5th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of messages from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral recommending appropriations of revenue for the purposes of these Bills.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That the messages be referred to the Committee of Supply.
.- As the messages which have been read cover two distinct Bills, they should be dealt with separately.
– The Bills will be dealt with separately.
– The messages should be dealt with separately. A member may have something to say in regard to the recommendation of an appropriation for Supply, or he may have something to say about the other message, yet he may not wish to discuss, both messages. I object to this bunching together of separate messages. It has been done . before from time to time, but the procedure is incorrect, and although in this case it may. not cause much trouble, it will, sooner or later, lead to endless difficulties. I enter my protest against the course which is being pursued.
– I made the motion merely as a matter of form.
– The Treasurer, as each message was read, should have moved that it be referred to the Committee of Supply. Had he done that, probably one message would’ have been dealt with immediately, and perhaps only two or three words said regarding the other. The right honorable gentleman has not told us why the Government desire Supply at this time of the year, when it is in no need of it. The Appropriation Act and the Appropriation Works and Buildings Act provide for the ordinary services of the current financial year and for the construction of additions, new works, buildings, &c, and the Treasurer will have no need for Supply until the second week in July. Somespecial inducement must have been offered to the GovernorGeneral to obtain his recommendation of the proposed appropriations, and the House has a right to know from the Treasurer just what the proposal is.
– Hear, hear I
– If there is one member who, more than another, usually tries to be candid, straightforward, and clear, it is the Treasurer, and I am surprised that at this juncture he should withhold information.
– Let us hear what the Speaker has to say about the matter.. Anything he desires me to do I shall do.
– I do not know how Mr. Speaker intends to rule. He may say that the course which has been taken is one that has been taken before. I know that it has been taken quite a number of times.
– The honorable member, when Speaker, allowed it, I think.
– I do not know; but I have known messages to come from the Governor-General to which his signature has not been attached, and which therefore have not been read to the House. I suppose that the messages which have just been read are in order. I have known, too, messages to come from the Governor-General dated as if signed on the day on which they were received here in Melbourne, although the GovernorGeneral himself was at the time nearly 600 miles away, in Sydney. Pacts like these show how necessary it is to have the fullest discussion, so that we may Be informed of the reasons for the messages which have been read. The Treasurer has not spent within 30 per cent, or 40 per cent, of the votes authorized by the Appropriation Works and Buildings Act for the current financial year.
– What has that to do with it? The votes lapse at the end of the year.
– I know that they lapse. This helps the Treasurer to inflate his Budget by the starving of the Departments, which is what we should guard against. Throughout the country there are public works urgently needing attention, on which the Government has not spent a threepence, although money was voted for them months ago.
– A great deal more has been spent during the current financial year than was spent in the financial year preceding it.
– Very little of the expenditure sanctioned by us last year, in connexion with the Works and Buildings Estimates, has been carried out by the Government; or, at all events, if there has been any considerable expenditure, it has not taken place in constituencies represented by the members of the Labour party. The Government, apparently, are anxious to make the people believe that the deficit on the year’s undertakings will be less than it would have been if they had not been in power. We shall have no financial statement from the Treasurer, since the financial year will probably not have ended when Parliament is dissolved. The Government, therefore, will be able to go to the country and make all sorts of statements regarding the finances of the year without fear of contradiction. We shall not be in possession of the information necessary to enable us to refute their allegations. They hold the key to the financial situation. The Treasurer should be candid enough, therefore, to tell us now what proportion of the Works and Buildings Estimates remains unexpended. We want to know why certain works for which provision was made in those Estimates have not been carried out. We desire, also, to know when the general election is to take place, and upon what roll it is to be conducted. I appeal to the Treasurer to tell us what reasons he assigned for asking the GovernorGeneral to send down these messages to enable us to appropriate certain sums of money. I do not know whether His Excellency is, in this respect, like a former Governor-General, but I trust that he first looked, as he should do, through the proposals submitted to him. Honorable members desire to know what information the Government gave the Governor-General when they asked for these messages. 1 regret that tho Treasurer should have seen fit to propose that the two messages should be discussed practically at the one time. There must be a separate Bill and a separate Resolution in’ respect of each of them. At a later stage on the motion that you, sir, do now leave the chair and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply, we shall be able to deal with grievances, and I propose then to give expression to my feelings regarding the way in which public works have been starved by the present Administration. Even during the drought, in the early years of Federation, when we were suffering from great depression, the Departments were not starved as they are to-day. I do not know whether the Treasurer is under the influence of the Attorney-General, or the Prime Minister, but I appeal to him to deal with these two matters separately, so that we may consider them in a legitimate way.
– I desire to inform honorable members that the course followed in this case is in accordance with the custom of the House.
– Let us get to the proposals . themselves.
– I shall be perfectly willing to allow this motion to-‘ go if the Prime Minister will give us certain information.
– Give him a chance.
– He- has had the chance but has failed to avail himself of it. My chief complaint against the Prime Minister is that he is the champion political bluffer of Australia.
– Order !
– If that remark is not in order, I shall withdraw it, sir, and say that the Prime Minister is a clever dissembler. What reason has he for believing that he will get a double dissolution
– That matter is not before the Chair.
– Like the honorable member for Kennedy, I think that the Treasurer should tell us why he asks for Supply. Is it proposed that there shall be a picnic of the Ministerial party, under the auspices of the Australian Women’s National League, or what is it for? We have no information. I suspect that the Prime Minister has something to tell us, and I think he ought to tell us now. I know a little about newspaper work, and I know, too, that it is customary for Ministers of the Crown to dissemble. Before I consent to money being granted, I desire to know why the Prime Minister did not tell the newspapers that there was some truth in the statement that he had approached the Governor-General ? The honorable member said that there was no truth whatever in it, and what has the Prime Minister to say in explanation of the fact that he, apparently, never supplied the Argus, the idol of society in this State, with the information he gave to the Age?
– He did give it, but the Argus was afraid to publish it.
– I cannot believe that such an important piece of information could have been given to the Argus and not published. I desire to know why the Prime Minister forsook the Argus, and why he told the Argus and other newspapers that there was no truth in the statement that he had approached the Governor-General ?
– I am afraid the honorable member is discussing another matter altogether.
– I am offering reasons why, before we consent to referring to a Committee a matter like the expenditure, of public money, the Prime Minister should tell us why he did not tell the press the truth; and why he should tell us what the Governor-General said to him in consenting to grant a double dissolution under certain conditions. If the Prime Minister will dissemble to a great newspaper, he may dissemble in this House. The honorable member does not seem quite so happy to-day as he pretended to be on Friday.
– Nobody is happy. It is all “ put on “ with the lot of you.
– Let the honorable member speak for himself. I, like Mark Tapley, am trying to be happy under all circumstances. It is fair to ask the Prime Minister what the GovernorGeneral said when he told the honorable member that he would give him a dissolution of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. . Was there any condition attached tothat promise? There was a time in the history of New Zealand when Sir George Grey asked Sir Hercules’ Robinson, the then Governor, for a dissolution. Sir Hercules wrote a memorandum making certain requests in connexion with the granting of that dissolution, and his last paragraph read -
I hope that the Premier, in making his statement to the House, will give my reply in my own words.
And, surely we in this House, and the people in the country, are entitled to know from the Prime Minister what the Governor-General said when the honorable gentleman obtained the promise of a double dissolution. It may be said that honorable members on this side are already endeavouring to avoid facing the double dissolution; but, judging from the signs I can see in the political atmosphere, honorable members on the Government side will get the fight of their lives. Never in the history of Australia was there an election such as the forthcoming one will be, and never before were the opponents of the Liberals arrayed before them as they will be when the next appeal to the country takes place. At the risk of even holding up the election for an hour or two, we are entitled to ask the
Prime Minister what the GovernorGeneral said, and we want a reply, not in the Prime Minister’s paraphrase, but in His Excellency’s own words. If the Prime Minister will indicate, by even an inclination of the head, that he is prepared to give that information, I will say no more.
– I propose that you should allow us to get into Committee.
– And the honorable member will be prepared to make a statement on this question in Committee?
– Yes. In explanation I should like to say that this is not the time or the place to make a statement of the kind. When we get into Committee of Supply, I shall be very glad to make a statement, if requested to do so by the Leader of the Opposition.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether he, as head of the Government, has any objection to laying on the table of the House a copy of the reasons given to the GovernorGeneral in support of the Government’s request for a double dissolution, and the actual words which the Governor-General used in replying to that request? I understood that the Prime Minister did not state His Excellency’s actual words.
– I propose to make a short general statement later on. For the present, I may say that I do not propose to make public the correspondence and conversations which took place between the Governor-General and myself, and which I regard as absolutely confidential in character. It has never been the custom in the Commonwealth to do so, and I know of no special reasons for commencing to do it now.
– May I ask the Prime Minister if he has any objection to stating the reasons for withholding the actual words used by the Governor- General in reply to him, as His Excellency’s respon-. sible adviser?
– I can only say that I hope, in a few minutes, to make the honorable member fully acquainted with. the facts of the situation.
– I asked for the actual words of the Governor- General.
– I tell the honorable member that I will give him substantially the actual words of the GovernorGeneral.
– It appears that the Prime Minister does not understand my question. I ask the Prime Minister whether he will be good enough to give to Parliament and to the electors of the Commonwealth the actual statement he made on behalf of the Government, as His Excellency’s responsible advisers, requesting a simultaneous dissolution of the Senate and House of Representatives at this time, and the actual words of the GovernorGeneral in reply to that request? I think Parliament and the people are entitled to that information, and I ask the Prime Minister if he is prepared to give it?
– I have already told the right, honorable gentleman what I am prepared to do, and I propose to do it at the earliest possible moment when we get into Committee.
– Has the Prime Minister observed a statement published in Melbourne that the Government contemplate issuing a regulation which will seriously alter the basic principle of voting at the next election - namely, that an absent voter will not be allowed to exercise the franchise unless he has made application for a vote on a day prior to polling day? Is it the intention of the Government to do this?
– I have observed the statement made in the newspapers, and I have tried my best to find out how it got into them, but I am quite unable to do so.
– Is the statement true?
– I have to say in reply to my honorable friends that the Government will not make any important alteration of any kind unless Parliament is made aware of it.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister another question with the idea of facilitating business. Is the honorable gentleman in a position now to state when the election is likely to take place; and, what is of equal importance, what interval there will be between the printing of the rolls, on which the election will practically take place, and the issue of the writs? If the Prime Minister will give this information I shall endeavour to meet him as far as practicable in these matters. I see no reason why the House should not be informed of the actual day of the election. There is no need to finesse in regard to the matter.
– How can I tell that until I get Supply?
Mr.FISHER.- The Government must bo informed as to what they propose to do. They are asking for a certain amount of Supply, and they must be contemplating an appeal to the country within the period covered by that Supply. I ask the Prime Minister whether he is now in a position to give the House the information as to the day when Parliament will be dissolved, and as to when the election will take place, and especially as to when the rolls will be ready, so that people may ascertain whether their names are on or off.
