8th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
Grant to States for Public Works
– In reference to the £250,000 which is being allotted to the States for the making of roads, &c, in order to give relief to the unemployed, I desire to ask the Treasurer what restrictions, if any, are being imposed by the Commonwealth on the methods of distribution, and what State authority will, have the distribution of the money?
– The position is that the Commonwealth will advance money to any State that will enter into the necessary agreement. The control of the money so advanced will bo left entirely in. the hands of the State authorities. The only restriction imposed by the Commonwealth Government is that we must approve of the general policy.
– Is the money to be a loan or a gift?
– A straight-out gift. Apart from the question of general policy, the whole method of expenditure is to be left in the hands of the States.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that printed copies of the Budget statement, which he delivered yesterday, were supplied in advance to ‘the newspapers in the different States, and if so, why he did not follow the time-honoured custom of supplying honorable members with copies?
– The Budget statement was finalized only yesterday morning, and every sheet of the copies that were available yesterday afternoon had to be printed separately. The copies that were made available for despatch to the other States the night before were not complete. I regret that it was not possible to hav( ready in time for the meeting of the House yesterday afternoon complete copies for the use of honorable members. The work of printing the Budget statement, however, has been completed, and copies are now available.
– T desire, by leave, to move-
That the Joint Committee of-Public Accounts, so far as members of the House of Representatives are concerned, have leave to sit during the sittings of the House.
Members of the’ Committee who are memben of another place have already had this permission granted to them.
, - The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) has consulted me about this motion, and I have told him of my views in regard to it. Shortly stated, I have no objection to the motion itself. I, and my colleagues, however, take the gravest possible exception to the personnel of the Committee which is now inquiring into certain phases of the sugar control in so ‘ far as it includes the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) and the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming). Those two members, by their attitude, have put themselves outside the panel of persons who can be properly placed on, what may be termed, a judicial inquiry. It was not suggested for one moment, that the inquiry into the question of sugar control should be a partisan one, and that I and my colleagues and our party generally should be tried by a jury of our opponents as such. The suggestion was that an inquiry of a judicial character should be made. I am not censuring the honorable member for Swan and the honorable member for Robertson for any action they have taken in this House, and I hope they will acquit me of any such intention. They have done no more than they were entitled to do as members of this Parliament. I submit, however, that it is not proper that they should sit on this inquiry. I take no exception to the other members of the Committee, who happen to be our political- opponents, because they did not associate themselves with one of the charges which is to be the subject of inquiry by the Committee, and which amounts to a charge of corruption. I did not hoar what the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) had to say, but I am informed that he went so far as to read what purported to be a document that had come from my office, and to have been in the handwriting of the secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department. If that is so, then he stopped little short, if at all, of a definite charge of corruption against- either the Department, or a Minister, or the Government as a whole, and he did this after the question of sugar control had been referred to the Public Accounts Committee, of which he is a member. I think the honorable member will admit that, while he has a perfect right, as a member of this Parliament, to make any charges he pleases, he ought not to be a member of the jury which is to decide whether they are well, or ill, founded. He ought not to be both accuser and judge. I wish to make it perfectly clear that I take no exception whatever to the honorable member exercising his rights in this House in the freest possible manner. The honorable member for Robertson spoke in a more general way,, but he also associated himself, as he had a perfect right to do, with the charges made by the Leader of the Country party. Having been the accusers, these two honorable members have no right to be the judges. As to the rest, I have only to say that the Government is anxious to expedite the inquiry, and to place every facility in its way.
I have not seen the officialreport of the proceedings of the Committee in connexion with its inquiry into the sugar question. I have seen only newspaper reports, but I am told that there is a suggestion that my honorable colleague (Mr. Greene), who was in charge of the sugar business during the greater portion of the control period’, is not to be called. I hope I have been misinformed.
– This is the first we have heard of it.
– I want to say that we shall insist upon being heard.
– Every one who can give us valuable information will be called before the Committee.
– Very well; we shall insist upon being heard at the inquiry. I shall not sit quietly by when evidence is taken in patches and witnesses who can give evidence in favour of the Government are excluded.
– That is a reflection on the whole Committee.
– I am not suggesting that that is done.
– So far as I am concerned, there will be no exclusion of any material evidence.
– My honorable colleague (Mr. Greene), and, if necessary, I, also, will give evidence.
There is another matter to which. I must refer, and I trust that honorable members will bear with me while I do so, since it is of concern to every one. According to the newspaper reports of the examination of witnesses before the Committee, several members of it have been anxious to obtain information about Colonel Oldershaw. It is suggested that there is something sinister about his departure. It is suggested also that he was a man at once incompetent and almost corrupt.
– I do not think it is fair to make these deductions.
– I am dealing with the conduct of the proceedings as reported in the press. I do not say that the whole stony isgiven in the newspapers; but it is the story as published by them that we have before us at present.
– I rise to order. Is the Prime Minister in order, Mr. Speaker, in referring to the manner in which the Public Accounts Committee is conducting the inquiry into the sugar business, in view of the fact that it was on the recommendation of the Government itself that the matter was referred to the Committee? I submit that the Committee is entitled to inquire and report to the House without being prejudiced in any way by action such as that now being taken by the right honorable gentleman.
– Strictly speaking, the whole discussion is not really in order, since leave to move his motion has not yet been granted to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler). Leave has to be granted without a dissentient voice, otherwise the motion cannot be moved. But debate at this stage is not in order. I did not know that the Prime Minister, when he rose, was going to make a speech. I thought that he was merely rising to make a formal statement. Honorable members know of the physical disability under which he labours, and how difficult it is to intervene. Leave must be given to the honorable member to submit his motion before the motion itself can be proposed.
– I do not want to, object to leave being granted to the honorable member to submit his motion, provided that it is understood that I shall have the right to reply to the Prime Minister when the motion is submitted. .
– The honorable member will have that opportunity, although it is not quite regular; but the Prime Minister, having made some statements, I cannot well exclude the Leader of the Opposition from replying to them. Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable member for Perth have leave to submit his motion?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
Motion (by Mr. Fowler) proposed -
That the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, so far as members of the House of Representatives are concerned, have leave to sit during the sittings of the House.
– I am sorry if I have transgressed the Standing Orders. I have already expressed the readiness of the Government to assist the Public Accounts Committee; but when an officer of minewho is absent from the Commonwealth is attacked, I propose to defend him.
– Let the right honorable gentleman go before the Committee and defend him.
– I find in a newspaper report ofthe proceedings of the Public Accounts Committee an attack upon Colonel Oldershaw, a gentleman who has given over five years of unselfish service to this country. He is a man of firstclass capacity and of independent means, who, in season and out of season, has served the Commonwealth loyally and well; and, therefore, I deplore these miserable attacks on him.
– He has not been attacked. The newspapers are wrong.
– This man’s health broke down as the result of his devotion to his duties as a public servant.
– The Prime Minister is not in order in dealing with this matter at the present stage. It would be better if he deferred his remarks, either for presentation in the shape of evidence to the Public Accounts Committee, or until the report of that Committee is presented.
– I am sorry that I have transgressed the Standing Orders.’ I thought that I had leave to deal with this matter.
– Leave was not given to the right honorable gentleman. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) was given leave to submit a motion, and the Prime Minister did not require leave to speak to that motion. However, I suggest that it would be better for him to defer the remarks which he is now making until a later stage.
– Nothing is further from my mind than to lose my way in that labyrinth of Standing Orders with which other honorable members are so familiar. Perhaps you, sir, might tell me how I stand.
– The honorable member for Perth had not leave to submit his motion when the Prime Minister was speaking a few moments ago, and it was in order to put the matter right that I interrupted the right honorable gentleman. Leave having been granted, the motion submitted by the honorable member for Perth is now in order.
– I have only to add to what I have said that I should be very glad, on behalf of the Government, to accept the motion, subject to the substitution of two other honorable members for the honorable members for Swan (Mr. Prowse) and Robertson (Mr. Fleming) as members of the Committee making the inquiry. That point I must insist on. Charges have been made in this House by those honorable members, and the accusers should not be the judges. I am sure that the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee will appreciate my point.
.- The Prime Minister has taken advantage ofthe motion submitted by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) to ventilate his dissatisfaction with the method in which the Public Accounts Committee is inquiring into the sugar question. I remind the right honorable gentleman that it was he who accepted the Committee’s investigation, and, in fact, requested the House to defeat other motions brought forward so that the Committee in question might be directed to institute this inquiry. However, I can understand his objection to honorable members sitting as members of the Committee who have, by the expression of their views in this House, shown that they are prejudiced upon this question. That sort of thing would not be permitted in any inquiry. But when the Prime Minister was arguing that, upon this particular issue, he would have a majority against the Government on the Committee, let me point out that, even if the two members in question be replaced by two others, the Government will still have a majority. The numbers may be even, but the chairman’s casting vote will be with the Government. If, however, exception is taken to the presence of two members of the Committee who have voiced their opinions upon the matter about to be investigated, I ask, without the slightest hesitation: “What about the majority of honorable members who, by their votes in this House, supported the Government?” In fact, whether it is or is not an unbiased Committee may be called in question. We generally expect matters of this kind to be decided from a judicial aspect by men who have not previously expressed opinions upon them; but, in this case, although one or two members of the Public Accounts Committee may have given vent to their feelings on the floor of this House, other members of the Committee have just as plainly, by their votes in this Chamber, given expression to their feelings upon the subject-matter of their investigation. Honorable members of the Opposition did not wish the sugar question to be referred to the Committee, believing that it was a matter that should have been dealt with in the House, and that its reference to an inquiry was merely procrastination. The Prime Minister is not entitled to take exception to the evidence which has been given in reference to Colonel Oldershaw, or any one else. I was a member of the Public Accounts Committee from its inception until quite recently, and I know that the members of that Committee, no matter what subject they may be investigating, forget everything outside, and apply themselves solely to the matter before them, with a desire to give a verdict on the evidence submitted. Why, therefore, should not the actions of any public officer be the subject of inquiry? Why should not the Committee be permitted to ascertain why Colonel Oldershaw left Australia, and whether his typiste went with him? It is true that Colonel Oldershaw had a high position in the Army, and is of independent means, but we might just as well have no sugar inquiry at all if the whole subject is not to be dealt with on its merits. It ill becomes the Prime Minister to assail the Committee’s methods. Once this House has acquiesced in the reference of the matter to the Public Accounts Committee no one is entitled to call in question the Committee’s methods of conducting its inquiry. Of course, what I am now saying is quite apart from the matter of challenging the possibility of members of the Committee giving a biased judgment. In any case the Prime Minister is seeking to criticise a matter of his own creation.
– The proposal of the Government to refer the sugar question to the Public Accounts Committee was made before the Leader of the Country party submitted his amendment with which the honorable members for Swan (Mr. Prowse) and Robertson (Mr Fleming) so closely associated themselves.
– I agree that these inquiries should be conducted by men who are not prejudiced,, and that it is regrettable that men should commit themselves beforehand upon the matter into which they were about to inquire, but nevertheless’ the fact remains that even after the Government had decided to remit this question to the Public Accounts Committee, every Government supporter gave a vote in this House upon the matter. Votes speak louder than words; they count. Therefore, if we support the Prime Minister in the stand he has taken against those members of the Public Accounts Committee who had already expressed their views on the sugar question in this Chamber, we must apply the same objection to every other member of the Committee.
– The vote taken in this Chamber had no relation to the charges made by the honorable member for Swan.
– The vote had every relation to those charges, and by their votes honorable members expressed their opinions. If I had been a member of a Committee which was about to commence an inquiry into the sugar question, realizing that I was supposed to be impartial and was expected to sift the evidence available, and come to a verdict upon it for submission to Parliament, I would have hesitated before giving a vote in this Chamber. Therefore, the Prime Minister’s complaint is against the Committee as a whole. I have all along been opposed to referring the sugar question to the Public Accounts Committee, because I held the view- that it was a matter that the House should have decided upon its merits, and that an inquiry would only mean delay. I felt also that an investigation to be of any use to the public should be made by some person outside, and not by members of this Parliament. It ill becomes the Prime Minister, because certain evidence was given, to take exception to it. He is too late in raising his objection now. It is right that the public should know how matters have been conducted, and how persons in high positions have acted. Now, because the right honorable gentleman takes objection to certain evidence given before the Committee, he questions the Committee’s methods.
