6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Prime Minister consider the action of the Governments of the various States in retaining food products within their borders, and ascertain whether it is constitutional f If what is being done is not constitutional, what steps does the right honorable gentleman propose to take to provide that the food supplies of Australia shall be made available to all the citizens of the Commonwealth ?
– The Government has already taken steps to discover the facts. As to the constitutional position, our Crown Law authorities will see that the people of the Commonwealth are protected so far as the law may allow.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs been furnished with a copy of the measure now before the New South Wales Parliament providing for the compulsory acquisition by the Government of the State of the wheat grown within its .borders ? If the honorable gentleman has not obtained a copy of that Bill, why has he not applied for one ? The Prime Minister says that the Government are protecting the interests of the people of the Commonwealth.
– The Governments of the States do not send copies of their Bills to this Government. I have not known that to be done during the fourteen years that I have been in this Parliament. The present case is no exception to the rule. I have not seen the Bill referred to.
– I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether the Government are considering the case that has arisen in South Australia, where a Tasmanian miller, having purchased a quantity of wheat in that State, the State Government stepped in and prevented the grain being sent away. . Will the Government consider whether that is not a direct violation of the trade and commerce provisions of the Constitution?
– I feel sure that the honorable member will see that that, question involves a point of law. I will refer it to the Attorney-General.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs assure the House that he is satisfied that the measure now bes fore the ‘New South Wales Parliament does not infringe the freedom of trade between the States, which is preserved by the Constitution ? If not, does he propose to allow the Bill to become law before investigating the matter?
– I have not seen the Bill, and, in any case, as I am not a legal man, I cannot answer the question. The honorable member should ask the AttorneyGeneral.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral assure the House that the Bill now before the New South Wales Parliament for the compulsory acquisition of the coming wheat crop of that State is not in any way an infringement of the Constitution, providing for freedom of trade between the States?
– It is the practice of my Department, and I certainly intend to regard it as binding on me in this case, for many reasons, not to give opinions on points of law.
– I ask the Minister for Home Affairs if it is correct that the Government intends provisioning the workmen on the East-West railway, and to commence doing so at the New Year ?
– It is intended to provision the men employed at the Port Augusta end of the line, but not to apply the system to those actually at Port Augusta.
Visit to Egypt
– Has the Government any information as to the reason of the High Commissioner’s visit to Egypt? If so, is there any objection to making that information public?
– The Government was informed some time ago that the High Commissioner contemplated a visit to Egypt, but subsequently, after consultation with the military authorities, he decided not to go there.
– Is the Assistant Minister aware that it is published in this morning’s newspapers that the High Commissioner has left for Egypt’?
– Newspaper information is not always up to date. The High Commissioner intended to visit Egypt, but the latest information we posesss is that, after consultation with Lord Kitchener, he decided not to go.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Mr. Jensen) read a first time.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs a question about preferential trade having special reference to Canada. Will the honorable gentleman see that in any preferential trade agreement or treaty the good employer is given preference over the nonunionist or sweating employer ? That would be in the interests of the Australian public, and of Australian trade unionists.
– It is difficult to give such preference by a Tariff measure. We have no means of ascertaining the industrial conditions obtaining in Canada in regard to goods manufactured there and exported to Australia. But any preferential trade treaty or agreement which may be proposed must be assented to by Parliament before it can have effect, and this will give the honorable member aud others an opportunity to deal with the phase of the question that he has* mentioned, which I consider very important.
– Is there any truth in the statement that the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs has been appointed Commissioner or Acting Commissioner for some of the possessions which have recently been taken from Germany?
– The rumours and announcements on the subject which have appeared in the press are quite premature.
– Are there not in British New Guinea officers who are capable of doing the administrative work that has to be done in German New Guinea? If so, they should get a show before outsiders.
– The administration of possessions taken from Germany cannot be provided for by this Government until those possessions have been put under our control. My impression is that at the present time they are administered by officers of our Defence Department, actins; under Admiralty instructions.
– Will the Assistant Minister of External Affairs say who is responsible for the temporary appointments which are now being made in connexion with the captured colonies ?
– My impression is that those appointments were made by the Defence Department. If the honorable member will put the question on the notice-paper, I will give him a definite reply.
– Will the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence supply to the House particulars of the shooting by a sentry of two men at Mona Vale, near Sydney, last Sunday night? What steps are taken to notify the public that sentries will be placed along certain roads? Will instructions be given to the military authorities that sentries must be told to exercise every precaution before taking extreme measures ?
– I shall bring the case under the notice of the Minister of Defence, and obtain the information asked for.
– Has the Attorney-General a communication to make to the House regarding the recent raiding of business premises by the military ?
– The investigation of the affairs of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company is still proceeding. As to the Australian Metal Company, it has been decided, after very careful inquiry, to exercise the powers vested in the Government by the most recent legislation dealing with trading with the enemy, and to appoint a comptroller to take over the business of the company. The Minister is giving instructions to that effect. The Australian Metal Company Limited has nothing Australian about it but its name. In order to afford an opportunity to the House and the public-
– Is not the case going before the High Court?
– It will do so.
– Then why make these statements?
– My intention is merely to read a list of shareholders.
– I do not think that the honorable gentleman should make any statement if the case is going before the High Court.
– What I was about to read is already public property. However, as honorable members seem to think that no information should be given to the House and the public, I have nothing further to say.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral able to announce the results of the raids made in Perth ?
– The investigations in Perth were undertaken originally at the instance of the Defence Department. I have not been able to ascertain the exact position in regard to them, but inquiries were made when the honorable member put this question on a previous occasion, and I shall make public the results at the earliest opportunity.
– Is it a fact that a raid made on the offices and factory of the Australian Porcelain Works at Foots cray revealed nothing detrimental to Australia or the Empire’/ If so, why has no public declaration to that effect been made, as was done in other cases, including the raid on the offices of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company.
– I have no information at all in regard to that case. If the honorable member will give me the correct title of the company, I will have inquiries made.
– Will the Prime Minister see that the precautions taken under the Trading with the Enemy Act are not made the instrument of one company injuring its rival by giving false information to the Government?
– The Government will take every precaution that no one company will be allowed to injure a rival company or any other person by giving false information. I can further assure the honorable member that if any persons are found doing so they will find themselves resident in a fit place for a very long term. "”Mr. ANSTEY. - Then, will the right honorable gentleman look into the case of the Australian Porcelain Company which has been referred to by the honorable member for Grey ?
– Yes, and I will be glad of any information which any person can give to assist the Government.
– Is it a fact that in connexion with the raiding of certain firms the Government have retained the services of a competitor in trade, who was in the same business prior to the declaration of war ?
– I am unaware of that fact. I will give the honorable member a reply as soon as I can get the information .
– On the 20th instant, I promised the honorable member for Richmond that I would have inquiries made in regard to the following questions : - 1. (6) Amount of refrigerating space available during the next six weeks? 1. (c) Amount of produce that will probably be awaiting shipment in six weeks’ time?
The following particulars have now been received : -
With regard to 1 (ft), reports received show that the estimated amount of refrigerating space that will be available will be 1,279,383 cubic feet, except as to vessels taken by the Defence Department as transports. 1. (c) This cannot be stated.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that some of the German officials, who have been taken to Sydney as prisoners of war, are being accommodated at the expense of the Government at the Hotel Australia and the Hotel Metropole? If such is the case, having regard to the treatment of British subjects in Germany, does the right honorable gentleman not think it advisable to put those officials to some useful employment, and see that the money at present expended in their upkeep is applied to assisting the wives and families of men who have gone to the front”?
– I did see that the Minister of Defence had replied in the Senate to the effect that there are a few German officers staying at the Hotel Australia. I think that is under the capitulation agreement, which had better not be discussed. I would suggest that the honorable member should ask his question again on Wednesday.
– Is it in order for an honorable member to address the AttorneyGeneral as “Billy”?
– The interjection is distinctly out of order, and I trust that honorable members will not indulge in remarks of that character.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister if the Williamson Theatrical Company have sent invitations to members of Parliament to witness the production of “ The Yellow Ticket “ ?
– The question is a frivolous one and should not be asked.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that members of the Expeditionary Force in German New Guinea have no means of purchasing stamps, with the result that when letters are delivered the fee is collected from the recipients at this end ? If so, will the Minister give instructions that stamps are to be sent to our soldiers in New Guinea, and that, in the meantime, their letters are to be delivered free of charge.
– There are no difficulties in the way of members of the Expeditionary Forces writing to their friends. Men cannot carry stamps with them into the field, and arrangements have been made by the Postal Department under which every facility is given to the men in connexion with their correspondence.
– Have the Government yet come to any decision in regard to the date of reconsidering the matter of the designs for the Federal Capital?
Re-appointment of Sib GEORGE Reid.
– In regard to the position of High Commissioner in London, I ask the Assistant Minister of External Affairs if the late Government could not have re-appointed Sir George Reid for a further term if they had wished to do so.
– Up to the time of the last elections the late Government could undoubtedly have re-appointed Sir George Reid for a further term of five years.
– I ask leave of the House to make a statement. I think that is due to the late Government.
– The facts are that the question of the re-appointment of Sir George Reid was under discussion at the time of the elections, and for some time prior to that, but we deemed it to be our duty to make no re-appointment during the elections. We thought it fair to this House, and to the country, that that appointment, should be made by a Government who had established themselves in the confidence of the country by the vote of the people. In those circumstances we refrained from making the appointment.
– In view of what has been said, I also ask leave to make a statement.
– If I understand the Leader of the Opposition correctly, he stated that the late Government had the matter of the re-appointment of Sir George Reid under consideration. The right honorable gentleman is aware that Sir George Reid came to Australia early in the present year, presumably with a view to having a definite understanding with the Government regarding his reappointment.
– I know nothing whatever of that.
– The right honorable gentleman can scarcely say that Sir George Reid did not come out to Australia with a view to having some definite understanding in regard to his reappointment.
– Will the honorable member take my word that Sir George Reid never mentioned the matter to me in any way ?
– I accept the right honorable gentleman’s statement, but it is a fact that Sir George Reid was given to understand by the late Government that he need not worry on this point.
– That is quite right.
– He was also given to understand that his re-appointment for another twelve months was almost a certainty.
– That his re-appointment was practically assured.
– And 1 can tell the honorable member that if the late Government had been returned, Sir George Reid would have received the reappointment for considerably more than a year.
– What is also a fact is that nothing definite in regard to the term for which Sir George Reid was to be reappointed appears in the files, until a date three days after the general election. Then there appears a statement that the late Government intended to reappoint Sir George Reid for an extended term, the only question being as to whether the re-appointment should be for three or five years. Three days after the general elections, when the late Government received notice to quit, a minute was written with the apparent object of committing the present Government to the re-appointment of Sir George Reid. This is the only document in the file which refers to the extension of Sir George Reid’s term to three or five years.
Several Opposition Members. - Read it.
– May I ask the Minister a question; but, if the House would permit me, I would prefer to make a statement ?
– The course is rather irregular, but still, if it is the desire of the House, the honorable member may do so.
– No; do not make a statement. If honorable members opposite seek to make political capital out of these things, the better course is to move the adjournment of the House.
– Who started the matter?
– Nobody in particular.
– It was started yesterday by the Prime Minister’s remarks.
– It was started by the honorable member for Lang.
– I have received the following notice from the honorable member for Parramatta: -
I desire to move the adjournment of the House on a matter of urgent and definite publie importance, namely, in order to discuss the appointment of Sir George Reid as High Commissioner.
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– I deeply regret having to take this course, but if we are to do justice to ourselves and to the gentleman who occupies the high office of representing the Commonwealth in London,’ there seems no other course open to us. My share of this business is very small. Had I thought for one moment that the appointment of Sir George Reid would come before the House in this way, and in these circumstances, there would not have been any question of his reappointment by the present Government. The appointment would have been made, and made secure, long ago. I would have taken care of that had I thought that the House would treat the matter in this way. What are the facts?. Sir George Reid came out to pay a visit to Australia.
– Last year.
– This year, I think it was. At any rate, no mention was ever made as to the reason for his visit, other than that he desired to renew his acquaintance with Australia, and to get a grip of things out here. At no time during the whole of his stay in Australia did he ever mention to me the matter of his appointment. He never even hinted at it.
– Did he mention it to the Minister of External Affairs?
– I believe that the matter was discussed between Sir George Reid and the Minister. What would be more natural than that? I can tell the honorable member more. The matter was discussed in Cabinet, and the Cabinet decided that, in the circumstances, it would be more appropriate not to make an appointment at that time, but to leave the matter to whoever succeeded at the elections, and whoever should be in possession of the confidence of the country and of this House. That is the proper constitutional course to take in regard to all these high appointments. If we had been actuated by the motives suggested by the Assistant Minister o? Home Affairs, would we have taken the course we did ? If we had had prompting us the motives that came out in the bitter speech we have had from the Assistant Minister to-day, we would have taken good care to make the appointment secure, and put the matter out of the reach of the present Minister or any of those who are talking in the same way to-day ?
– Yon did not anticipate being beaten at the elections.
– The question of being beaten at the elections did not enter into the matter at all. We felt that making the appointment during the elections would not be the proper thing to do.
– Or before the elections.
– Or before them; because the matter arose close on the elections. But for following a proper constitutional course we are beset on every hand by the gibes and jeers of honorable members opposite. I suppose that we must never hope to have credit given to us for any worthy motives. Politics are falling to a contemptible level when we hear this sort of thing taking place. I call attention to a constant stream of interjections that have been coming from the honorable member for Brisbane reflecting on me ever since I have risen to speak.
– As the honorable member has called attention to them I ask honorable members to cease these continuous interjections. An honorable member speaking on the motion for adjournment lias only a limited time in which to say what he has to say. I ask honorable members to refrain as far as possible from interjecting.
– I intend to say very little, as I propose to leave it to the Minister formerly in charge of the Department to make a statement to the House; but I do say that during the whole of the consideration of this matter in Cabinet the name of no other person was suggested for the office of High Commissioner, nor was there any suggestion in regard to the filling of the position otherwise than by the re-appointment of Sir George Reid. That gentleman possessed the fullest confidence of the late Government, as, I believe, he possesses the fullest confidence of the whole of the people of Australia; notwithstanding some honorable members’ interjections, and notwithstanding some bitter speeches that have been made, I would fain believe that he possesses the confidence generally of honorable members on both sides of this House. At any rate, that is my impression at the moment. I should be sorry to believe anything else. Sir George Reid has been a good and faithful servant to Australia, and has done his duty by this country as well as any public servant could do it, and he well deserves re-appointment for a substantial period at the hands of this present Government. However, Ministers have taken their course, and re-appointed him for twelve months, a course which is not calculated to inspire him with the desire to do his best. I think that a man ought to feel secure in that position. If he is to do his duty properly by this country he should feel secure in his tenure. If there is any doubt about the matter, terminating the appointment would be better than keeping Sir George Reid on, not knowing what his fate is to be.
– The whole of this debate will be published in the London papers on Monday.
– Then I hope that what the Minister has said about the matter will preface the report, and the reason for the debate will then be understood. The Assistant Minister says that there was a minute put upon the file after the election. Does not the Assistant Minister know sufficient of these matters to know that it was the usual course to take? The proper thing is for the retiring Minister to leave minutes for the benefit of the incoming Minister concerning all big current questions being considered in the Department.
– The suspicious thing is-
– That course is invariably taken, because if there is to be continuity in administration it is proper anc1 necessary that it should be done.
– The curious thing about the matter is that it was the first mention of the three or five years that I could find in the papers.
– What is there in that fact? It clearly proves, and always proves to any one but those with the suspicious minds of honorable members
– The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– It was a phrase used by the Assistant Minister.
– I heard the Assistant Minister use the word “curious”: but if he did make use of the word “ suspicious “ he must withdraw it.
– Certainly I withdraw the word if I did use it.
– What the minute referred to clearly shows is that the last Cabinet had been considering whether the re-appointment of Sir George Reid, when it was made, should be for three years ‘or five years. It shows nothing more. It was the proper thing to leave upon the papers of the Department a minute from the outgoing Minister, telling the incoming Minister what was in his mind regarding this high and responsible appointment, but the Assistant Minister sees in this action of his predecessor in extending this courtesy, and in following this constitutional propriety, some deep-laid political plot. By making these innuendoes and statements to-day the Assistant Minister is simply showing the suspicious character of his own mind. It would be very much better if he rid his mind of all such things. The outgoing Government did its duty by this country and by this House, and left to its successors, as it was entitled to do in the circumstances, the duty and privilege of making this high appointment for a further term. That is all there is in the matter. The Assistant Minister cannot make more of it, no matter how he rummages among the papers. With this statement I leave the matter. I think that it is due to the House that we should hear the Minister in charge of the Department.