– The Treasurer has all those figures, and will communicate them in his speech when asking for Supply. The trouble is that no one will wait for any one to tell him anything. Honorable members bail us up and catechise us at any time they please, when they could get all the information they desire if they would only wait a little. My own impression is that we can get a clean roll and an election in the early part of September - I think as early as the 5th September.
– What interval will that allow between the printing of the rolls and the issue of the write?
– I do not know that I could give the right honorable gentleman the exact time. To have an election on the 5th September, and allow a month afterwards for the return of the writs - it was 24 days last time - would mean that the dissolution should be published on the 20th July. If we have the writs issued ten days afterwards and nomination day seven or eight days after that again, and the election twenty-one days after nomination claywe shall be brought to the 5th September, but we shall also require at. least a month’s Supply to cover the period for the return of the writs. That is why the Treasurer proposes to ask the House for three months’ Supply, because if we proceed on this basis - and that is practically forthwith - we shall need at least three months’ Supply to tide us over the period covered by the elections.
– And what about the rolls?
Mr.JOSEPH COOK. - I understand thatwe shall be able to get the new rolls printed in about a month’s time.
– In New South Wales?
– Yes. In Sydney the other day I had an interview with Mr. Holman, Mr. Cann, and Mr. Gullick, the State Government Printer. Mr. Kelly and Mr. McLaren, the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for New South Wales, were with me.
– Do you mean that the rolls can bo printed in a month from now?
– No; I mean that the rolls can be printed within a month after they have been delivered to the Government Printer. Mr. McLaren said that he could begin to give the Government Printer the rolls during this week, so that wo can practically say that in a month’s time we may expect to have the New South Wales rolls. Then there is the question of the accuracy of the rolls. It seems to me that, in the circumstances, the better plan would be to make the revision of the printed rolls on supplementary rolls. These would necessarily be a little larger than in ordinary circumstances, because there will not be sufficient time to correct the principal rolls after they are published. There is, however, no reason why every name that is inadvertently put on or taken off rolls that are printed should not be accounted for on supplementary rolls. Whether names are on or off printed rolls, the matter can be put right on supplementary rolls. As to all these matters, I wish to say, right here and now, that the Government will co-operate with the Leader of the Opposition in any way he can suggest, and do anything to facilitate the election being carried out without a tittle of advantage to either side.
– Will you agree to allowing the police to deliver claim cards?
– I am afraid that cannot be done; but I have no objection to any facility being given.
– Why not have a conference between the two parties, and have things fixed up properly?
– I should be delighted to have it. As the Leader of the Opposition knows, I have tried to get hold of him once or twice, but, unfortunately, when he was available I was away in New South Wales. With this fight that is coining on, I do not seek to have a tittle of advantage for any side. I want a straight, fair, stand-up fight, so that the country may decide the issue between us once and for all ; and everything that will help to that end I shall be only too delighted to adopt.
– I reciprocate the statement made by the Prime Minister that every facility should be given to every person entitled to be on the roll to get his name on the roll, and have it kept there, and to have every facility to exercise his vote. I appreciate the statement of the Prime Minister that nothing will be done by regulation to restrict the existing rights of any electors under the present law. On behalf of the Opposition I also accept the suggestion for a conference ; that is, in relation to all matters incidental to the election that do not involve Government policy.
– I do not know yet whether we shall issue new regulations or not; and what I said was that we should issue no regulation without acquainting the House with what was being done.
– Do I understand the Prime Minister to say that he does not propose to do anything by regulation which will not first be submitted to Parliament ?
– I clearly understood the Prime Minister to say that the Government would not by regulation in any way interfere with or limit the rights and privileges of voters under the present law. I now understand the honorable gentleman to qualify that statement, and I wish to know whether that be so or not - whether he qualifies his previous utterance to the extent of saying that any regulation will first be submitted to Parliament.
– The statement I have made will, I hope, be taken with the general statement I made a little while ago. I am unable to say yet what regulations will be issued. I confess that I have none in my mind, but before speaking definitely I should like to consult the electoral officers to see if any regulations are necessary. Whatever regulations are issued I shall do my utmost to see that they do not take away from voters any privileges that they now possess. I suggest to the right honorable member that he should put his question on the business-paper for to-morrow.
– This method of interrogation is much the quicker.
– I do not know what regulations are in contemplation, but if the right honorable member will wait until to-morrow I shall tell him everything. I have no desire to keep anything back.
– I do not wish to trouble the Prime Minister too much, but I ask him to also take into consideration the suggestion made in regard to cooperating with the Opposition in arranging electoral matters as far as is possible and practicable. I have already indicated that I shall be glad to co-operate with the Prime Minister.
– I am. glad the right honorable gentleman has mentioned that matter further, because when last on my feet there was a point that I overlooked. I should like to consult my right honorable friend as to one or two little Bills which are very necessary and urgent. One of these Bills relates to the powers of Royal Commissions.
– Let there be three members of the Cabinet and three members from this side to consult.
– Three ‘from each side?
– Or one from each side.
– I take it that we desire an adequate inquiry into the operations of the Beef Combine, and to that end we must clothe the Commissioner with the powers requisite to a complete investigation. If I remember aright, there is only one clause in the Bill. The other little Bill is the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, which expires so far as the iron bonus is concerned on the 30th June. There will then remain a balance unexpended; and if there is no objection raised we propose “to introduce a Bill toenable us to exhaust that money.
– Is this the only bonus that runs out?
– I think it is the only one.
– There is, I understand, about £9,000 left.
– My information is that the amount is about £10,000. These are the only Bills I can think of, and I should be gladto have the cooperation of the Leader of the Opposition in putting them through.
– Ishall be very glad to co-operate with the Prime Minister in the matter, and 1 remind him that we on this side also have two or three little Bills coming on.
– Has the Honorary Minister noticed a statement to the effect that a gentleman named Hulyer has come over to Victoria from New South Wales to collect £300 to enable a candidate to oppose the Prime Minister? If Mr. Hulyer succeeds in getting that £300, will it be necessary to include it in the ‘election expenses of the candidate he has in contemplation ?
– I think my colleague, the Honorary Minister, ought to allow me to answer this question. I do not know Mr. Hulyer personally, though I know of him; and all I have to say is that I congratulate him on his enterprise. It is certainly very interesting to find Labour enthusiasts touring Australia to collect money.
– We have no Sugar Trust 1
- Mr. Hulyer is, I think, to be congratulated on his frankness in telling the country that this money is intended to employ paid organizers in my electorate with the object of beating me. Mr. Hulyer is certainly very frank about the matter, and, no doubt, his enthusiasm is to be gauged by the fact that he saysthat if Iam beaten he “will “ stand on his head.” I do not know that he could stand on a better part, for I think it is about the hardest about him.
– Has the Honorary Minister taken into consideration the fact, that at the last election £500 was sent from the Liberal Associations in Victoria to assist the candidature of the honorable member for Perth? Further, has the honorable gentleman made any inquiriesregarding the £4,000 odd which, as recently admitted by the Premier of Queensland during a Court case, was sent to that State from Victoria on the occasion of the last election? Is the Honorary Minister endeavouring to ascertain how that money was -expended . ?
– I do not know that the facts are as stated ; but what -are Liberals to do when Labour supporters are collecting all the funds they can throughout Australia ? It is well known that in most of the electorates Labour candidates are now actively engaged in a . fierce political canvass. Why does the honorable member call attention to these things?
– Because attention was called to what is being . done on the opposite side.
– There was only some personal reference to myself.
– My question had personal reference to the honorable member for Perth.
– Then I shall not make -personal reference to other members who are busily canvassingtheir electorates now at theexpense of the -Australian Workers Union.
– I should have stopped the first question of this kind that was asked, because such questions do not come within the category of those that may be allowed, either with or without notice. I “hope that no further questions of the kind will be asked, and that only questions relating to the business of which Ministers have control will be put.
-i wish to make a personal explanation in regard- to this matter. I remind the honorable member for Kennedy that the money to which heref erred was not sent ; to me,but, as he is probably well aware, through me to the Liberal League of Western Australia, a very different thing. It was accounted for in the usual way, and the honorable member can, at any time he -likes, see the receipt given for it.
– I ask the Prime Minister if he will give an opportunity to honorable members who have notices of motion on the business-paper to move them, and have a vote taken on them without discussion. Will he set aside a day for that?
– I shall confer with the Leader of the Opposition about it.
– In view of the statements continually made that many thousands of names have been left off the electoral rolls, would it not be a good thing to do what we did last year, that is, to have copies of the rolls hung up in the post-offices for a month before we have a dissolution, so that citizens could see whether their names were enrolled ?
– I hope that the matter may be considered when I confer with the Leader of the Opposition. Our position is this: We have been granted au immediate dissolution, and anything done in the meantime must have the concurrence of both sides. I see no reason why we should not agree together, so that arrangements may be made which will be as perfect as possible. The suggestion of the honorable member is a very important one.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Attorney-General was called upon to supply to His Excellency the Governor-General a certificate similar to that which is supplied in regard to every Bill before it is assented to, or in some other form, certifying that the conditions of section 57 of the Constitution had been satisfied? I ask, further, if His Excellency consulted the AttorneyGeneral in regard to the conditions of Section 57, and if he obtained any other legal advice ?
-My honorable friend has asked me questions which I cannot answer. We have done our best as a Government to inform the mind of the Governor-General regarding section. 57, and every aspect of the political situation. It was our duty to do that, and we have done it to the best of our ability.
– Can the Honorary Minister give any good reason why the Returning Officer who was appointed for South Sydney has not yet taken up his duties, but is still retained in the Head Office, although hundreds of persons are desirous of enrolling their names, and have no one to instruct them?
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of my honorable colleague who is administering the Electoral Department.
– This is not a fair thing.
– If the facts are as stated, it is not a fair thing.
– When the Prime Minister confers with the Leader of the Opposition, will he see, not only that every facility is provided for the enrolment of citizens, but that everything possible is done to strike out names which should not be on the rolls. In many cases whole families living near the boundary of two divisions have their names on the rolls for both?
– It is as important that the names which should nob be on the rolls shall be struck out as that names’ which should be there, but are not there, shall be put on.
– Is the Minister aware that there are in certain families living in Melbourne, who have not changed their place of residence, members supposed to support one political side whose names have been struck off the roll, while, on the other hand, the names of the remaining members have not been struck off?
– I am not aware of that.
– I am.
– It is very much to be deplored.
– In South Australia, 200 men are now engaged by the Electoral Department in purging or cleansing the rolls. Will the Prime Minister see that they are furnished with claim cards to give to citizens whom they find have not been enrolled ? The instruction received from Melbourne is that they are not to concern themselves with the putting of names on the rolls.
– I shall look into the matter. I cannot say offhand what should be done.
