1st Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator STYLES presented a petition from 21 electors of Victoria, praying the Senate to prohibit the introduction, sale, and manufacture of intoxicating liquors in British New Guinea.
Speech by Senator Reid. senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - I rise to speak to a question of privilege which has arisen since the last meeting of the Senate, and I intend to conclude with a motion. I wish to draw the attention of the Senate to a statement made by Senator Robert Reid, as reported in the Argus of 17th August, of which I produce a copy, at a social function held in the Shire of Camberwell. After saying that the ideas of the Federal Parliament were “ narrow and contemptible in the extreme,” the honorable senator is reported to have used these words, of which I complain as a breach of privilege -
They had only to look at the class of men sent into the Federal Parliament. Why,some of them did not even pay their debts. It was a hard thing to say,but he said so because he knew.
I move -
That the action of Senator Robert Reid in making certain statements at a social function at Camberwell, Victoria, which remarks are reported in the Argus of 17th August, 1903, are a reflection on the Parliament, ana impugn the honesty of its members ; and that the Senate records a vote of censure upon Senator Robert Reid.
– Perhaps it will be better, before the honorable member continues his speech, that I should state the reason why I intend to permit the motion to be mode as a breach of privilege. The ordinary rule as to questions of privilege is laid down in the 10th edition of May, at page 261 -
To justify the claim of privilege for a motion complaining of alleged libels on members, the conduct and language on which the libel is based must be actions performed or words uttered in the actual transaction of the business of the House.
To that general rule there is an exception, which - so far as it. can be gathered from the proceedings of the House of Commons, which govern the Senate under its first standing order - is, that when a libel has taken place impugning the character of a member or of members of the House, although strictly not within the terms of the standing order, the matter may be brought on as a breach of privilege. . 1 find that when on the 22nd July, 1861 -
A motion was proposed concerning the conduct of amember in connexion with a joint-stock com pany, such conduct being wholly unconnected with matters arising in the House, the Speaker said it was doubtful whether the motion was properly a matter of privilege ; but, as it affected the character of a member, it could be proceeded with if it was the pleasure of the House.
The words which Senator Pearce has quoted, if uttered by Senator Reid, undoubtedly, impugn, not the character of a member, but the character of all members of the Senate, and, therefore, I do not propose to prevent the motion being put.
– I am very glad to , get that ruling from the Chair, because we know that this speech is in consonance with a general policy, which is followed by a certain party which I shall not name, to attack the honour of parliamentary institutions in general, and especially to attack the members of this Parliament. The source from which the attack has emanated could be made a very fruitful theme, but I do not intend to allow myself to be led away from my purpose except to say that persons who live in glass houses should not throw stones. If the law is to be respected, the institution by which it is made should be in a position to guard its honour, and to repudiate and resent attacks made, not only against parliamentary institutions in general, but against the character of the members who compose this Parliament. Senator
Reid had an honorable and manly course open to him if he wished to expose any of the members of this or the other House, and that was to go on the public platform and name the member or members whose conduct he called in question. That was plainly the honorable and manly course for the honorable senator totake, and to accept the responsibility for his words in the courts of the land. But he preferred to throw out a. general imputation, which, in the minds of the public, until refuted by this or the other House, may attach to any member of the Parliament. In the eyes of the general public it is an accusation against every member of the Parliament until the accuser is prepared to attach it to some one or more members, or to retract his words. I am sorry that Senator Reid is not in his place. Had I known that he would not be present, I should have taken the precaution to inform him that I intended to take this course. Surely, after making such a charge against the members of the Parliament, he must have known that they would not sit silent.
– They have shown him plenty of charity.?
– The honorable senator has been shown plenty of charity. I feel that a desire to blacken the char racters of Members of Parliament is only too prevalent amongst a certain section of the public, and when a Member of Parliament makes these general sweeping charges the Senate and the other House should resent the imputation upon their honour.
– If Members of Parliament do it, we cannot blame other people.