– The honorable member is overlooking the main question at issue, namely, the charges made in this House.
– I am not overlooking anything. I do not approve of men giving judgment upon a matter on which they have previously expressed an opinion, but at the same time I draw attention to the fact that every honorable member has given a vote upon this question, which, I claim, is tantamount to expressing an opinion upon it.
– It is quite different.
– There is no difference. I am perfectly entitled to put that view. There is no need for me to elaborate the views which I have already expressed. The Prime Minister has taken exception to two particular members of this House acting upon the Accounts Committee; but 1 want to know why he did. not do so immediatejly J after they had given utterance to the expressions to which he objects and which, he holds, disqualify them from continuing to act. It would have been far wiser and fairer to do so at that stage, rather than that those members! should have continued to attend and take part in the investigations of the Accounts Committee throughout this past week, day after day. The Prime Minister asks me, by interjection, at what stage he could have taken exception, following the delivery of the speeches of the two honorable members in question. It is well known to the House that those honorable members had spoken in very similar terms prior to the division upon my amendment. It waa immediately thereafter that the proper opportunity presented itself for the Prime Minister to challenge their right to take part in the Accounts Committee’s investigation of the sugar business - that is, if the members were to be challenged at’ all. It comes with bad grace now for the Government to challenge them when they have become involved in continuous investigations covering a week, and after certain evidence has been adduced to which the Prime Minister takes exception. It appears that, as an outcome of the revelations made to the Accounts Committee, matters are not proceeding as smoothly and satisfactorily as the Government could ‘wish. It seems that the evidence so far secured goes to show that the sugar business has not been conducted as it should have been.
– On a point of order, I point out that I was prevented from making my speech, but that the honorable member now, under cover of the opportunity afforded him to address the Chair upon a specific matter, is being permitted to go into the whole question.
– Order! The Prime Minister, under cover of the motion, raised the question of the eligibility of certain members to sit on the Commitr tee, and was proceeding further to debate matters of evidence when I intervened; and although the Leader of the Opposition is not strictly speaking to the motion, I cannot, in fairness, exclude his rebuttal of what the Prime Minister has already been permitted to say regarding the right of certain gentlemen to sit on the Committee.
– The Government placed the investigation in the hands of the Accounts Committee in order to extricate themselves from a difficult position. Honorable members’ on this side warned the Housie what that step would lead to; and now the effects are apparent within the first few days of the inquiry. I want the country to perceive that, at any rate,’ members of the Opposition endeavoured to do the right thing.
.- The attitude of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is astounding. The members of the Accounts Committee to whom he has referred were not of the opinion - and they so expressed themselves at meetings of that Committee - that the sugar inquiry was one which the Committee should conduct. The Chairman, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Eowler), will confirm that statement. The Country party considered that a Select Committee should be appointed to carry out the investigation. The Prime Minister is not correct in asserting that I have made any charge against the Government or any Government official. I have simply submitted certain matters of fact. I asked that the Government should appoint a Select Committee to make the fullest and deepest inquiry. I went so far as to say that I “ hoped to God “ that those people who had been indicated’ were not really implicated as they unhappily appeared to be. I am not prejudiced. I do not desire that any official of the Commonwealth should be revealed in a guilty light; but if any public servants have been guilty of wrong-doing, I advocated, and still desire, the appointment of a Select Committee to discover the guilty parties and learn all they have done. The state of mind in which I have carried on my duties as a member of the Accounts Committee has been absolutely unprejudiced. But was it not due to the attitude of the Prime Minister himself that the sugar investigation came to be placed in the hands of the Accounts Committee? While I and other members of my party sought earnestly to have a distinct and separate body of inquiry appointed - so taking the subject out of the hands of the permanent Committee; to which. I belong - the Government refused to accept the proposition. It was unquestionably the will of the Prime Minister which caused the inquiry to be taken up by the Accounts Committee. invite, the Prime Minister -to read again those remarks of mine which he characterizes as charges, and I shall be content to leave it to him to say, fairly and truly, whether I’ uttered one word which can be regarded as the expression of a prejudiced mind. The Prime Minister’s attitude and accusations are a reflection upon the Accounts Committee as a whole. What an astounding position it is - after the Prime Minister has made use of every form, and method, privilege, and opportunity which he has at his command to prevent the appointment of a Select Committee, and; has succeeded in handing over the- investigation to one of the permanent Committees of this Parliament - that he should take exception to certain members of that body continuing to act thereon, for the reason that: they happen to have certain informs tion! The possession of this information he described as prejudice.. The. Prime Minister, would seek to make the House believe, that we. members who have been impugned possess all the prejudice and, hatred that exists in this Parliament.. I. assert that. I have no such feelings towards any member of the Public Service, or of Parliament, or of the Ministry. I have no desire to make charges against any individual inside or outside of Parliament or the Service. Indeed, I cannot see why, if the Prime Minister himself is not deeply prejudiced, he should take such an objection as has been raised this morning. It has-been rightly asserted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that every member of this Chamber who voted in the division upon his motion for the reduction of the price of sugar must be equally prejudiced, in that we, by our votes, adopted at definite attitude in the matter. If the possession of information which is so serious as to war- rant inquiry disqualifies a member of the
Accounts Committee from continuing to act as such, then, doubtless, I am: disqualified.But, if only those who have no information, and who can see no grounds for an investigation are qualified to take part therein, all I can say is that a tribunal so composed would obviously suit the. Prime Minister at this stage.
.- This morning’s proceedings comprise the most remarkable exhibition I have ever witnessed in public life. What is behind- the’ attitude of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) ? ‘ He would not have a specially selected Committee; he deliberately pre- ferred and chose that theJoint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts should take up the investigation of the sugar business. Now, in the first place-, that Committee was originally appointed by the Government. Its personnel was their own choice. It appears at this stage that there are likely to be more sensational disclosures than could have been dreamed of by the Government when they promised that the inquiryshould. be placed in the hands of the Accounts Committee. How did they come to make such apromise? Was it not merely in order to- carry, them over a troublesome motion of censure ? The Government have now climbedthat stile ; they are on the safe side of it. They gave effect to their undertaking.. The Committee has commenced its inquiry. Why should” they not now proceed to the next logical step and take the inquiry out of the hands of the Committee? They have survived the censureattack ; they are safe. I say to the Prime. Minister, “ You have the numbers.. Abolish, the Committee if its investigations threaten to produce’ results which are likely to, be obnoxious to you.. Put an end. to. the investigation-. You have the: power; use it!” I have never before heard of a Government placing a specificinvestigation in. the hands of a permanent, Committee of Parliament and then taking exception to its personnel.
– After the Accounts: Committee had been appointed as an. unprejudiced tribunal to conduct the investigation, two of its members deliberately made charges in this chamber.
– Of course ! But is not this, tribunal, or Court, a partisan one from beginning to. end, from top to bottom ? Its members, are members of this Parliament. Therefore they are partisans; and the majority of them are partisans of the Government. Why should not the Government now take the obvious step? I tell them that they have the numbers.
As for Colonel Oldershaw, I have no objection to that gentleman. I do not wish to implicate anybody. Bnt what is the Prime Minister’s method of defending Colonel Oldershaw? He says, in effect, “ This gentleman is an officer of our Army, or he was an officer on active service, and, while so serving, he performed gallant deeds somewhere, somehow, at some time. And, in addition, he is a man of independent means.” From all that we have heard of the sugar business, I am bound to say, with respect to that latter aspect, that no man having either direct or indirect connexion with the sugar control - unless he possesses absurd notions of honesty - can be expected to be other than a gentleman of independent means.
– The honorable member just said something about the. Government having ft majority on the Accounts Committee. Where is that majority?
– I invite the right honorable gentleman to read the names of its members, then he will perceive his majority for himself.
– I ask the honorable member to read them and point out the majority to me.
-I am now informed by my Leader (Mr. Charlton) that the numbers are equal. I am bound to accept that statement; but the Government still have the casting vote, and thus they can get or do whatever they desire, if they only take care to manage that casting vote properly. The Chairman of the Accounts Committee, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler), desires that the Committee shall be given special opportunities to do the work which the Government have given it to do. Under cover of his notice of motion, however, a denunciation is hurled at the procedure of the Committee, and at the state of mind of certain of its members; and, in effect, regarding everything having to do with it. The Government do not now want the Accounts Committee to do that which they have only just authorized it to do. I do not know, nor have I troubled to lead or ask, what any specific members of the Committee have done or said. I take it for granted, however, that in connexion with every reference to the
Accounts Committee there is bound to be a full and definite inquiry; there is certain to be gathered every possible shred of evidence; and that evidence is bound to be carefully and minutely sifted. As for the partisan relationships of the members of the Committee, those on the one side will not only be anxious to maintain high standards of public morality, but will be equally earnest in their endeavour, at any and all times, to turn out the Government which appointed them. It is inevitable that they should endeavour to bring forth every fragment of evidence which might be calculated to discredit the Government. On the other hand, those members on the other side, while equally zealous to safeguard public morality, will be just as keen upon adducing anything and everything which will go to establish the credit of the Government in their dealings. They will go to the limit in their efforts to defend themselves, their party, and their Government, by trying to produce, or subvert, or suppress evidence. If there was to be any honest investigation it could be made, not by partisans, but only by a properly constituted Court not connected with any of the parties in this House. What is the use of the Prime Minister rising at this stage and objecting to what members of the Country party or members of the Labour party may have said? What does it matter whether members of the Accounts Committee remain silent or speak? In any case, Nationalist members mean to defend the Government and themselves against any accusation or suspicion, and it is equally true that the honorable members who represent on the Committee the Country party and the Labour party will do their best to produce evidence that will traduce the Government and purify and glorify themselves and their parties at the same time. Therefore, what is the use of squealing at this hour? The matter has been referred to the Committee, and the investigation must go on. So far as members on this side are concerned, all evidence that can be producedwill be produced. At this stage it does not become the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition to either assail or defend any members who new constitute the Accounts Committee, to which this inquiry was in- trusted by the Government, or any individual who may -give evidence before the Committee. If any man wishes to defend Colonel Oldershaw, there is a proper place in which to do it; that place is not this Chamber, but before the Committee which is making the investigation. If any man’s character is to be assailed it should be assailed, not in this Chamber under cover of parliamentary privilege, but before the Committee, where he may have an opportunity to defend himself in a regular way. The Committee can investigate this matter, and nothing should be said to prevent it continuing its inquiry to the end and reporting its verdict to the House. When the Committee does submit its verdict, we can, in this Chamber, sum up the pros and cons, but, at the time, the objections and accusations which have arisen out of the motion proposed by the honorable member for Perth are entirely out of place.
– The Prime Minister has gone out of his way this morning to make a personal attack on the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) and myself, and he has done something else which is more serious and dangerous. I have previously stated that when a proposal to investigate the sugar transactions was mentioned before the Public Accounts Committee some time ago, I took strong exception to the Committee having anything to do with such an investigation. This was a matter I said that, in my opinion, should rightly be referred to a Select Committee.
– The honorable member thought that the matter should be investigated in the House.
– The honorable member for Swan also took exception to the Committee inquiring into the sugar question, because he said that such an inquiry would take too long. The ground of my objection was that the matter was a partisan one, and should be threshed out on the floor of the House. Members of the Country party asked for the appointment of a Select Committee. The Prime Minister, being, apparently, afraid of a Select Committee, asked the House to refer the question to the Public Accounts Committee, consisting of members of both Houses, his object being, no doubt, that when the report of the Committee came before the House, he could browbeat honorable members.
– Would not a Select Committee be composed of members of the House?