– Will the Prime Minister see that the written roll which is in charge of the Registrar is at his office every day, so that any person desirous of examining it to ascertain whether he is enrolled may do so ? The work of registration has hitherto been done largely by officers of the Postal Department, and, to prevent the Registrars doing electoral work in the ordinary hours of postal business, they are prohibited from bringing the written rolls to the post-offices.
– I shall look into the matter, and shall see that everything possible is done to provide facilities for the examination of the rolls.
– Will the Prime Minister see that ample accommodation is provided at all polling places? In the Calare division, particularly in Orange and Cowra, at the last election, there were only two voting compartments in booths where six would not have been sufficient, and a number of persons returned to their homes without recording their votes.
– At the last election there was a great deal of congestion, even at the best-regulated booths. That we shall do our best to avoid this time, but it is difficult to provide adequate facilities, because it is impossible to say where absent votes will be polled. It is the polling of these absent votes that creates congestion. I know that last year many persons, after standing out in the cold and rain for some time, returned to their homes without recording their votes., We shall try to prevent congestion this time, but it is difficult to make adequate provision for the polling in every case, because of the present method of recording absent votes.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth is not protected by the Electoral Act from interference by the Minister or any one else in the preparation for, and conduct of, a general election.
– The Electoral Officer is placed beyond Ministerial control as to many of the most important . functions that he has to perform, and I think that he ought to be. I do not think that any Minister should be able to dictate to him the conditions under which a general election should be conducted. We should have a guarantee, if possible, as I think it is, that everything will be done in a fair, upright, and reasonable way. That guarantee can be given to the public only when the Chief Electoral Officer is entirely beyond the control of any party, and free from passion, prejudice, or. any other influence of the kind.
– Will the Prime Minister make inquiry into the manner in which the purging of the rolls is now being conducted, and see that the penalties attaching to the making of frivolous objections are enforced ? I have been informed that the following names have been objected to, although the persons concerned have lived in the same place for years: -
Norton, Ileen Catherine M., Wandearah.
Harris, Thomas, 4-mile Blocks, Port Pirie.
Seheffers, Marinus J., Port Pirie, 11 years resident.
Baldock, Alfred E., Port Pirie, 20 years resident.
Brown, Edward H., Port Pirie.
Burke, Martin, Port Pirie, 15 years resident.
Margetto, Benjamin A., Port Pirie, old resident.
Naulty, Peter, Port Pirie, old resident.
Naulty, Bridget A., Port Pirie, old resident.
That is concrete evidence-
– Order ! The honorable member may not debate the matter.
– I suggest to the honorable member that when these occasional errors in the electoral system arc brought under his notice he should bring them immediately before the Chief Electoral Officer, so as to’ secure their early rectification. The bringing of them before the House occasions a certain amount of delay, which I am sure the honorable member does not desire, in the rectification of these anomalies.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I did not receive until yesterday morning, before I left Adelaide, the letter from which I read the names of certain persona appearing on the rolls to which objection had been taken. It was sent to the Head Office of our party in Adelaide
– Order ! The honorable member apparently does not realize what a personal explanation involves. An honorable member may not debate a question under cover of making a personal explanation. He can make a personal explanation only when he has been misrepresented or misreported in connexion with any speech that he has delivered, or any statement that he has made to the House.
– I was misrepresented by the Honorary Minister, who assumed that I had made a mistake in bringing the matter before the House before consulting the Chief Electoral Officer.
– Order ! That is not a personal explanation.
– Following upon the question put by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, I wish to ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs whether the instruction given before the last general election that no station overseer, station manager, or station owner should be appointed as a Returning Officer was sent out by direction of the Minister of the day, or whether it was issued by the Chief Electoral Officer of his own volition?
– The instruction in question was sent out by direction of the Minister of the day.
Powers of Police
– In view of the Prime Minister’s statement, in answer to the honorable member for Maribyrnong, as to the Chief Electoral Officer being absolutely independent of any political supervision in preparing the electoral roll, I wish to ask the honorable gentleman to take such action as will lead to that officer directing his supernumeraries to compile the electoral list in a certain precise way. I have in my electorate a Returning Officer who tells me that the police can move to take names off the rolls, but that they cannot place names on the rolls. I ask the honorable gentleman to make to the Chief Electoral Officer such representations as will lead to every opportunity being given to the police to put on as well as to remove names from the rolls.
– Again, the question is raised as to how far the Minister may act in this matter. I do not quite know at the moment how far he may go. I do not think I can do more than bring the matter under the notice of the Chief Electoral Officer.
– That is all I desire.
– Very well; I shall be glad to do that.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– My colleague the Minister of Defence has asked that questions addressed to him be postponed. The earliest opportunity -will be taken to answer them.
Tenders for Engines
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow - 1 and 2. Yes.
Two by 13th March, 1915, and the remainder at the rate of two every six weeks thereafter.
Delivered and erected at Kalgoorlie, £6,128 5s. each.
Delivered and erected at Port Augusta, £6,088 5s. each.
Half the number of locomotives are to be delivered at Kalgoorlie and half at Port Augusta, but the option is reserved to alter tho point of destination of any number of the locomotives.
asked the Honorary Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will give full information in respect to the following : -
How many railway engines are being manufactured for the Commonwealth, who are the contractors, in what country are they being manufactured, and at what price per engine ?
How many waggons, carriages, and other rolling-stock are being manufactured, who are the contractors, and what is the price paid?
– I shall lay the desired information on the table in the form of a return which is now being prepared.
Verification of Objections
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow - 1 and 2. The lodging of objections by officers to the retention of names on the rolls is under the law in the hands of the Divisional Returning Officers and Registrars, who are fully and plainly instructed, and are required to exereise all proper care in the discharge of their duties.
Under the directions issued an objection by an officer may only be lodged as the result of an official inquiry.
Case of Mr. S. Smith
Colonel RYRIE asked the Minister of
Home Affairs, upon notice -
With reference to the letter dated 12th May, written by the Resident Engineer, Jervis Bay, to S. Smith, an applicant for employment -
Why was the applicant asked for the name of his union?
Was Smith’s application subsequently refused ?
If so, why?
Is it correct, as stated by the honorable member for West Sydney, that the late Government never asked the name of an applicant’s union ?
Is it correct, as suggested by the honorable member for West Sydney, that every applicant for employment is now asked the name of his union?
Was another painter, of whose name the Minister was made aware by the honorable member for West Sydney on 28th ult., subsequently employed?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
– I desire, by leave, to address a question to the Prime Minister.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether it would be convenient for him to move the adjournment of the House until 8 p.m., so that facilities might be available for the suggested Conference between the parties. It might save a lot of trouble?
– I understand that my right honorable friend thinks that matters would be facilitated if we adjourned until after dinner. If that is his opinion, I shall be very glad to meet him to the fullest possible extent.
– What about the statement? We are anxious to get it.
– Let it be made later on.
– It will be given. Do not worry about that. With the concurrence of the House, I shall be glad to move that we adjourn until 8 p.m.
– The Speaker may suspend the sittings with the consent of the House.
– Very well.
– If it be the desire of the House, 1 shall leave the chair until 8 p.m.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– Before the sitting is suspended, however, there are some papers to be presented.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act - Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Universal Training - Statutory Rules 1914, Nos. 51, 54, 55.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at -
Melbourne, Victoria - For Postal purposes. Public Service Act - Promotions of -
Statement showing Business Transacted and details of Receipts and Expenditure in respect of Post Offices in the Commonwealth, year 1912.
Telegraphs and Telephones Special Works Account Act - Transfers of Amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council, dated 2nd June, 1914 (two).
Sitting suspended from3.48 to8 p.m.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair.
.- I ask the Prime Minister whether he is now prepared to give to Parliament and the country the actual words of the communication made byhim to the GovernorGeneral when advising His Excellency to dissolve both Houses of the Parliament, and the actual words of the reply to the honorable gentleman’s request made by His Excellency?
– Why not wait until we get into Committee?
– I interrogate the Prime Minister on this subject now because it is all-important that we should have the information for which I ask in connexion with a request for Supply. We wish to know before we go into Committee to grant Supply to His Majesty what advice the Prime Minister gave to His Majesty’s representative in the Commonwealth of Australia, and what reply was returned to the honorable gentleman’s communication.
– What is it exactly that you want to know?
– I want the text of the communication made by the Prime Minister on behalf of the Government to the Governor-General, and the actual words of the reply of His Excellency.
– I shall so far accommodate my right honorable friend as to deal with the matter at this stage. It is a very unusual thing.
– It is an unusual procedure.
– It is an unusual procedure, and under ordinary circumstances the Government would be forced to seriously consider whether it would permit its policy and course of conduct to be dictated by the Opposition. However, I waive that objection now. My reply to the right honorable gentleman is this: I advised His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, in accordance with the provisions of section 57 of the Constitution, to dissolve simultaneously the Senate and the House of Representatives. I assured him that the requirements of the Constitution had been complied with. I pointed out to him the almost equal numbers in the House of Representatives and the small number supporting the Government in the Senate. I pointed out that in consequence the Parliament was unworkable, that it was impossible to manage efficiently the public business, and that, in my opinion, a dissolution of both Houses should be granted. His Excellency’s reply was to accede to my request, and to grant an immediate simultaneous dissolution, on. condition that a definite assurance was given that the financial position was such that adequate provision could be made for carrying on the Public Service during the period of time covered by the elections. In reply to that, I reminded His Excellency that adequate provision existed for Supply to the 30th June, and that I proposed, with His Excellency’s permission, to inform Parliament of His Excellency’s decision, and to at once ask Parliament to make provision - for Supply to cover the election. I also told him that I did not propose to invite the House to do business other than Sup ply, and that as soon as this was granted we should recommend him to prorogue Parliament immediately and proceed at Once to the elections. His Excellency gave mc the desired permission to inform Parliament of his decision to dissolve both Houses, and to prorogue Parliament as soon as adequate provision for Supply had been made.
– The Prime Minister did not state the conditions attached when he announced the Governor-General’s decision.
– I have His Excellency’s permission to say that this
Statement contains practically all that took place between us as to these matters.
– The honorable gentleman did not tell us that His Excellency had made that condition.
– I have left out no important, word even ; I have, as far as possible, adhered to the text of the correspondence that has passed between us.
– Why not give us the original documents?
– For the simple reason that I regard the conversations and correspondence between the Government and His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, and especially that between the Prime Minister and the GovernorGeneral) as, in their very nature, secret and confidential. The House may take my assurance that it is now in full possession, in every particular, of the decision of His Excellency. No material fact, and no material word, have been omitted from my statement. I make that assertion solemnly to the House.