– The Leader of the Opposition made a special reference to me, complaining about my interjections. Am I in order in making a personal explanation ?
– I cannot accept the honorable member’s remarks as a personal explanation. The honorable member for Parramatta appealed for silence, and I asked the House to cease interjecting.
. –The honorable member for Parramatta in his speech said that our political conduct was getting to a contemptible level, and I interjected that he should be the best judge of his own political level. If the honorable member was more careful in regard to suggestions of unfair or unworthy conduct on the part of others lie would not lay himself open to charges of that character.
– As this debate has arisen upon a question submitted by me, it is only right that I should make some explanation. I met a dear friend of Sir George Reid, and a dear friend of mine, though he is opposed to me in politics, and he asked me, “ Have Sir George Reid’s friends turned him down, seeing that they did not appoint him? “ I said that I could not say. Whereupon he said, “ I believe that they have done so. Will you ask the question ? “ It is for this reason I put the question. I yield to no man in my friendship to Sir George Reid. I dare say that if our hearts could be opened and read, it would be found that I am a better friend of his than even some who were in the late Ministry. When the Leader of the Opposition was speaking I interjected that Sir George Reid had come out here last year. He returned to England early in March. I did not interject because of any desire to puzzle the Leader of the Opposition. I think the late Government treated Sir George Reid infamously.
– The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I shall withdraw it and say that I think the late Government did not treat him properly.
– Why; because wo did not re-appoint him twelve months before his original appointment -would expire ?
– lt is all fudge for the right honorable member to suggest that the late Government did not reappoint Sir George Reid because they were on the verge of an election. Did they decline for the same reason to make appointments to the Inter-State Commission? Did they not appoint two “beauties” to that Commission?
– Order. To describe any act of the House or the Government in such language must tend to lower the dignity of the House. I ask honorable members to refrain from anything that will injure the reputation of the Parliament.
– If you, Mr. Speaker, think that the use of such an expression is calculated to injure the reputation of the House, then I shall withdraw it, and say that it was most unwise for the Leader of the Opposition to advance the argument that he and his Attorney-General were busy preparing for the approaching election, and therefore did not take action to re-appoint Sir George Reid, seeing that they did not hesitate in like circumstances to appoint the Inter-State Commissioners.
– But that was just after an election had taken place.
– And Sir George Reid visited Australia last year, shortly after a general election.
– But his term of office had not expired. It will not expire until, I think, January next.
– The right honorable member has been too long in politics not to know that, in connexion with such important offices, it is usual to make a re-appointment, or, at any rate, to announce the decision of the Government some months before the date on which the original appointment would expire.
– Quite so.
– I shall communicate with the High Commissioner on the subject, but my impression certainly is that the late Government turned him down on the occasion of his visit to Australia last year, and treated him very badly. “ Mr. GLYNN (Angas) [11.18].- It is with regret that I find it necessary to discuss this matter in the House, since I do not know to what extent communications which have passed between the High Commissioner and myself are confidential. I have received correspondence from him, and have also had conversations with him, for- 1 think it is the duty of a Minister, quite independently of mere official matters, to have many chats with the officers of his department. _ So far as my memory serves me, the position is that Sir George Reid visited Australia last year, the Government which wo succeeded having given him permission io come. I confirmed that permission, and he came out on a trip which was originally suggested to him by family considerations. While he was here we discussed various matters. He thought that it would be well to renew his familiarity with some of the aspects of Australian, life, and he therefore extended beyond the limits of his original intention his tour throughout Australia. Just before leaving for England he spoke to me about his re-appointment, and I think it is due to the House that I should say something about the matter. Sir George Reid wrote me a letter, on 3rd February last, and as it is not marked “ private,” I think I may quote from it. After he had mentioned that the result of his trip to the Continent had been absolutely satisfactory he referred to his tenure of office, and went on to say -
At the same time I wish to assure the Government that my own mind is entirely in harmony with the spirit of the Act, and that I should only continue to hold the office so long as I could continue to do so with credit to myself and advantage to the Commonwealth.
He was explaining to me, for guidance as to future arrangements, that he thought he ought to have an early intimation as to whether his re-appointment was probable. I think that I had an informal chat with one or two of my colleagues on the subject, and came to the conclusion that it would be rather premature at that time to make a reappointment, and so to forestall any decision of the Ministry during the nine or ten months which would elapse before the original appointment expired. I told Sir George Reid that I thought I ought to mention the matter to the Cabinet, because I considered that he should receive an assurance as to his position four or five months before his appointment expired. He was enjoying an income of over £4,000 a year when he took office as High Commissioner, so that he made a big sacrifice in accepting the appointment. He is now, 1 think, about sixty-seven or sixty-eight years of age, and if he came back to Australia it would be a very difficult matter for him to pick up again that practice which his abilities entitled him to command at the time he left here. He has occupied a position of distinction in England; he has been a big public man, and if he returned to the Bar here he could hardly hope to realize the income he enjoyed at the time of his departure. These are considerations which ought to weigh with us regarding Sir George Reid’s reappointment, and while I thought that we ought not, as a rule, to make a re-appointment of such duration as to give rise to the assumption that there was only one man for the position, I considered that in his case the circumstances were very exceptional. I thought that Sir George Reid was eminently fitted for the office. He had discharged his duties excellently, and, in the circumstances, I considered that he should have a renewal of his appointment for some period to be determined by the Cabinet.
– Is the letter from which the honorable member has quoted an official communication ?
– It is not marked “private.” I shall refer to other letters on the file.
– Should not that letter be on the file?
– I think not. Everything that is relevant, or official, is on the file. This was a personal letter addressed to me. I assured Sir George Reid, after I had mentioned the matter informally to my col leagues, that it was too soon to come to any settlement on the question of his reappointment. About the same time, in answer to a quest-ion put to me in the House by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie as to whether Sir George Reid had asked for an increase of salary, or for re-appointment, I said that the matter of re- appointment and of the adequacy of his allowance for expenses was under consideration, and that I believed the High Commissioner should receive fair notice of what his position would be. I did not go beyond that. After an informal chat with my colleagues I assured Sir George Reid that my conviction was that he would be re-appointed. I could not say exactly for what term, but I said that my feeling was that the only matter to be settled at a Cabinet meeting some months later was whether his re-appointment should be for three or five years. The dockets will show, I think, that Sir George Reid wrote to me recapitulating the fact that I had told him that the question to be determined, in my opinion, was what ought to be the duration of his re-appointment - whether it should be for three or for five years. There was a letter written by him to me in April last, which I can show the Minister, and I think there is a copy of it on the file, in which this statement is made. Circumstances occurred to prevent the re-appointment being made. I, personally, would sooner he had been re-appointed at once; but the dissolution took place, the war broke out, and it was difficult to get a full Cabinet meeting. I raised the matter in Cabinets, but there was not a full meeting, and soon after we went out of office. In order that Sir George Reid, pending the determination of the duration of his term, should not be prejudiced, I wrote to him, about June or July last, setting out what the facts were, and telling him that he might act on the assurance that he would be continued in office for at least a year, pending the settlement of the other question.
– I have the honorable member’s letter here, but do not see in it any reference to the settlement of the further question.
– It is stated in some part of the correspondence; of that I am perfectly certain. We went out of office, and I thought it was due to Sir George
Reid, and to other officers whose appointments had not been confirmed’, that the intention of Ministers should be recorded. I therefore wrote out a statement of the position before I left office. I did so, not to forestall the decision of Ministers, but merely to record what I knew was only partly recorded on the files. I did this with regard to other appointments. There was, for instance, the question of the appointment of an Administrator of Norfolk Island, which had not been absolutely settled. The re-appointment of Mr. Murphy had not been absolutely settled, and I took the same steps with regard to him. Instead of making these appointments ourselves, as we were going out of office we left them open, but placed on record what Ave should have done had we remained in office.
– Did the honorable member recommend the appointment of any Labour man ?
– -If the honorable member for Darwin looks up the appointments made by the last Ministry, he will see that I did give a Labour man an appointment for three or four months pending his taking up a position as editor of a Labour newspaper. The fact that the question was whether Sir George Reid’s re-appointment should be for three or five years is recorded on the file. There is a letter by Sir George Reid, written, I think, on the 29th September, setting out the facts.
– Where is that letter?
– I have a copy of it here. I sent Sir George Reid a copy of my memorandum of what had taken place between us, so that there should be no mistake about the facts. Sir George Reid, in order that there might be no misapprehension as to his desire, wrote to the present Minister, on 29th September, a statement of the facts, and sent me a copy of that document. In it he states that I had told him that the only matter to be decided was whether his re-appointment should be for three or five years. How, then, can it be said that we only raised that question in order to forestall the decision of our successors? The matter was referred to in February last; it appears in correspondence with Sir George Reid in April last, and again in a communication of 29th September last. I do not know whether or not I ought to read this letter to the House; it is very hard to know what is confidential and’ what is not. However, what I have hereis a copy of a document now in the possession of the Prime Minister, aud I’ shall read only one paragraph : -
When in Australia early in February last, in reply to my written request, the Ministerof External Affairs assured me that my appointment would be renewed, subject “to a question whether it would be for a term of’ three or five years.
– That is an answerto the Leader of the Opposition when hesays that he did not guarantee the reappointment.
– We did net guarantee’ the re-appointment.
– Sir George Reid says that you did.
– I gave Sir George Reid’ my personal impression, after having consulted my colleagues in order to test their feeling in the matter. I told Sir George Reid that, though there was no decision, he might act on the assurancethat the only question was whether the reappointment should be for the term of three or five years. That was in February, and it was too soon to determine the matter then; but later on in the year, in order that he might not be under any misapprehension, I told him that he might take it that he would certainly be in the position for another twelve months. The reason I did this was to enable Sir Ge’orge to make necessary arrangements. I can assure the House that, when the last Government left office, the only question undetermined was whether the appointment should be for three or five years.
– I was told that Sir John Forrest was to have the appointment.
– There was never any name mentioned, or any application made by any one; the only doubt on the part of the Cabinet was whether we .should appoint any one for a further period of five years, or for ten years altogether. In order to guide the discretion of the Cabinet, I made inquiries as to the duration of appointments of similar officials for other countries, and I ascertained that while in Canada one appointment had been for eighteen years, in other places the terms were comparatively short. The question, therefore, was left over for decision; and a record of what took place was left by me when I left office. No one can say that that record was left with any idea of forestalling a decision which we, for some sinister motive, declined to make.
.- There seems to be a good deal of makebelieve this morning about the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues. One would get the impression that they were engaged in a high-minded endeavour to do the best possible for Australia in regard to this appointment, but it seems to me that they are extremely anxious lest the Government should follow the example that has been set by Liberal parties at all times. Sir George Reid’s appointment was, without doubt, a political appointment. I do not agree with the exPrime Minister that it is impossible to find in Australia a man who can carry out the duties of the High Commissioner so well as does Sir George Reid, who, after all, is only a very clever after-dinner speaker. I do not think that the present High Commissioner fills the position as the business people of Australia would like it to be filled.
– He has made a very good impression at Home generally.
– Is it a correct thing to canvass the merits of the High Commissioner in this way ?
– The Leader of the Opposition is responsible for the discussion. He pointed out the virtues of Sir George Reid, and thus raised the question, though he assumes a righteous indignation, asserting that we have forced him to take that course. The ex-Minister of External Affairs was evidently thoroughly well prepared ‘ to discuss the question at the earliest possible moment, because he produced quite a file of correspondence. How did he happen to have that correspondence ready in his pocket ?
– By accident!
– I suppose we may take it it was by accident; and, no doubt, most of us carrY a lot of correspondence in our pockets. It is said that the contents of a man’s pockets are a pretty good indication of the state of his brain, but I should not like my brain to be gauged by the amount or the diversified character of the correspondence which I carry. Some explanation is certainly required of why the ex-Minister of External Affairs, if he was “ caught on the hop,” happened to have so many of Sir George Reid’s letters with him. It seems to me that there has been a deliberate attempt on the part of the members of the Opposition to raise the question at the very earliest moment with a view to endeavouring to secure Sir George Reid in his position, because of the fact that they have been “ caught on the hop,” as the previous Fisher Ministry was in regard to the Inter-State Commission.
– Is that it!
– Any one would think that honorable members opposite had been suddenly informed of something of which they were not previously aware, although they have themselves been saying the same thing for months past. The previous Fisher Government made a great mistake in not appointing the Inter-State Commission before they left office. If there is anything in the contention of the ex-Minister of External Affairs that the wishes of an outgoing Government in regard to appointments, as set forth in memoranda or minutes, ought to be respected, why did the late Liberal Government not respect the wishes of the previous Fisher Government 1
– Did they leave any memoranda on this subject!
– It is quite well known throughout Australia, and no one knows it better than the honorable member for Parramatta, that had the previous Fisher Government remained in office the present Attorney-General would have been the chairman of the Inter-State Commission.
– Was that set forth in the minutes!
– Honorable members opposite have on every possible occasion acted on the policy of spoils to the victor ; indeed, they have gone further, because they were not in office ten minutes before they discharged the only Labour appointment that the previous Fisher Government had made, in the person of Mr. George Ryland, who was carrying out his duties faithfully and well, and was well liked in the Northern Territory.
– The said ten minutes being eight or nine months afterwards.
– It was publicly announced when the previous Fisher Government were in office that Senator Pearce was to go to the Old Country to take part in the Defence Conference. As a matter of fact, Senator Pearce’s appointment had been made, and his passage actually booked; but those high-minded gentlemen opposite, as soon as they got into office, cancelled the appointment, and sent one of their own men in the person of Colonel Foxton. All the numerous questions from the Opposition are with the definite purpose of preventing the present Government appointing a High Commissioner in sympathy with their administration and policy.
– Then it is intended to do that?
– I know nothing about the matter, but I hope so.
– How is it that the honorable member is so ready and well informed ?
– I have observed, and it was not necessary for me to search through my files of correspondence in order to be able to discuss a matter that is one of common knowledge. What did honorable members do when in office in regard to the Inter-State Commission? Those high-minded gentlemen, who say that it is wrong to appoint a man of your own party to any position, did not give the present Attorney-General a seat on the Inter-State Commission, and thus accord to the great Labour party some representation on so important a body. There is no doubt that the present AttorneyGeneral is a man perfectly well fitted for such a position, but the late Government ran to the Victorian Parliament, and selected a man of independent mind, who was a bit of a trouble to the honorable member for Balaclava. Here I may say that I think the honorable member for Flinders had a good deal to do with that appointment. The Argus and other Liberal newspapers, of course, had much to say about the qualifications of a certain gentleman for the position; and certainly no one would deny the business capacity and integrity of that gentleman. But, nevertheless, it was a political appointment.
– I believe that up to the time of his appointment no mention of his name had been made publicly.
– The Leader of the Opposition rose this morning to impress the House and the country with the idea that Sir George Reid. when he came out to Australia, did not mention the matter of his re-appointment.
– He did not mention it to me personally.
– An ordinary person would come to the conclusion that Sir George Reid took a trip to Australia to recuperate his health, and also to ascertain where he stood; but the Leader of the Opposition says that Sir George never mentioned the matter to him.
– That is quite true.
– Was it necessary for Sir George Reid, who appointed the Leader of the Opposition as a State Minister in New South Wales, to ask for his assistance in such a matter? When the Leader of the Opposition was “ cornered “ he had to admit that Sir George Reid had written to the ex-Minister of External Affairs, and that the matter had been considered in Cabinet. I think members of the Opposition ought- to give up their endeavour to mislead the public in such a manner. However, I hope that the Government will not be deterred by any questions that may be raised by members of the Opposition, or any motions for adjournment, from doing what they consider to be their duty in this or any other matter.
.- So far as I can gather from the remarks of my amusing and esteemed friend, the honorable member for Capricornia, the idea he seeks to place before the House is that it is a very proper thing for the Government to make party appointments; and he concluded his remarks by saying that he hoped the present Government would not be induced, by anything the Opposition might do, to make the reappointment of Sir George Reid for a longer period than that on which they had determined. When the question of the appointment of a High Commissioner was first before Australia, the name of my distinguished and gifted friend, the honorable member for Capricornia, Avas one of those assiduously placed in front as a suitable competitor for the office.
– I have no doubt that if I had not been defeated at the elections, and had wished for the appointment, I might have got it.