– Yes; but the Prime ^Minister could not charge members of the Select Committee with not having a right to inquire into a matter when the House had specially elected them to carry out the investigation. Had a Committee been specially appointed by the House to investigate the sugar transactions the Prime Minister could not have challenged its bona fides. But as the matter has been referred in an extraordinary way to the Public Accounts Committee, the Prime Minister now raises an objection. He has risen in his place and made a deliberate attempt to close the mouths of the representatives of the people. The effect of his action, if carried into effect, will be that in future no member of the House will be prepared to take- a seat on the Public Accounts Committee or the Public Works Committee, as he is not to be allowed to say in the House those things which he believes he should say. The value of these Committees is being absolutely destroyed. The Government are seeking to make them partisan Committees, and to convert them into mere tools of the Ministry. If honorable members are not to be allowed to express themselves as representatives of the people because they happen to be members of a Standing Committee, no man with any independence will in future take a seat on such a Committee. Every honorable member who sits in these Committees has a right to make his finding on the evidence adduced, and to come into the House, either before or after an inquiry, and speak on any question raised here, so long as he does not bring before the House or the public any information that was privately divulged, before the Committee. I defy the Prime Minister, or anybody else, to say that any member of the Public Accounts Committee has divulged to the House or to the public one word of evidence that came to his knowledge in private as a member of the Committee. The Chairman (Mr. Fowler) will bear me out in that statement. No member of the Committee has given away any secrets. The Prime Minister’ is trying now to still furtherdebase this Parliament by making every member of the Committee his tool, and to prevent us from sitting on the Committee and, at the same time, doing, our duty as representatives of the people.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that statement.
– Under, your direction. I. withdraw the. statement, but there: seems to be no doubt that if a member is to be an independent representative of the public, he. must have the right to sit on a Committee, and at the same time have perfect freedom to express in the House his opinion on any matter brought before the Committee. I dare the Prime Minister to put to. a vote of the House any proposal that the honorable member for Swan and I be removed from the Committee. Surely the Minister for’ Defence (Mr. Greene)’ does not think for a moment that- we object to his appearance as a witness before the Committee.
– I was informed! that I was not to be called as a witness.
– By whom was the Minister so informed? He is casting a reflection on the honour of every member of the Committee..
– I was. informed, by the Chairman of the Committee that I was not to. be called.
– I did not say, that the Minister was not to be called.
– As a member of theCommittee, a. representative of the people, and a. private gentleman,. I strongly resent imputations being cast on my honour in this way. The Minister for Defence has. been a personal friend of mine for many years, and I assure him that all the members of the Committee would as, readily hear him as a witness as they would hear anybody else. We want all the evidence we can get.
There is another aspect, of this question. Under cover of the motion moved by the Chairman of the Committee, the Prime Minister has attacked the Committee in such a way as to prejudice beforehand its finding. Can the Committee be considered to be getting a fair deal when the Prime Minister tells the House and the public that the Committee is prejudiced ? What is the reason for the. Prime Minister’s attitude? Is the evidence that has been taken by the Com mittee not tending in the direction that he desires it to. go? Or is it that the Committee’s reports on the War Service Homes were not to the liking of. the right: honorable: gentleman?,
– What has that, to do with the. motion ?
– Order ! The. honorable member for Robertson is, now going beyond the subject-matter of the discussion initiated by the honorable member for Perth.
– The Public Accounts Committee was created for the purpose of inquiring into any matter affecting the public finances of Australia, and we are doing that to the best of our ability. Now the Prime Minister accuses us of inquiring into one matter from a partisan stand-point, and he is . trying to prejudice the finding of the Committee in, the eyes of the public and the House. It is utterly unfair and improper for any Minister, particularly the Leader of the House, to prejudice the finding of a Committee before it is given. We are trying honestly to do our duty.
– But you have taken sides.
– The Minister cannot see the difference: between a man representing his constituency in this House when he has not only a right, but an absolute duty to say what he believes to be true, and a man making a judicial inquiry in another sphere. We can,, as honorable men, make a proper inquiry into the matter that is before the Committee, and. at the same time express our opinion in the House on matters that are being threshed out here. If, and when, the Committee obtains the full facts, we shall be in a position to express definitely out opinion. The finding of the Committee will be such as the evidence warrants. That is all we seek to achieve. The right honorable gentleman said, also, that memben of the Committee were questioning Colonel Oldershaw’s honour: There has been no question of Colonel Oldershiaw’s honour. The Prime Minister must know that newspaper reports of evidence may create an impression one way or the other ; but without any knowledge of what has transpired in the Committee the, right honorable gentleman accepts the newspaper reports becausethey suit his purpose, and uses them to browbeat members and cast a reflection on. the Committee.
– Thosereports do not suit : my purpose.
– Every witness examined so far by the ‘Committee has been an employee ofthe Government, and I defy the Prime Minister or anybody else to say that any of the questions asked by members of the Committeewere improper. We are conducting this inquiry in exactly the samemanner as that in which we have conducted every other. We are trying to elicit the truth, and if the truth is painful to the Prime Minister we cannot help it. Our finding will be in accordance’ with the evidence, -whether or not such finding be painful to the Prime Minister.If the Government had agreed to the appointment of a Select Committee, as we desired them to do, there would not have ‘been any of this trouble. After the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) had spoken, the Prime Minister was still prepared to accept an inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee. He had no objection to the investigation by that body until hefound that the evidence adduced was not tohis taste.
– That is notso.
– It is highly improper for the Prime Minister to attempt in this House to interfere with the rights of the Committee, and it is even worse for him to try to destroy the rights of the representatives of the people.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The ‘honorable member forRobertson(Mr. Fleming) stated that I agreed to refer the sugar question to the Public Accounts Committee after the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) had spoken. That is not true. I agreed to refer the matter to the Committee before the honorable member and his friends raised these charges. I take no exception whatever to the Committee inquiring into any matter or charges other thanthose made by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) on Wednesday night.
.- I ‘remind the House that the Public Accounts Committee may continue its inquiry regardless of the objections of the Prime Ministeror of the House. The Act under which the Committee is constituted gives it full power to investigate of its own volition the financial transac tionsof any Department. Therefore, the mere fact of the Prime Minister objecting cannot interfere with the ‘inquiry. The only point in dispute is as to whether the Committee . should be given the aright to sit during the sittings of the House.
– There must be a reference to the Committee.
Mr.RILEY.- That is not so with the Public Accounts Committee.
-That being the case, one can take.no exception, because one has not the power to do so.
– It is a bad precedentf or the Prime Minister to object to the personnel of the iCommittee, seeing that he was prepared to accept it rather than a Select Committee. Had the Country party voted solidly with the Opposition, there wouldhave been a Select Committee appointed; but the Government won, and have obtained . the fruits they wereseeking. I may.say that the Chairman of the Public Works Committee (Mr. Gregory) is very hostile to the building of the Federal Capital at this time, and so are other members of the Committee, including the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) and the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay). Did we here raise any objection to those men serving on the Piiblic Works Committee in the investigation of the Federal Capital question, simplybecause they had expressedtheir opinions in the House? As a matter of fact, the Public Works Committee ‘has inquired into the FederalCapital matter, and reportedfavorably. I feel confident that the members of the Public Accounts Committee arehonorable enough togive.averdict on the evidence. I myself hold . strong -opinions -on certain matters, butevery man has sufficient honour to be guided byevidence. Until a man shows that he is utterly dishonest, weshould stand by the Committeeas a whole If ‘the evidence does not suit the Government, that is not . the fault . of the Committee; if the . newspaper reportsof the proceedings of the Committee throw a shadow on certain transactions connected withsugar, the Committee cannot surely be blamed for that.
– They say that the press reports are not fair.
Mr.RILEY. - The press reports may be highly coloured, but the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) will have an opportunity to go before the Committee and combat any evidence already given. Personally, I feel confident that the Committee, as now composed, will be fair, and we ought to allow them to bring in their report. The action of the Prime Minister is only focussing attention on the proceedings of the Sugar Commission - is simply pouring oil on the fire.
.- I shall not touch on the subject-matter of the inquiry, because I think that ought to be left to the Public Accounts Committee. I have listened to speeches by two members of the Committee, and I take strong exception to their practically prejudging the case on which they were asked to give an impartial verdict. It has been said that nobody objected to this procedure by members of the Committee; but, as a matter of fact, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) did object, and, had he not done so, I should. I do. not object, of course, to the words used by the two members of the Committee to whom I refer, but I do object to their continuing to sit on the Committee after they have prejudged the question submitted to them. The judgment in such a case ought to be left to the Committee itself. No member of ‘the Public Accounts Committee who has spoken has told us whether the press reports of the proceedings are correct or not. I desire to congratulate the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (Mr. Fowler) on the manner in which he has submitted his proposal to the House, and his actions generally in connexion with this investigation ; but he, in plain language, told us that before the Government put the matter into their hands the Committee had started to inquire into the whole sugar question.
– We had not started. The Chairman never said that.
– I would just as soon accept the word of the Chairman as the word of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming), because I take it that the Chairman is thoroughly conversant with the whole matter.
– We were making arrangements to get a start.
– If the honorable member for Robertson blames the Government for not sending the matter to a Select Committee, he ought to resign his position on the Public Accounts Committee. Personally, I think it is wrong for the press to criticise or comment on the actions of any Committee while an investigation is proceeding. It is true that this inquiry is an open one, but it would have .been better for members of the Committee to refrain from comments until a definite report had been presented on the question of price, to which they were asked to give special attention.
– We are on that question now,
– That is so ; but we cannot come to an impartial opinion in regard to price until we have further evidence. I repeat that the two members to whom. I have specially referred have practically prejudged the case. I do not wish to reflect on any honorable member who voted in an opposite way to myself, but I think we ought to wait for evidence which might have the effect of altering opinions already formed.
– If you object to the Public Accounts Committee, why did you not vote for a Select Committee?
– When I gave my vote I was perfectly willing to allow the matter to go to the Public Accounts Committee, but I did not think that the case would be prejudged; had I thought that I should have voted in an opposite way. The whole position reminds me of Dooley, who, when he had a man before him on trial, described the accused as the greatest criminal on earth and sentenced him to imprisonment for life, and then said that the next thing was to try him. The members of the Committee, however, are not trying the Government, but are trying every honorable member of this Chamber who, like myself, gave an impartial vote.
, - We have witnessed a most remarkable spectacle, one almost as remarkable a9 that presented during the debate on the sugar question the other day. We then saw Ministers almost crying with anxiety and rage, and now, while the question is being considered by a Committee - which was not asked for by the House, but was forced upon it against the deliberate request of the party in this Corner - the Prime Minister endeavours to interfere with the Committee doing its duty. He suggests that two members of the Com- mittee, out of a total of nine or eleven, have prejudged the case, and that the result must be biased. This the Prime Minister does in spite of the fact, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has pointed out, that the Government already have a majority on the Committee. What are the facts ? This is only a device to delay, to further hoodwink the public, and to gag and smother up the whole evidence in the matter.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member in order in saying that the action by the Prime Minister is an attempt to “gag and smother up” the evidence in this case?
– I did not catch the expression myself, but if the honorable memberfor Cowper used it, he must see that it is a reflection upon the Prime Minister.
– If the expression is objectionable to any honorable member, I withdraw it; but there is no doubt as to what the public will think about the matter.
– I remind the honorable member that, when arequest is made by the Chair for a withdrawal of words, the withdrawal should be unconditional, without any qualification.
– I desire to withdraw unreservedly anything which is offensive to this House. Did I ask for this matter to be referred to the Public Accounts Committee? My desire was for a judicial Committee, and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) moved for a Select Committee, no member of which would have spoken on the matter in the House. The Public Accounts Committee was forced on us against our will by the deliberate action of the Government, and I do not see why the Government, now they find they have made a mistake, should seek to retrace their steps and do something to burke inquiry for a slightly longer time. I do not think that the public of Australia would be satisfied with the judgment of a packed Committee. The Government apparently desire to remove certain members of the Public Accounts Committee who may be able to probe more deeply than others into the matter. What is wrong with finding out the truth? All the evidence given is on oath; and can any honorable member point to one question or one statement by a member of the Committee, as published in the press, which at all shows bias or prejudice? If the newspapers care to make comment, that has nothing to do with members of the Committee, and I do not see why they should be held responsible in that regard. If the House is going to indulge the Prime Minister’s fancy, then it seems to me that public life in this country has become debased to a degree that the people will not tolerate any longer. We do not suggest that the Ministry is in fault; wo suggest that there may have been big losses which can be traced, and we contend that it is the proper duty of this Chamber to find out who is responsible. If the Ministry has nothing to fear; if its hands are absolutely free, why should it. lend colour to suspicion by taking action such as has been taken this morning by the Prime Minister?
– It was a tactical blunder.
– Undoubtedly. The Government should have allowed the inquiry to proceed smoothly. The more smoothly it goes on, the better for the Ministry. On the other hand, the more fuss the Government make about it the more attention they will draw to the matter.
– They have nothing to hide.
– Then why do they take this objection?
– They want fair play.