– The Prime Minister has given what he assures us is au exact statement of what has taken place between him and His Excellency the Governor-General; but we have not heard any of the reasons which must have been supplied to the GovernorGeneral to induce him to take the gravest step yet taken in the history of the Commonwealth. Surely it is not too much to ask for the memorandum which, we understand, was sent to His Excellency, setting forth the constitutional and other grounds for a dissolution of the two
Houses. The Prime Minister says that his relations with the Governor-General are confidential. It is no doubt proper and necessary that these should be confidential ; but this is a matter which touches Parliament vitally. Parliament has rights, and is surely entitled to the fullest information concerning the reasons which induced the Governor-General to grant a double dissolution. Before the GovernorGeneral agreed to do this, he must have required something more than the mere assurance of the Prime Minister that the requirements of section 57 of the Constitution had been fulfilled. The Prime Minister’s statement on this particular point is meagre to the point of vacuity. All he tells us is that he advised His Excellent;/, in accordance with the provisions of section 57, to dissolve simultaneously the Senate and the House of Representatives, and that he assured His Excellency that the requirements of the Constitution had been complied with. But surely this is not all! No GovernorGeneral will assent to any Bill until he has received a certificate signed by the Attorney-General that it has been passed by both Houses, and that there are no reasons why he should not assent thereto. Are we to assume that the GovernorGeneral was satisfied, without some definite legal assurance to that effect, that the requirements of section 57 of the Constitution, so far as the Government Preference Prohibition Bill was concerned, were fulfilled. Being a layman, he must have had recourse to legal advice, and to whom would he go for it but to the Attorney-General? Surely a bare statement by the Prime Minister that the conditions of section 57 had been complied with would not suffice to satisfy His Excellency, without precedent, legal training, or even knowledge of the facts to guide him?
The Prime Minister says that he does not propose to furnish to the House a copy of the memorandum suggesting reasons why the Governor-General should dissolve Parliament. He says these should be regarded as confidential. Let me remind him that it has been the practice to publish memoranda of this kind. In the Votes and Proceedings of the Victorian Legislative Assembly are to be found various memoranda submitted to Governors, giving reasons for the dissolution of the State Parliament. Keith, in Responsible Government’ in the Dominions, gives many such cases. Not only has the head of a Government supplied Parliament with the reasons which he furbished to a Governor for a course that he desired to be taken, but Governors have been called upon to furnish, and havefurnished, memoranda of the kind. I am unable, on the spur of the moment, to quote particular cases; but every one knows the outcry in the press of Australia, so recently as the other day, when, the Governor of Tasmania having refused a dissolution to Mr. Solomon, and having then granted it to Mr. Earle, the correspondence between him and Mr. Solomon was not forthcoming, having been destroyed, or, at any rate, not being on the file. It is surely suggestive, as. showing how widely the attitude of the press in that case differs from its present attitude.
In any case, the question of whether or not the publication of such correspondence is sanctioned by precedent is not very much to the point. It is not so much whether it has been done as whether it ought to be done. The dissolution of the Senate is itself without precedent. For we have to remember that the Senate is an integral part of the Constitution. It baa rights co-ordinate with those of this branch of the Legislature’. It acted strictly in accordance with those rights, and for doing so it is to be dissolved. We want to know why. We have a right to know. The Treasurer has furnished the House and the country with admirable reasons why that course should not have been pursued. Had he, instead of the honorable member for Parramatta, been at the head of the Government, the Senate would not have been dissolved.
– I do not say that.
– I have not at hand the right honorable member’s excellent reasons, but some of my honorable friends will put them before the House.
– Let us have them.
– Section 57 was drafted to meet a real dead-lock on national questions. I call attention to the fact that the Government Preference Prohibition Bill was introduced with the deliberate purpose of creating a deadlock. The Bill does not deal with a vital question, it deals with a dead one. The thing it proposes to do has been already done. Yet the Senate has been dis solved. It is most material, therefore, that we should have the recital of the facts put before the Governor-General in order that we may know whether His Excellency was correctly informed as to what the facts were. I am perfectly persuaded that on an impartial review of section 57 no Court would say that the Senate ought to be dissolved in such circumstances. Let me put this to the AttorneyGeneral : Supposing he had to argue before a Court - if such a thing were possible - whether the action of the Governor-General was or was not constitutional, would he, for one moment, expect the Court to believe that, under section 57, the Senate, which was created as the foundation of the Federal system, must be dissolved because it had thrown out a petty measure that it was invited to throw out? No Court would so hold. It is, consequently, most material that we should know the terms of the memorandum to the GovernorGeneral in order that we and the country may learn whether His Excellency has been correctly advised in this matter. In the very nature of things, His Excellency could not be familiar with the facts, except upon information given to him by his Advisers. He had not the advantage of being a resident here for any length of time, and of knowing the facts firsthand. He had to take everything as it was stated to him. It is clear that when it is to the advantage of a party that the Senate shall be dissolved, and when it is the avowed intention of that party to create a dead-lock which will technically satisfy section 57, the reasons, which that party furnished to His Excellency in support of the request for a double dissolution should be available to the Parliament. I hope that the Prime Minister will furnish us with those reasons. If he declines to do so, we must assume that they will not bear public examination. If they were sound, if they will bear examination, why should he hesitate to lay them on the table, and to let us see what they are? The provisions of section 57 have been abused in order that party interests may be served. The scope of section 57 is qualified by other sections of the Constitution. The Constitution as a whole must be looked at. The section cannot be taken as standing by itself. It has- reference to the Senate, and to the powers of the Senate under, the Constitution. It has reference not to a deadlock created by one party to serve a party interest, but to a dead-lock between two branches of the Legislature: the one representing the States, and the other the people as such. It has reference to a real dead-lock - an actual stoppage of public business. But in this case there is no dead-lock, no stoppage. On the contrary, indeed; for no sooner had the Government Preference Prohibition Bill been rejected than proposed legislation was showered on . ‘the table. No fewer than five Bills, I think, were introduced after the summary rejection of this measure by the Senate a second time. How could there be a dead-lock when it was proposed to go on with all this legislation? It was not until the so-called dead-lock had been reached - and reached by deliberately withholding and blocking necessary legislation - that the Government commenced to go on with the work of legislating in the interests of the country. How could there be a dead-lock in such circumstances? And how could the GovernorGeneral, if he was supplied with a full and detailed statement of the facts,, say that a dead-lock within the meaning of section 57 had been reached ? In these circumstances, it is obvious that this Parliament has a right to see the reasons submitted to His Excellency. We shall want something more than a mere capitulation about the practice being to treat all communications with His Excellency as confidential, or “any other mediaeval doctrine, to satisfy us. We want to see the reasons themselves. I hope that the Government will supply us with those reasons. I hope that the AttorneyGeneral will enable us to understand the extent to which his advice was sought, and the nature of that advice. These things are very material. We must suppose, in view of the difficulty that a layman feels in the face of section 57, that neither the Governor-General nor the Prime Minister was capable of giving a satisfactory interpretation to it, and I hesitate to believe that the Governor- General would have acted if it had not been upon the advice and the assurance, in writing, of the Attorney-General himself.
Mr. W. H. IRVINE (Flinders- At member for West Sydney has put forward what I believe to be an entirely new view of the relation of Cabinet Ministers to the Governor-General. He has stated the proposition that upon the demand, of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, Ministers, who., on taking office, enter into relations of the most absolute confidence, and subscribe to the oath of secrecy’ as to every communication that is made, are bound to tell the House the substance and the exact details of the advice which they have tendered to. the GovernorGeneral. That is a position which has never been put forward in any representative House in the British Dominions.
– We have not had a double dissolution before.
– No; and probably the honorable member does not want one now. The honorable member for West Sydney has also said - and it seems to me to be a very remarkable position for a lawyer, and especially for one who has occupied the position of AttorneyGeneral in a Federal Government to take up - that there must have been a certificate by the Attorney-General upon which the Governor-General acted.’ The honorable gentleman has probably in mind the fact that before any Bill which passes this Parliament receives the Royal assent, through the Governor-General, His Excellency must receive a certificate from the Attorney-General.
– Hear, hear !
– Every one knows that. But what has it to do with the exercise of the Governor-General’s discretion in granting or refusing a double dissolution? We have listened to a vast amount of criticism with regard, to the meaning of section 57 of the Constitution, and, in the interests of getting on with at least some business, we have refrained for the most part from answering it. The latest criticism of this kind is a statement by the honorable member for West Sydney, which appeared in the press yesterday, and which, I take it, was communicated by the honorable member himself. It is not the report of a speech, but a deliberate, carefully prepared statement by the honorable member as to the position of the Governor-General, and of the Government, when dealing with questions arising under section 57 of the Constitution. When I read that statement, I was filled with amazement.
– No doubt.
– I shall tell the honorable member why. I was surprised not merely that a man who possessed long political experience should have put such sentiments on paper, but that a man who had occupied the position of AttorneyGeneral could have dealt with this matter in the way in which I am going to show the honorable member dealt with it. I shall read only those passages which relate to this particular matter. The first of these passages in this remarkable statement is -
The Senate has been dissolved improperly. lt did nothing that it was not entitled to do under the Constitution. It was, in fact, charged by the Constitution to do the very thing it did do. . . . The Senate acted within its constitutional rights. If it did not, there is no need for a Senate, and it ought to be abolished forthwith -
Listen to this -
The question is, Was the Senate under the Constitution within its rights in rejecting this measure ?
Now is that the question ?
– The honorable member says “Yes.”
– The Senate was absolutely within its constitutional rights in rejecting that or any other measure, and the Governor-General is absolutely within his constitutional rights in giving effect to the position that arises upon ite rejection. I must remind honorable members of one important fact. Those who have read the reports of the debates at the Convention will know that the provision embodied in clause 57, for enabling, in certain circumstances, both Houses of the Parliament, which was then being created, to be sent to the electors, was a condition which formed part of a general bargain between the larger and the smaller States. Without it, the larger States, as appears from every page of the report of the debates at the Convention, would not for a moment have assented to the principle of equal representation in the Senate. It was stipulated as a condition upon the right of equal representation in the Senate being given that if, as was inevitable, certain difficulties arose between the two Houses, thus differently constituted, there should be an appeal from those differences to the electors by both Houses. That was embodied in the Constitution for the express purpose of giving a constitutional appeal to this House, which represents the whole of the people, against the decision of a
House rejecting its advice, which represents the people, not according to numerical proportions, but according to State divisions.
– Does that not apply only to State rights?
– We have had many arguments put forward from the other side, and here is an entirely new one. The honorable member for East Sydney says that this is only intended to be brought into operation in cases relating to State rights. In other words, the honorable member’s contention is that in the one case in which the Senate was given the right to protect State interests its decision can be overruled; but in all other cases, which do not apply to the protection of State interests, its decision cannot be overruled. Another argument put forward by one of the leaders of the Labour party in another place was that this section related only to financial measures.
– Not only to financial measures.
- Senator Pearce, in the most explicit way, pointed to the / collocation of this section, and argued at great length, and most specifically, that it was intended to apply, and only did apply on a proper interpretation of the Constitution, to financial issues. We have not heard a word of that argument in this House. Now the argument put forward by the honorable member for West Sydney is that the section never can be applied in cases where the Senate is acting within its constitutional rights.