– And now the honorable member is back again in Parliament, and his Government have a majority. If the honorable member still desires the position, we may, in the place of the prosaic and dull, and somewhat stupid, afterdinner speeches of Sir George Reid, have all the wit and eloquence of the honorable member at the disposal of the Australian people. I urge on the Government that the High Commissioner will be valuable or not according to the confidence which those at the other end of the world have in him. It does not matter how gifted, how able, and how well fitted for his work he may be, if he is held by the British people not to be ‘persona grata to the Australian people, he cannot give his true value to the Commonwealth. I ask honorable members, therefore, to see that Sir George Reid is supported in the very able services that he is giving to Australia. I ask them not to make appointments to the High Commissionership that will be in any way political.
– This particular High Commissioner was appointed by an old rival, as a reward for fixing up the Fusion.
– That statement is utterly contemptible.
– I do nob say that it is utterly contemptible; I say that it comes naturally from the honorable member for Capricornia.
– It is quite true.
– Sir George Reid was recognised throughout Australia at the time as a man peculiarly fitted for the High Commissionership. He was accepted universally, and during the three years that the last Labour Administration was in power, Ministers did not dare to attack the appointment, nor attempt to alter it. The term for which Sir George Reid was appointed is now coming to a close, and honorable members opposite have an opportunity to fill the office with some other person. If they appoint one of themselves, and take from the office a man so worthy of it, and so capable of doing such big things for Australia, they will prove themselves unworthy of the positions they hold, and will act detrimentally to the interests of the Australian people.
– It is regrettable, though not surprising, that the Leader of the Opposition imported such great heat into the discussion of this matter.
– That is good, after the Minister’s own statement 1
– My statement wa3 made with judicial calmness and without any desire to arouse animosity. The honorable member for Melbourne has been blamed for having raised this question, but during the last few days it has been referred to by several honorable members opposite. The facts relating to the reappointment of Sir George Reid to the High Commissionership were stated by me without comment. No member of this Government has aught but the highestadmiration for Sir George Reid personally, and it would ill become us to depreciate his long services in the public life of Australia. Nor do I regard the remarks of the honorable member for Capricornia as depreciatory of Sir George Reid as a public man. The honorable member had a right to say that Sir George Reid’s appointment to the High Commissionership was a political one. He had a right to thus draw attention to the hereditary incapacity of honorable members opposite to make appointments from any but their own ranks, and to their invariable practice of ignoring the claims of political opponents.
– Did the Assistant Minister, at the time the appointment was made, regard it as a political one?
– At a gathering in this building to say farewell to Sir George Reid, I was called on bv the Prime Minister of the day to speak, and I said then what I repeat now, that I considered Sir George a very suitable man for the high office to which he had been appointed. The late Minister of External Affairs has stated the facts impartially. According to the Leader of the Opposition, the ViSit of Sir George Reid bo Australia this year had nothing to do with his re-appointment, but on the 7th February last the High Commissioner wrote from Menzies’ Hotel, Melbourne, to the late Minister of External Affairs -
I have the honour to remind you that I have entered upon the last year of my term of office.
That was a plain intimation that his object in coming to Australia was to arrive at an understanding with the then Government regarding his reappointment -
It is a matter of great importance that I should he able to form definite plans for the future. I hope, therefore, that you will be good enough to inform me of the intentions of the
Government in reference to the renewal or otherwise of my appointment as High Commissioner. I confine this letter to that question.
The Leader of the Opposition must, therefore, have known that an object, if not the main object,, of Sir George Reid’s visit to Australia was to arrive at an understanding with the Government concerning his re-appointment.
– I know that it was not the main object of his visit.
– So far as the papers disclose the facts, it was the only object of his visit. The honorable member for Angas puts upon his minute of 8th September, though written three days after the last general election at which his Government was defeated, a complexion which is plausible enough from his point of view.
– Has the Assistant Minister any objection to reading that minute?
– As the honorable member desires me to read it, I shall do so. But I wish first to make it clear that, except for that minute, there is nothing in the papers to indicate that the late Government intended to re-appoint Sir George Reid for a term of three or five years.
– I had correspondence in April and May recapitulating the statements that I had made to Sir George.
– On the 8th July last the honorable member for Angas, then Minister of External Affairs, wrote to Sir Georg© Reid as follows : -
Ky Dear Sir George,
Although the question of your appointment has been mentioned by me, it has not yet been settled. As the Prime Minister puts it - -
The Leader of the Opposition, who was then Prime Minister, denies that he knew anything about the matter, or that it had ever been mentioned. He stated that Sir George Reid had never spoken to him on the subject.
– I say so now.
– I judge this denial by the light of what follows : -
As the Prime Minister puts it, you need not worry about the matter. I hope that the question will be settled at the next full Cabinet, the meeting of Ministers being uncertain owing to the crisis.
I presume that the honorable member alludes to the attempt of the last Govern ment to secure the dissolution of both Houses of this Parliament -
You may at least act on the assumption that your term will continue for an additional twelve months.
Why is a twelve months’ term mentioned in this letter of 8th July, if a three or five years’ term was in contemplation ? Why did the Government wait until after they had been defeated at the polls to mention the longer term? That is the question which now calls insistently for answer. The remaining part of the letter deals with a matter not connected with the re-appointment.
I come now to the minute of 8th September, which, I have said, was written three days after the last election, when the then Ministers had received a plain intimation that their services were no longer required. They volunteered this hint as to what we should do when we succeeded them -
When Sir George Reid was here in February, 1914, he said that it was a matter of great importance to him that he should be able to form definite plans for the future, and that he, therefore, desired to know the intentions of the Government with reference to the renewal of his appointment.
Despite the proved fact that Sir George Reid, when in Australia, expressed anxiety as to his re-appointment, the late Ministry would not give him any understanding about it -
I brought the matter before Cabinet. There was a difference of opinion among Ministers as to the length of an extended term -
That difference of opinion was not disclosed in the papers until after the election was held - whether it should be three or five years. The question at the time not being pressing-
But it was very pressing to the person mainly concerned, as his letter of 7th February shows - and there being about ten or eleven months still of the current term, was deferred. I informed Sir George Reid of this, and that I would again submit the matter so as to give him about four or five months’ notice before the end of the year of the Government’s intentions.
Sir George Reid required at least twelve months’ notice-
I did so, but circumstances caused postponement. On the 8th July, 1914, I wrote to Sir George Reid that he might act on the assumption that he would remain on, and that the question of the term would be settled, 1 hoped, at the next full Cabinet.
There must have been many full Cabinet meetings between 8th July and 8th September.
– I do not think that there was one.
– That is not our fault.
– It is a question of fact.
– The minute continues -
As for the last six weeks or so there was no full Cabinet the term was not settled, but I have no doubt that at the first Cabinet reappointment for another term of five years would have been approved. Among other considerations the fact that Sir George, on appointment, had - in addition to his stipend as a member of Parliament - an income from his profession of about £4,000 was taken into account.
I recently wrote again to the High Commissioner, in effect assuring him that the question was three or five years’ office, and that bis certain appointment should allay any anxiety.
That is the minute in full.’ The papers do not disclose, except for the statement which I have read, that the last Government contemplated the re-appointment of Sir George Reid as High Commissioner for three or five years.
– There was an. application made by him in September, in which he recapitulated exactly the facts as I have put them.
– I do not doubt that the honorable member for Angas has correctly stated the facts. I am not questioning that at all, but I say that, as far as the papers we have in our possession show, there was no suggestion by the late Government until after the general election to re-appoint Sir George Reid for ^the longer term.
– The charge of political bias levelled against them fails.
– I am unable to accouut for the honorable member’s interpretation of the position. Our friends opposite must shoulder the responsibility for this discussion - a discussion which is much to be regretted. The Government has dealt with the re-appointment of Sir George Reid, as with other administrative acts, on the merits, and with just appreciation of the position which Sir George Reid held in Australia as well as the reputation that he has won in Great Britain.
– And in the light of all that, you thought he was worth another twelve months?
– Yes; the term named by the late Government. I do not know that I need say more just now. I have given honorable members the facts as disclosed by the official files, and from these they can form their own conclusion. The central fact is that the late Government officially promised Sir George Reid to extend his term by twelve months. This Government, whether rightly or wrongly, considered itself bound by that promise, and regarding it so, we have literally given effect to it.
– I concur in the expression of regret which has fallen from the Assistant Minister of External Affairs that this matter should ever have arisen in the House. I feel regret also that, in dealing with the matter, the Assistant Minister made such an uncandid and disingenuous statement. The matter first arose by way of a statement by the Prime Minister. Speaking from memory, the language which the right honorable gentleman used in making the announcement to the House was, that if the late Government had remained in office, the term of Sir George Reid as High Commissioner would probably have come to an end.
Mr.Fisher. - I do not think I made that statement.
– I think those are literally the words which the honorable gentleman used.
– Without a doubt they are true. too.
– The Prime Minister himself lias said nothing whatever to justify the insinuation which he threw out against the late Government, but has thrown on the Assistant Minister of External Affairs the obligation of making good that statement. Now, the Assistant Minister has not only taken the foundation from under the statement made by the Prime Minister, but he has gone further. His statement, and the minute3 and documents which he read, show that Sir George Reid was guaranteed at least as much as the present Government are giving him. Therefore the statement made by the Prime Minister, which con- veyed to this House that the present Government were giving Sir George Reid a year’s extension of his term, but if the late Government had remained m power his term would probably have come to an end, is disproved by the language in those papers. It is of very little moment to ane,. and I feel sure it is of very little moment to any member of the late Ministry, whether honorable members on the Government side accept the assurances which we give them or not, but the exPrime Minister has given an assurance to the House that the only question ever debated by the late Cabinet with regard to the extension of Sir George Reid’s term of office was as to whether the extension should be for a period of three years or five years. I desire to indorse, not only that statement, but also the other statement, that from the moment when this matter was first mentioned in Cabinet to the time of the late Government leaving office, there was no mention or suggestion, direct or indirect, of the possible appointment of anybody except Sir George Reid.
– That does not mean anything. Ministers could make the suggestion privately or separately.
– Order !
– I am not here to speak an eulogium of Sir George Reid or anybody else, but I cannot help saying that I believe that the expectations which were entertained practically unanimously by this House at the time of his appointment have been more than fulfilled. And it seems to me that the extension of his appointment for one year is a circumstance that gives rise to grave apprehension that the appointment will not be extended for more than one year. I would remind the Prime Minister that during the whole of last year the political situation was disturbed, not only by the election, which commenced in July, but, as he knows, and as we have been often told, the late Government were challenging the general opinion of the country, and were bringing forward matter on which the country was to decide whether the party that is now in power or ourselves should control the machinery of government. I ask the Prime Minister to say whether, in those circumstances - not merely during an election, but during a period when the Govern- ment were deliberately challenging the opinion of the country, it would have been proper on our part to bind those who might be- our successors, by an appointment of this character.
– You did that with the Inter-State Commissioners.
– The honorable member is wrong. The appointment of the Inter-State Commission was made almost immediately after we returned from the- polls, having obtained the sanction of the country. It was months after that appointment that a critical position arose, and the late Government decided, rightly or wrongly - the country says wrongly - to challenge the whole question of political control. I ask the Prime Minister to say whether, if he had been in the place of the honorable member for Parramatta, he would, at any time during the previous year, have taken the responsibility of making an appointment of the High Commissioner for three or five years ? I think it is fair to ask the Prime Minister whether, whilst the whole political position was in the melting-pot, and the Government were about to consult the opinion of the country, he would not, had he been in our place, have adopted the same attitude, and said, “ In these circumstances, we do not feel entitled to anticipate the verdict of the country, and to bind those who may be our successors in the Government.”
– Did not the ex-Minister of External Affairs read a letter, intimating that the late Government were going to give Sir George Reid three or five months’ notice ?
– The furthest we thought we were entitled to go before the verdict of the people at the polls was to give Sir George Reid such immediate extension of his term as would enable him to make his preparations for the future. Accordingly the ex-Minister of External Affairs assured Sir George Reid that he could expect a re-appointment for a further term of twelve months, and then we told him that we would give him four or five months’ notice, because we knew the elections were coming on, and we could not give him more. What was wrong in that? Could any other course have been adopted ? That this matter should have been brought before the country by the statement of the Prime Minister-
– Not at all. To be historically correct, the honorable member for Lang first asked the question.
– I shall endeavour to be historically correct. The honorable member for Lang did ask a question, but at the end of his answer the Prime Minister used these words, as reported iu Hansard -
A Government is not called upon to give reason!) for such an act as this. I suppose that if the previous Government had been in office, Sir George Reid’s term would have ceased f
– Quite likely.
– I do not object to the Prime Minister making any supposition he chooses, but what I say is that his public statement, having regard to his position, and the fact that he had the papers before him, was calculated to convey to the public the idea that he believed that if we had remained in office Sir George Reid’s term of office would have expired by effluxion of time at the end of this year, and would not have been renewed. I do not think that honorable members can say that that is an unfair statement. The Prime Minister has not done anything to substantiate his insinuations, but has left that indication to the Acting Minister of External Affairs, and the House may now judge the extent to which that has been done. Honorable members have heard the absolute assurance of every Minister of the late Government who has spoken on this matter, that there was no other person’s name mentioned, and no thought of any other person being appointed; that reappointment for an extended period was under consideration, that we were considering whether the term should be three or five years, that we did not feel ourselves capable honorably of binding those who might be our successors, by making the re-appointment until after the general elections; and that after the elections the re-appointment would have been made. I conclude by expressing the hope that an appointment to what, after all, is in some respects the highest and most important office to which we can appoint anybody, will not be made simply the prey of party politics.
Mi-. WEBSTER (Gwydir) [12.14].- I always listen with interest to the honorable member for Flinders when a question of this character arises, because I do not think he has any equal in Aus tralia as a special pleader. He confuses the point at issue all the time by the constant repetition of some other issue which is altogether foreign. However, the honorable member could not remove this fact, which is the main factor in the case, that the ex-Minister of External Affairs acknowledged that, through him, when they were in power, the late Government had decided, and had intimated to Sir George Reid, that he could rely on his term of office being extended for at least twelve months. That Sir George Reid could at least rely on his term being extended for twelve months was in the minds of members of the late Ministry when they were in office, but when political exigencies altered the position, and they found themselves deprived of office, the twelvemonths’ idea dropped out, and the honorable member for Angas suddenly realized that the virtues of Sir George Reid entitled him to an appointment for at least three or five years. Why did nob the Cabinet, of which the honorable member was the mouthpiece in that minute, sign the minute when they decided what is set out in it? Why did they not sign it before the elections? They could have done so. By not having done so they permit the inference to be formed that,, if they came back to office after the elections, Sir George Reid would be reappointed for twelve months; but that if they did nob continue in office they would kindly suggest bo their successors that Sir George Reid should be kept in office for three or five years, until, possibly, they might come back again to office, and be in a position bo appoint one of their own crowd.
– Whom are you calling a crowd ?
– You are not the crowd, I am glad to say, that you thought you were going to be. Without a doubt, the late Government had in their minds the making of a comfortable position for a member of their Ministry. No doubt it was the honorable member for Swan they had in their mind to appoint, had they been returned bo power-. 4’hat is why the ex-Minister of External Affairs indicated an appointment for twelve months only, but after the elections were over honorable gentlemen, including the honorable member for Flinders, pub their signature bo a minute recommending what the Government never intended prior to the elections.
– The honorable member for Flinders did not sign any minute.
– At any rate, he indorsed it.
– No other member of the late Cabinet knew anything about the minute until I had written it, and signed it. Then I told the Leader of the Government what I had done.
– I could not quite understand what the Assistant Minister was reading, but I gathered the impression that lie mentioned the name of the honorable member for Flinders.
– You are quite wrong.
– At any rate, it matters little whether it was the honorable member for Flinders, or the honorable member for Angas. The point is that the lat© Cabinet could have signed the minute before the election, but did not do so, and what I want the Leader of the Opposition to answer is why they did not do so ?
– I have told you.
– The honorable member did so in the sophisticated way to which he is prone, but which is not satisfactory to one who seeks an intelligent reply. This matter is only another example of the manner in which the party opposite adhere to the policy of spoils to the victors. Nob only are they prepared to give these spoils when they are in power, but, even when they are out of office, they endeavour to compel another Government to give them to their party. This question should not have been brought forward, because, to some extent, it will undermine the importance of the office of the High Commissioner. I have not said that Sir George Reid is not specially fitted for the position.
– Is he the veteran ‘who “ lags superfluous on the stage”?