– The Public Accounts Committee was created by the House, and any Committee of members of this House must necessarily be to some degree of aparilsan character. It is absurd to think it possible to get a Committee of this House that is not partisan. I hope the House will see that its honour is not dragged in the dust by the removal from the Committee of two members who have done nothing that is dishonorable. The honorable members in question merely did their duty in putting before the House the case as they saw it, and if the House lends itself to the attempt of the Prime Minister to bludgeon it into removing from the Committee the honorable member for Swan and the honorable member forRobertson then the sooner it comes to an end the better.
.- It is remarkable that the Government, who have complained again and again about the delay in getting on with business, should have raised this question this morning just as ‘the road was cleared for them, and so have’ created other obstacles. On Wednesday last very serious statements were made in this House by members of the Country party, and those statements were backed up by certain documents which suggested something very remarkable in connexionwith the sugar control. It is only fair, however, to state that the Country party did not ask that the charges which they made should be referred to the Public Accounts Committee. They asked that they should be separated from the general question of sugar, and should be made the subject of a judicial inquiry. The Government, however, absolutely turned down that proposal.
– Unfortunately, the Country party did not vote for it.
– Unfortunately, the Country party never votes solidly upon any question. That fact, however, has no bearing on the point immediately at issue. The Government refused to separate from the general question to be referred to the Accounts Committee the serious statements, involving certain charges, which had been made by members of the Country party. I would remind the Prime Minister that those statements were made on Wednesday last, and that he then offered no reply to them. Why did he fail to do so? I agree that those who make or suggest certain charges should not properly be appointed to deal with them, but I want to know why the Prime Minister did not object when these statements were made on Wednesday last. Why has he allowed two days to elapse before taking action? Why has he taken action only now that evidence which does not suit the Government has been given before the Committee. It seems to me that the right honorable gentleman has intervened at this stage because facts are being brought out by the Committee that the Government desire to have smothered up. That is whythe Government object now. to the constitution of the Court. The Prime Minister says that the Court is biased because of statements made by certain of its members in this Chamber on Wednesday last. The right honorable gentleman ought to be the last to object to prejudiced tribunals. I well remember how, when men were standing ; on trial for their lives he went all over the country prejudicing their case. Even the worst criminal in the land is entitled to have his case heard without prejudice, but on that memorable occasion the Prime Minister overlooked that all-important principle.
It seemsto me that the Prime Minister to-day has not only made a tactical blunder, but has exposed himself to the severest criticismof this country. In the midst of an inquiry - at a time when it is evident that the evidence being adduced does not suit the Government - he wants to change the constitution of the Court or Committee. He objects to it because things are notbeing smothered up by it. The right honorable gentleman made a great blunder in allowing the Public Accounts Committee to dealwith this question. He should have referred it to Sir Mark Sheldon, who could have held a secret inquiry in the Solomon Islands. That would have suited the Government. The whole sugar business is recking-
– Order !
– I shall not go further. It is now too late to do what the Prime Minister proposes. Had he taken action before the Committee proceeded to take evidence there might have been something in his point.
– How could he do so before he had heard what these honorable members had to say.
– He heard what they had to say last Wednesday, but it is only to-day that he takes action. The honorable member’s interjection emphasizes the point of my speech.
-But the whole matter was referred to the Public Accounts Committee before Wednesday last.
– The defence now offered by thehonorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) isthat the Prime Minister could notobject to the honor- able members in question taking part in the inquiry until he had heard their speeches, and that when they ‘spoke in this House the matter had actually been ‘referred to the Committee. If it was too late for him then to take action, surely it is too late now, since two ‘days have elapsed since those speeches were made.
– The honorable member does not see my point.
– I see the point too clearly to suit the purpose of honorable members opposite. These speeches were made last Wednesday, yet the Prime Minister allowed the matter to go to the Committee. The position is that since last Wednesday something more has happened. Since then there has been brought to light evidence which does not suit the Government. Hence what the Prime Minister did not do last Wednesday he seeks to do to-day. That is the point. He has talked about pre-judging the case. As a matter of fact, he is pre-judging the verdict of the Committee. He is trying to prejudice the Committee in the eyes of the country ; he .is (suggesting to the people that the Committee cannot, and will not, bring in .an -unbiased report. He sees the writing, on the wall. Already, he sees -that the report is going to be against the Government. I repeat that the only sort of investigation that would suit, honorable members opposite, and the Prime Minister in particular, so far as the sugar question is concerned, is another Sir Mark Sheldon inquiry, like ‘that which took place in regard to the shipbuilding contract.
.- A great deal df unnecessary heat has been imported into this debate. I understand that the motion now before the Chair is that permission be given to the Committee, so far as members of this House are concerned, to meet while the Parliament is sitting. I suggest to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that, having ventilated the matter of the personnel of the Committee, he should be satisfied. From my point of view, the position is very simple. The whole question of the sugar .control has been relegated to the Public Accounts Committee, whose duty it is to inquire into all the transactions and to bring up its report to the House. Honorable members seem to forget that it is only a report that the Committee is called upon to make. The Committee will not give a verdict on any question. It will not [pronounce judgment on any .matter. It will simply bring up a report presenting its views, on the evidence. I am not- aware.’of the’ personnel of the Committee, but I am quite satisfied to leave the matter in its hands. The members of the Committee, I understand,* belong to different parties in the House, and even if any member of it has .expressed an opinion with regard to the sugar transactions, I believe that he will honestly do his best to get at the facts and to pronounce an honest opinion on the facts as found. Lt is to be regretted that two members of the Committee should have expressed themselves as strongly ‘as the ‘honorable member for Swan. ;(Mr. Prowse) and the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) did regarding the subject-matter of the inquiry. I think, however, that they are honorable men, and that their presence on the Committee having been challenged, they would refuse to act on the inquiry if they felt that in view of all the facts they were unable to do their duty straightforwardly and honestly. If they are willing still to remain members of the Committee .and -to inquire into the sugar transactions, I believe that they will honestly do their work. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) is chairman of the Committee, and I am sure that, having a clear view of his duty - which .is to make a searching inquiry and to see that everything that can be brought to light is brought ‘to light - he will ‘take good care that that is done.
I would also remind the House, -and more particularly the Prime Minister, that when the investigation has been completed and the report of the Committee is submitted for our consideration, we shall have before us, not only the report itself, but the evidence on which it is founded. Thus every honorable member will be in a position to judge the value of the report. If it is. prejudiced, if it is not a well-balanced judgment, that fact will become apparent to those who make a careful examination of the evidence. The more prejudiced the report of the Committee, the easier it will be, on the evidence, to make plain that fact. I therefore think that this matter having been discussed and ventilated, nothing more need be done. I am confident that the Government have nothing whatever to hide. If a member of the Committee is prejudiced and believes that there is something which the Government wish to hide, he will be all the keener in his desire that every scrap of available evidence shall be brought before the Committee and duly considered. This matter having been ventilated, the Committee should go on with its work and send’ in its report at the earliest possible moment.
– I propose to add only a few words to this debate. I suggest that the trouble in this case has arisen entirely from the fault of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) and the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming). The position is that the Public Accounts Committee had commenced its inquiry before Wednesday last, when those honorable members spoke. It had set. out on its deliberations.
– Pardon me. Coming over by train from Sydney on Wednesday I read the first portion of the inquiry, and, although I am not a member of the Committee, I am quite certain that it had already started in its judicial capacity to consider the particular matter referred to it.
– I think I have seen it stated that the Committee started the inquiry on 25th July.
– There is no question that the Committee had started in its judicial capacity to make an inquiry into the whole of the sugar business before Wednesday last.
– The members of tha Committee are not judges in this matter.
– It is the purest oi technicalities to say that they are not judges. As a matter of fact, they aTe asked to inquire and report to Parliament, and from our point of view their inquiry will be a judicial one, although the inquiry is not conducted by Judges, but the members of the Committee are really acting in . a judicial capacity.
– They are not. . That is just the point.
– There were to be two parts to the inquiry. The first portion related to the price of sugar. It is a matter of pure arithmetic. There is no mystery about it. Once the figures are put before the Committee they could say “aye” or “nay” to them. But there was to be another portion to the inquiry, and from my point of view it waa the more important. It was to be an investigation of the transactions of the Government in regard to sugar, and it was upon that particular part of the proposed inquiry that expressions of opinion were made on the floor of the House and by the honorable members for Swan (Mr. Prowse) and Robertson (Mr. Fleming). Their remarks, although not expressed in actual terms, nevertheless bore all the inference that there was corruption in these transactions.
– I challenge the Minister to show anything in my speeches as recorded in Hansard to indicate a prejudiced mind on my part.
– I do not say that the honorable member was prejudiced, but I do say that both he and the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) expressed strong opinions in regard to the matter brought forward by their leader and supplemented by the amendment of the honorable member for Swan.
– Simply to show the necessity for an inquiry.
– It seems to me that having entered upon such an investigation, it was not a correct thing for any member of the Public Accounts Committee to express an opinion on the floor of the House and still remain a member of that Committee. I have no objection to honorable members expressing whatever views they please, which they have a perfect right to do; but from the stand-point of the amenities of public life I do not think it is the right thing for any honorable member who is a member of a judicial board of inquiry - for such in reality, if not technically, the Public Accounts Committee is - to express opinions on the floor of the House in regard to a matter of such moment to the honour, not only of the Government, but also of the Public Service, and still remain a member of that Committee. However, it is a matter for the individual consciences of the two honorable members in question. If they feel that they can justify to themselves and to the public acting in the dual capacity of accuser and judge they must make out their own justification.
My name waa brought into the original remarks made by the Prime Minister, and the honorable member for Robertson challenged me to say who had said that I was not to be called to give evidence before the Public Accounts Committee. To explain this matter was my real purpose in rising to speak. There is probably no man in Australia at the present time who knows as much about the details of all these transactions as I do, and I thought it very likely that the Committee would desire to call me as a witness.
-They ought to do so.
– Consequently I approached the chairman of the Committee, and said - I do not know whether it was the proper thing for me to do - that if it was desired to call me as a witness I would like to have from him some indications of the lines upon which the Committee would like to examine me so that I might be able to give the fullest information after having refreshed my memory from the files in the possession of the Department of Trade and Customs. I think I am not revealing any confidence when I say these things, .because across the floor of the chamber the chairman of the Committee nodded to me as much as to say that he -wished me to answer the question raised ‘ by the honorable member for Robertson. The chairman, when I approached him, told me that it was not the practice of the Public Accounts Committee to .summon Ministers to give evidence, but that he would let me know the Committee’s decision. I got word yesterday that I was not to be called as a witness.
– Who sent you that information ?
– I was told that I was not to be called.
– I did not send that information.
– It was an officer of the Department who told me.
– There is a misunderstanding somewhere.
– If that is the case the matter can, easily be put right, and I have no doubt that in due course I shall be summoned by the Committee to give evidence. I shall be only too pleased to give all the information at my disposal, because I can throw light upon some aspects of the question upon which apparently the Committee have not yet been able to get evidence. All that I need say further is that I hope the Committee will endeavour to inform its mind in regard to all the details. The Government have nothing to hide, good, bad, or indifferent. All we desire is ta put forward the whole of the facts as they are known to us, leaving the Committee to form its judgment upon them.