– It cannot be applied to a “ put-up “ case.
– The honorable member said that as long as the Senate is acting within its constitutional right* this section can never apply. The Senate is always acting within’ its constitutional rights in agreeing to, or rejecting, any measure sent up by this House.
– Is that the gist of his argument ?
– The honorable member starts with that argument, and he reiterates it right through. I shall read again what the honorable member for West Sydney said -
The Senate has been dissolved improperly. It did nothing that it was hot entitled to “ do under the Constitution. It was in fact charged by the Constitution to do the very thing it did do. . . . The question is : Was the Senate, under the Constitution, within its rights in rejecting this measure?
A little lower down he refers to a supposed analogy, on which he presumes that advice was tendered to His Excellency, between the powers and basis of the House of Lords and the Senate.
– Is that the first letter, or the second one? In the first he argued the other way.
– I do not know. I have read only the one. The honorable member for West Sydney went on to point out -
This point needs special emphasis. There seems to be good reason for the opinion that in the present case this fact has been ignored, or has been ingeniously glozed over by the legal advisers to the Crown.
What right had the honorable member to say that? He knew nothing. He did not know whether the legal adviser of the Government had given any advice to the Governor-General -
A supposed analogy between the powers and basis of the House of Lords and the Senate, and of those reasons which afford sufficient grounds for granting a single dissolution, have apparently been considered sufficient, but the rights and liabilities of the Senate are determined, not by the traditional relationship between the Commons and Lords of Great Britain, nor by expediency, but by the terms of a written document.
The honorable member’s argument is that it is entirely false and wrong to suppose the same principles to apply in the granting of a double dissolution under this section as had been applied in connexion with a dissolution of the House of Commons. But I find that no longer ago than the 17th April, 1914, the same honorable member, speaking on the AddressinReply, said this -
Section 57 was passed to deal with deadlocks legitimately arising on great questions between the Houses. As to the position of the Governor-General in this regard, my contention is that, as to a double dissolution, the Governor-General will be guided by exactly the same reasons as in an ordinary dissolution in the Lower House.
The honorable member had forgotten his own argument when he rushed into print with an entirely new one. In the latter he went on to say -
And this must be interpreted according to its spirit, and always with the presumption that, as the Constitution is based upon the equal legislative rights of the Senate, so any doubts as to the powers of the GovernorGeneral under section 57 must be resolved in favour of that presumption, and so against a dissolution of the Senate. As to the question of expediency, the same may be said.
What does that mean? I will read it again, and show how I read it, and I challenge the honorable member to say whether his argument can bear any other construction.
And this - referring to the written document or Constitution - must be interpreted according to its spirit, and always with the presumption -
What presumption? that as the Constitution is based upon the equal legislative rights of the Senate, so any doubts as to the powers of the GovernorGeneral under section 57 must be resolve.I in favour of that presumption - the presumption that the Constitution is based upon the equal legislative rights of the Senate - and so against a dissolution of the Senate. That entirely confirms the view which the honorable member put forward before, that so long as the Senate is acting within its constitutional rights, there can be no double dissolution.
– I say that under those circumstances there can be no double dissolution.
– The honorable member says that whenever the Senate is exercising its constitutional rights there can be no double dissolution. I am not going to take up time with this matter, nor am I going into the so-called merits which occupy the last portion of the honorable member’s argument. But in one place he says -
The discretion of the King’s representative as to the dissolution of the lower House is unfettered. The Constitution does not bind him in any way. He may accept or reject any advice without other consideration than the public welfare and traditional practice. But with a double dissolution the position is quite different.
The honorable member said less than a month ago that the position is exactly the same in the case of a double dissolution as in the case of single dissolution. His argument now is that, although the Governor-General has discretion to act independently of the advice of his Ministers in granting a single dissolution, in the case of a double dissolution the case is quite different, and he is bound to act on the advice of his Ministers.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– What the honorable member says is -
The discretion of the King’s representative as to the dissolution of the lower House is unfettered. The Constitution does not bind him in any way.
The honorable member says that the GovernorGeneral has only to consider the public welfare and traditional practice. Then he says -
But with a double dissolution the position is quite different.
What conclusions are we to draw from that?
– I say that in connexion with a double dissolution the GovernorGeneral must first be satisfied that the conditions of section 57 have been complied with.
– The honorable member continued -
For advice upon the legal position he must go to the Attorney-General, without whose certificate he assents to no Bill. For unless that be so, the question of whether it is expedient - expedient, I mean, in the interests of the people, not in the interests of party - to dissolve does not arise. That is the position of the Governor-Genera! under the Constitution.
I ask the honorable member to say whether he is quite ingenuous with the House and the country in making the statement, in connexion with this Bill, that it is the duty of the GovernorGeneral to obtain the certificate of the Attorney-General before he assents to a Bill, and to allow it to be implied that the same considerations apply to a request for a double dissolution.
– I did not say “ the same things.” But the Governor-General must look to the Attorney-General for advice. Look at section ‘58 of the Constitution.
– One honorable member says he has been told this, and other honorable members say they have been led to believe that, but the real fact is that honorable members on the other side have been so long fed by their legal advisers with a kind of constitutional soothing syrup that when they suddenly awa-ken from their slumber, and find this horrible thing facing them, they are not quite masters of their intelligence. The honorable member for West Sydney has invited my attention to section 58 of the Constitution, which says -
When a proposed law passed by both Houses of the Parliament is presented to the Go vernor-General for the Queen’s assent, he shall declare, according to his discretion, but subject to this Constitution, that he assents’ in the Queen’s name or that he withholds assent, or that he reserves the law for the Queen’s pleasure.
The Governor-General may return to the House in which it originated any proposed law so presented to him, and may transmit therewith any amendment which he may recommend, and the Houses may deal with the recommendation.
What on earth has that to do with it?
– It shows, and it is :the practice, that before the GovernorGeneral signs any. proposed law the AttorneyGeneral must give him a certificate that he may safely do so.
– Everybody knows that, and the honorable member in his official capacity has signed many such certificates, just as I have. I would remind the honorable member that those signatures are given to Bills which have passed both Houses, and because they have passed both Houses, the GovernorGeneral is entitled to the advice of the Attorney-General as to whether he is at liberty to give assent to them at once. The position we are now considering is not with regard to a Bill that has passed both Houses, but as to a Bill that has passed only one House, and to which assent could not be given under any circumstances.
– Does the honorable member say that under section 57 the Governor-General would not accept from the Attorney-General an assurance of some sort that that section has been complied with?
– The honorable member’s statement, that a legal certificate is required from the AttorneyGeneral before the Governor-General can exercise his power under section 57, is absolutely removed from the situation, and has nothing to do with it.
– Show us the memorandum.
– I am not going to give any honorable member one single word more - nor am I at liberty to do so, even if it were my desire - than is embodied in the communication which the Prime Minister has made to the House as to the terms of His Excellency’s approval. But I will tell the honorable member that I am perfectly prepared to say that every condition required by section 57 has been fulfilled. ‘ The honorable member cannot point to anything in the section that has not been fulfilled. The whole position rests on this - the Constitution has given to this House, as the popular Chamber, and to the majority of the members of this House, as an inalienable right, the power to challenge, under section 57, the right of the other House to reject the Government Preference Prohibition Bill- Under its constitutional powers, the other House is entitled to reject any measure it chooses, subject to this - that this House, acting through the Ministry, which has the confidence of the majority in it, can ask the GovernorGeneral to appeal from that decision of the Senate to the people of the Commonwealth.
– Section 57 deals with dead-locks. Will the Attorney-General say that he gave to His Excellency the assurance that this is a bond fide deadlock?
– I am not going to say one word about His Excellency; but I tell the honorable member that this* is an absolutely bona, fide dead-lock. An essential part of the policy of the Government was to put an end to that system of spoils to the victors which his Government initiated. If we had not, as one of our very first acts registered, as far as we were capable, in this House, placed it beyond the power of any Government to do that again, we would have been guilty of an absolute betrayal of the trust we were given.
– If there is one man in the House who ought to be the last to talk about spoils to the victors it is the honorable member. Does the honorable member talk of spoils to the victors in connexion with the retainer he now holds? Does he tell the country that, while the Commonwealth is in conflict with a company that may cost us tens of thousands of pounds, he is receiving his salary as Attorney-General, and yet is so tied, because he is in the hands of this company, that he dare not give the Government advice in regard to the matter? Yet we have the honorable member coming down here talking about spoils to the victors. We know that, even as late as a few days ago, a unionist applied for a position, but was turned off because he was a unionist.
– That statement is untrue.
– I ask the Honorary Minister to withdraw that remark.
– The statement of the honorable member for Kennedy is absolutely without foundation, as has been proved in the House already. However, I withdraw the remark.
– I ask honorable members on both sides to endeavour to restrain their impetuosity in regard to interjections, because one interjection leads to another, and at once results in creating disorder. I can only keep control with the assistance of honorable members. I, therefore, call upon honorable members on both sides to support the Chair in trying to preserve order.
– I still repeat the statement that two letters were sent to the Department, and that the man who declared himself a non-unionist was taken on.
– That is not correct. They were both unionists.
– A moment ago I asked honorable members to refrain from interjecting. I shall name the next honorable member who does not cease interjecting when called to order.
– I still maintain that the interpretation placed upon the letters read by the honorable member for West Sydney was correct, in spite of any attempt to cover up the matter. I ask honorable members who talkabout spoils to the victors to mention any particular case where Liberals have been in power in which positions have been given to their opponents. Not only have I seen hundreds of justices of the peace created for political purposes, but I have also known all these positions given to political supporters time after time. The Attorney-General should be the last to talk of spoils to the victors. But I did not rise to speak on that matter. Had it not been for the honorable member introducing it, I would not have said what I have. I wish to speak on another matter. . The action of the Prime Minister has led to the discussion to-night. On Friday he came down to the House, and, in the midst of cheers of honorable members on the other side of the Chamber, he gave a garbled statement which was quite contrary to that he has made to-day.
– I rise to order. Is it in order for the honorable member to say that I made a garbled statement to the House? His remark is offensive.
– As the Prime Minister regards the remark of the honorable member as offensive, I ask the honorable member to withdraw it.
– I have nothing to withdraw.
– The honorable member knows that it is the custom when an honorable member regards an epithet or a statement referring to him as offensive it is withdrawn, even if the remark, taken by itself, is apparently not offensive.
– I withdraw the remark, but the Prime Minister came down to the House and made a statement which was totally at variance with the statement that he has made here tonight.
– I did not.
– This is what the honorable member told the House on Friday -
A day or two ago I tendered certain advice to His Excellency the Governor-General, which he has been pleased to accept, and I have to announce to the House that His Excellency has decided to dissolve simultaneously both Houses of the Parliament so soon as the ordinary provision has been made for the conduct of the Public Service during the time of the elections.