– Certainly not. If we allow this charge to pass without giving Senator Reid an opportunity of justifying his words the general public will assume that ho has lifted the curtain and stated what he knows to exist in parliamentary life. During the past two years I have known charges to be made against a Parliament in this State which were enough to make any man feel ashamed to be thought a Member of Parliament. When such a charge as this is hurled against the Federal Parliament by one of its members, if we have any respect for ourselves as men and for the institution to which we belong, we should take the only course open to us. We cannot take the matter into the law courts because the charge is not made against any individual member. Senator Reid sheltered himself in a cowardly manner by refraining from naming the member or members to whom he referred.
– In the absence of Senator Reid, ought not the honorable senator to take steps to ascertain that the speech is correctly reported?
– I think that the best course would be to adjourn the debate in order to allow Senator Reid an opportunity to say whether he did make the charge.
– I was obliged to take this course because a question of privilege has to be. brought forward at the first meeting of the Senate after it has arisen. I do not intend to discuss the question further, and I regret very much that Senator Reid is not here to reply to my remarks, though he must have known that honorable senators possessed enough manly feeling and selfrespect to resent his statements.
– As the honorable senator whose conduct is called in question is not here, it would be a proper course to adjourn the debate in order to afford him an opportunity to say whether he did or did not make the remarks.
– I do not rise to express an opinion as to the desirability of passing the motion, but merely to make a suggestion. Senator Pearce’s sense of common fairness has evidently told him that it would be impossible to found a censure on what Senator Reid is reported to have said without ascertaining from his own lips or some other source that the report is correct. The necessary preliminary to action of this kind -is to get a statement from Senator Reid, and then the. Senate will be in a position to say whether it is advisable to pass the motion. I do not know whether it is necessary for the Senate to order that the honorable senator should attend in his place, or whether Senator Pearce wishes the. debate to be adjourned.
– No; let himbe ordered to attend.
– I suggest that it would be sufficient, at all events, at the present time, if the debate were adjourned with an intimation to Senator Reid that that course had been taken to enable him to make a statement in his place ; and, if necessary, the Senate could afterwards take further action. I move -
That the debate be now adjourned.
– After the suggestion made by the leaderof the Senate, I think it would be better, perhaps, if I were in an official letter to inform Senator Reid that this motion has been moved so that he could have no reason to say that he was not afforded an opportunity to deny the statements if they are not correct.
Motion agreed to ; debate adjourned.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, whether arrangements have been made for printing the electoral rolls of Tasmania within the State?
– I understand that arrangements have been made for the printing of the rolls, and that the work will be put in the hands of the Government Printer of Tasmania.
Senator DRAKE laid upon the table the following paper : -
Return : Number of coloured persons in the various States.
Memorandum by Sir John Forrest.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, whether he can see his way to apologize for the answer which he gave on Thursday last in reply to my questions relating to Sir John Forrest’s memorandum on the Naval Defence of the Commonwealth.
– I certainly can not see my way to apologize. The statement to which the honorable senator alludes was made deliberately after a full consideration of all the circumstances. He has written to me on the subject, and I have replied giving substantially the same reason asIam now giving. With regard to the subject matter of his questions, I have no objection at any time to give the fullest possible information to the Senate, if the questions are asked in accordance with the ordinary rules of parliamentary procedure, which require that a question shall not be put in an offensive way.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until tomorrow at 10.30 a.m.
I submit this motion in order to bring before the Senate a matter of most urgent importance both to the Senate and to myself ; that is, the reply given by Senator O’Connor to my questions on Thursday last, and which was, I submit, couched in terms of “deliberate and studied impertinence,” not only to myself, but to you, Sir, and to the Senate. The reply was still further aggravated by Senator O’Connor during the last few minutes in stating that my questions - which, I presume, had been submitted to you, Mr. President, in the ordinary course of business-
– No, they were not.
– At any rate, they appeared on the paper with your consent, and after passing the scrutiny of the clerks of the Senate.
– Thequestions- yes, I beg the honorable senator’s pardon.