Mr. BRENNAN (Batman) 1,12.38].- We may cheerfully accept the assurance of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) that he knows more about not only the sugar question, . but also all other matters than does any other honorable member. I will not presume to disturb that self-satisfaction he has manifested on this and other matters. I notice this, however, that the Government in this discussion appeared as prosecutors, but I think they will before its conclusion assume the rôle of defendants. Indeed, the very mild-mannered utterance of the Minister for Defence is a plain indication that they have already departed from that truculent attitude which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) took up when he first mooted the matter this morning. Ho informed honorable members then that he would not submit to having certain honorable members on the Public Accounts Committee dealing with the sugar question, and that he would not tolerate that they should be at once the accusers and the judges. Now, however, the Minister for Defence, in a mild, gracious, and almost generous manner, says that it is entirely a matter for the honorable members themselves as to whether they should continue to sit on this inquiry or not. He says that it is, in effect, although not technically, a judicial inquiry. My answer to that is that, neither technically nor in fact, is any inquiry conducted by the Public Accounts Committee on the sugar question to be regarded as being of & judicial character. It is the essence of the matter that it is not, and to say that, since it is a judicial inquiry, certain things would be improper, is begging the question and missing the point. The members of the Public Accounts Committee have a roving commission to inquire into the sugar position and report to this House. They are essentially collectors of information, and in the very terms of their appointment, their partisan character is recognised. Why are members chosen from the Labour party, from the Government .side, and from the Country party if it is not thought that, in dealing with questions referred to the Public Accounts Committee, they are likely to be influenced by their political preconceptions and views. That tendency is recognised when they sit as a Committee. It is suggested that it would be indecent for the honorable members for Swan (Mr. Prowse) and Robertson (Mr. Fleming) to continue sitting as members of that Committee after having exercised their right, as it was their duty to do, to discuss in this House the matter referred to tha Committee. It was open to the Prime Minister, if he thought fit, to prevent the matter coming up for discussion in the House. If he controls the Housealthough he has done it of late with infinite difficulty, misgiving, and anxiety - it was within his power to prevent this question being discussed here while it was the subject of investigation by the Public Accounts Committee. Because, when any matter comes forward for discussion in the Chamber, despite what we may say to the contrary, it is considered largely upon party lines, for the simple reason that honorable members view all political questions on the lines of policy for which they have been elected, and in which it must be” presumed -they believe. Yet we are expected to accept the view that honorable- members are to hold their tongues because their opinions are unpalatable to the Government. “So faT from the attitude of the honorable members referred to being an act of indecency, it is an act of gross political indecency on the part of the Prime Minister, when evidence is given which is unpalatable to him, to challenge the right of certain honorable members to sit upon the inquiry. I say it is an act of grave political indecency, because of what will happen in the near future when we go before our masters. In the event of the report of the Committee on the question of sugar being favorable to the Government, the Prime. Minister will say, “ It has gone to the Committee of Public Accounts, a body created by this Parliament, and eminently fitted to deal with the subject, and they have found so-and-so. There is no cavilling at their decision.
We must ‘accept it. It is an extraparliamentary Committee, and has given an unbiased and well-informed decision.” But if the report on the evidence is unfavorable and by inference condemnatory of the Government, the right honorable gentleman and his Ministers will, on every platform, use the contention that we heard this morning, namely, that the Committee was biased and improperly constituted. The right honorable gentleman is feeling his way carefully. He looks ahead and ‘sees what is likely to happen when this matter is agitated throughout the country, as it will be; and he asks, “How may I safeguard myself and the Government in the event of the evidence and the report of the Committee being unfavorable to us? Let me proceed to discredit the members of the Committee early, so that, later, I may say to the people, ‘ I told you that this Committee was prejudiced and .biased :and utterly unfit to discharge their duties.’ “ The honorable .member for Fawkner ‘(Mr. Maxwell) has said that, now that he has ventilated the matter, ‘the Prime Minister ought to be satisfied. I suggest that since he has ventilated it, land has Sheard the comments of honorable members, ‘the right honorable gentleman ought to ‘be very far from ‘satisfied. ‘Has ‘object and iris policy stand exposed. :Possibly, ‘the Government .’are not without hope ‘that this indecent criticism of a Committee engaged in the delicate inquiry which has been submitted <to ‘it, that this attack upon certain .of its members, will have a steadying influence on its report. I do not see eye to “eye ‘politically with the honorable member for .Swan ,(Mr. Prowse) or the honorable member .for Robertson (Mr. Fleming); but I have sufficient respect for them as members, and personally, to believe that they will not be steadied, or swayed, or. modified, or mollified in the slightest degree by the attitude of the Government. ‘The Prime Minister has made out no case. He has shown himself to be very much perturbed. He has indicated that the Government are seriously anxious about the results of the inquiry. Sugar has been a very painful subject. It will prove to be a very dangerous one upon which to face the elections; and the Government see no other solace but to take advantage of their position to attack the Public Accounts Committee.
– Looking at the whole matter from a practical stand-point, I think that no one cam fail to come to the decision that the Government had considerable courage, at all events, in referring the sugar inquiry to the Accounts Committee. It cannot be suggested that the Committee, constituted as it is, is one which would be biased in favour of the Government. Its members are undoubtedly honorable men ; no one suggests the contrary. But we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that they do not belong to one party, and that the majority of its members cannot be accused of being supporters of the Government. However, the Government said-, “ We have nothing to fear. We will refer the. sugar investigation to a Committee the political views of which, so far as the majority are concerned, are not. favorable to ourselves.” Members of the Committee. I repeat, are honorable men; but, at the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr.Prowse) have strongly expressed themselves in this Chamber uponthe subject-matter which, as members of the Accounts Committee, they are to investigate, and upon which they are to record a finding.
– Did we express any personal opinion at all?
– You voted, did you not?’
– And so did the honorable member.
– Of course, I did; but I am not a member of the Accounts Committee. The fact cannot be ignored that the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) brought up certain phases of the question, and supported them with documentary matter; and that he made a very strong and bitter speech. His general objective appeared to me to be to surround the Government dealings with suspicion; and to cast innuendoes of corruption, so far as the transactions of the Government were concerned. That, I say, was the atmosphere which he sought to create. The honorable member for Swan supported his leader, and did his part in expanding the atmosphere of suspicion. He had known that the Committee which was to be given- the task of investigating the sugar business would be the Public Accounts. Committee, of which he was a member. I speak with some experience when I say that the practice of members of Committees is to refrain from addressing Parliament on the subject-matter under reference while that matter is actually being investigated. They rightly prefer to have a completely open mind; they are careful not to commit themselves.
– The honorable member speaks of Select Committees?
– I do; and to. all intents and purposes this is a Select Committee.
– It is a Committee which has been asked to make various specific investigations, and whether it be a Select Committee or otherwise, the same principle applies. It is all very well to say that the Committee is only an investigatory body. Does any one doubt that, when once a Committee has conducted its inquiries and has arrived at a conclusion, its findings do not largely, if not completely, regulate the whole position?
– If it is a unanimous finding.
– Whether it is a unanimous or a majority finding, I say that the whole position becomes largely prejudiced by that finding. When members of a Committee have to come to a decision as to certain doubtful matters presented to it, and where it is a question of interpretation, that interpretation may be influenced by the unconscious operation of the mind, and, particularly, members will be influenced by views to which they have committed themselves. And; if an atmosphere of suspicion has been engendered, that unconscious working of the mind may have been seriously affected. I was pleased when the Governmentsub mi t ted the sugar business to a body such as the Accounts Committee. ‘So far as’ the honorable members for Robertson and Swan are concerned, I have sufficient confidence in them to believe that what, they do will be conscientiously performed. They must guard themselves, however, against unconscious prejudice. I think, that matters should now be permitted to proceed, remembering, however, that it cannot be said of the Government that they referred the investigation to a body which has a majority favoring them.
.- Something has been said this morning of the courage of the Government in referring the sugar business to the Public Ac-: counts Committee. I fail to perceive their courage. The Government have a majority of straight-out supporters on that Committee.
– That is not so. Read the names!
– That is a fair request, and I will proceed to do so from the official records. The Senate representatives are Senators Bolton, Buzacott, and J. D. Millen, all straight-out supporters of the Government. The members of the House of Representatives upon the Joint Committee of Public Accounts are thehonorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley), who may be regarded as a straight-out, thick-and-thin supporter of the Government. The next in alphabetical order is the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), who is one who sees the true light. The next is the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming). Then comes the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler).
– Another straight-out supporter of the Government.
– Thick-and-thin I
– Yes! The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) is the next in order; he is another of those who see and follow the true light. Next comes the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse), one of the most honorable gentlemen occupying a seat in this assembly. Lastly, there is the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) - another true follower of the light. Since I would like to see a vote taken before the adjournment, I will say nothing further, but will leave it to the Prime Minister to examine the names and count up his own majority.
.- There are just one or two points to which I feel called upon to reply. There has been a complete misunderstanding regarding the position which I have adopted in the matter of calling upon Ministers to give evidence before the Accounts Committee. Hitherto, the practice has been not to call Ministers, for the obvious reason that the Committee is not supposed or intended to sit in judgment on matters of Ministerial policy. But, where the Committee necessarily requires the presence of a Minister in order to carry out its work, there is no reason why a Minister should not be called upon to give evidence. So where and when the Committee considers it necessary, Ministers will be notified. I should add that if, at any time, a Minister desired to give evidence there is no reason why he should not be permitted to do so. (With respect to the attacks made upon Colonel Oldershaw, I know of nothing which has been said or done in the Committee that can be construed in that direction. It has been made to appear that attacks have been made on that gentleman. It has been my duty, however, as chairman, to see that our work is carried on fairly and properly; and, where a question -has been put occasionally which might appear to be a reflection–
– I will resume the chair at 2.15 p.m.
Debate interrupted under standing: order119.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
.- I move-
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable a decision to be arrived at on the motion moved by the honorable member for Perth.
The Government, having set out their views, leave to the honorable members to whom they referred the decision as to the propriety of their continuing to sit in judgment upon this case. We desire the motion of the honorable member for Perth to be carried.
– Will the suspension of the Standing Orders permit of further discussion ?
– No. The suspension is only to permit of a decision being arrived at upon the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I certify that the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders has been agreed to by an absolute majority of the House.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This measure has already been mentioned in this House on several occasions, and I think honorable members are well, acquainted with the reason for its introduction and what is sought to be achieved by it. It is a great pity that long before this the Commonwealth did not make provision, such as has been made by almost every other civilized country in the world, for the granting of retiring allowances to members of the Naval and, Military Forces who, through one cause or another, retire from the service. The conditions in both those services are somewhat different from those which obtain in every other walk of life. Members of the Naval and Military Forces, if they have not risen to a certain rank after a certain period of service, automatically pass out of the service. For instance, when a lieutenant in the Army reaches the age of forty-eight he automatically passes from the active to the retired list. Similarly, a captain, when he reaches a slightly greater age, automatically passes out of the service, and so on through the various ranks of the Army. The same conditions apply to officers in the Navy; if they have not obtained a certain rank at the prescribed age, they automatically leave the service. In that respect, the conditions are different from those in any other calling. It is true that the civil servants are automatically retired at the age of sixty-five years, and there is a pro’posal in the Government programme to bring down a Bill to provide for pensions for civil servants, and members of the Naval and Military Forces. But that scheme will be on a contributory basis. Every other civilized nation with any considerable Naval or Military Forces, has made provision for a retiring allowance to its officers. All that the Commonwealth has done in the past, when certain members of the permanent Defence Forces have reached the retiring age, has been to place a sum of money upon the Estimates, and ask Parliament to vote it as compensation to the retired officers. This Bill, however, is designed to deal with a very large number of officers, and men of the Army, and a smaller number of the Navy, who are being compulsorily retired owing to a reduction in the Defence Forces. As has been said on more than one occasion, the results of the Washington Conference have enabled the Government to bring about that reduction. Many of the men who have been retired have given to the country long and faithful service in peace and war, and there is no doubt that compulsory retirement has inflicted upon them very considerable hardship. They had before them, they thought, an assured connexion with the Defence Forces up to the maximum retirement age. Others had given a good many years of service to their country, and there remained for them comparatively few years of further service, if they continued on the same rank. Nevertheless, it was quite possible that during that period of unexpired service, perhaps three or four years, they would have secured promotion which would have entitled them to a new lease of life in the Forces. Those two considerations must be borne in mind by honorable members when, dealing with, this measure. It is not merely that compulsory retirement has out short the length of .service for the rank these officers held at the time of retirement; many officers had prospects of a rise in rank which would have entitled them to a further period of service.
– Is promotion automatic 1
– Not entirely, but retirement is automatic, and as the senior men must automatically pass out on reaching the retirement age, the men below them must necessarily step up. I desire to give to the House particulars of the compensation that has been given to officers recently retired from the Indian Army. So far as I am aware, the scheme of retrenchment in India deals only with subalterns and captains; and the particulars I have are as follow : -
Subalterns - Gratuity, £850, plus £75 for each year of service.
Captains- Gratuity, £1,250, plus £150 for each year of service as captain.
Thus a subaltern with five years’ service will receive £1,225, and a captain with five years* seniority (as captain), £2,000.
Pending payment of the gratuity, officers receive, if single, an allowance of £200 per annum, and if married’ an allowance of £300 per annum.
They are also paid a passage for their wives and families to any part of the Empire they decide to go to.
– That is not theregular provision, but a special one.