It did not appear from that statement that there was a condition attached. The statement the Prime Minister has made to-night is that the Governor-General attached conditions to the granting of a double dissolution, and that was the part which the Prime Minister tried to conceal from the House on Friday. Had we known exactly what the GovernorGeneral did say - and we understood at the time that the Prime Minister was reading from a document - it is quite possible that many of the things that have been said in relation to the action of the GovernorGeneral would not have been uttered. Now we find that the GovernorGeneral laid down certain conditions. These are that the Government must obtain Supply before a double dissolution will be granted.
– In both Houses.
– The Government are m a nice position. They have tendered certain advice for a double dissolution, and the Governor-General has laid down certain qualifications to the granting of that double dissolution, and if the Senate refuse to give the necessary Supply, if there is any honour left among Ministers, the only course they will have is to resign from their positions at once.
– Joe Cook will never do that.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. If Supply is not granted, there will be another insult meted out to the Government, and I have not the slightest doubt they will pocket it just as they have done in other cases ever since they have been in office. Another remarkable thing has been disclosed. The honorable member wishes to know what is the procedure in these matters. I can tell the Attorney-General that in the very State from which he comes, Victoria, the whole of the correspondence that took place between Sir Thomas Bent and Sir Thomas Gibson -Ca’rmichael was published. It is therefore idle for the AttorneyGeneral to say that what took place between the Governor-General and the head of the Government is sacred, and should not be published. The greatest child in political matters knows that there are more books than one can carry out of a library setting forth reasons why certain Governors have given certain decisions. It is a common thing for such matters to be published from time to time, yet the Attorney-General tells us that it is a sacred thing that ought not to be touched, and that the advice given by the Attorney-General should not be made known.
– I have never said any such thing. This is all imagination.
– The AttorneyGeneral said that these matters should not be made public, and that they were sacred, and that he would not make them public. He said that he had taken an oath of secrecy, and all that sort of thing. Let me tell the Attorney-General that, day after day, the press pointed out that the cause of his absence from the Chamber was that he was preparing the document that was to be presented to the GovernorGeneral setting forth the case for a double dissolution. The honorable member has told us to-night that every phase of the question in relation to section 57 has been placed by him before the GovernorGeneral. If this is so, and if there is nothing to hide, why not place the information before the House?
– Are you not satisfied?
– No. We have had a mere general statement which does not set forth the document on which the GovernorGeneral said that he would grant a double dissolution in the event of Supply being given.
– Then what do you want ?
– The whole of the document in order to see exactly the attitude that was taken up by the AttorneyGeneral in advising the Prime Minister in relation to this matter. We have the remarkable position in the House of a Government carrying on in a way unparalleled in the history of any country. I challenge honorable members to show any instance in British history where a Government has carried on for twelve months merely on the casting vote of the Speaker.
– Mr. Holman’s Government carried on for three years in that way.
– We have done it without any help from you.
– It is true that the Government have done it, but no one knows better than the Prime Minister that it is not a creditable thing to do.
– Why not ?
– The honorable member knows that his great leader in New South Wales at one time, Sir Henry Parkes, when he found that he had a majority of only four, said that it was not sufficient with which to carry on the Government, and resigned.
– If it was not a fair thing to do, why did your Leader recommend the Governor-General to send for me and allow me to accept the responsivility ?
– When my leader found that there was a majority of one against him, he took the only honorable course left to him, and that was to send in his resignation. The honorable member for Parramatta was sent for, and with the formation of his Government a Speaker had to be appointed, which left honorable members practically evenly divided. There was an honorable course for the honorable member to follow, and that was, the moment he found he could not carry on business, to tender his resignation, or ask the Governor-General to dissolve this Chamber. Had that been done, and the present Government had come back to power, I do not hesitate to say that, under the circumstances, the Senate would have been compelled to make certain compromises - to back down in many instances in relation to measures sent f Tom this House.
– Who would compel them ?
– Never mind. When the Senate refused to pass legislation, then would have been the time for the Government to ask for a double dissolution. To-day there is an overwhelming majority on one side in the Senate, and if there is any trouble now, it is not caused by either House, but by the people of the country. In my opinion, had the Prime Minister followed the course I have suggested, a dissolution of this Chamber would have been granted, and we would have known exactly where we were.
– It would have meant a double dissolution later.
– Does the honorable gentleman think that a double dissolution at the present time will solve the difficulty confronting us?
– I do not know, but I have strong hopes that it will.
– No doubt the honorable member has strong hopes that it will, but I do not think the Government have any prospect whatever of gaining a majority in the Senate at the next election. Under the circumstances, even if the Government come back with their present numbers, we shall have the same difficulty confronting us.
– There will have to be a joint sitting then.
– That is a bright, intelligent interjection, and from a lawyer, too ! If after the election there is still a majority in the Senate, what will happen? If the Senate rejects thi3 famous Bill the two Houses will be ordered to sit together to decide whether or not the Bill shall become law, and this unnecessary measure will have cost the country some £80,000. Personally, I do not care whether the Bill be passed or not, because it means absolutely nothing. Tonight the Attorney-General has endeavoured ‘to show that what the Convention had in mind when framing the Constitution was a dead-lock between the two Houses in a merely casual way. I do not hesitate to say, however, that any one who reads the Convention debates on this section must come to the conclusion that it was never meant that one party or the other should create dead-locks. When Mr. Wise, in the Convention, moved an amendment that there should be a single dissolution instead of a double one, Sir Edmund Barton pointed out that the only likely cause of a dead-lock had been removed by the Constitution, inasmuch as “tacking” by the House of Representatives was debarred, while the Senate was prohibited from initiating money Bills.
– Sir Edmund Barton was wrong, for a dead-lock has come about in another way.
– The dead-lock has come about in exactly the way that was pointed out by the- present Treasurer at the Convention. That right honorable gentleman, when speaking on this section of the Constitution, said -
All these precautions are unnecessary and may be found mischievous, because they will encourage differences rather than put an end to them.
That is the very thing that has happened now -
If you give the power to dissolve both Houses - the double dissolution as it has been called - allowing the Government of the day to appeal to the constituencies whenever a conflict of Opinion occurs, it may, as time goes on, be used for a very different purpose from that for which it is being advocated at the present time. I can imagine that a Government which felt itself somewhat weak, or which thought that the occasion was an opportune one for an appeal to the country, might encourage a conflict rather than try to avoid it, in order that in this way it might be able to recommend a dissolution of both Houses in the hope that that would strengthen their following
That is exactly what is taking place at the present time - or, at any rate, give it more time. Knowing, as we do, that the Constitution of the United States of America has been used for the purposes foreign to the intentions of its framers, you may depend upon it that as time goes on every possible device will be used to gain political influence and power by taking advantage of the form of the Constitution.
The right honorable gentleman not only foretold the present position - which he denounced then, though he is in favour of the step now proposed by the Government
– He is not in favour of it.
– He is, because he is supporting the Government.
– The section was placed in the Constitution.
– However that may be, the right honorable gentleman went on to say -
What will happen under the proposal for a dual dissolution ? A measure will pass the Lower House, we will say, without any difficulty, and it will go to the Upper House. In that chamber there is a great discussion about it. The newspapers favorable to the Government will at once begin to threaten the Upper House that if they do not pass the measure they will be dissolved. While they are con- ‘sidering the measure a pistol will be held at their head. Is that the sort of Constitution we want to create in this country? Is that what we desire? - that the Upper House should be coerced at the beginning - that it should be told, “ If you do not pass this measure in the way that we have passed it, you will be dissolved.” They would be threatened even before they had actually come to any decision, and great disaster would result.
The right honorable gentleman at that time, along with a number of other members of the Convention, was in hopes that the Senate would be a strong States House, so strong that no Labour man would ever get inside to view its magnificent ceiling and decorations, and he did not desire that anything should interfere with that sacred strength. Everything that the right honorable gentleman then said has come true. The Government have manufactured the present dead-lock, and they have selected for the occasion a Bill which they imagine will be of some value to them when we go before the country.
– They won the last election on it.
– What rubbish ! Why, we never then heard anything about this measure. During the same debate in the Federal Convention, Sir Edmund Barton said - “ Dead-lock “ is not a term which is strictly applicable to any case except that in which the constitutional machine is prevented from properly working. I am in very grave doubt whether the term can be strictly applied to any case except the stoppage of legislatives machinery arising out of conflict upon the finances of the country. A stoppage which arises on any matter of ordinary legislation, because the two Houses cannot come to an agreement at first, is not a thing which is properly designated by the term “ dead-lock “ -
These are the words of the leader of the Convention - “ Australia’s noblest son,” as I am reminded - who was thought so much of that he was made first Prime Minister, and was afterwards given a seat on the Bench of the High Court. Sir Edmund Barton further said - because the working of the Constitution goes on - the constitutional machine proceeds notwithstanding a disagreement. It is only when the fuel of the machine of government is withheld that the machine of government comes to a stop, and that fuel is money.
It will be seen that Sir Edmund Barton took the point that there is no dead-lock until the whole machinery of government has been stopped, and that this can be brought about only by the stoppage of Supply - the very view to which the AttorneyGeneral to-night took such strong exception. I do not attempt to question the legal knowledge of the AttorneyGeneral, but I refer him to the words of Sir Edmund Barton. The present situation has been brought about by means of a measure of no importance, whether it be passed or rejected, because the Government have already declared that there shall be no preference to unionists. No one accused honorable members opposite of favoring preference to unionists. What, then, was the need for an Act of Parliament to prohibit it? Was it necessary to assure the country of the views of the Liberal party on the subject? Was it thought that the people did not believe Liberal members when they said that they did not favour preference? Or did honorable members desire to advertise themselves, and to pass the measure as a monument to their wonderful intelligence? This is what Sir William McMillan said, speaking at the Convention -
I do say that if you create any machinery which, under the guise of settling dead-locks, will really be used to create dead-locks, you will strike a blow absolutely at the power and dignity of the Senate.
Sir George Turner also expressed himself in this way -
I am quite in accord with those who say that wc are not to allow one House to dominate the other unless we know that particular House has the people at its back, and that in endeavouring to force certain views upon the other Chamber, that House is simply carrying out what is really the will and desire of the people of the Federation.
Sir Josiah Symon, referring to the double dissolution, said -
If it exercises that function, you are to give it credit for honesty and bona fides. If it is still out of harmony with the Lower House, let the Lower House go to their constituents with whom the Upper House says the House of Representatives was not in harmony. If the members of the House of Representatives come back from their constituents with the mandate for that particular piece of legislation, this Senate, like every other Second Chamber, will be bound to give” way. If the Senate does not give way, then I say, at once and unhesitatingly, send it to its constituencies.
– Those statements were made before the Constitution was framed, and therefore do not apply.
– They are the statements of men who assisted to frame the Constitution, and express their views of the manner in which section 57 should be interpreted. They were averse from its use by a Government to gain a mere party advantage, as in the present case. The only legitimate and honest course for this Government to follow was to ask for the dissolution of this House in order to obtain from the country a mandate as to whether certain legislation should pass.