– I do not know. The same remark was applied to me in connexion with the last election by a number of honorable members opposite. They said that I had been lingering too long upon the stage.
– You thought so yourself.
– I might have, but possibly I might have been looking forward to getting on some other stage. The honorable member for Flinders said that if they would only remove me from the stage he would remember it all his life. They were even going to send the hon- orable member for Balaclava to my electorate, but he was told that I was “ dead meat.” Had they sent the honorable member to my district, my majority would have been doubled. I hope that this is the last time that a Government on leaving office will attempt to dictate to those who are succeeding it as to what should be done in the best interests of the country.
– I was rather surprised at the absolutely cruel and unfounded accusation made by the honorable member for Capricornia. I think that sufficient answer to his accusation, and also the imputation made by the honorable member for Gwydir, will be found in the remarks made by the present Assistant Minister of External Affairs on the occasion of the departure of Sir George Reid from Australia, on the 27th January, 1910. He then said -
The Labour party is immensely pleased with the distinct honour paid to Sir George Reid
– Where is that reported?
-In the Melbourne
– Read something that carries a little weight in the House.
– Do you say that the report is incorrect?
– I say that the Argus is the greatest liar in Australia.
– Do you say that this report is a lie?
– Order !
– I repeat that the Argus is the greatest liar in Australia.
– I shall read the report of the Minister’s speech, and he can say whether it is true or false. He went on to say -
During the last three or four years, if the House had been called upon to elect a High Commissioner, the choice of Sir George Reid would have been practically unanimous.
Does the honorable member deny that he used these words?
– Possibly I did use them, but I am not in the witness-box, and you must not cross-examine me.
– The Minister ako said -
Where the States of Australia are concerned, he spoke up like a true Australian, and I hope that that will be the case in the future. He is a man of uncommon gifts and strong individuality, and must necessarily impress the people of the Old World.
– Where did you get that extract ?
– It is out of the Melbourne Argus.
– But is it a. certified copy?
– The extract has been made within the last half -hour. J an; surprised at the Assistant Minister attempting to repudiate it. Four years ago, speaking on behalf” of the whole of his party, he said that if the House had been called upon to elect the High Com-, missioner the choice of Sir George Reid would have been practically unanimous, and yet he now appears to repudiate his words. We all know that when Sir George Reid was appointed the appointment was approved of almost unanimously in the House, and throughout the length and breadth of Australia. I have no Intention of suggesting that a political job is to be perpetrated, but, after the lapse of five years, one or two individual members in an irresponsible way are making that suggestion.
– That is the suggestion made.
– And it is quite true.
– It was the suggestion made, and now it is repeated. It is absolutely without foundation; it is a contemptible and unworthy remark for any one to make with respect to the High Commissioner.
– The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, and I regret that I had to make it on account of the provocation from the honorable member.
– The honorable member must withdraw unconditionally.
– I do so, but I ani sorry that the honorable member for Capricornia can describe the appointment as a political job. He should he called upon to withdraw that accusation.
– The honorable member for Capricornia said that it was a political appointment.
– In any event, the honorable member’s duty was to take exception to the remark at the time.
– Well, it is on the records, and, of course, it is now too late to ask for a withdrawal of the words. Coming from such a source, I should not take notice of it. It may be prophetical of things to come. I am amazed that the Prime Minister should put these words on record -
I suppose that if the present Government had been in office Sir George Reid’s term would have ceased.
If he knows anything about his duties, he must have known at the time that there was in his office a letter from Sir George Reid, in which the following words appeared : -
When in Australia, early in February last, in reply to my written request, the Minister of External Affairs assured me that my appointment would be renewed subject to a question whether it would be for a term of three or live years.
A letter such as that should have been in the minds of Ministers, and, putting it mildly, the Prime Minister’s statement was most audacious, because he should also have known of the memorandum of the ex-Minister of External Affairs to this effect -
I wrote to Sir George Reid that he might act on the assumption that he would remain on, and that the question of the term would be settled, I hoped, at the next full Cabinet.
The honorable member for Angas also referred to the question of the appointment being made for three or five years. The Prime Minister must have known from the file that the term would be for three or five years. In the face of both these documents he made this most extraordinary statement, which was contrary to all the facts.
Debate interrupted under standing order 119.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
With reference to the following statement appearing in the Argus of the 26th inst: - “ According to the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Archibald), arrangements are being made to equip the transcontinental railway works with wireless plants, so that delays may be saved in the exchange of instructions between working parties. Four sets of wireless plant have been designed for this purpose by the Commonwealth engineer for radiotelegraphy (Mr. Balsillie), and they will be chiefly used at the head of the line works. A truck fitted up with a wireless plant will be stationed at the West Australian railhead, and another at the South Australian end. These plants are expected to be at work in a few weeks.” What, additional to the approvals given by hia predecessor, has been done by the present Minister in this matter?
– The recommendation was made by the Engineer-in-Chief for Commonwealth Railways and approved during the period the honorable member for Wentworth was acting as Minister. The paragraph did not claim any particular virtues for the present Minister of Home Affairs; it was merely a statement of progress being made.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he can inform the House -
To whom the wheat seized by the ‘ New South Wales Government at Darling Harbor was sold?
In what quantities?
The stocks of wheat held by the purchasers -
before the sale by the Government? (6) at the present time?
– The Premier of ‘ New South Wales has been communicated with on the matter, but a reply has not yet been received.
, - I move-
That tho ruling of Mr. Speaker - That before a point of order is taken, concerning objectionable words, they must be first taken down - be dissented from.
I shall not occupy many minutes in discussing this matter. I probably should have taken no action, but that, rightly or wrongly, I felt yesterday that I was subjected to a complete humiliation which I did not in the least deserve. I desire this morning to refer te the facts in the hope that the matter may be cleared up once and for all. It arose from my taking objection to a statement by the Attorney-General, which I regarded as a gross reflection upon the Courts outside. It is a well-known rule of Parliament that we may not reflect on Courts of justice in the performance of their duty. When, therefore, the Attorney-General said that one of the reasons for the introduction of the Conciliation and Arbi tration Bill was to prevent the Court doing a stupid act of injustice, I regarded that remark as a grave reflection, Mr. Speaker, and called your attention to it. But because the point of order was not taken with lightning speed, you held that I had no right to raise it. You said that considerable debate had ensued, and went so far as almost to suggest that you did not accept my word.
– This is a personal explanation.
– I am stating the facts. They are on record. May I not refer to them? Coming to the question as to what time elapsed between the making of the remark objected to, and my calling attention to it, I find that jb allowed a rapid speaker in this House to utter forty-seven words, and even they were in the nature of a dialogue between two honorable members. In these circumstances, therefore, not more than a third of a minute could have elapsed. I said yesterday that a minute had elapsed, but you, Mr. Speaker, controverted my statement, and said that considerable argument had ensued. Here is the fact - that forty-seven words were uttered by a rapid speaker between the making of the remark objected to and my calling attention to it. I do not know what we are going to do in this House; it seems that we shall have to spring like cats to our feet when we wish to raise a point of order. Then, again, what naturally led to some feeling on my part was the fact that while you would net permit me to take a point of order, yon allowed the Attorney-General himself to make a personal explanation concerning the very same matter. Altogether I considered myself to be very unfairly treated. You laid down the rule that words to which exception is taken must be taken down by the Clerk. There is no such requirement under the standing order governing the question. Standing order 281 provides that -
When any member objects to words used in debate, and desires them to be taken down, the Speaker shall direct them to be taken down by the Clerk accordingly.
I did not want the words taken down.. I did not ask you to direct the Clerk totake them down.. The words to whichI objected were not such as are contemplated by this standing order. Thestanding order refers to offensive wor,ds spoken of one honorable member by another. It does not relate to an ordinary point of order taken concerning some reflection made in this House upon a Court of judicature outside. I submit> therefore, Mr. Speaker, that your ruling was entirely wrong in the circumstances, and that I suffered a grave injustice not only as to the ruling itself, but also as to the circumstances and facts concerning the whole question. I do not desire, however, to provoke any debate. That is not my purpose. My point is done with now; but I feel that I was’ justified in calling attention to these facts, and in pointing out that I was properly entitled to raise the point of order in order to prevent the Attorney-General, of all others, making such a reflection upon a Court of justice.
– Does any honorable member desire to speak to the motion ? As there seems to be no wish to debate it I should like to say, in the first place, that although the Leader of the Opposition seems to feel aggrieved, I took the action that I did yesterday because at the time I believed it my duty to take it. I can assure the right honorable member that there was not the least! desire on my part to subject him to any injustice, and that lie will have exactly the same opportunity to discuss any matter before the House as is afforded every other honorable member. ^ I “have ‘had probably as much experience as has any honorable member of the exercise of the closure, and of resort to other expedients to curtail debate, and I can assure the House that no one will more ‘zealously guard the rights and privileges of honorable members than I shall do. In my political career, extending over twentytwo years in the State aud Federal Parliaments, I have always striven to preserve the rights and privileges of honorable members, and I should, therefore, be sorry if the right honorable member thought that the action which I took last night was due to any desire on my part to curtail debate. Unfortunately, almost from the inception of this Parliament, it has been the habit to interject freely across the Chamber, and some very insulting interjections are sometimes made. When I was on the floor of the House, I was in this respect, perhaps, no better than any one else, but it must be realized that the practice is improper, and honorable members must refrain from it.
My ruling last night was based on standing order 281, which provides that words to which exception is taken shall be taken down by the Clerk. That course has been followed in other Parliaments, although it has not been the practice in this Parliament to take them down. Under the immediately preceding standing order, au honorable member who is addressing the Chair, may not be interrupted except (1) to request that his words may be taken down, (2) to call attention to a point of order or privilege suddenly arising, or (3) to call attention to the want of a quorum. These are the only exceptions. I think that action is necessary to prevent interruption, and I quote this standing order with a desire to indicate what I intend to do. If the House decides that I must follow precedent, I shall do so, but, if on the other hand, itconsiders that I should continue upon the new course I have laid down, I shall certainly do so.
– I desire, Mr. Speaker-
– The right honorable member has already spoken.
– I wish to call your attention, sir, to the wording of standing order 280, which clearly gives a discretion to the honorable member raising an objection. It provides that -
No member shall interrupt another member while speaking, unless (1) to request that his words be taken down. . . .
No words can be taken down unless at the request of the honorable member raising the point of order.
– Does the honorable member say that that refers to words used by the honorable member addressing the Chair or by way of interjection V
– Order ! An irregular discussion is now taking place. If the words objected to were not of sufficient importance to induce the honorable member raising the point of order to ask that they be taken down, then the interruption could only be regarded as frivolous.
– May .1 point out Mr. Speaker-
– The debate has practically closed.
– On a point of order. Are we to assume that the right honorable member for Parramatta has replied, and that the debate is closed?
– I distinctly asked at the close of the Leader of the Opposition’s speech in submitting this motion, whether any other honorable member desired to address himself to it. No honorable member rose, and I then proceeded to make my statement. If I were to allow the debate to go ou now there would be
Hn endless discussion.
– On a point of order. Do I understand you to rule, Mr. Speaker, that I am not entitled to speak to the motion before the Chair 1
– The honorable member has a perfect right to speak to any motion before the House, but he must see that he has in this case lost his opportunity. If I were to reopen a question o.very time an honorable member so desired, there would be endless debate.
– Am I to understand, Mr. Speaker, from what you have just said, that your remarks on this particular molion closed the debate? Had I known t,11 at to be the case when you rose, I certainly should have spoken, but I understood that, I had a perfect right to speak afterwards. It is the point you raised in your last remarks that I desire to address myself to.
– Why did the honorable member not rise when he was asked to do so?
– I understand that under the Standing Orders I have a perfect right to speak to any motion, and at that particular stage I had no desire to continue the debate farther. But Mr. Speaker raised fresh matter, and it is that fresh matter with which I desire to deal.
– That would be unseemly.
-I am sure the honorable member realizes, as every honorable member must do, that it is neither wise nor desirable for the Speaker: to get into conflict with honorable members. It is the practice for the Speaker, if he has any thing to say, to address himself to the House after a debate upon a motion dissenting from his ruling has closed. I asked clearly and distinctly if any other honorable member desired to speak; and the honorable member for Richmond was, [ think, here at the time.
– I was.
– I waited for a moment or two, and, as no one showed any desire to speak, I made my remarks. The honorable member will see that I cannot allow my observations to be debated ; and, under the circumstances, the honorable member cannot address himself to the question. Do I understand that the honorable member for Parramatta desires to withdraw the motion ?
– I wish to speak to the motion.
– I rise, not with the intention of continuing the debate, but to ask you, Mr. Speaker, to remove a misunderstanding in relation to the Standing Orders.
– That is what I wished to do.
– I desire to refer to a point which is raised by the remarks of Mr. Speaker, ‘and which is not clear.
– The honorable member cannot take that course, seeing that there is a distinct motion before the House, which must either go to a division or be withdrawn.
– I only desire that the point shall be made clear for our future guidance.
– If I can assist the honorable member I shall be only too willing to do so.
– I wish to know whether it is not an inadvertence on1 .’your part, Mr. Speaker, when you say that no honorable member can object to words used or statements made during debate, or ask for their withdrawal unless he moves that those words be taken down.
– That is the ruling that I have given. I may explain that my object is to make members take the responsibility not only for the objections they raise, but also for the actions which may follow - to cause them to realize the exact position in relation to objectionable words.
– On the first occasion when the new practice is put in force, will it be open to honorable members to question its propriety?
– I wish to know whether this motion must not drop off the paper, seeing that I never heard anybody second it. and that the debate is closed ?
– The motion was seconded yesterday.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913, the following members be appointed members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, viz.: - Mr. Riley, Mr. Finlayson, Mr. Fenton, Mr. Laird Smith, Mr. Sampson, and Mr. Gregory.
– Will the Prime Minister explain why this selection of names has been made - why this proportion of four Government supporters to two members of the Opposition? It is quite outside the spirit of the debate when the Bill was before us.
– I informed honorable members before that this proportion had been decided upon as a fair one.
– Why the discrimination between the two Committees in the matter of the relative representation?
– I take it that the reason is that one Committee is paid and the other is not. I can well understand the Prime Minister desiring to make this a formal motion, because it would be much better from his point of view if no discussion took place.
– I do not wish to limit the honorable member in any way.
– I am “sure of that, since there is only one way in which he can limit me if he so desires.
– I am never likely to do that.
– I am sure of that. In my judgment there has been a complete breakaway from the understanding in both Houses as to what the composition of the Committee was to be. If there was one thing made clear, it was that it was to be a non-party Committee, composed of equal numbers from either side. This is recognised fully in the case of the unpaid Committee; and the fact seems to me to emphasize and place the Prime Minister’s present action in a very strong light. The Prime Minister has left the chamber, but I have to say that I have never known a Committee of this kind to be set up without some indication being given of the work to be undertaken by it. In the present case there is not the slightest indication of the kind : and I should like to know whether the Government have in their-mind any work on which the members of the Committee may earn their honest pay.
– It is too near Christmas to work hard now.
– What I mean is that we are setting up a Committee, although, so far as we know, there is nothing for it ‘to do.
– The members of the Committee will not be paid if they do no work.
– Quite so, but, at the same time, a secretary will have to be appointed, rooms obtained, and all the necessary machinery created at considerable expense for the carrying on of work. The question is whether we ought to create all this machinery unless there is some actual work to do.
– Did not the Act passed by the honorable gentleman’s Government provide that -the Committee should be appointed as soon as Parliament met?
– Yes; but I see no reason which makes it obligatory to appoint the Committee a moment earlier than the Government chose to do so, especially if there is no work for the Committee to do. The Prime Minister should have accompanied this motion with a statement of the intentions of the Government in regard to the future relations of the House to the Committee.
– Did the honorable gentleman not try to get the Committee appointed twelve months ago ?
– What is the use of talking like that ? Surely we ought to know whether the Government are going to waste the taxpayers’ money in setting up a huge piece of machinery to do nothing. It is not necessary to ask what the late Government were going bo do or were nob going bo do. The pre.sent Government are responsible for their own actions, and I desire to know whether they have in view any result that this Committee may accomplish. The appointment of the members of the Committee will mean nothing unless a secretary has been appointed, offices secured, and all the other necessary arrangements made. I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs, in the absence of the Prime Minister, whether this has been done?
– I ‘do not think anything will be done in that regard until the Committee is appointed
– I should have thought . the appointment of a secretary, the engagement of rooms, and so forth, would have been the first consideration; and, in my opinion, all this should have been attended to some time ago. Before the Public Works Committee can do anything, Ministers have to submit plans and specifications to the House.