– I shall deal with the regular provision in a moment; I am now dealing with a case somewhat analogous to our own, where the authorities, retire men in India for whom, at that particular period, there is no superannuation allowance. These are men who belong to the Indian Army as opposed to the British Army; it is to those men that these rates are granted, and they are very much more generous than the: rates we are suggesting in the Bill.
-Can the Minister give usany reason why that should be? Have those: men not served longer terms under more difficult conditions ?
– No ; they have been serving in the Indian Army, and they are entitled under the Indian retrenchment) scheme to the compensation I have mentioned. When we come to the British Army and Navy we find the figures are as follow: -
The following figures show the amounts paid by other Governments within the Empire in respect of retrenched personnel: -
Officers. - Sub-lieutenants, gratuity of £500;
Lieutenants with under five years’ seniority, retired pay from £82 10s. to £112 10s.” per annum, plus gratuity from £350 to £700.
Commanders. - (a) Those who have qualified for the maximum rate of retired pay of their rank - retired pay of £600 per annum, plus gratuity from £250 to £750. (b) Those with under eight years’ seniority - retired pay according to. service, maximum amount, £600 per annum. No gratuity is paid to this class in addition.
– For how many years, do they get the £600 ?
– It is a pension for the rest of their lives -
Captains. - (a) Those who. have six years’ seniority and above and have qualifying service for promotion - retired pay from- £725 to £875 per annum, (b) Those who have three years’ seniority and above, including those of six years’ seniority and above, who have not qualifying, service, for promotion - retired pay from £625 to £775 per annum.(c) Those who have not three years’ seniority; - retired pay according to service, plus an addition of £100 per annum to retired pay.
Note. - The Admiralty allow officers to commute retired pay, provided a minimum of £120. per annum is retained uncommuted.
Men. - Under five years’ service, gratuity of £20; five years’ service and under twelve, gratuity equal to from six months’ to two years’ pay; twelve years and over, pension varying from1s. 7d. to 5s. per day. Note. - Normally R.N. ratings obtain a. pension after twenty-two years’ service, varying, according to rating, from about £80 to £110 per annum.
Officers assessable for retired pay (fifteen or more years of service) -
Subaltern. - Normal rate for rank, plus £50 per annum.
Captain. - Normal rate for rank, plus £60 per annum.
Major.: - Normal rate for rank, plus £75 per annum.
Lieut-Col. - Normal rate for rank, plus £100 per annum.
Officers not assessable for retired pay (less than fifteen years’ service) - 2nd Lieut. - Basic gratuity, £600.
Lieut, with less than five years’ service. - Basic gratuity, £700.
Lieut, with five and less than fifteenyears’ service. - Basic gratuity, £800.
Captain with: less than thirteen years’ service. - Basic gratuity,1 £1,000.
Captain with thirteen or fourteen years’ service. - Basic gratuity, £1,100. (Together with an addition of £100 for each year’s service.)
Thus a captain in the Imperial Army with,fourteen years’ service will receive a total payment of £2.500.
Those officers who have not had fifteen years’ service are not entitled to a pension, but they get a lump sum.; that is to say, supposing a captain has had fourteen years’ service, he gets “a basic gratuity of £1,100 plus £1,400., or £2,500 altogether -
Other ranks. - (a) A soldier serving on a. normal engagement (i.e., not special short service and duration of war engagements) is granted the following: -
Twentyeight days’ leave, with full pay; and allowances.
Gratuity of £1 per year for each year of service with the colours..
If unexpired colour service is three months or less, half pay, half ration allowance, and full marriage allowance) for fourteen days follow)-‘ ing date of discharge. If. unexpired portion of colour service is less than fourteen days, half pay, half ration allowance, and full marriage allowance is granted for the actual period of unexpired colour service only
If unexpired colour service is, more than three months and not more than twelve months, quarter pay, quarter ration allowance, and full marriage allowance- for a further fourteen days.
If unexpired colour service is more than a year, quarter pay, quarter ration allowance, and full marriage allowance for fourteen days in respect of each year or portion of a year by which his unexpired colour service exceeds one year.
– How much is the quarter pay?
– I am unable to say. It means, I take it, that if a man has had four years’ unexpired colour service he gets fourteen days’ full pay in addition to the benefits under (i) to (iv).
– Have you got an example of the subordinate’s retiring allowance?
– I have not worked it out in detail, because it is difficult to ascertain the facts -
That is to say, a warrant officer who has risen from the ranks, and has continued in the service for twenty-one years, gets a life pension in addition to the other benefits -
Twenty-eight days’ leave, with full pay, and allowance on discharge.
– Can you tell us how much it is worth?
– It depends entirely on circumstances. I asked my officers if they could give me the actual details in cash, and they said it was not practicable unless we knew all the surrounding “circumstances, of which they could not inform us. I wish to make it quite clear that in the British Army, in every case where there is service beyond a certain period, both officers and men are entitled to a pension for life.
– The majority of the Balaclava heroes died in the workhouse.
– Whatever may be true of the old days, it is true to-day that every man who serves in the British Army for over a given period is entitled to a pension for life.
I have mentioned these facts to show how it is realized that the occupation of a soldier or of a sailor in the Navy is one which necessarily involves his being deprived of his employment suddenly at a period of life when very often he is unable to take up any other occupation. Consequently it has been laid down by other countries that he is entitled to a pension. A further point I wish to stress is that a man who is deprived of his occupation in the ordinary ranks of life can go to another employer and seek employment. A soldier or a man in the Navy is not at all in that position.
– Why, the sailor is tha handiest of men.
– I am not speaking from that point of view at present; my point is that the profession of such a man is the profession of arms, and his only employer is the State. He cannot leave the State and offer his services to somebody else in the profession to which he is accustomed, and that is a great handicap. I am not saying for one moment that many of these men who come under the’ Bill will not be able to accommodate themselves to the altered conditions, and find a niche in life where they can be usefully employed, but I do say that to suddenly cut these men off.-
– Have you any idea as to the number of men affected?
– I think there are 460 in the Permanent Forces.
– Does that include the clerical element?
– I do not think so. That is the reason why the Government have differentiated between clerical employees and Military and Naval Forces properly so called. We felt that while the soldier had no other employer to whom to go seeking employment in the profession to which he had been accustomed all his life, others whohad been engaged in a civil capacity were not placed at the same disadvantage, and, consequently, were not entitled to the same amount of compensation.
– They do not take the same risk.
– There is something in what the honorable member says, but that is not the reason which actuated the Government in differentiating as they have done.
– Quite a number of these men were on active service, whereas a number of military officers were not.
– There is no military man remaining in the Service who was not at the war, except where voluntary retirements made it unnecessary to discharge certain men.
– I can name a few who were not.
– Some were refused permission to go.
– That is quite true; but eventually every man was given the opportunity of enlisting if he so desired.
– What about those men who were too old to go?
– Some were not permitted to enlist.
– I am informed that a considerable time before the war finished every man was given an opportunity of enlisting.
– Does the Minister say that those who sailed from here after the signing of the Armistice went to the war?
– I presume that they offered themselves for service abroad before the signing of the Armistice, although they may have actually sailed after that event.
– But some men were told that their services were too valuable here.
– That does not affect what I am referring to now.
– The Minister said that every man had an opportunity to go. As a matter of fact, there were restrictions.
– All I can say is that I am informed - because I was not Minister for Defence at the time - that every man was given an unrestricted right to enlist.
– Every man was given a chance towards the end of the war.
– Yes. At the beginning of the war a large number of men were prevented from enlisting, but towards the end that embargo was lifted in every case, and every individual was given an opportunity of enlisting. Of course, I am aware that there were some who were unable to go on account of some physical defects.
– That is so. T he medical officers would not allow them to go.
– It is suggested that the Government are differentiating in this Bill between the officers and the men. The reason for this is quite simple. Whereas an officer, once he has accepted his commission, is there for life, the rankandfile man is engaged for a period of five years only, but is entitled to re-enlist from time to time for periods of three years, subject to the proviso that if he does not rise in the ranks during the time of his engagement, he automatically passes out of the Forces. Consequently, the position of the two classes of men is entirely different when we come to consider the amount of compensation that ought to be paid to them for sudden termination of their engagements. In the one case, we have a man who is there practically for the whole of his life, with the opportunity of rising to the highest ranks and of obtaining the emoluments attaching thereto. In the other case, we have men joining the Forces for quite short periods without the opportunity for advancement which the officers have, and engaged for short periods only. They are entitled to remain in the Forces for short periods only, consequently the loss of employment does not affect them as it does those in the higher ranks.
– Because you have made their position insecure while they are there, you are treating them worse when you retire them..
– Not at all. We propose to pay compensation according to the amount of injury the State has done to the individual. That is the basis of this Bill. Inasmuch as these men have been deprived of a certain period of service, whatever it may be, we consider that we should pay compensation according to that of which they have been deprived.
– Are these men entitled to re-enlistment if they desire it?
– Ordinarily, they have no such right. It is a matter absolutely at the discretion of the authorities. The usual procedure is that if a gunner does not qualify for his stripe within the five years’ period, he goes out, but if he gets his first stripe he is re-engaged for three years more. If in that extended period he does not qualify for a further stripe, out he goes.
Prior to the authorization of dual furlough payments it has in recent years been usual for the Commonwealth Parliament to vote as compensation to military officers who have been retired after serving their full time an amount equal to twelve months’ salary, although in some cases an amount equal totwo years’ salary or more has been given ; and when we were considering the provisions of this Bill we took the procedure on which the House had acted previously as a basis. We stipulated that a man should receive a month’s salary for each year of service, but provided that if one month’s salary for each year of service should exceed the amount an officer would draw if he had remained in the Service to the automatic date of retirement at the rank then held by him, the amount of compensation to which he would be entitled should be what he would have drawn plus an amount equal to twelve months’ salary.
– It is complicated. Clause 5 provides that the maximum amount payable is a sum equivalent to twelve months’ pay plus pay for the unexpired period of service.
– The clause is as follows : -
Upon the retirement or discharge, in pursuance of the last preceding section, of any member of the Permanent Naval, Military, or Air Forces (not being a person whose duties, in the opinion of the Naval Board of Administration, the Military Board of Administration, or the Air Board, as the case may be, have been mainly of a purely clerical nature), there shall be payable to him compensation in the proportion of one month’s pay for each year of service :
Provided that -
in the case of any other rating or other soldier - a sum equivalent to three months’ pay;
Whichever sum is the lesser is to be paid. If a man has forty years’ service to his credit, and he still has four years to serve, he will be entitled to forty months’ pay, but if he has served thirty years, and has still one year to serve, he will not get: thirty months’ pay, but will get twelvemonths’ pay plus pay for his unexpired period of service.
– As I read the clause, he would get thirty months’ pay plus one years’ pay for his unexpired period of service.
– The clause is badly drafted.
– I know what the Bill is intended to provide.
– The Minister knows what he told the Draftsmen to do; but if he reads clause 5 6 he will see that it is doubtful whether it really does what he desires.
– Paragraph b provides that the maximum amount so payable shall be a sum equivalent to twelve months’ pay plus pay for the unexpired period of the service of the member.
– What it ought to provide is “ plus one month’s pay per annum for the unexpired portion,” &c.
– The main part of the clause provides that -
Upon the retirement or discharge, in pursuance of the last preceding section of any member . . . there shall be payable to him compensation in the proportion of one month’s pay for each year of service. . . .
– But the proviso in paragraph b does not agree with that.
– That proviso is -
Provided that (b) the maximum amount so payable shall be a sum equivalent to twelve months’ pay plus pay for the unexpired period of the service of the member.
– That is to say, full pay for the unexpired period.
– That is what is intended.
– At last we have it. It was difficult to get the information.
– But if the amount be greater than that which is provided for in the main part of the clause the member will get the lesser amount.
– I am not worried about the amount being less. When I saw the Bill I thought it was going to run into big sums.
– It will not work as the honorable member suggests. It is laid down first of all that every member is entitled to one month’s pay for each year of service. A member may have thirty-six years’ service, and six months to go, before he automatically passes out of the Service. Under the first part of clause 5, if it stood alone, he would be entitled to three years’ pay, but under the proviso, he would be entitled to only one year’s pay plus six months’ pay.
– If he had twenty years’ service, and had five years still to go, he would receive compensation equal to twenty months’ pay plus five years’ pay. That, at all events, seems to some of us to be the meaning of the clause.