– Would that have been effective with the Senate?
– The mandate of the people would have been recognised. In Victoria, a measure dealing with the franchise was rejected by the Upper House nearly a dozen times, and the legislation of the Lower Houses has been similarly treated by Upper Houses in all the States. But do we hear the Liberals advocate the dissolution of the Legislative Councils of the Parliaments of the States? No. Liberals do not do that, because these Councils are composed of men of their own way of thinking politically; of representatives of vested interests. Their members are the landed proprietors, and big capitalists, against whom the members of the Liberal party have not the courage to say a word, because it is they who support the party, and gi-ve to its members their political significance. But while Liberals are not prepared to attack the Legislative Councils for opposing the will of the Lower Houses of the State Parliaments, they are very ready to attack the Senate for opposing the will of this House. That is because the Senate represents the working classes of Australia. The one desire of honorable members opposite is to strengthen their party by hook or by crook. I do not find fault with them for that, but they had no right to drag in the Governor-General, and to bring Federal politics into the political mire by violating every constitutional principle and right. The Prime Minister told us on Friday last that the Governor-
General had granted the double dissolution. At the time we were not very clear what was meant. It was not until we got the Hansard report that we knew exactly what the Prime Minister had said. Now that there is likely to be a noise, and there will be a pretty big noise about this matter, the Prime Minister has consented to give us further information concerning the decision of the GovernorGeneral.
– You are climbing down. You stated that had you known the conditions you would not have had anything to say.
– I said that had we known the conditions it is probable that certain statements which had been made concerning the Governor-General would not have been made. It appeared to me and to other honorable members on Friday last that the Government had merely asked for the double dissolution, and that it had been granted. Now we find that the Governor-General imposed certain conditions. If the Senate refuses Supply, what will the Government do?
– There is a constitutional way of meeting the difficulty, but it is one to be taken only in extreme cases.
– We have known that course to be taken, and afterwards those responsible have gone down on their bended knees to the new Government begging them to introduce an Indemnity Bill. That happened when Lord Chelmsford was Governor of Queensland. A Government resigned, and a certain gentleman was sent for, who formed a new Government, and its Ministers were duly sworn. The Premier then asked for Supply, but the Opposition refused to give it. Then what was done ? The Government induced the Governor of Queensland to sign an Executive minute granting them a large sum of money to enable them to carry on over the elections. Having done that, their first act was to create 300 odd justices of the peace to go round the country and canvass votes for them. But in spite of the struggle which they made to uphold the action of the Governor, the people “turned them down by an overwhelming majority, and with the advent of the Kidston Government to power we witnessed the humiliating spectacle of their predecessors having to ask for an Indemnity Bill to cover their illegal acts.
– There is another way out of the difficulty.
– Is that the proposal of the honorable member for Werriwa ? Does he suggest that the GovernorGeneral ought not to have imposed a condition in regard to the granting of a double dissolution - the condition that Parliament will be dissolved only in the event of Supply being granted ? Do I understand the honorable member to infer that the Governor-General will grant a double dissolution even if Supply be not granted ?
– I make no suggestion of the kind.
– What does the honorable member mean then ?
– If the honorable member did not mean that when he suggested that there was a way out of the difficulty, what did he mean ? Let me tell him that if the Governor-General attempted anything of that character, he would be the sorriest man in Australia.
– I ask the honorable member not to drag the name of the GovernorGeneral into this debate, in such a way, and especially to refrain from making statements that imply, if, indeed, they are not actual, threats. It is a most improper thing to do, and I cannot permit that sort of thing to be done.
– I do not hesitate to say that to save the whole situation which has been created, and to stop the statements which otherwise will be made from the public platforms of this country, the first thing which the Government should do is to bring down the exact document which was presented to the GovernorGeneral, so that we may know exactly where we stand. Such a step would clear the political atmosphere very materially. We would then know the position that we occupy, the position occupied by the Senate, and also by the country. Until that has been done, there is bound to remain a certain amount of suspicion. I wish to know whether the AttorneyGeneral prepared a document setting out the reasons why a double dissolution should be granted, and sent it on to the Governor-General. The Prime Minister in his statement admitted that there was other correspondence which he does not feel it would be proper for him to disclose. What is the reason for withholding that correspondence? Is it that there was something placed before the Governor-
General which was not exactly as it should be, and which would have a tendency to mislead him ? Or is it that the Government do not intend to allow their reasons to be placed before the public? Are those reasons of such a shaky character that they are afraid to let the public know what they are? I very much regret that the Ministry have not given us full and complete information in regard to this matter. We want it, and the sooner we get it the better it will be for all concerned. At the earliest possible moment, the Ministry should place before us the whole of the correspondence which has passed between them and His Excellency the Governor-General upon this question. There is no reason why that course should not be followed. I hold in my hand the Votes and Proceedings for the 1909 session of the Victorian Parliament, in which the whole of the correspondence between the Governor of this State at that time - Sir Thomas Gibson Carmichael - was published . I merely cite this fact as an argument in support of my contention that the correspondence between the present Government and the GovernorGeneral in regard to the request of the Prime Minister for a double dissolution is not sacred. Why was it necessary to publish the documents to which I have referred ? For exactly the same reasons as operate in the present circumstances.
– They were not published at the time, but only after the elections, when a new Government came into office.
– They were published on the 10th February, 1909. What led up to their publication? At the time, certain statements were made concerning alleged illegal acts on the part of the Governor of this State. As a matter of fact, he was not responsible at all. It was the late Sir Thomas Bent who was responsible for those illegal actions. He was the person who was responsible for having misled the Governor at the time. It was because of these statements and of the odium which attached to the Governor that it was deemed necessary to publish the documents in question. I do not hesitate to say that the present Ministry should follow a similar course, and publish the whole of the correspondence in regard to this matter, so that the Governor-General may be relieved of the odium which has been cast upon him.
.- In dealing with this matter, I am certainly not one of those who have been in favour either of a single or double dissolution of this Parliament if that step could be avoided.
– Only kindergarten politicians want that.
– Exactly, and I say that those kindergarten politicians are to be found in the Senate. I did not for a moment believe that when the test measures were sent to the other Chamber they would be sent to a body of men who were so unacquainted with our written Constitution that they could not see clearly that a double dissolution would be granted if those measures were rejected a second time. But the position was so absolutely clear that fifteen years ago the prediction was made by the present Treasurer as to what would happen in such circumstances. Now that that prediction has been fulfilled, the members of another place seem to be quite unaware of the discussions which took place in the Federal Convention at the time section 57 of our Constitution was being framed. The right honorable member said that only a technical difference would be required between the two Houses, and then if advice was tendered by the Prime Minister for the time being to the Governor-General to grant a double dissolution, either that advice must be accepted or the Prime Minister must resign. In the latter case there would be an abdication of the powers of members of this House at the dictation of another House. I am sure if the boot were on the other foot honorable members opposite would not argue that position for a moment. I cannot conceive of there being twenty-nine Liberal senators so destitute of common sense as to act in the way that the present Senate has acted, but if there had been twentynine Liberal senators who had acted in the same unconstitutional way-
– Order ! I must ask the honorable member not to reflect on the members of the Senate.
– When in the Convention it was said that the Senate would have the power of throwing out measures, even if they had been made a test question between the two Houses, even the representatives of the smaller States at the Convention never thought the day would come when senators would act in that peculiar fashion. I do not wish to make any reflection on the want of intelligence of honorable senators; perhaps they acted according to their fullest lights, but nobody will say that those lights were very wise ones. In fact, they seem rather comparable with the foolish virgins. The Attorney-General quoted from the statement of the honorable member for West Sydney that appeared in the papers last Saturday. If he had only read the same honorable member’s utterance that appeared the day before he would have seen how the honorable member himself foresaw that a situation had been created in which, in his opinion, the Governor-General could grant a double dissolution. He did not go so far as to say whether he should, or should not, but on the day before he knew whether a dissolution was to take place or not, he uttered the following words -
Either Mr. Cook does not understand the position of the Ministry created by the recent summary rejection of the Preference Prohibition Bill, or, understanding, he is ignoring it. But it is a position that cannot and will not be ignored. It calls for action, and that immediately. Let me state the position shortly.
The idea that the Parliament can go on with the threat of a double dissolution hanging perpetually over its head is unthinkable. It is also absurd. Section 57 provides a solution for dead-locks. The principle underlying the section is that the legislative machine having been brought to a standstill by disagreement between the two Houses upon some matter of such grave importance as to make further progress impossible, a double dissolution may, if His Excellency pleases, be granted. The essence of the whole tiling is that, legislation being impossible, an appeal to the electors must follow.
He then went on to say that, if Mr. Cook liked to delay, the position would be entirely changed, and added -
The provisions of section 57 having been technically satisfied - (1 do not even admit this) - the Government may ask for a double dissolution. True, they may ask; but only if they do so at once.
Did not the Government do so at once ? Are they not accused now of doing it at once? He went on to say -
And on this point there can bo no doubt at all. The situation having been created, it must be at once resolved one way or another. Inaction is fatal in the matter.
I quite agree witu the honorable member -
But in the meantime the right to ask for a double dissolution on the first test Bill is lost. And such a position is in accord with common sense. Time is the essence of the contract. Even if Parliament would allow Mr. Cook to hold this threat over its head indefinitely, the section would not allow it.
And here are very important words, uttered after careful consideration by an honorable member who has just given us a dissertation the other way -
Therefore, either Mr. Cook must summon up enough courage to ask for a double Absolution at once, or must for ever hold his peace.
That statement by the honorable member was a complete answer to his letter of the following day. He has refuted his argument out of his own mouth. When honorable members opposite cheered the other day on hearing that a double dissolution had been granted, it appears now it was only a sham cheer - another instance of bluff. I did not want to hear it, and I confess that I did not cheer. When they cheered I really began to wonder how many sensible men there were in the House except myself. If a body of men are in such a state of mental confusion that they do not even know the plain words of the Constitution, and act in such a manner as to force a double dissolution, it does not lie in the mouths of members on the other side, or in another place, to complain of it when they get it. They asked for it, and now they are howling because they have got it. They do not like the taste of it.
– Who brought in the Bill ?
– This side brought it in. I admit that I was one of those who suggested that some such proposal should be brought forward ; but I went much further. I suggested that the test should be not only as to preference in the Government service, but as to preference anywhere - in the Courts or otherwise. I hold that no Parliament has the right, under laws, to grant preference to any citizen, but that every citizen ought to be able to go before the High Court of justice of his country, as Parliament should be, and get a fair field and no favour. That principle is being entirely departed from. The provision I suggested ran as follows: -
Notwithstanding anything contained in the Arbitration Act, no Court or Judge shall grant preference to any citizen or class of citizens.