– Should not the Committee be consulted in regard to the appointment of officers and other arrangements ?
– I should think the people to be consulted are the Government themselves, and that the first step would be the appointment of a secretary, who would suggest the most suitable arrangements for the carrying on of the work.
– Can the honorable member point to any Committee or Commission in the case of which the officials have been appointed before the members themselves ?
– Yes, I think so.
– I cannot call one to mind.
– There must be the necessary machinery before the Committee can do anything, and, even after the machinery has been provided the proposals and estimates for public works must be submitted to the House.
– Did the honorable member appoint the secretary of the InterState Commission before the Commission itself was appointed?
– Was the secretary first appointed in the case of Mr. Justice Street’s Commission?
– I do not know.
– I know he was not.
– What has all this to do with the Public Works Committee? The cases are not parallel. I am pointing out that before the Committee can do anything there must be plans and so forth submitted to the House; and I should think that the secretary of the Commission would have something to say in this connexion. Have the Government any public works projected ?
– It is to be hoped that they have !
– It is- for the sake of the Committee themselves, who are, no doubt, anxious to get to work. We ought, however, to know what we ‘are launching ourselves into, be cause it is virgin ground that we are breaking, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. The Prime Minister simply submits a motion containing certain names, and that is not all he is required to do. The procedure laid down in the Act is definite and intelligible enough, but we have not had a word from the Prime Minister in this regard.
Sitting suspended from1to 2.15 p.m.
– I call attention to the extreme party character of the present proceedings. As I said before luncheon, nothing was made more clear and definite during the discussion of the Billa providing for the appointment of these Committees than that they should be absolutely non-party in character, each side being equally represented upon them.
– How is that possible, seeing that this Committee has* a membership of nine?
– An amendment made by the Senate prevented absolute equality, but it was intended that the representation of the two political parties in Parliament should be as nearly equal as possible. During the discussion, the honorable member for Henty gave us the benefit of his experience in the Victorian Parliament, and argued strongly that both parties should be equally represented. Speaking on the matter when the Bill had come back from the Senate, I made these remarks, which will be found on page 4793 of the Hansard report for 1913 -
The Senate thinks that it is entitled to be represented on the Committee by three members, and I propose to accept the amendment on the understanding, of course, that the Committee is to have a non-party basis; that eachparty is to have the same representation, irrespective of all other considerations.
The honorable member for Henty said -
In my opinion, it will be better to lose the Bill than to have a party Committee. We ought to have an even number.
The present Prime Minister replied that -
It would be necessary to make the number twelve to give proportional representation tothe two Houses, and equal representation to each party in each House.
The right honorable member was as keen on proportional representation then as heis now, but he has confined the proportional representation to the two Houses. A Labour senator discussing the matter said -
There will be a Joint Committee, and bothparties will be equally represented. . . but the point I believe, in regard to the Public Works Committee, is that there should be an equal representation from both sides, and, therefore, an even number is required.
As the Senate insisted on a representation of three members, we determined to provide for a membership of nine altogether, making the representation of both parties as nearly equal as possible. But now that Labour members are in office, and have the making of these appointments, they have broken away from the understanding.
– We have changed our place.
– And therefore honorable members have changed their principles, especially since there is money in it.
M!r. West. - They are after the bawbees.
– Did the honorable member give our party any representation on the .Inter-State Commission?
– The Inter-State Commission is not a Committee of Parliament.
– I gave no party representation on the Inter-State Commission.
– What about Mr. Swinburne, the great Liberal opponent of the then Victorian Ministry? He had to be cleared out of the way, and the honorable member cleared him out by putting him on the Commission.
– My honorable friend does himself no credit by these shocking insinuations. They spoil him. Notwithstanding his great ability he destroys his influence by making such statements.
– The honorable member is only just beginning to recognise his ability.
– I have always recognised it a great deal more than honorable members opposite have done.
– I hope the honorable member will recognise it when we come to send him to London.
– Hear, hear !
– The Prime Minister’s “Hear’, hear” is rather a sickly one.
– It will be some one else’s ability that will have to be recognised when a new appointment is made to the High Commissionership.
– T think so.
– The Leader of the Opposition has been used to ploughing a lonely, solitary, disagreeable furrow for a long time.
– I am ploughing one now, with not much hope of a return.
– There is no payment for the Leader of the Opposition.
– There ought to be.
– Quite right. I offered payment to the honorable member’s predecessor. He knows that there should bc a salary foi- the Leader of the Opposition .
– Do I ?
– The Leader of the Opposition is the hardest worked man in Parliament.
– I come back to the point that the distinct understanding on which these Committees were provided for by Statute was that the representation of the two parties would be as nearly as possible equal.
– The mistake the honorable member made was in not appointing the Committee.
– It would not have made any difference to the present position if I had done so. What is being done now is in accordance with the policy and programme of the Labour party. In the State Parliament, the Liberals have always given their opponents equal representation, as far as possible, but, where Labour is now in power, it takes all the places it can on these Committees.
– Does that apply to the Liberal Ministry in Victoria ?
– When we had forty-six members in the House against nineteen Labour members, we gave equal representation on these Committees, and still do.
– M.y statement holds true of New South Wales at the present time. Matters of national importance should be kept above party consideration. Each side should select its own representatives, and the representation should be, as nearly as possible, equal, so that the Committee should have no party complexion. But what did honorable members do before they consulted us in regard to the composition of this Committee ? My honorable friends on the other side had their own caucus. They selected their own nominees, and then they told us what they had done, and said, “Here are two positions for you, if you like 10 take them.” That is far removed from the whole atmosphere of the Bill when it was being placed on the statutebook, and what is more important still, it is far removed from the intention and the purpose of a measure of this kind. However, here is the Act, and I suppose that there is no possibility of the matter being rectified at this stage. My honorable friends have rectified it in the’ other case, but really that only accentuates the unfairness and the impropriety of what they have done in this case. Here is the fact outstanding that while in one case as to which there is to be no payment, we are conceded an equal number, while in the other case in which there is to be payment, my honorable friends opposite monopolize the positions for themselves, and take care that we get the smallest possible modicum. I submit that it is most unfair. It is not in keeping with the spirit and the intention of the whole proposal, and I believe will not work out to the advantage of the Commonwealth.
.- I took a very keen interest in the Public “Works Committee Bill when it was before the House, and it may be recollected that I announced that I would not be in any circumstances a candidate for a position on the. Committee if the Bill should pass, and, consequently, I felt myself free to talk on the question from an independent point of view. When the Prime Minister was asked, by way of interjection, the object of appointing four members from the Government benches and two members from the Opposition benches, he said it was based on a fair representation of the number pf the parties as we sit to-day. He must have forgotten that the Public Works Committee Bill was introduced for the purpose of giving Parliament a greater control over the expenditure of the Government, not of Parliament. If we exclude the members of the House on whose actions the Committee is to report, and the officers, it reduces the number of members on the Government side to exactly the same number of members that are on this side, namely, thirty-two. If our opponents are going to be honest in the appointment of the Committee, apart from the other arguments which may be brought forward, clearly equal representation ought to be given to both sides. When the Bill was under consideration I moved an amendment, with the approval of the Leader of the then Opposition, reducing the number to six, and the right honorable gentleman made a speech.
– I was not a candidate.
– I know that the right honorable gentleman was not a candidate, and I did not say that he was. I was about to say that he made a speech in which he agreed with a remark I had made by way of interjection that six would be a better number, and, in his judgment, a more effective number for a Committee of the kind. If you exclude the members of the Government to-day from the members on the Government side of the House, and take the proportion that they would be entitled to, then you cannot, under any circumstances, work it out as a fair representation of parties in Parliament, and say that there shall be four on one side and two on the other.
– What about the Senate?
– We are dealing with the appointments from our own House, and if the honorable member had followed the debate here last session, he would have know that we purposely excluded what the- Senate might do from what we might do.’’.!”
– You seemed to have some fear of what they would do.
– We had no fear. I would not have supported the Bill at all if I had thought that there was going to be a scramble for the pay attached to the positions.
– You ought to withdraw that remark, because it is a most unfair one. Nobody is scrambling for the pay.
– It looks mighty like it.
– It is one of your usually insulting remarks.
– I do not care whether it is insulting or not.
– You would be afraid to make the remark outside.
– Order !
– I would say it inside or outside.
– On a point of order, sir, I ask that those objectionable words bo withdrawn.
An Honorable Member. - No, that they be taken down.
– As objection has been taken to the “words uttered by the honorable member for Henty as being offensive, I ‘Call upon him to “withdraw them.
– What were the words, sir?
– I submit, sir, that the honorable member is not entitled to catechise you in that fashion. You have directed that the words be withdrawn, and the honorable member knows well what the words were. He said that there was a scramble for pay on the part of honorable members on this side. I regard those words as objectionable in the last degree, and I ask that the honorable member should be directed to withdraw them and apologize.
– On the point of order, sir, it was ruled by Mr. Speaker this morning that any words which were objected to had to be taken down. If the words are taken down, and ruled by you, sir, to be disorderly, I will withdraw them.
– I, acting as Speaker, heard the words. They were distinctly disorderly, and of my own initiative I ask the honorable member to withdraw them.
– Certainly I withdraw them.
– If there has been a scramble, what about the appointments to the Melbourne Harbor Trust?
– -‘Order ! I call upon honorable members to cease these interjections, and to allow the honorable member for Henty to proceed with his remarks.
– He is a nice sort of man to throw mud.
– These things do not disturb me, but they are evidently getting into the hearts of the men sitting behind the Government, who are going to participate in the privileges conferred by this Act. As for saying outside what I say inside, no man has ever yet accused me of cowardice. If the honorable member for Denison would like me to repeat the words anywhere else, I am prepared to repeat them.
Mi1. Laird Smith. - You are always slabbing a man behind his back.
– Order !
– I am hitting the honorable member in the face now.
– I may aswell inform ‘honorable members at once that when I call for order I expect respect to be paid to the Chair.
Mi BOYD. - To show that my remarks are perfectly justifiable, let me point out that on the notice-paper there are motions to appoint the Committees under two measures which were passed in the first session of the last Parliament. It was the deliberate, expressed intention that as the Committees were to be appointed for the purpose of giving greater information than was supplied by the Ministry on proposals submitted to Parliament, the parties should have equal representation, so that a matter could be discussed freely and f airly on a non-party recommendation. It is a peculiar thing concerning the two proposals on the notice-paper for to-day that, whereas in the case of the Committee whose members are to receive no payment for their services, the principle of equal representation is recognised; in the case of the other Committee, the members of which are to be paid, we have a request by the Government for four nominees from the Ministerial benches, and only two from the Opposition. What conclusion are we to draw?
– Inequality of intelligence.
– The . intelligence, in the words of the honorable member for Darwin, lies in this case where the ‘ ‘ boodle ! ‘ lies.
– Is that a nice remark to come from the cultured Opposition ?
– It may not be nice, but this is not the place for saying nice things.
– But you must keep within the Standing Orders.
– If I transgress the Standing Orders, Mr. Speaker will call me to order, and I will be one of the first members to obey his behest. I am not here to say nice things when I desire to say the other kind of things, and I do not think that I was ever accused until this afternoon of being afraid to say the things I feel. If I can say within the Standing Orders what I wish to say, I intend to proceed along the lines I have been following.
– You are not slandering the editor of the. Age now.
– I am not very much afraid of the honorable member, even if he is a better man than the editor of the Age. That gentleman is of just as much concern to me as the honorable member for Denison, no more and no less, and so long as any public position is held by a public man he is open- to public criticism.
– He- is open to see you as soon as you like.
– Ah, now I understand the reason for the interjections by the honorable member for Denison. His is the last name submitted for this Committee, and I presume that if Parliament decides - I admit there does not seem to be much hope of it doing so - to be honest and give fair representation to each party on the Committee the name of the honorable- member will be the first dropped. Therefore, I can quite understand the perturbation of the honorable member. Reverting to the only reason which the Prime Minister gave for appointing four members on his own side, and two from this side of the House, we have the statement that that was in order to give representation according to the numerical strength of the parties. The whole of the members on the Government benches, including the Government, whose actions this Committee will be supposed to report upon, number forty-two, which, divided by four, gives a result of ten and a half.
– Is it right- to say that the Committee are to report on the actions of the Government?
– This is not a dry can teen, my friend.
– I assure you that that was a friendly interjection.
– And mine was a friendly reply.
– The Committee will not deal with the actions of the Government.
– Order I
– I am glad that you are maintaining order, Mr. Speaker, because my speech in Hansard will appear somewhat disconnected. If this proposal is carried-
– It will be carried.
– I know that. If I were appealing to a free Parliament I would expect that the conditions under which the Bill was carried would be observed, but if determinations are arrived at elsewhere, and the resolutions-, carried there are simply to be put en bloc on the statute-book, we- cannot expect to effect any amendment in this House.
– You are speaking with experience of your own party.
– I have had enough experience of the honorable member’s party since I have been in Parliament. I was saying- that four, divided into forty-two, gives one representative on the Committee, to every ten. and a half members on the Government benches,, and by allowing the Opposition two representatives the effect will be that sixteen men on this side will have only the same representation on the Committee as ten men on the Government side.
– You do not count the Senate.
– This House has nothing to do with the Senate, and what it proposes to do.
– Your party is hardly a make-weight in the Senate; it is little more than a vulgar fraction.
– When the Bill for the constitution of this Committee was before the House, I moved that the Committee should consist of six members, comprising four from this House and two from the Senate, so that the respective proportions of the two Houses allowed under the constitution, namely, twice as many members of the House as of the Senate, would be preserved, and so that the two parties in this House should have equal representation.
– Who supported that?
– The Prime Minister and several other members of the then Opposition. May I read a remark I made when the Bill was before the House, as reported on page 4516, Vol. 72 of Hansurd -
For a number of years I have been acquainted with the working of the Victorian Railways Standing Committee, and I say, without fear of contradiction, that it is one of the best committees ever appointed by a Victorian Parliament. It is strictly a non-party Committee. Originally it consisted of thirteen members, but now there are only six, of whom four are chosen by the Assembly, and two by the Council. So jealously is the principle of equal party representation regarded that when our present Attorney-General- that is the honorable member for Flinders^ - was returned with a following of sixty at the time of the Kyabram movement, and the Labour party numbered only nineteen, each party, notwithstanding the difference in numbers, elected two representatives.
That ought to be a sufficient answer to the Government.
– Are both parties in the Victorian Legislative Council represented ?
– There has never been a Labour representative in the Council on that Railway Committee.
– We elected the members regardless of party.
– I should like to know why this House should interfere with the business affairs of another place.
– Why are you dragging another place into this discussion 1
– I am not, except to refer to what is provided by the Constitution. My amendment that the Committee should consist of six was not carried. I believe that the number was altered to eight, but when the Bill reached another place a membership of nine was reverted to, and in order to preserve the proportions of the two Houses, six members were allowed to the House of Representatives and three to the Senate. That gave .the government two representatives from another place to the Opposition’s one, an advantage which they were entitled to have. If it had been known that this would be a party Committee I venture to say that the late Government would never have attempted to pass the Bill, and as one member constituted a majority in the last Parliament, I would not have allowed the Bill to go through, because, rather than see an Act bring into existence a Committee that was merely to be a party body to enable the Government’s own followers to indorse their actions, 1 would have voted against it. It is Lo be appointed to advise the House in respect of certain public works which are to be referred to it by the House on the initiative of the Government. Now, if the Government have a majority of their own supporters upon the Committee - knowing as we do the method by which the Labour party conduct its affairs - will not the fate of all these public works be decided before they ever come before the
Committee ? All that we shall be doing under this Bill - if the Committee is to be constituted as the Government propose - will be to create four additional paid positions for members of the other side. Such a course of action is unworthy of any party charged with the government of this country. I would like to hear arguments advanced in justification of the action of the Government, and I would like a comparison to be instituted between their attitude in granting equal representation to both parties upon the Public Accounts Committees and their attitude in declining to recognise that principle upon the Public Works Committee. Whether it be pleasant or unpleasant, I consider it is the duty of honorable members to point out the position so that we may know exactly where we stand when the country realizes what is being done. When the Bill authorizing the appointment of this Committee was under consideration, the case of New South Wales was quoted, and at that time the present Prime Minister stated -
Surely we are not going to take the Parliament of New South Wales as an example.
