this article as a reflex and amplification of Mr. .Wade’s statements, I can only describe it as a gross perversion of facts and an impertinent attempt to browbeat an officer of the highest standing.
– Does the honorable member suggest that Mr. Scrivener will suffer for his independent report ?
– I do not say so; but it must be remembered that he is entirely . under the State Government.
– What remedy does the. honorable member suggest?
– The remedy is not for me. All I can do now is to express what I feel and’ know, leaving the House and the Government’ to take such action as may be necessary to vindicate Mr. Scrivener from a wanton and mendacious attack.
– I should like to call attention to that part of the report in which Mr. Scrivener deals with Jervis Bay. If all that officer’s statements are as correct as those in reference to Jervis Bay, not much reliance is to be placed on them. I suggest that the Prime Minister should obtain from the naval or other authorities who have knowledge on the question, some information as to the depths and the safety of Jervis Bay as a harbor. I have been in jervis Bay hundreds of times on fairly large vessels ; and in this connexion I know that Mr.
Scrivener’s report is absolutely unreliable. I do not refer to the other parts of Mr. Scrivener’s report.
– We have not had Mr. Scrivener’s report yet.
– It was published in the Sydney newspapers the other day. I think that the naval authorities would, perhaps, be the best from whom to obtain the information I suggest, though I believe that the Works Department or the Navigation Department of New South Wales have full particulars as to the depth, and so forth. Amongst other things, Mr. Scrivener said that Jervis Bay is not a safe harbor, or rather would be rough if the wind were blowing from the west or northwest. Now, any child would, know better, because that end of the harbor is the most protected, and there is not a sufficiently long reach of water to .make a sea anything like that which occurs in Hobson’s Bay. In the interests of whatever site is chosen. I think we ought to have full particulars, together with a chart, as to Jervis Bay.
– I should like to call attention to the dwindling majority of the Government in the first contest. We were told that the Prime Minister had a majority of nine, or a supposed majority of twelve ; but .we find that this has dwindled down to six, so that if the Prime Minister has many more victories like that, he will meet his Waterloo.
– The Senate counted out a similar motion.
– That is a fact of which I was not aware until the present moment, I am only anxious that the Prime Minister should not too soon find himself back on the Opposition benches again.
[4.35J. - An official summons caused me to leave the chamber during the reading of what. I imagine was the cardinal part of the newspaper article to which the honorable member for Coolgardie referred ; otherwise, I should not have left. A note, however, of the honorable member’s statements has been taken by my honorable colleague who, from to-morrow, will take charge of the Department. I have asked him to look into the whole nature of the report and the circumstances, feeling sure that the House will be desirous of affording every proper protection to an officer who acts for the Commonwealth. I am loth, however, to believe, unless the evidence is absolutely clear, that the Premier of New
South Wales would reflect on one of his own officers acting in the discharge of his duty.
– His words appear in the newspaper.
– I have not seen them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.37 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 June 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19090602_reps_3_49/>.