That was plain, short, and simple; but, with a consideration for the feelings of members opposite which seemed to me at the time to be very weak, the Ministry met them more than half-way. They first brought forward the ordinary business, and some time afterwards brought forward the Bill, saying, “We will put this so mildly that even the most extreme man amongst them can accept it if he likes. If the Senate intends to let us do any business at all, surely it will accept a mild proposal of this sort.” The Bill absolutely tested the sincerity of honorable members opposite as to whether they intended to allow any legislation to go through. Honorable members on the other side had boasted that they would take advantage of their numerical majority in the Senate, and not allow legislation to go through. We tried the Bill in this House first, and it was soon plain that there was no intention to let legislation go on. A mild and moderate Bill, providing that no preference should be granted in the Government service was brought forward; but the other side considered it so important that they discussed it day and night. Although one or two of them said it was not a serious Bill, the opinion of nine out of every ten in the party was against that view. They considered it so serious that they continued to discuss it for day after day, and week after week. It was sent up to another place, which summarily rejected it. It was brought forward again this session, passed by this House, and again sent up to another place, where it was rejected without a moment’s consideration. It was treated in the way in which we were told Labour senators would treat all legislation brought forward by the Liberal party. In the circumstances, what other course was open to our party but to ask for a double dissolution ? Every requirement of section 57 of the Constitution had been complied with. We had the opinion of the honorable member for West Sydney, who was Attorney-General in the Labour Government - an opinion given as late as Friday last - that everything had been done to create the required situation under section 57. I cannot understand how the honorable member was able tonight to go back upon that expression of opinion, unless it was that he thought that the public would remember only the last and not the first statement made by him on the question, or that they would not imagine that any public man would be so lost to what was due to himself as to say one thing one day and something quite different a day or two later. He also thought, perhaps, that the speech which he delivered to-night would be published in Hansard, and read by thousands who would not see his first statement as published in the Melbourne newspapers.
– The same statement was published in the Sydney press.
– Then I am still more surprised at the audacity of the honorable member for West Sydney. He would seem to be more indifferent as to what he says than I at first imagined him to be. The honorable member for Kennedy, another member of the Labour party, has pointed out that this situation was foreseen years ago. Surely, in the circumstances, everything has been done to justify the granting of a double dissolution. Let us test the situation by changing the position of parties. If there were twenty-nine Liberal senators, whilst the Labour party had a majority of one in this House, does any one imagine for a moment that in the event’ of the Senate twice rejecting legislation passed by this House, and the right honorable member for Wide Bay advising the GovernorGeneral to grant a double dissolution, his advice would not be followed. There is no doubt about the matter. The position of the Prime Minister for the time being, no doubt, is made all-powerful, but I have not heard of any case in which advice tendered to the Governor-General by the late Ministry was rejected. They cannot quote an instance. I was surprised to hear the honorable member for Kennedy, who has occupied the position of Speaker, advocating the publication of all documents. He would not do that as between members of a Cabinet.
– They are doing it.
– Some people steal, but that is no reason why every one should do so.
– Some men rave, but that is no reason why we should all do so.
– I agree with the honorable member that some men do. That is why we get so tired of him. No Minister would dream of publishing correspondence as between himself and the rest of the Cabinet without the consent of every member of that Cabinet. There is not one instance in which the correspondence between the Governor-General and the Government for the time being has been published. In 1904, Mr. J. C. Watson, the first Labour Prime Minister, advised His Excellency to grant a single dissolution, but he never dreamt of publishing the correspondence. Again, in 1909, when the right honorable member for Wide Bay, Mr. Fisher, suggested a dissolution, he did not dream of publishing the correspondence which passed between himself and the GovernorGeneral. What is more, no one on this side had the bad taste to suggest that the parliamentary procedure which had so long been followed should be departed from by the publication of the correspondence. There must be absolute confidence between the Governor-General and the Government, and between the Governors of the various States and the State Cabinets. They must be allowed to speak together freely, and without fear of repetition.
– What nonsense!
– The honorable member would apply very strong names to any one who sought his advice in secret, and then, without his authority, published the advice which he gave. How much more important is it that the same rule should apply in respect of the public life of the country ? I have given instances where two Labour Prime Ministers applied for a dissolution, and did not supply the House with any information as to the facts which they put before the Governor-General.
– Were they asked to supply it?
– Of course not. Honorable members on this side believed that the Labour Ministry would know what was due to themselves and to their own position in the matter. I am surprised at the very great lengths to which the Prime Minister has gone to-night in giving information as to what transpired between the Governor-General and the Government. It ought to have been quite sufficient for him to state that he had advised His Excellency to grant a double dissolution, and that that advice
– But it was not; conditions were imposed.
– We are told that His Excellency accepted his advice subject to Parliament granting the necessary Supply.
– The Prime Minister told His Excellency that he would ask the House for Supply, and His Excellency was satisfied.
– Quite so. If blame is to be attached to any one it must belaid at the door of the Prime Minister for going further than any previous- Prime Minister - certainly further than any member of the Labour party has evergone - in supplying information to this House. He is responsible for the advice given, and must accept the blame f oric, if there is any blame to be attached to it. The honorable member f or West Sydney has admitted that section 57 had been fully complied with. If theposition had been the other way about - if the Liberals had been in the majority in the Senate, and the Labourparty had had a majority of one in this House, would not honorable members opposite have said that the GovernorGeneral was acting as a partisan if in similar circumstances he refused a request for a double dissolution ? And they would have had some ground for such a statement. What becomes of the bold utterances on the part of honorable members on the other side, and in another place, too, that they were anxious by every means in their power to obtain a dissolution? Is it trueall those utterances were made with a view to deceive the electors? Is it true that the members of the Labour party distrust the good sense of the people, and do not now want to go before the country ? Quite recently they were ranting and raving to us about the good sense of the people; but now it appears that they arerather fearful of an appeal to the people,, and if I am a judge of public opinon, judgment will be passed upon the unscrupulous opposition they have shown tothe Liberal party proceeding with its legislation on very much more fruitful and sounder lines. Do not let us hear again from honorable members these fearsome grumbles against having to face a double dissolution. The request has been granted, and nothing can get over that fact. We have to make the best of the position. The best course for honorable members on the other side is not to go about attacking any person who is incapable of replying, not to commit what I call a wanton act of that sort, but to behave as men - to admit that they have got what they sought, or pretended to seek, and not to cry out now and to confess to the people- that they were shamming the whole time and did notthink that the gun was loaded. I ask my honorable friends opposite to be “sports” in. the matter, to put on a bold front, even if they do not quite feel it, at least to have the appearance of courage, even if their hearts are sunk and they have to pick them up out of their boots.
– These are your own sentiments, are they not)
– I have never denied that I did not like a dissolution. I think that an election every five years is quite frequent enough for this House. Suppose that the Labour party had remained in office for another two years, the result of their incompetence and legislative folly would have come home so strongly to the people in the course, perhaps, of another year, that when they again faced the electors they would probably have been wiped out for ten or fifteen years. Because the lesson would have been learned, as it must be learned in every country if it is going to progress, that a country cannot be ruled except by brains.
– We have no brains on this side, of course.
– There has not been a great display, the honorable member will admit. He is one of those who take the same view as I do on the constitutional question, and therefore we are not quarrelling at present. I trust that, despite the change of front on the part of the honorable member for West Sydney tonight, the Labour party will remember that be did make the statements attributed to him. Of course they will remember their own profession that they did not mind a double dissolution. They looked for a double dissolution, and got it. This whimpering by some of the Labour party seems to make them lose their fighting quality. I advise them to copy the attitude of the honorable member for Wide Bay, who has never tried to squeak. He has accepted the position, and it would be well if the bulk of honorable members on the other side did the same thing. There has been another extraordinary allegation made here. The honorable member for Kennedy has really pretended sympathy for the smaller States. He has actually described the double dissolution as an attack on the rights of the smaller States. This pretension, coming from the Labour party, who have tried to destroy the power of the States, and to establish a Unification, is one of the most remarkable instances of inconsistency that I have ever heard of. Now, my honorable friends opposite say loudly, “ We are for the smaller States,” - although it was only lately that they brought forward six referendum proposals, which, had they been carried, would have destroyed the power of the States. The one great objection I had to those proposals was that theywere designed to bring about a Unification, whilst nominally retaining the Federal form of government. Not only did honorable members opposite bring forward a proposal to destroy the Federal form of government, but some members of the party in the Senate even proposed to do away with that Chamber.
– Do you believe in factitious dead-locks?
– It turned out not to be one.
– If the honorable member had asked me if I thought that the Senate, or honorable members in this House, would have given to the matter the importance they did, I should have said at the first outlook, No. I have to admit, although I did not think that the matter was of such supreme importance as they did, honorable members in this House, by their attitude and speeches on the subject, showed how important they thought it was. The Senate went still further, and showed how important it thought the matter was by taking the extreme step of rejecting the measure at once. - I trust that we shall not hear many more complaints of this sort from honorable members opposite. ‘ I hope that they will never again talk about the rights of the States, when they themselves were the very first to seek the powers of a Unification. They admit that they wanted to go still further. They proposed to sweep away the Senate, and to create a number of provincial bodies, that, even as a part of their platform-
– What part of it?
– It was discussed as a part of the Labour platform.
– Time after time, honorable members on the other side fought for it.
– With the six referendum proposals. The effect of those posals, if the honorable member could only understand it, was absolutely to destroy the Senate as a States House.
– Not at all.
– Evidently the honorable member did not understand the effect of the measures he supported. I say, unhesitatingly, that the proposals, if adopted, would have done away with the powers of the Senate altogether.
– Not at all.
– I trust that I have stated the position in such a way that my honorable friends will adopt a different course, and try to bring some live issue before the country.
Mr. Sharpe interjecting,
– The honorable member, who, I know, has been concerned in remarks about the Beef Trust, seems to think, because the price of meat has risen all over the world, it is a matter which ought to come up first.
– Hear, hear ! He is quite right, too.
– Yes.; but, unfortunately, the honorable member goes about the country telling the State Parliaments that it is within their power to alter the scarcity of meat. That is wrong advice to give to the public, because it is not in the power of a State Parliament to deal with the matter consistently with the interests of the country. If there are natural advances in the price of products, those advances, especially in a country of primary production, are of great advantage to the people in it. If the honorable member had his way, he would destroy, not only the country, but the towns’ with it, because he - has not grasped the fact that the towns depend for their prosperity on the country.
– On the Tariff.
– I am not going to deal with that matter to-night. I do again express the hope that honorable members will show a return to sound common sense, and if. they think they have got their gruel, let them swallow it without making a wry face.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Webster) adjourned.
– I have received, the following message from the Senate -
The Senate requests that the House of Representatives will give leave to the Honorable
William Henry Kelly to attend and be examined by the Select Committee of the Senate on Mr. Teesdale Smith’s contract - Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway.
That the consideration of the message be made an Order of the Day for to-morrow.
House adjourned at 10.6 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 June 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19140610_reps_5_74/>.