By that interjection he sought to convey the idea that this Chamber was going to appoint an equal number of representatives of both parties to this Committee. I feel that unless the motion be amended so as to give equal representation to both sides of the House it would be far better for it to be rejected. If it be not carried the country will at least save the money which will have to be placed on the Estimates to provide for the expenses of the Committee. The Committee will be practically a useless whitewashing body if it is to consist of six representatives from one party in this Parliament and only three representatives from the other. We ought to see that on a non-party Committee equal representation is given to both political parties. Consequently, T intend to move that all the words after “works” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ the names of three members from each party in this House.”
– I do not think that the honorable member had better move the omission of any words. Could he not create a blank in the motion?
– The amendment outlined by the honorable member would be an im- practicable one unless he moved to omit some words in the previous line.
– We do not object to the names mentioned in the motion.
– Certainly not. It is for that reason that I was anxious to omit the whole of the names. That would alford the Government an opportunity of reconsidering the position and of submitting their own nominations. It would also enable them to follow the clearlyexpressed intention of Parliament at the time the Public Works Committee Bill was under consideration, that both parties in this Chamber should be equally represented on that Committee.
– I would suggest that as a test the honorable member should move the omission of the word “ following.” He would then leave the motion intact.
– Very well. I will adopt the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition, and I therefore move -
That the word “ following “ be left out.
M’.r. ANSTEY (Bourke) [2.52].- I do not wish to occupy the time of the House at any length,
– Because it is a nonparty House. Parties have disappeared. But I do think that the honorable member for Henty should be accurate in his statements. He said that the exAttorneyGeneral, the honorable member for Flinders, was always fair in the State Parliament, and that he gave equal representation to both parties on the Railways Standing Committee of Victoria. Did he really mean that?
Mr. Boyd.^1 did.
– Now, a Railways Standing Committee was appointed in 1903, and the honorable member says that both political parties had equal representation upon it-
– Does the honorable member for Balaclava say that also ? Let us see who were the members of that Committee in 1903. I find that Mr. Craven was a member of it. Was he a Labour man ? I do not know that he was ever associated with the Labour party.
– He was, in a way.
– Then Mr. Walter Grose was a member of the Committee. I do not know that he was ever identified with the Labour movement.
– Yes, he was; he joined the party.
– No, never.
– He joined the party after he got out of Parliament.
– When he could not get in at one door he tried to get in at another.
– Like some honorable members on the other side.
– Yes, and on the opposite side of the chamber. Then there were Mr. Graham and three members from the Legislative Council, namely, Messrs. Abbott, Melville, and Morey. There were only two Labour men, viz.-, Messrs. Smith and Warde. Now what has the honorable member for Henty to growl about?
– What has been the position since 1903?
– I am not raising that question. I admit that it has been different since the time when the honorable member came into power in the Victorian Parliament.
– What I said was that after the 1904 ejection - after the Kyabram movement - there had been equal representation on that Committee.
– That is not what the honorable member said. If the memory of the honorable member for Henty has suffered a lapse, you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will remember that the honorable member said that the honorable member for Flinders, when Leader of the Victorian Government, brought in this principle of equity. If he did do so, it was the only one that he ever brought in ; but, as a matter of fact, in 1903-
– What I quoted related to a period subsequent to the 1904 elections.
– The honorable member is now correcting himself. I often do the same. When I am wrong, I always try to put myself right. The circumstances in 1904 were quite different. The honorable member for Flinders was not then in the State House. He had disappeared, and come to this House. I have no desire to enter into an argument with the honorable member for Balaclava. I admit that under that honorable member many things changed in Victoria. The honorable member changed himself; he changed the Constitution; in fact, he changed everything that it was convenient for him to change I am simply explaining that the honorable member for Henty made an inaccurate- statement, and putting him right, so that he will not make the statement again. I am sure he will thank me for what I am doing.
– It is rather opportune that I should, also call attention to- a misstatement made by the honorable member for Henty. That honorable member repeated several times that the appointment of this Committee will simply mean whitewashing the actions of the Government. He said that the Committee would be called upon to inquire into and report on. the actions of the Government.
– I referred to “proposals,” and not the “ actions “ of the Government. If I did say “ actions “ I meant “ proposals.”
– I am glad that the honorable member has again, corrected himself. He is running away from his own words. My copy of the Act shows that the Committee has to report, not upon the actions of the Government, but upon works referred to it by the House. Let me read the provisions of the Act governing the matter -
It is distinctly shown that the Committee will have no opportunity of reviewing or reporting upon anything done by the Government.
– Hear, hear! It can only report on matters submitted to it by the Government.
– That was not the impression which the honorable member tried to convey by his remarks.
– Where does the “whitewashing” come in?
– That is my next point. The honorable member for
Henty said, further, that this proposition, if adopted, would practically mean the whitewashing of the Government’s works proposals.
– The Committeewill deal with any public works proposals of the Government that are remitted to it.
– In no sense can the Committee be considered as reporting upon any action of the Government, or as a body created for the purpose of whitewashing the Government. The whole tenor of the remarks of the honorable member for Henty was opposed to the principles set out in the Act.
.- The object of the amendment moved, by the honorable member for Henty is the reopening of the question of equal representation of members in the House of Representatives upon the Public Works Committee. The remarks of the honorable member for Brisbane are an example of the liability that exists in all party discussions for honorable members to get away from the real point at issue. The honorable member gave quite a wrong impression of the point put by the honorable member for Henty. In view of my experience in the State Parliament of Victoria, I can firmly vouch for the fact that the advice tendered from this side of the chamber in regard to this matter is sound advice, and that the creation, and maintenance of any Committee of the House as a non-party Committee, by equal representation of both sides,, is a wise course to pursue. The honorable member for Bourke has alluded to a bad practice that undoubtedly crept into the Victorian Parliament in the early stage of the existence of what is known as. the Railways Standing Committee. But the wider experience gained by the Victorian Legislature in regard to the big developmental works submitted- for the consideration of that Committee fully proved the wisdom of making the- Committee a nonparty body. It had been started with that conception, but it got away from the original design until ten years ago, when the matter was rectified, though during the last ten years there has been a very extraordinary disparity of numbers in the Victorian Legislative Asembly. Within my own recollection there have been forty-six Ministerial members and nineteen Opposition members.
– How many men did you put on the Harbor. Trust ?
– I am now dealing with the Railways Standing Committee, which is a parallel body to that proposed .here. I shall deal with the case of the (Harbor Trust .later on. I am not an advocate of the Government necessarily picking a certain .number of every Committee from among the Opposition supporters. Sometimes I think that the Government should choose the men in the House whom they judge to be best fitted to exercise the important functions to be carried out. We found in Victoria that the House was more likely to accept the a’dvice of a Committee which was in no way coloured by party than that of a Committee chosen upon party lines and subject to party influences. Notwithstanding the extraordinary disparity in the State House, forty-six Ministerialists and nineteen members in Opposition, the State Government, with wisdom and fairness, decided upon the equal representation of parties, and members of the Opposition at the time acknowledged the absolute fairness of that attitude. In consequence, the reports submitted by the Victorian Railways Standing Committee have proved of immense economic service and value, arid have, -without exception, been accepted, which fact is a tribute to the wisdom of’ the Committee, and to its assiduity in carrying out its duties. In the discussion of these matters one’s own experience is always valuable, especially when .it has been obtained in regard to matters which may be similar to the experience this Parliament is likely to have with reference to the Committee whose appointment is now being considered. The reception accorded to the “recommendations of the Victorian Railways Standing Committee was. entirely due to tho fact that there was no party- colour given to the’ Committee, and during the period of the greatest constructional activity in Victoria its reports, were immediately accepted by both parties, and its recommendations adopted and put into- the Statute law of the country. We may have wider knowledge in this Parliament in these matters, but I doubt it, because the States, having to conduct such a vast programme of public works, are likely to have more knowledge, of. this subject. The present prospect is that upon our -Committee, there! will -be four men from the, Government, side and two mcn from the Opposi- tion. These men,.. every year before the opening of Parliament, are to submit’ to the Governor-General ‘ a report on :!the general character of their work, while tho joint Committee will report to us with ‘regard -to matters remitted to them’ “by resolution of. the. House, though, of course,: ‘in this Chamber we shall rely on the character of the recommendation -made by tho six representatives of this House upon the Committee. The Opposition are more likely .to accept .the reports of this Committee if, no matter what the relative strength of the parties may be in the Chamber, there is not the slightest party character given to the appointment of the body to which the works construction programme of the Government is to be submitted for report. This requirement in. regard to the appointment of the Committee is all the more necessary because there is a “ Caucus “ Government on the other side of the chamber. We use this term on the platform outside sometimes in a bantering spirit and sometimes in the spirit of fierce opposition. Let us consider the actual working of that particular machine .which honorable gentlemen opposite have grafted on to our Cabinet system of government which still, ;happily, is ruling this Parliament. The honorable gentlemen whose name’s are submitted for appointment to this Committee from the other side presumably were balloted for by members of the party opposite- in Caucus.
– What about the’ members from the honorable gentleman ‘& own side?
– The system I refer to is> unfortunately, growing on both sides.’
– It is growing in popularity -with ‘the [people. . .
– po ‘ not let us discuss just - .now .whether it is meritorious or. otherwise .in its operation. I d« not want; to know .the secrets of honorable members] opposite.; -but , I am . assuming that those proposed for appointment ‘to this Committee from, the other -side were balloted for in Caucus. In order to secure elec-tion,. they must secure the good-will pf; the .party that’ meets in Caucus. When proposals, come. from the Cabinet, that -is. the head of the Caucus,, they come, to a Committee of six. men, four of whom ar* dependent f or the very positions they.cp©?.cupy on the, Committee “to the good-will pf. the Caucus. The honorable member for Brisbane says that this is not to be a whitewashing Committee; but if the members of it are to be as human on the Committee as they are here, there will certainly be a strong desire on behalf of the Ministerial four, or of two-thirds of the Committee, to approve of the propositions put forward by the Government, in order to secure their seats on the Committee.
– The honorable member does not know our experience of this party when he talks like that.
– I know their younger brethren in another Parliament. I presume that honorable members here have the same feet of clay that members of the State Legislature possess; that they are animated by the same motives, and lifted up by the same laudable ambitions. I do not think that there is any difference between them, though we may lay the flattering unction to our souls that we are children of a larger growth. If we consider the way in which the proposal will probably work, we shall have no hesitation in agreeing that the four honorable members appointed to the Committee by the party opposite will feel naturally bound to put through the propositions submitted to the Committee if they can find any reason in them at all. I should prefer to take the recommendations of a responsible Government having still the shattered fragments of Ministerial responsibility resting upon those who occupy the Treasury bench, backed up by departmental evidence, than those of a Committee coloured by party considerations or prejudice. I have said that as inoffensively as I know how. I thank honorable gentlemen for taking what is my sincere and analytical view of the situation in which, so far as I am able to judge, they find themselves. Can we not take a broader and less dangerous track, apart. from the views held by the parties on both sides, last session, when they were differently situated? Can we not say at once, as men of the world and of affairs, that the House will take the decision of a non-party Committee with much more respect, and adopt its recommendations with much greater alacrity, than it would be prepared to do if honorable members regarded it as a party Committee? I do not think that honorable members op posite can gainsay that. If the party on this side shifted into office at the next election, I should certainly hold the same view on this question.
– Perish the” thought !
– It may be improbable.
– I believe that honorable members of both sides are prepared to be guided by the evidence, and not by party considerations.
– On the question of the evidence, the honorable member will find, as I found in a responsible position in a State House, that it will be impossible for Ministers and honorable members generally to go through the evidence collected by the Committee. We found in the Victorian Parliament that we had so many other things to do that we could not go through question after question, and answer after answer, of the evidence submitted ‘ by the Railways Standing Committee on matters of railway construction alone. We satisfied ourselves with reference to the conclusions and recommendations of the Committee. When, in connexion with one particular proposal, we found 5,000 or 6,000 questions asked of 200 or 300 witnesses, it was clearly impossible to analyze the evidence, and the practice has been to accept the analysis and deduction’s of the Committee, and to say that they shall represent the policy of Parliament. We shall have to do the same here. Our public works will grow in extent. Additional railway propositions will be made in the Commonwealth. Proposals for all kinds of developmental public works will increase with the growth of the Commonwealth, and we shall not be able to go through all the evidence collected in connexion with them. We shall leave that work to those to whom these problems will be submitted, and will say to them, “ Give us your findings after hearing the evidence.” The honorable member for Brisbane must sse that that will be the result.
– I was thinking more of members of the Committee than of the House.
– I was trying to anticipate the effect of recommendations from a Committee constituted of four from the opposite side and two from this side, and the honorable member for Brisbane implied that we should study and be guided by the evidence, regardless of the personnel of the Committee. I say that we shall not have time to study the evidence, and we should, therefore, constitute the Committee in such a way that we may have some confidence that it will recommend only proposals that are reasonable. I am informed that when the Bill providing for the appointment of this Committee was submitted to this House, honorable gentlemen now on the Treasury bench were sitting in Opposition, and they strongly recommended equality of representation.
– Hear, hear; that is so.
– I believe that Mansard contains records to that effect. If that be so, we cannot wonder that honorable members sit in uncomfortable silence during this debate. There is no joy in their faces at all, except it be in the case of the honorable member for Barrier.
– I should like to tell the honorable gentleman what I was thinking about.
– It would be very interesting to know.
– We were told at the Caucus that the. late Government wanted us to suggest two men for this Committee, and that they were going to suggest four.
– I say that that is absolutely incorrect.
– I would take Mr. Fisher’s word before I would take yours.
– So would any one else in Australia.
– The honorable gentleman cannot help being insulting.
– Order ! I again invite honorable members to assist the Chair in keeping order. I ask the Leader of the Opposition and the Minister of Trade and Customs not to engage in interjections across the chamber
– May I call your attention, sir, to the observation made by the honorable member for Barrier? Surely you heard it called out across the chamber? The honorable member said that he would rather take another honorable member’s word than mine. Nothing could be more insulting.
– Honorable members were interjecting at the time, and I called them to order. I did not hear what the honorable member for Barrier said, but if he made the remark attributed to him, I ask him to withdraw it.
– I think these observations should be withdrawn.
– I rise to a- point of order. I submit that the honorable member .for Barrier did not con f orin to the Standing Orders. He should rise and withdraw the words complained of.
– I said that I preferred to take Mr. Fisher’s word to that of Mr. Cook. I withdraw the words.
– I hope, sir, that you will not hold me responsible for this interlude. The honorable member for Barrier took my breath away when he said that he would like to tell me what he thought. I was so interested to learn what the honorable gentleman did think that I incautiously laid myself open to this interruption of the proceedings. I was about to say that, if it be true - and Ilansard can reveal the truth, or otherwise, of the statement - that when this matter was discussed in the last Parliament, honorable gentlemen who are now Ministers, and were the-n sitting in Opposition, urged equality of representation, and have since, because of their accession to power, altered their views, no more lamentable exhibition of moral inebriety has been exhibited by honorable gentlemen opposite within my memory. Can those honorable gentlemen, by ransacking their memories and their consciences, say what additional evidence they have obtained since assuming power which justifies them in supporting to-day views) which three months ago they considered to be wrong? I do not claim for the’ party with which I am identified an absolute monopoly of consistency.
– No one could claim it for that party.
– I do not think we could claim it. But honorable members opposite, who preach in season and out of season the doctrine of political consistency, will be able, if they go on as ab present, to claim an absolute monopoly of inconsistency. What additional light have they on the question to justify them in departing from the opinions they expressed in May or June of last year?- Does a mere change from the cold shades of Opposition bo the brilliantly incandescent Government, benches afford them any justification for this change of opinion ? I ask them to justify it by their consciences and by their voices in this
House. Sitting still, as they do, it seems to me that for a majority holding power over a great and growing nation, they are a most uncomfortable body of men. Faced by the recommendations of their own leader, not one member of the party opposite has risen to support the proposition. The Minister in charge of the House, if I may say so, sardonically grins at the audacity of his own Prime Minister.
– I am going to speak pre.sently of the Geelong and Melbourne Harbor Trusts.
– And the honorable gentleman, in doing so, will introduce matter entirely irrelevant to the question now being discussed. In order, however, that the House may have no difficulty in appreciating the difference between a State or Commonwealth .Committee of Public Works and ah administrative body, with no recommending -power, for the control of local government functions, I shall deal with the question in. anticipation of the Minister’s remarks. ‘ The honorable gentleman has thrown upon me a labour that I did not expect; but knowing, as I do, something of the matter, I am in justice bound to describe the difference-. We reconstituted the Melbourne Harbor Trust some two years ago, reducing it from a small, allegedly representative Parliament of seventeen members to a body of five Commissioners. The duty of that body was to control and extend the port facilities of Melbourne, just as it is the duty of similar bodies to control and improve port facilities in other parts of-‘ Australia. The Melbourne Harbor Trust had large’ borrowing powers. We increased them ‘ to the extent of £ 2,000,000. It has a revenue of a little over a third of a million, and it pays every year to the Treasury a huge sum as a contribution for certain assets. It has also a very large .and constantly increasing surplus. We found this little Parliament a mere debating society, which left in the -hands of two or three bureaucrats the administration or neglect pf the port.