– I do not think it is. I shall make quite clear what is intended, so that when we are in Committee we may determine whether or not the Bill gives expression to that intention. What we wanted to provide against was that a man with a comparatively short time to remain in the Service should get the same amount, by way of compensation, as a man of the same rank who had still a considerable period to run, and yet had a longer service. There are cases of the kind, owing to the age at which some men entered the Service. We wanted to provide against men who had a comparatively short time to go getting as much, by way of compensation, as a man who had a comparatively long time to go. That is what we have tried to do. I do not know that I can usefully discuss the Bill further on the second reading.
– Will the honorable gentleman tell us what are the calculations as to the cost of the scheme, and the number of men involved?
– We think that we shall be able to provide for the Army and Navy retirements at a cost of £300,000.
– How many men are involved ?
– In the Permanent Forces 460. There are, in addition, sixty or seventy clerical officers, and also some people in the Navy. I am not yet quite certain of the number involved in the Navy, but it will not be large, because we are reducing in the Navy by reverting men to the Imperial Navy. Men are reverted to the Imperial Navy, and if they are entitled to a pension they obtain it from that source. We think we shall be able to carry out this scheme for about £300,000.
Honorable members, no doubt, have noticed that the Treasurer made provision last year for this particular scheme. The money was saved, in the main, out of the Defence Estimates last year, and the Treasurer took advantage of the position to make provision for this amount.
– Is the money specially appropriated?
– I think so. None of it can be spent, of course, until the Parliament passes this Bill. I ought, perhaps, to tell honorable members what, no doubt, they have read for themselves in the press, and that is that the Government, after it had announced these retirements, notified the Forces of its intention to bring down this Bill, and gave the officers and men concerned an intimation of its proposals. We told them quite frankly that we could not guarantee the amount of compensation that it was proposed to give, but that we intended to submit this Bill to Parliament. We invited all who desired to send in their resignations voluntarily to do so, telling them that, if the Bill passed and the resignations were accepted, those who retired voluntarily would be entitled to the same amount of compensation as those who, later on, were compulsorily retired. A large number of officers and men voluntarily retired in the hope that they would get this compensation.
– And the Department has treated them worse than it has treated those compulsorily retired. It has paid them only up to the end of June last, whereas those who were compulsorily retired have been paid up to the end of July.
– But we told them, at the time of their voluntary retirement, that their pay would cease on 30th June, and we told those who went out compulsorily that their pay would cease on 31st July. We had to get in the voluntary retirements before determining the list of compulsory retirements. The Government took the view that if there were in the Forces men who were prepared, on these conditions, to go out voluntarily, it was far better that they should do so than that we should throw out a large number of men who did not want to leave the service, and continue in it men who were prepared to go out. I think that this helped materially withthe whole scheme of retrenchment. It enabled the Government to retain in the Forces men who otherwise, in all probability, would have been compulsorily retired, and it helped us particularly in regard to a number of Duntroon ‘cadets whose services we were most anxious to retain. It opened up avenues in advance which enabled us to make certain promotions and to keep in the Forces quite a number of Duntroon cadets who, otherwise, would have had to go out.
– The Indian command selected for retirement the men who were least efficient in the service.
– India called,’ for volunteers just as we did. I should not like to cast any doubt on the efficiency of these men who have gone out.
– The Indian command, at all events/ got rid of the men they did not want, and kept the “ pick of the basket.”
– I do not want to say that we have, or have not, adopted the same course.
I want now to refer to the employees in the various factories for whom it is said we have not provided under this compensation scheme. The claim that they should receive compensation is not tenable. They are employees, in the same sense as are those employed in ordinary walks of life. The employees in the industrial concerns of the Department are not subject to the same conditions of service as are the permanent officers and men. They are not required to undergo the competitive educational and practical tests of efficiency, and to pass the necessary medical standard laid down for permanent officers. Moreover, they are engaged under the specific conditions laid down in Factory Regulation 88, as follows : -
All employees shall be temporarily engaged by the day, and their engagements shall be terminable without notice on either side, provided that any employee engaged under agreement shall bc subject to the terms of such agreement. Employment, as a temporary hand, shall not establish any claim to permanent employment on any grounds whatever.
That is one of the definite conditions under which they are engaged. They are employed only as temporary hands, and are liable to dismissal without notice. Their position is exactly the same as that of men in the ordinary walks of life, and they hare a trade to which they oan go.
They are not in the same position as members of the Military Forces or permanent employees of the Department, and I do not think that any claim by them for compensation is tenable. I ask the House to give this measure its earnest consideration, and to pass it as early as possible. It is of great importance that the men concerned should know, - without delay, what their position is to be, and that they should not have to fritter away the compensation which is given them to enable them to make a new start in life, by having to wait a long time for it. It is not the fault of the Government that the Bill has not been brought down earlier. We have been ready and anxious to go on with it, but the House has been occupied with other work. I ask the House to pass the Bill into law as early as possible, so that these men may receive the compensation which they so richly deserve.
.- Honorable members will have gathered from the speech made by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) that special attention has been given to those who hold high rank in the Military Forces of the Commonwealth rather than to the interests of the men of the lower ratings. What strikes one most forcibly is the keen desire of the Minister to make ample provision for the officers of higher ranks, while very little consideration appears to have been given to subalterns, “ non-coms,” and men of the rank and file. Clerical workers in the Defence Department are in an even less satisfactory position than ordinary soldiers. Full and generous compensation for the men higher up has been made the first consideration; and it has only been in order that it should not be said that the rank and file were not altogether slighted that some small provision has been made for them. There has been no thought of arriving at an equitably graduated system of compensation. Obviously, the measure was drawn up originally by the Defence authorities - those people who had so much of their own way during the war, for which the country had to pay thousands upon thousands of pounds more than should have been required. Officers of high rank have continued to hold posts since the war for which they have not been fitted, and thus the country has had to pay still more wasteful millions. Now these favoured ones are to be retired with consideration out of all proportion to their services or to the justice of their claims. As for the unfortunates who have lost employment through the closing down of Government factories, there is no question of compensation for them. They may have been persuaded to take up work in the Government’s military factories as a measure of war service, leaving good permanent jobs in private employ. Thousands of them have now been turned away without compensation. It matters not to the Government what becomes of them and their wives and families. The Government have economised, after their own fashion, and nothing else matters. The high military officials, however, must be specially safeguarded. That is the purpose of this Bill; but we do not know to what enormous expenditure the measure, if it is passed as it has been drafted, may lead the country. I have come to the conclusion, after careful perusal,.’ that the Bill has been cunningly prepared so as to provide for the Government giving to retired senior officers practically anything they may want.
– That is not the intention, and the Bill does not so provide.
– My view is that it does. The Minister referred to clause 5. I desire to stress the phraseology, particularly of sub-clause b : -
The maximum amount so payable shall be a sum equivalent to 12 months’ pay, plus pay for the unexpired period of the service of the member.
The Minister (Mr. Greene) endeavoured to argue that that sub-clause does not mean what it apparently says. I call attention to the following in the definition clause : - “ Pay for the unexpired period of the service of the member “ moans the total of the pay which, in the opinion of the Naval Board of Administration, the Military Board of Administration, the Air Board or the Secretary to the Department of Defence, as the case may be, the member would probably have received had he continued, until the age prescribed bylaw for retirement or discharge therefrom, to occupy the office or hold the rank occupied or held by him at the time of his retirement or discharge under this Act;
Could any language be clearer?
– I assure the honorable member that, if the meaning is such as he suggests, it is not what the Government intend; and we will alter the Bill. But 1 am quite sure that the meaning is not as he suggests.
– There is no other meaning possible.
– And the Minister himself so interpreted the Bill.
– I did not.
– If there is any doubt, the measure should be redrafted to give effect to the expressed intentions of the Government.
– I say that it will need to be redrafted. If this measure is passed as it has been printed, there will be no end to the costs involved. Some days ago I asked the Minister for Defence for particulars of the retiring ages prescribed by regulation of the different ranks in the military forces. From the detailed answer, I cull the following : -
I call attention, first, to the retiring age of a lieutenant-colonel, which is sixty-five years. If such an officer is fifty years old, when he is retired, he will be entitled to fifteen years’ full salary, over and above the ordinary provisions.
– I assure the honorable member that it is not so.
– I am just as sure, according to the phraseology of the Bill, that the Minister is wrong. If a mistake has been made, it should be rectified.
– If there is a mistake, it will be rectified. The Government will not pay that amount of compensation.
– It will not be sufficient to accept what is merely in the Minister’s mind. The Bill speaks in language which is clear enough.
The Minister referred to clause 12, which provides for voluntary retirements. He held that the provision contained therein had already worked well, and had assisted the Government. From that point of view, no doubt, the provision is good. The clause provides that any man who voluntarily retires before the 30th June, 1923, will receive compensation according to the terms of this Bill. If the opportunity is largely availed of, what will be the cost to the Government?
These retirements are proposed for the sake of economy. But if certain officers no longer desire to continue in the Service, although the Minister may wish to retain their services, they may, because it suits them to get as much as they can from the Commonwealth, retire and get compensation.
– No. If a man who was required wished to retire, and it would be necessary to fill his position, he could do so, but he would get no compensation. It rests entirely with the Minister to say whether or not he shall get the compensation.
– I am not prepared to leave that discretion to the Minister. We should state definitely in the measure what our intentions are.
– We shall not give compensation to any man who retires while his services are still required.
– The Minister may be the best man in the world for his position, and, perhaps, he would not give compensation in such a case ; but he may not be in charge of the Defence Department much longer. We should state in black and white what we intend by our legislation. This measure is phrased so unsatisfactorily that anything can be clone under it.
– If you make the payment of compensation mandatory, the country will have to pay a good deal more than will be necessary under the Bill as drafted.
– I have always had the highest respect for the Minister and his capabilities, but he is now taking up an attitude which surprises me. He contends that the payment of compensation” should be left to his discretion, and should not be decided by Parliament. That would create conditions on a par with what is happening in connexion with some of the Boards.
– If vou make it mandatory in the Bill that every man who wishes to retire must get compensation, you will involve the country in considerably greater cost.
– But I would not make it mandatory. I would not pay this compensation.
– This clause was inserted because we think that we may be able to dispense with the services of other officers as time goes on, and we desire to be able to pay them compensation if we do so.
– Why should not the Government decide who shall retire, and not leave it to men to decide whether or not they shall retire and take compensation. If the Bill gives certain rights to individuals they will be able to avail themselves of those rights, regardless of wh ether or not the Minister desires them to do so.
– No; because the clause is governed by the words, “ if the application is granted.” The clause is inserted solely for the purpose of enabling us to compensate men whose services may be found unnecessary during the next twelve months when the re-organization is complete.
– The Bill should be so drafted as to leave no doubt as to the Government’s power to retire these men if necessary, and it should not be optional for the individual officer to retire or remain in the Service.I gathered from the Minister’s speech that men could retire it they wished to do so before 30th June, 1923, and that that was the purpose of the clause.
Another objection to the Bill is the differentiation between different classes of beneficiaries. Throughout the Bill there is discrimination.The Ministerhas said that many of the officers who have lost their employment will be unfitted for other occupations. That may be. true, but it is equally true of all other classes. There may be clerical officers who have spent years in the Department, and who are unqualified for work in any other service. I mentioned recently the circum- stances of a man whose services had been dispensed with after a long connexion with the Department, and who could not get employment. As a rule, clerical work is much the same in all employments. But it is quite possible that, owing to the overcrowded market; retired clerks will not be able to find new employment, and they are not to receive the same consideration as the soldier, whilst the soldier is not to receive the same consideration as the officer. If the compensation is to. be on the basis of length of service it should be applied on a uniform principle to all classes of men who may be retired. If the officer is to receive two months’ pay for each year of service, the clerk and the rank and file also should receive two months’ pay for each year of service. But the Bill differentiates between the three.
– The honorable member supported the War Pensions Bill, which differentiated in the same way.
– There is no analogy between the two measures. The war pensions were not based upon length of service, but upon incapacity and rank. I am urging that this compensation should not be according to the salary a man had been earning, but according to the length of his service, and that all ranks should get allowance for each year of service on a uniform basis.
– The war pensions were fixed according to rank.
– The principal consideration governing the amount of the pension was incapacity, but rank was considered to some extent. The private received less money than the officer, but he was not given merely two months’ pay for each year of service while the officer was given four months pay.