– Nevertheless, they were described as being couched in an offensive way. I have since used my best efforts to prevent any necessity for bringing this matter before the Senate. As Senator O’Connor stated, I wrote him a letter, which I will read - 17th August, 1903.
I should be glad if you would reconsider the questions I put to you on Thursday last, with a view to withdrawing the statement you then made that they are “couched in terms of studied impertinence.” I think you will find, on consideration, that such is not the case. In addition to this, a number of senators besides myself are of opinion that the questions are of considerable public interest, and should be answered. I should be glad to know your decision on these two matters before the House meets on Tuesday.
In reply, I received this morning a letter, dated 1 8th A ugust, and which is as. follows : -
Melbourne, 18th August, 1903
With reference to yours of yesterday’s date, my answer on Thursday was given after full consideration, and I cannot withdraw any part of it. With regard to the subject-matter of your questions, I am willing, and always have been, to give the fullest information, if it is asked for in accordance with parliamentary usage, which certainly requires that questions should not be so framed as to con vey offence.
I am, yours faithfully,
Dealing with the statement of the VicePresident of the Executive Council, which he has repeated this afternoon, that he is, and always has been, willing to give information upon this subject, I would refer the Senate to a fact which I hope will convince them that this statement is - I should’ like to use certain words which would obviously express what I mean, but which I am debarred from using - but the statement is not a fact. Ou the 29th July, as any honorable senator may see by referring to the records of the Senate, .1 asked the following questions, with a view to getting information which I required in a manner as suitable to Sir Edmund Barton as it could be : -
I framed my questions in that way intentionally. I did not want to hurt any one’s sensibilities ; but in the Senate, the House of Representatives, and outside, there was a general feeling of curiosity as to how this memorandum ever reached the Premiers’ Conference and I conceived that I was doing my duty in asking for the information. The replies which I received were as follow : -
If what Senator O’Connor said just now was true I should have received the information for which I asked. But, as any honorable senator will see for himself, the Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, fenced my questions, and replied in terms which were altogether irrelevant, thus forcing me to put a series of categorical questions, which T proceeded to do. I want, before I go any further, to say that I acquit Senator O’Connor of any participation in this reply of which I complain, except that he has allowed himself to be made the mouth-piece of the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth in dealing this blow at our self - respect. As one of the newspapers said - and I quote it to show that I am not speaking at random - it came as a shock not only to the Senate, but to the public at large, to hear so courteous a gentleman being so extremely rude. I venture to say that this feeling is shared by the whole country, only the country unfortunately is not able to realize that this reply did not come from Senator O’Connor, but was really framed by and emanated from the Prime Minister. I think it desirable that the greatest publicity should be given to this fact. The reason why we are all anxious to know how the memorandum of the Minister for Defence came to belaid before the Premiers’ Conference is that it has formed the basis of the agreement for the naval subsidy. Under the circumstances it was extremely desirable to know how it came to be laid before the Conference.
– That is exactly what we should like to learn - whether he did so or not. My position is accentuated because as it happens there are probably two or three members of the Senate who, while absolutely opposed to the naval subsidy, are going to vote in favour of it, because they say that they are in honour bound to support the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth in the pledge which he has given. My object, therefore, was to prove that this agreement was conceived in iniquity and that from its very start it has been altogether an underhand proceeding. To do that it was necessary to prove certain things which I believe to be true, but to which I have always hesitated to give voice, because as honorable senators are aware I never insinuate if I can possibly make a direct statement. I am a straightout speaker. If I believe a thing to be true I never hesitate to say what I mean, but I like my facts to be absolutely correct before I speak. I have reason to believe that when Senator O’Connor deals with this question he will say that my questions convey insinuations. Very possibly they do ; but I wish the Senate to draw this distinction. : Those questions were not framed to convey insinuations, but with a view of eliciting information. The Prime Minister had absolutely forced me into the position in which I found myself of putting the questions one after the other categorically, from his well-known habit of quibbling.