– It was a useless body. : . Mr. WATT- At that time it was. In tlie attempt to reform ‘it, -we proposed originally, to place .these matters in the hands of three . business-like Commissioners. W«: at once’ raised the opposition of those whom the honorable mem ber for Darwin is pleased to address as comrades and brothers. In other words; the Labour party in the State Parliament said to us, “ You are going to destroy the democratic principle of representation; you are going to give these positions to men - some of whom will devote the whole, and others a considerable part, of their time to the work - who will .be, not elected, but selected by the Governor in Council.” .Our reply was that the Harbor Trust system was growing, like our railway system, and that we desired that it should be managed in something like the same way, by Commissionersthat there should be a responsible Minister, who would be able’ to supply Parliament with information when it asked for it, and’ that we should have Commissioners to govern this important and growing machine. The Harbor Commissioners have no recommending power Their duties and powers are prescribed by Statute.
– Do the Harbor Trust Commissioners receive any pay?
– Yes ; I shall tell the honorable member what they receive, as he is very eager on the question of pay.
– I simply wish to know the history pf the matter.
– I know that the question of pay does excite the interest of honorable members opposite.
– The honorable member’s Government thought that Mr, Holden”, then representing Warrenheip in the State Legislative Assembly, was going to be “ chucked “ out, and they made him Chairman of the Geelong Harbor Trust Commission, just as the honorable member himself “thought he was going to be “chucked” out of State politics, and therefore got out.
– The Minister’s knowledge of Victorian politics is about equal to his flimsy knowledge of the Tariff and the Department over which he presides. I shall be able to deal at a more appropriate time with the motives which induced the Government, of which I was then the head, to appoint the gentlemanhe names as Chairman of the Melbourne Harbor Trust; and also to explain why I retired from State politics to enter this higher, and, as I thought, rarer, political atmosphere.
– Does not the honorable member think it is a rarer atmosphere !
– I did until I heard the honorable gentleman’s ebullition this morning. I began then to doubt whether it was a rarer atmosphere, but his subsequent judicial utterance-
– And frigidity.
– The honorable member’s exceeding . frigidity led me to think that he had a double personality - that he was two . different persons in the one pair of boots. We appointed five men to improve the administration of our ports and harbors. We selected the best men available, and already, in the brief time during which they have held office, they have achieved reforms which, according ‘to the admission of the mercantile community of Melbourne, interested only in securing uptodate improvements, are little short of marvellous. The honorable member for Henty is one of the distinguished members of that Commission. Not only is he distinguished as a successful member of that quintet, but he is there to. represent the important -exporting’ interest, and does so with conspicuous ability. Whether honorable members agree with the views of these five men or not, they must admit that they are doing good work. But here is the point of contact between myself and the Minister in charge of the House : He implies by his interjection that an administrative body like the Melbourne Harbor Trust is on all-fours with an investigating body such as that we are now discussing. If the honorable gentleman will reflect a little more - and in the busy life he is leading, struggling with his own party, over the- Tariff and other matters, he has not had much time for reflection, as many of his interjections show - he will recognise the difference.
– Do not worry about me.
– The honorable member must conclude thai there is a vital difference between the two- bodies. The one, according to the Statute providing for its creation, must be a parliamentary body ; it must be composed of members of this Parliament. On the other hand, members of the Melbourne Harbor Trust need not be members of Parliament. The State Government was at liberty to select the men it considered best fitted to conduct that big concern, and the Commissioners have large statutory powers. There is a vast difference between a public works committee, which is merely an investigating and reporting body, and the Mel bourne Harbor Trust, the Geelong Har: bor Trust, and other like bodies that are doing a useful and fruitful work all over Australia. I do not wish to labour this question. Those who read the Act carefully will see that in passing it this Parliament was in a grave mood. It prescribed a course with which those who have sat in our State Parliaments are familiar, declaring that all works the estimated cost of which exceeded a certain sum - £25,000, I think- must be introduced, reported upon, and started in a certain way. So important did- it deem the ‘ functions of this Committee to ! be that it imposed upon those acting upon -it the’ obligation of taking a fresh oath. It evidently’ felt that the duty of recommending Parliament to pass a substantial sum in respect of any work imposed a higher ‘ obligation than is ordinarily cast upon -a . member of Parliament. . It therefore ‘prescribed in a schedule to the Bill that the following declaration should be made: -
I, A: B., do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that, according tothe best of my skill and. ability, I will faithfully, impartially, and truly execute the office, and perform the duties, of a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
– Would any man break that oath ?
– I have known members of the party to which the honorable member belongs to break an oath.
– But we can fix them up, because we have their signatures.
– I knew a member of the honorable member’s party who broke his oath - his oath of allegiance to the King - fand he is still a member of the Labour party, and his party in the State in which we are now sitting acknowledged that that was so, because they permitted a resolution to that effect to be carried nem. con.; he is still a member of the party. I will admit to the honorable member for Maribyrnong that, broadly speaking,- honorable members opposite are. as honest as those on this side. I dp not claim, nor affect to believe, that we possess all the virtues, and that honorable members opposite are dishonest, and have all the vices. We must not reason in that way, whether we are member.s of parties or not.
– You. cannot do that, be-‘ cause some of your members will be am the same Committee, and take the same oath.
– They will discharge the duties as well as they are able. Upon the Minister himself is imposed, for, the first time, the statutory obligation prescribed with regard to public works in the future, and the members of the Committee will, in accordance with the statutory form, undertake to perform the. duties of their office faithfully and to the best of their ability. That being so, it is clearly our duty to elect a Committee in whom the House will have faith. If we start off scratch, as we are now doing, with unequal representation, how do you expect us to accept without qualification the reports of the Committee? There must be occasions when a minority and majority report will be presented by such a Committee, the four members representing that side reporting in favour of a certain proposition, and, possibly, the other two reporting against it as a minority. What position will we be in then? If party lines divide the members of the Committee, as they inevitably must, tlie Committee being constituted as proposed, this side will not take any notice of their recommendations, and we shall, have got no “forwarder” iri the desire for an impartial investigation. The honorable member for Henty said, “ Parliament is evidently impressed with the fact that we have not sufficient impartial information given to us now with respect to important public works proposed by Ministers, and has said, Let us appoint a tribunal with a system which will give it to us.’ “ Parliament, iu other words, feels at a loss. Party lines compel us to vote for or against a proposition for public works, although sometimes there is no party incidence in it. Let us construct a scheme which will give us all the information we desire regardless of the views of the Ministry, and then we shall be in a position to pronounce, without undue delay, on the wisdom of the proposed works. This is the wisest Ordinance that Parliament has passed in that respect, judging by the experience of Parliaments in other parts of Australia ; but I beg the Minister now to consider that, unless we keep party colour out of the Committee, all our endeavours will be futile. If we get a minority report, .we shall be justified in using all the evidence collected either by friends or foes of the proposition in this House in debating the proposal. This will intensify and prolong, rather than simplify and shorten, discussion.
– Do you think the House would take any notice of the report, even if the Committee were evenly divided?
– There is less likelihood of a report which will separate party from party if the representation is distributed equally.
– You cannot make it equal with a Committee of nine.
– I am speaking only of the representation of this House. It isnot our business to consider the effect on the Senate.
– The Committee must sit as one.
– But the report, although a joint one, is presented to this House.
– There will be a majority for one side even under your amendment.
– It just happens that the Labour party have a substantial majority in another place. If the> opposite were the case, as may cometo pass in years to come, the arguments we would use here ought to be confined to our own House, whether or not there are going to be two Liberals and oneLabour man from the Senate, or the reverse.
– Does not your argument imply that there should be an evennumber of members on the Committee - say, ten, instead of nine?
– No. The Government arealways entitled to the chair, if they want it, in a Committee of investigation, and’ that chair generally has a casting vote, as it has under this Act. It is always safe to assume that a Government have a majority in their own House, and are entitled! to the balance of power; but that does not justify one in going the length that, this proposition does.
– That is why the last Government wanted four members from, their side in this House, because they knew they could get only one in theSenate. They wanted a majority.
– Let’ us examine the evidence behind that interjection, which ie now repeated for the second time.
– It happens to be correct., and every one knows it.
– It is not correct; and when the honorable member for Barrier made the same interjection earlier in the day, it was emphatically denied by the hoad of the previous Government.
– It is absolutely incorrect.
– The honorable member for Barrier accepted the denial, and it is a breach of parliamentary etiquette for him to repeat the assertion now. On the previous occasion the then Opposition pleaded for equal representation; but, having gained office, they have changed their attitude. That is unworthy of them, seeing that no new light has burst on us regarding the adoption of what is described as the “ spoils to the victor “ attitude. Spoils to the victor are all right if all the brains are on one side and all the dullness on the other side. If you cannot find in the Labour party a man to manage a bank, you have to go to the much-denounced plutocratic class to select a man. The party opposite cannot always give spoils to the victor, because they do not always have competent men from whom to choose; and that is what happened in regard to the appointment of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank.
– Try us ! What about the honorable member for Darwin ?
– I modify that remark by saying they do not always have eligible men; and, in view of the vast amount of money which the honorable member for Darwin has amassed, I know he is not seeking for the responsibility of. conducting the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. That is doubtless why he went to the then Treasurer and said, “ I am not a candidate for the position ; please get some one else, even if he be an unqualified man.”- Generally speaking, however, the most efficient man is chosen ; and if, in the Harbor Trust illustration, to which the Minister of Trade and Customs has drawn my attention, it had been possible for us to get a man whom we regarded as more highly qualified for the administrative work from the ranks of the Labour party, that party would have had its chance. But we did not find such a man, and none of the party applied - there was no Labour party man in the “offing.”
– A fine “ chance “ the Labour party would have had !
– The Labour party would have had a good chance if the members of it had been able to prove their qualifications.
– They are too busy making money. “ Mr. WATT.- That may be so, judging by the number of men in the corner who, according to one honorable member, can write a cheque for £20,000. We did not choose men merely because they were on our own side, but because we thought they were better qualified than any of our opponents, who apparently recognised that fact, seeing that they did not seek selection.
– Probably they would have had no chance.
– In view of the conspicuous fairness with which the affairs of Victoria were then conducted, they would have had an excellent chance if they had been properly qualified and had had the temerity to apply. However, I am probably merely beating the air, seeing that honorable members opposite have made up their minds; but I emphatically register my view that the wrong procedure is being adopted. The time will come within a few years, whether parties change or not, when we shall recognise the futility of the present course of action, and affirm the principle, regardless of the numbers on either side, of equality of representation. In that spirit I hope the Minister will consider the amendment carefully. It is not submitted in a fighting spirit, though my Caledonian friend disguised that fact somewhat successfully : but in a spirit of due humility.
– The honorable member means equality, .so far as we can get it with nine members on the Committee.
– I recognise that the chairmanship and the balance of power belong to the. Government; but when we have bo select six men, three on either side is the only proportion that can satisfy the conditions I have endeavoured to establish. The amendment is submitted with a desire to settle the question on a different and better basis, and I hope the Government will accept it in that spirit.
– I desire to offer a personal explanation. It has been stated during the debate, and repeated with emphasis, that the proposal of the late Government was to select two members from the Opposition and four members from the Government side. I wish to say that my intention - and that intention has never been deviated from for one instant - was to give, as far as possible, equal representation to the parties, recognising, as I do now, that the Government are entitled to the odd man. In the Bill that we sent to the Senate, provision was made for eight members, giving absolute equality of representation; and, when Labour senators decided on an odd number, my intention was - and this intention also has never been deviated from - to have the Committee composed of five Ministerialists and four Labour members.
– That is precisely what I said.
– The honorable, member for Parramatta has borne out exactly the interjection of the honorable member for Barrier.
– In what way?
– It was well recognised that in the Senate, where we had twentynine members as against seven Liberals, we were surely entitled to two representatives, and the other side to not more than one. The . intention of the honorable member for Parramatta was to have the remaining six members of the Committee selected from this House, four being from the Ministerial side.
– I never said such a thing.
– We, as a party, knew nothing about it.
– I sympathize with the honorable member for Franklin, for, if there is a member in the House who ought to be on this Committee, it is that gentleman. Did the honorable member for Parramatta expect that, with seven members in the Senate, two of his side would be appointed to- the Committee? At the present time, the honorable member’s party is represented in the Senate by only five men; and even with seven members, as was then the case, could he expect two to be appointed while only one represented the- twenty7nine Labour senators? The honorable member for Balaclava, pretends that his party in the Victorian State Parliament is so’ eminently fair that they have . given the Labour party equal representation on all Committees. . . ;
– I did. not say anything of the. kind., , , .
– But what about the Railways Standing Committee, as it is constituted now, or as it has been constituted since 1903 ?
– I spoke of 1904.
– Let us take the Railways Standing Committee as it is constituted at the present time. There are relatively as many Labour representatives in the Legislative Council of Victoria as there are Liberals in the Senate.
– The Legislative Council can appoint any members it chooses to the Committee.
– The honorable member absolutely deceives the House when he does not tell honorable members that the representatives on the Railways Standing Committee-
– I rise to a point of order. The Minister has accused me of deliberately deceiving the House, though Ido not know whether you, Mr. Speaker, heard the remark.
– I did not understand the . Minister to say that the honorable member had “ deliberately “ deceived the House, though this may have been done unintentionally. -However, if the honorable member regards the word as offensive, it must be withdrawn.
– I withdraw the word if the honorable member for Balaclava regards it as offensive, and will say that he absolutely misrepresents the - facts to the House.
– Surely, that is adding insult to injury?. , .
– Will the Minister withdraw the word unreservedly, and confine himself to the question ?
– I unreservedly withdraw the word. The Standing Committee on Railways, as constituted up to the time of the dissolution of the State House three or four weeks ago, consisted of ‘Mr. Cameron, anti-Labour- :;
-No; he is a Liberal.
– Of Mr. Barnes’, anti: Labour- -
– No; he!. is a Liberal. ., .
– Of Mr. Hicks, antiLabour ‘ ,
– Half. - ,..
- Mr. Melville, antiLabour ; - - …
– And the remaining -two, Mr. J. W…Billson,.and<Mr..E. . C.’WaTde, were the only* two Lahour members, on the Committee. That is how the Committee was constituted when the honorable member for Balaclava was Premier of the State of Victoria.
– Quite right! But the Minister does not understand.
– The people’ outside understand though, and the honorable member’s bluff - I do not suppose that is offensive - will not go down here as it has elsewhere. The honorable member has referred to the Melbourne Harbor Trust and the Geelong Harbor Trust, and, though I have nothing to say against the members of those bodies personally, I ask, Were the men who were chosen to fill those positions chosen because of their merit alone?
– I find no fault with appointments in regard to which only merit is considered, but I do not think that members of the honorable gentleman’s party here have all the merit. One might think, from what the honorable member for Balaclava said, that his party would act differently from the manner in which we have acted. I remember, however, that the Deakin Fusion party appointed six of its members to a Library Committee, consisting of seven members. What about the Food Prices Commission? Were not the consumers entitled to representation, and were none of them of sufficient ability to fill a position on the Commission? The Commission was formed of three men, one of them a Government official, of whose politics I know nothing, and two others belonging to the Liberal party.
– Their names were submitted to the honorable gentleman’s leader, and approved by him.
– The honorable member, when he brought down the Bill providing for the appointment of a Public Works Committee, proposed a Commission of nine members. The number of members was altered to eight, and then back to nine again. I feel confident that the members who have been proposed for the Works Committee will do their work as ably as any other members of the House could do it. I trust that the amendment will not be carried. - Mr. Richard Foster. - Still, the Committee is proposed to be a partisan one.
– It will be constituted just as it would have been constituted had the Liberal party remained in power. Why was the Public Works Committee Bill rushed through on the last day of the session of 1913?
– The matter was urgent, because we were at the end of the session.
– Apparently there is no urgency now. The Leader of the Opposition says that he does not know what work the Committee will go on with.
– I did not say that.