– There was no differentiation at all in connexion with the war gratuity.
– No. If an officer has served ten years, and a soldier ten years, and a clerk ten years, and if the officer is to be given two months’ pay for each of those years, why should not the soldier and the clerk also receive two months’ pay? He would hot receive the same amount of money as the officer received, but his compensation would be upon the same basis. The drafting of the Bill is very unsatisfactory, and I shall be very careful in dealing with it. It is largely a measure for consideration in Committee, and I hope that the many amendments which will be proposed will be considered by the House on their merits. Most of the officers who have enjoyed high salaries are in a better position to retire than are the poorer men who have to depend on their earnings for their daily bread. I trust that the House will thoroughly sift these provisions in Committee and rectify the anomaly. I also ask the Minister to make sure as to the exact meaning of some of the phraseology. The Minister may have intended one thing, whereas the Bill provides something entirely different. I still contend that the meaning of this Bill is that an officer shall get compensation not only for the expired period of his service, but also for the unexpired period
– I am sorry that the Minister, in preparing this scheme, has followed so slavishly the methods of the British Army. It is a characteristic of the governing power in Great Britain that the rank and file should be treated very poorly and the officers very well. The charge cannot be laid against me that, in connexion with war pensions, I agreed to differentiation, because the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) and I contended that all ranks should receive the same pension.
– Do not say you were alone in that?
– The honorable member for Melbourne and I took that stand upon the floor of the House; whether or not other honorable members supported us I cannot recollect. The Australian people will not agree that the commissioned officer should receive so much compensation, and the noncommissioned officer and private so little. I cannot see why we should treat one section of the community more favorably than the other. No doubt we shall have to accept the differentiation for certain reasons, but the Government and the heads of the Defence Department have not played the game fairly. For instance, a notification was issued to men in the Service that those who desired to avail themselves of the opportunity of retirement could do so, and receive compensation.
– They could apply to be allowed to retire.
– Yes, and many of them accepted the invitation, but subsequently discovered that they could only retire without compensation.
– Of course, we could not allow men to retire on a pension whose positions we would have had to fill immediately afterwards. We could only allow to retire those men whom we wished to retire.
– Then, why did the Minister send out communications to the men telling them they could avail themselves of the opportunity to retire with compensation and then refuse it to them ?
– The invitation had to be an open one.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports would not pay compensation to a man whose position had to be immediately filled.
– That was not the position at all. It was decided, because of action taken by the House, that certain men in the Department had to go, and the authorities naturally looked round for some means of making it as easy as possible for them. What I complain of is the discrimination shown, some men being retired with compensation, while others, who were in a precisely similar position, received nothing. I, myself, put some cases before the Government showing how unfairly men have been treated. One or two of them met me at the House here, and, at first, I must say that I scarcely believed what they told me; but, of course, I was convinced when they put the facts in writing and attached their names. I have received the following letter from two men concerned : -
Re my conversation with you relating to the discharge from the Australian Instructional Corps (Permanent Military Forces) of four Warrant Officers without compensation, in connexion with the reduction of the Defence Forces, I am setting forth the full case, which is as follows: -
On 13th June, 1922, all Warrant Officers of the 3rd Division received from Divisional Headquarters a circular extract from Defence Memo. No. 17546, of 10th June, 1922, setting forth particulars of retirement,and proposed scale of compensation to those willing to resign, or those compulsorily retired from the Forces.
Warrant Officer Downing and myself replied on the same day (13th June, 1922) that we were willing to resign under the conditions set out.
On 14th June, 1922, instructions were received from Head-quarters that we would be discharged on 30th June, 1922 (the date laid down for discharge in the circular).
On 27th June, 1922, we received correspondence stating that as instructions had already been issued for our discharge, consideration would not be given to our applications dated 13th June, 1922, to resign under the conditions of Defence Memo. No. 17546.
In answer to this we replied to Headquarters, a copy of which is attached.
As there are a number of other Warrant Officers in the Division (who like ourselves are non-returned soldiers), and who have been notified that they will be discharged with com- . pensation, there is evidently some misjustice in connexion with our cases.
The other two Warrant Officers concerned are stationed in country districts, and will not be in Melbourne till Friday, 30th inst., therefore on their behalf we are connecting their names to this correspondence.
On 27th June, 1922, Downing and myself paraded before our Divisional Instructional Group Commander and asked if there were any reasons such as inefficiency or bad conduct, &c, for our being discharged without any consideration, and we were told that such was not the case.
The four Warrant Officers concerned have all over six years’ service in the Permanent Forces, have good records, and Downing and myself have volunteered for active service. I myself have served in the Australian Imperial Force for six months, being discharged on 21st March, 1915, medically unfit, not due to misconduct (Discharge No. V.B.28543).
The following Warrant Officers who are being discharged, and who will receive compensation subject to it being approved, and who, like ourselves, are not returned soldiers, are: -
B. Newton, V. Lowndes, C. Spring, H. Warner, A. Jackson.
Those to be discharged without are: -
Moorehouse, A. J. Read, P. A. Downing, H. Goodwin.
We would be greatly obliged if you would favour us by contesting this matter when the compensation scheme is being discussed in the House of Representatives, as we consider that the same consideration should be given to all.
– As I said, the invitation was, and had to be, a general one. There may have been men whose time had
– The time of these men had not expired. The following is a letter from the Commanding Officer: -
15th Infantry Brigade,
Brunswick, 27th June, 1922.
Commanding Officer, 59th Infantry Battalion,
The subjoined copy of a memo, received from
Head-quarters, 3rd Division, is forwarded for the information of those concerned: -
W.O. (II.) H. Goodwin.
W.O. (II.) P. A. W. Downing. (Sgd.) J. McCall, Major,
Brigade Major, 15th Infantry Brigade.
– Why were these men to be discharged?
– They did not know they were to be discharged : they were furnished with the memorandum and offered to accept the conditions, but subsequently were not allowed to do so. The following is a letter from Goodwin to the Brigade Major of the 15th Brigade: -
Drill Hall, Brunswick, 27th June, 1922.
From H. Goodwin, W.O. (II.),
To Brigade Major, 15th Brigade.
I have received information that I am not to receive any compensation when discharged from the Australian Instructional Corps on 30th June, 1922, and I desire to get some definite reason for this action. I received a circular from 3rd Divisional Head-quarters on 30th June, 1922 (extract from Defence Memo. No. 17546, of 10th June, 1922), setting forth particulars of reductions, and giving the proposed scale of compensation to bepaid to those who voluntarily retired, or who were compulsorily retired.
I replied to this the same day, stating that I was willing to retire under those conditions.
On 15th June, 1922, I received from Brigade Head-quarters, through Commanding Officer 59th Infantry, notice that I would be discharged on 30th June, 1922.
On handing in my kit on 26th June, 1922, I was informed that no leave would be granted me, neither would compensation be paid me on discharge.
Australian Instructional Corps.
The following communication is from the Major of the 15th Brigade: -
Head-quarters 3rd Division,
Warrant Officer Goodwin on 13th June, 1922, received a copy of Army Head-quarters Circular dealing with compensation for those who would retire voluntarily from the service.
The forwarding of the circular to this Warrant Officer would seem to imply that he was considered eligible, if he voluntarily retired, for the compensation set out,subject to any Parliamentary modification.
Warrant Officer Goodwin was notified in April of this year that he was to be retired on 15th May, 1922. Subsequently this notice was cancelled.
On 14th June, 1922, this Warrant Officer received notice that he would be discharged on 30th June, 1922, and was subsequently informed that he would not receive any compensation.
Under the circumstances it does not appear clear as to why Warrant Officer Goodwin was asked to state if he would retire voluntarily with compensation from the service.
Attention is invited to the fact that there are still a number of other Warrant Officers in this District who did not proceed on active service with the Australian Imperial Force.
The reason for picking out this Warrant Officer and leaving others does not seem clear.
Warrant Officer Goodwin has requested me to allow him to ask the Divisional SergeantMajor to parade him before you in order that he may voice his complaint on this matter under Australian Military Regulation 459. (Sgd.) J. McCall, Major, 15th Infantry Brigade. 27th June, 1022.
Then comes a letter from Goodwin to the Brigade Major -
Area 59B, Drill Hall, Brunswick, 28th June, 1922.
From H. Goodwin, W.O. (II.),
To Brigade Major, 15th Brigade.
Re my correspondence of 27th June, 1922, relating to your 22/296 of same date, I would like to further add that there is some mistake in paragraph 2, as I received extract from Defence Memo. 17546 on 13th June, 1922, and replied to it on the same date.
I was not notified that I would be discharged till 15th June, 1922 (two days later), and therefore consider that I have every right to be discharged under the provisions of Defence Memo. No. 17546.
Australian Instructional Corps.
I submit that it is not fair to discriminate in a matter of this kind. Men who did not go to the Front are being compensated, but men who offered to go, as these two men did, but through no fault of their own were not allowed to go, receive nothing. It is evident from the correspondence that I have read that there was no inefficiency or misconduct on their part, and there would appear to be no reason why they should not have been treated exactly as others were. There seems to be something very peculiar about these cases, and the Minister for Defence (Mr. Massy Greene) would only be doing common justice if he made inquiries as to why there was this differentiation. For some time prior to the decision to pay compensation, men were being retired compulsorily, without compensation, on reaching the age limit, and they were placed in a very unfortunate position, because others, whose services were retained longer than they should have been, were able to avail themselves of the conditions offered in the memorandum.
I have here a letter from an old man, named Jamieson, who served many years in the Navy - 42 Hanmer-street, Williamstown, 10th June, 1922.
I take the privilege to write to you in reference to the proposed scheme re Naval and Military Service, and I am asking you if you can do anything in that scheme for me. My service in the Navy extended from 21st of July, 1884, till 31st March, 1922, equal to period of thirty-eight years, as to which I was discharged on the age limit. Sir,’ I was also a member of the Naval Contingent to China in 1899-1901.
When the reduction of the Navy some few years ago some were given one month’s pay for every year. Yet when I applied for same I was refused.
Late Chief Stoker, R.A.N.
It would seem that the Defence authorities are making “ fish of one and flesh of another.” This man evidently served his country well, and yet he has to retire without compensation after all those years’ service. The House may be perfectly willing that all should receive compensation; but, of course, honorable members are not aware of the peculiar circumstances under which some men are retired, and the equally peculiar circumstances under which the services of other men are retained. In the Army and Navy humanity is just the same as it is outside, and “ friends at Court “ can do a great deal. I am not now alluding to political friends, but to official friends. If it is fair for those who have friends at court to get compensation it is equally fair that others should be placed in the same position. I ask the Minister to inquire why a discrimination has been made in these cases.
– I shall certainly do so.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Blundell) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
The following paper was presented : -
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
Next week the House will discuss the Defence Retirement Bill, the Meat Export Bounty Bill, Works Estimates, the Public Service Bill, and such other measures as are subsequently introduced, and . which it is possible to deal with in the time’ at our disposal.
– I would like to know when the House is likely to get a statement with regard to the appointment of the seventh director of the Amalgamated Wireless Limited. Can the Prime Minister . tell us if anything has been done, and, if so, who has been chosen for the position?
.- In the Treasurer’s absence, will the Prime Minister be able to allay any doubt in the public mind on the point as to whether the proposed reduction of the income tax will apply to the taxpayers’ returns which have just been lodged?
.- On 12th July last I asked for a return in regard to the appointment and cost of Royal Commissions that have sat since the present Government has been in office. Canthe Prime Minister say when that information’ will be available?
– I shall have inquiries made into the matter referred to by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West). In regard to the appointment of the seventh director ofthe Wireless Amalgamated Limited, I was in Sydney the other day, and had an opportunity of discussing the matter with the three directors representing the Commonwealth Government and one director representing the old company. It is because the matter is so simple that it is so baffling. We have three men on each side who, of course, take an entirely impartial and non-partisan view, such as that which the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) said this morning, has been the fashion of mankind from the beginning; but unfortunately their views conflict, and the prospect of arriving at a decision is not at present so hopeful as one could wish. However, I am doing my best in the matter.
As to the question asked by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fen ton), the answer will appear in due course, and I think the honorable member will get from this remark whatever satisfaction he is entitled to as a taxpayer.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.9 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 August 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1922/19220818_reps_8_100/>.