– I do not think the honorable senator should say tha$.
– -Then I will withdraw the word and say from the well-known fact that it is difficult to obtain a “direct reply to any question put to the right honorable gentleman. I propose now to deal with the memorandum of Sir John Forrest, and to state what I am credibly informed in relation to. it, in order that I may justify one by one the questions which I put to Senator O’Connor last week.
– Could the honorable senator give us the name of the author of the memorandum?
– I do not think it matters much, because Sir John Forrest has placed his name to it. My narrative commences with January, 1902. At that date the Ministers not only of the Commonwealth, but of the States were agog with excitement, believing’ that they were all to receive invitations to attend a Conference to be held in London. But on the 23rd of January they received a cold douche. A telegram came out from the Colonial Secretary intimating that only the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth, of New Zealand, and certain other English colonies were to be invited to attend the Conference. Now, this intimation came with as great a shock to Sir John Forrest as to any one. He had already made up his mind to attend the Conference of statesmen which he believed was to be held in London ; but these anticipations were rudely knocked on the head by Mr. Chamberlain’s telegram. I may add that Mr. Chamberlain’s telegram enumerated the topics which were to be discussed at the Colonial Conference. It gave notice that Mr. Chamberlain had himself tabled a resolution in connexion with Imperial Defence, and also that Mr. Seddon, the Premier of New Zealand, had tabled a notice in favour of strengthening the Australian Squadron, and another motion for strengthening the Imperial reserves of land forces. ‘ To remedy this omission on the part of Mr. Chamberlain, Sir John Forrest gave instructions in his Department to have a memorandum prepared immediately dealing with two of the subjects which he understood were to be brought before the Premiers Conference - that is to say, with Australian Naval Defence and Imperial Naval Defence. This memorandum of Sir John Forrest concluded with a most remarkable paragraph - paragraph 25. I will read it.
I would suggest that the Imperial Government should be consulted as to the advisability of holding a Conference in London, at which representatives from Canada, the Cape, New Zealand, and Australia, might be asked to discuss and, if possible, arrive at a conclusion as to the views herein set forth, or any others that may be . submitted having for their object the strengthening of the naval defence of the Empire, and that the conclusions arrived at should be then forwarded for the consideration of the Governments and Parliaments concerned.
The memorandum by the way is dated 15th March, 1902, and as honorable senators will notice it suggests that the Conference should deal with this subject. Although Sir John Forrest knew that it had already been determined to deal with it, he puts it forward as his suggestion. “What was the obvious intention ? It was that Sir John Forrest might force himself upon the Premiers’ Conference. It must be borne in mind that he was not entitled to be present. He was not invited to be present. He received no invitation, and, as far as I can judge, no memorandum of any other independent Minister of a State was placed before that Conference for discussion.
– Does the honorable senator think it was objectionable for Sir John Forrest to be present?
– I do not feel called upon to say whether Sir John Forrest’s presence was objectionable or not.
– I thought the honorable senator was objecting to his presence.
SenatorMATHESON.- Then the honorable and learned senator should listen. I have raised no objection to his being present.
– His being Sir John Forrest is the trouble.
- Senator O’Connor is particularly unfair. Whenever I bring forward a question of great public interest in this Senate I am always accused of personal hostility against somebody. Because I hit hard and honorable senators on the other side are afraid to hit hard, they think that I am influenced by personal animosities. They play with matters, and, because I am in earnest, I am accused of personal hostility. I should like to remind the Senate that only the other day, when I was anxious in the interests of economy that certain alterations should be made in Sir William Lyne’s Department, and that that honorable gentleman should be stopped from spending public money, I was instantly accused by honorable senators on the other side of personal hostility against Sir William, whom I have never met, and of whom I know nothing.