– I understood the honorable member to say that the Government should have provided accommodation for the Committee, and appointed a secretary and staff before nominating members to the Committee. But that course was never taken. The honorable member knows well that the Inter-State Commission selected its own secretary, and that Mr. Justice Street, when made a Commissioner to inquire into the meat industry, appointed his secretary.
– It is impossible for the Minister to represent anything I say fairly.
-The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it; but I complain on a point of order that the Minister keeps charging me with having said certain tilings, and repeats his statements after I have denied the accuracy of them. I submit that he must accept my denial.
– It is the general rule that a member must accept another’s denial, but that does not prevent him from stating any facts that he wishes tostate, and thinks proper to put before the House.
– Why is the Minister getting so warm?
– I am not half as warm as was the honorable member when he was defending some of the appointments which he made when a Victorian Minister. He took one man from Ballarat East to Geelong, and another man from Warrenheip.
– Both good men.
– I say nothing against them personally.
– The Minister wishes to damn them by innuendo.
– I am desirous that the “Works Committee should be appointed, so that it may get on with its work.
– Has the Govern- ment any work for it to do?
– I think that more work ought to be carried out now than at any previous time. The need for giving employment is greater to-day than ever it was before. Surely the appointment of the Committee is justified now, if it was justified when the honorable member proposed it nearly a year ago. I think that the Committee will do good work.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) proposed -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Committee of Public Accounts Act 1913, the following members be appointed members of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, viz.; - Mr. Charlton, Mr. Burchell, Mr. W. Maloney, Mr. Fowler, Mr. Atkinson, and Mr. John Thomson.
.- I would have liked the Minister of Trade and Customs, if he could have seen his way clear, to tell the House why, in the case of this Committee, equal representation is given to both sides of the House. I would have liked the honorable member to state whether he agrees with the argument submitted by the Prime Minister in the first case, namely, that there ought to be proportional representation, and, if he does, why he is not now proposing to give proportional representation to the honorable members on the Government benches. The members- of this Committee will have to work without payment or hope of reward. Why should the Government, in the generosity of their hearts, give equal representation to both aides of the House in this case, and not in the other ? It is much more remarkable that the Minister of Trade and Customs did not utter a solitary word as to why the proportion is as it appears in the motion. If I may be permitted to reciprocate the feeling which he expressed in his remark, that he hopes that he retains whatever friendship existed between us, I may say, with the greatest of good feeling, that friendship will always exist between us. But I hope that anything we may find it necessary to say about one another will not be affected by our personal feeling or regard.
– I did not hear that.
– I was saying all the nice things I could say about the honorable member.
– That is not very much.
– Yes, it is. I have a very high regard for the Minister of Trade and Customs. I hope that amongst the numerous friends I have in the House I have a good many friends on the other side as well as on this side, but I shall never at any time cease to give expression to my opinions, whether they offend or not, either members of my own side or members on the other side. With regard to the appointment of Committees by Governments generally, may I say to the Minister of Trade and Customs that when the Bill to reconstitute the Harbor Trust was going through the Victorian Parliament an attempt was made in the Legislative Assembly to make it purely a Government nominee body; but Parliament would not adopt the suggestion, and ultimately it stipulated that certain classes of individuals or different groups should be entitled to be represented. As the honorable member for Yarra knows well, each of the “five groups has its own representation, and the only function which the Government have in the matter is to make the appointments from the nominees selected or submitted in that case. I, as a member of the Trust, represent a huge exporting interest in this country, because I am connected with the business, and not because I was a member or ex-member of the State Parliament. I wish to clear up the idea in the honorable member’s mind that the appointment of a man to that administrative body was made on the ground of his connexion with politics in any shape or form. There is quite a number of persons outside Parliament who think that once a man becomes a member of Parliament he loses all qualification to fill any position outside. I am not one of those who hold that view, and I hope that it never will be held generally by the community. It is an insinuation often thrown at members of Parliament, and even after men go out of politics, if by any chance they should be appointed to a public position, that they have been appointed by the Government because they were members of Parliament or colleagues.
– No; they think when a man Co]]es in he has no qualifications.
– Some persons hold that opinion, but they are few. There is a great number of persons who think that once a man is thrown out of public life any qualifications he ever had for a public position are gone. I certainly would like the Prime Minister, before this motion is passed, to give some reason why he has departed from the principle he adopted in the case of the previous motion. Surely we are entitled to get some explanation of the variation, or is the motion simply, in the classical language of the honorable member for Capricornia last session, to be “ drummed through by a brutal majority “ ?
– I can only say that it must be due to the persuasive eloquence of the honorable members opposite.
– I would like the Prime Minister to state publicly whether it is from that sense of justice of which I know he is so fully possessed that he gives equal representation in the case of the Committee whose members are not to be paid and not in the case of the Committee whose members are to be paid ?
– I am able, fortunately, to tell tlie honorable member for Henty the reason for the fairer arrangement relating to this Committee. I asked the Prime Minister if he would appoint equal numbers on this Committee. I asked him also if he would appoint equal numbers on the other Committee. In the one case he told me that the Caucus had already decided on the nominees, but as -they had not decided on the nominees for the Finance Committee, he would be very glad to try to secure equal representation on it. He has done so.
– And you took that explanation 1
– I took the explanation, of course. The outstanding fact remains that the Caucus had already dealt with the Committee which will have to do with the money, and it did not trouble so much about the Committee which is not to be paid. That was why I was able, I take it, to secure equal representation on the Finance Committee, a fact for which I here and now express due appreciation to the Prime Minister.
– I wish to thank honorable members for their courtesy, but they need not make so much of it. This is the first opportunity that has come to this party to have anything like a majority. I have had an experience of eighteen years without seeing a single thing given to us, and in the case of one or two appointments made by a previous Labour Administration men who had Labour principles were dismissed summarily when the other party came into power.
.- I do not know whether the Prime Minister will be very satisfied with his address when he sees it in print. It is practically an acknowledgment that now that Labour has come into its own he hopes to give it the deferred rewards of many long years. That is not the kind of reasoning we had from the Minister of Trade and Customs in regard to the appointments to other Committees. I believe that if this spirit is prosecuted in any widespread way we had better tear the Public Service Act, rip up half the Statutes–
– And bury all the Liberals.
– And bury all the Liberals, though my honorable friends will’ find them the liveliest corpses they haveever endeavoured to inter. Undeterred! by the interjection, let us push the matter to its fullest logical extension. If it be a question of giving the sweets and rewards to either the officers or the rank and file of the Labour organizations, which they have been denied by social pressure so long, why do we not say that the Public Service Act shall give to supporters of the Labour party employment, and that wherever we can reward a follower by preference or preferment or promotion of any kind it shall be done? That is what the speech of the Prime Minister boils down to. There have been countries which have done that, but they are mostly “ black “ countries. The head-hunting African generally likes to reward the man who hunts with him slays with him, and lives in savagery with him, and is his pal. But civilized countries have been working away from that for generations, and the last to emancipate itself was the great American Republic.
– Victoria has not got »way from it yet.
– In Victoria, quite a number of Labour men were appointed to positions, and some of them failed to discharge the duties of the office; but I am not dealing with that phase now.
– Give us the names of some of the men.
Mr.- SPEAKER.- Order !
– The great American Republic at one time permitted the introduction and growth of this great cancer. Until successive Commissions reported on the absolute inefficiency of the services of the United States of America, and by steady procedure, chiefly developed by Mr. Roosevelt in his second term of office as President, they wiped out, if not all, at least the great bulk of the application of the theory which the right honorable gentleman has enunciated to-day. I hope he will not permit the growth of that thought in his mind, because it is a noxious weed, and if it is applied as he now seeks to apply it, it ought to be applied in a general fashion. The appointment of equal numbers from both sides on the Committee of Public Accounts seems to be an acknowledgment by the Government that they ought to have done the same thing with the other Committee, but, unfortunately, the request came too late. If that is so, why does not the Prime Minister acknowledge it? We are justified in assuming that it is because the Works Committee is paid that equal representation of both parties will not be granted.
– The honorable member is not in order in imputing unworthy motives.
– I will withdraw the statement, although, while you were in the chair, the honorable member for Henty, “ a brither Scot “ from the same part of West Scotland as the Prime Minister, said the same thing.
– He did it so gracefully that it was not detected.
– I ask that the Prime Minister will carefully study the operation of both these Committees, and I venture to think that if he does that he will see the manifest injustice of the resolution which has just been passed when it is in actual operation, and he will at the earliest possible moment remedy it by providing for equal representation next session.
.- I do not think the honorable member for Balaclava intended to make any personal reflection on me when he stated that a remark for which he was called to order by you, sir, had been made previously by the honorable member for Henty. That remark was made by the honorable member for Henty, and I, as Deputy Speaker, immediately called him to order.
– I ask leave to withdraw the statement. I have no desire to reflect on the Deputy Speaker. I was under the impression that Mr. Speaker was in the chair.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister just one question. Following the point taken by the honorable member for Balaclava in regard to the system under which tho Ministerial party conduct their business, I ask the Prime Minister what has he to offer Australia in return for the appointment of a Committee to investigate certain works which probably the Ministerial party have decided upon in advance, when a small number of that party, being a majority of the Committee, are to set to work to decide whether the propositions which the party as a whole have resolved upon are fit and proper works to be carried out?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I do not think we can congratulate ourselves on the business done this afternoon, but I understand that it is the general wish of members of both Houses that, as a member of this Chamber, Colonel Ryrie, is soon to proceed to the front, we should, at a convenient time, probably on Wednesday, adjourn before dinner, and give him a little send-off.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– Having said that much, I hope honorable members will allow us to proceed with necessary business in the time at our disposal un Wednesday.
– What is the business for Wednesday?
– The Banking Bill.
– I thought we were to have the Budget.
– The Budget will be presented on Thursday. After it is dealt with there will be some necessary financial legislation in the way of granting Supply to meet requirements over a considerable adjournment, say. about eight weeks, if that is convenient to honorable members.
– Make it. eight months.
– I am afraid that if we were to attempt to adjourn Parliament for eight months, those who ask for such an adjournment would be the first to complain.
– February is the hottest month of the year.
– I think an adjournment from the middle of December till the middle of February would be convenient. It must be remembered that these are times when it may be necessary to convene Parliament at any moment; let honorable members beware of that. Do not let us have the idea that Parliament can be shut up for a long period, because even in a period of two months it may be necessary for Parliament to be hurriedly convened. Subject to that, we should endeavour to have a fairly lengthy adjournment over the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) [4.10J. - I hope the Prime Minister will not be niggardly in regard to the duration of the adjournment. I candidly do not believe that Parliament ought to reassemble in the middle of February, tho hottest time of the year. Tho earliest date at which we should return to our labours is the month of March. There will be nothing spoiling in the meantime, and I am sure the right honorable gentleman himself will admit that he will be doing bettor service to this country and to the Empire if he is not bothered with party matters in the House. That is my profound impression. It is as much in his interests as in mine, and it is more in the interests of the country than it is in his or my interests, or the interests of the parties we represent, that there should be a fairly long recess. Remember, we have had practically no recess this year. I submit that the right honorable gentleman looks as if he needs a rest for the sake of his health, and I think, therefore, that the latest date at which we can meet again is time enough for party squabbles. The Tariff will come all in good time. Meanwhile, let it not he forgotten that as a result of the war we have a prohibition over a large area of our ordinary importations at the very moment. My impression is that there will be nothing spoiling in that respect, and we shall deal with the Tariff all the more intelligently if, before addressing ourselves to it, we have the report of the Commission which is now investigating it.
– Let us get on with the Tariff as quickly as possible.
– I know we all say that. Honorable members say it with their tongues in their cheeks, but they know as well as I do that there is no urgency at the present time regarding any of these controversial questions, and having regard to the aspect of affairs overseas, the further we can keep controversial questions out of the Chamber the better for all concerned.
– What have you been doing all day?
– I have been painfully listening, in a spirit of complete self-sacrifice, to the honorable member. I have had to drag myself here, and to remain listening to what he had to say, and it has pained me beyond measure. There is another question I should like to ask the right honorable gentleman, and it arises out of something said by his colleague during the course of debate. That honorable member said that one of the Commissions appointed by the late Government had been appointed on a party basis. He referred to tho Foods Commission, consisting of Mr. Deakin, Mr. Dugald Thomson, and Mr. Knibbs. The right honorable gentleman will recollect that when that Commission was appointed I notified him of its composition, and he was good enough to send me hi3 approval.
– My hearty approval.
– After what the Prime Minister’s colleague has been saying, with all the bitterness his tongue can command, it is necessary that I should ask the right honorable gentleman whether that attack was because two of the members of that Commission belonged to the Liberal side when they were in politics? It is well known that both of them retired from active politics long ago, and I say that there are no two fairer-minded men in the community. These are the considerations which entered into the composition of the Food Commission.
– He said nothing about their fairness. He said that they were anti-Labour men, and so they are.
– So they are not.
– Why, Mr. Dugald Thomson assisted the Liberals in the last campaign. I do not blame him for doing so.
– As the Food Commission, which has not completed its inquiries, has had its commission terminated, I ask whether that course has been taken because it was mainly composed of Liberals ?
.- I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs what has been done in connexion with securing steamers for the lighthouse service ?
– In regard to lighthouse steamers, the position is that a tender from the honorable member’s constituency - that of Messrs. Poole and Steele - which was the only Australian tender received, has been accepted. The firm in question will build three steamers for the Commonwealth at a cost of about £50,000 each.
. - I wish to make one observation in reply to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition concerning the Tariff. I want to assure him that a protective Tariff will be carried through this Parliament “with the aid of the party which is pledged to that course, and which is honest enough to respect its pledge. He will understand that it may not be advisable to bring forward the Tariff proposals this side of Christmas.
– Because to do so would involve the re-assembling of Parliament in January .of next year. I have sat in this House during the month of January, and I say that whilst nobody ought to object to working in this splendid building of stone, which is cool in summer-
– Cool as a mausoleum.
– Is the honorable member alluding to the mausoleum in which he planted the late Sir Thomas Bent?
– Where the honorable member will be shortly.
– I will live to see the honorable member under the ground, and if I have to search for him in the next world I shall find him in a hot corner. Upon the question of Protection I feel very strongly, and therefore I resent the jocular tone of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. I would like the Prime Minister to- tell us when he intends to introduce the Bill relating to the initiative and referendum - that great question which some Liberals are alleged to favour. If that measure be introduced before the Christmas adjournment, it will be a great education to the people who are hungering for it. I can assure Liberal members of this House that when that Bill becomes law, and the power over legislation rests with the people, they will never again have an opportunity of appointing Committees similar to those to which reference has been made to-day.
– In another place there has been a great deal of talk this week concerning the establishment of dry canteens and the behaviour of our soldiers.
– Order ! The honorable member must not discuss that question.
– I do not propose to do so. But every night after this House rises I have occasion to travel on the Broadmeadows line as far as Essendon, and I seldom fail to see a number of soldiers on their way to the camp at Broadmeadows in a condition which is a hardship to their comrades, a disgrace to their country, and a reflection on the administration. Surely it is time that something was done to put men who are disgracing their comrades, in a place where they can disgrace them no longer”. It is shocking that there should be so much claptrap talked about dry canteens, juid that we should allow -this sort of thing to go on nightly without a word of protest.
– Does the honorable member believe in wet canteens?
– I believe that there should be dry canteens, and that that principle should be observed absolutely. It is useless to send drunken men to the front. Most of our troops, I believe, will do credit to us there, but the Government should certainly take some action to eliminate from our Expeditionary Force those who are disgracing the King’s uniform,
– Whatever else honorable members may do, I suggest that they should not discuss in this House the matter to which the honorable member for Robertson has alluded any more than they can avoid. Having said that, I may be permitted to express my own view, which is that the superior officers in camp have been very lax in that particular matter.’
– They will tune the offenders up when they leave Australia.
– I have occasionally seen very good men in an inebriated condition. In regard to the. remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne, I wish to say that the Bill relating to the initiative and referendum which . is so dear to his heart, will be introduced as early as possible, together with other measures of equal importance to which he has referred. Regarding the- suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that a certain Commission has been closed-
– I did not make the suggestion. I asked what the Minister’s colleagues have been saying about it?
– I think that their labours are practically over. They made a communication to me some time ago, but their usefulness docs not seem to be eo great now, and we find that the information can be obtained equally well through the Departments. It is only, fair to- say that the gentlemen comprising the Commission have- no desire to continue as a Commission now that their services are no longer required for that purpose. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that they were a very good trio for this particular work, and that they did good service.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.26 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 November 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19141127_reps_6_75/>.