In that way they sought to discredit my utterances. I suppose it will be said, in consequence of what I have stated, that I am guilty of personal hostility to Sir Edmund Barton, whom I sincerely respect, in spite of his aberrations of policy on this occasion. Indeed, I should be quite prepared to hear Senator O’Connor say that I am now moving the adjournment of the Senate in order to gratify some private pique against him. An effort will be made to discredit my utterances by drawing such a red herring across the track. I desire to say, therefore, that I bear the honorable and learned senator no grudge. On the contrary, I assure him of my great personal regard for him outside the Senate. My first question to which Senator O’Connor has taken exception was as follows : -
I submit that that question was one which I was perfectly entitled to put, and to which I was justified in expecting that an answer would be given. Are these questions, which obviously have direct relation to the origin of this memorandum, impertinent ? I desired to know whether the memorandum was prepared at the request of the Prime Minister. If it was, what earthly objection could there be to the Prime Minister ‘saying so? I can tell the Senate exactly what objection there would be to his saying so. The right honorable gentleman went away from the Commonwealth with this memorandum hidden, as honorable senators opposite have said, in his pocket. No one knew, not even the members of the Cabinet, so far as I am informed, that this memorandum had been prepared. That is why there is a difficulty in answering this question. The next question was this -
Is it an ordinary practice for members of the Cabinet to produce pamphlets on matters connected with their Departments for the instruction of the Prime Minister?
Everybody knows that it is not the ordinary practice. There is nothing impertinent in that question, and it might have been answered with a “No” in the simplest manner possible. The obvious reply, then, would have been - “Why, in the absence of instructions from the Prime Minister, was this memorandum prepared?” and that is a question which the Government were not prepared to answer.
– It is a very common practice for a Minister to prepare a memorandum for consideration.
– Of the Prime Minister ?
– Yes, very common.
– I think not. I think that the practice is for these memoranda to be prepared and placed before the Cabinet, and not before an individual Minister. They become then what are called “dockets,” upon which each member of the Cabinet registers his opinion. That is the common practice. The difficulty here is that this question does not deal with an ordinary docket, - but with a memorandum secretly prepared and transmitted to the Prime Minister.
– Nothing is more usual, when a Premier is going to attend a Conference, than for each Minister of his Cabinet, if any matter concerning his Department is to be dealt with at the Conference, to prepare a memorandum for his consideration.
– If the honorable and learned senator says so, then what was the objection to answering this question ?
– It has nothing to do with any one else.
– Then what was the objection to answering the question ?
– I do not know that there is any.
– Another point to be borne in mind is that Sir John Forrest in this memorandum goes far outside the province of his Department. This was not a memorandum submitted for the benefit of Sir Edmund Barton. It contains internal evidence of that in Chapter 5, on the permanent naval defence of the Empire. What has that to do with Sir John Forrest’s Department? Nothing. It was simply put in in order that the production of the memorandum before the Conference might be justified. My next question was as follows : -
Did the Prime Minister peruse the memorandum prior to his departure for England in May, 1902 ?
Is that impertinent? I submit that it is not. That is a question which is of the utmost importance to the country and to Parliament, and for this reason : This memorandum is dated loth March. On the 24th April - a month later - Mr. Wilks asked whether the Prime Minister would make a statement to the House as to the course of action he intended to take at the Conference. Sir Edmund Barton in reply promised the House that he would not take any important step, or any step which could be characterized as an import.ant one, except subject to the approval of the House of Representatives. Again, on 1st May, 1902, Sir Edmund Barton took his leave of the other House with the following assurances : - 1 shall not enter into any such undue commitment’ us might take the work of Parliament out of its hands. I wish to start without hobbles, because it is idle to enter into’ a Conference, which implies that one is prepared to hear arguments on both sides, if one lays down stringent rules, by resolution or otherwise, which mean that one’s mind is already made up in regard to liny particular question. I have never consented to being hobbled, but it does not follow that I will do anything to leave Parliament with its hands tied when I return.
If the right honorable gentleman had that memorandum in his pocket or in his hands at that time, or if he was aware of it, what duplicity could go further ? What more sickening hyprocrisy could one conceive, if it were a fact that he was aware of the memorandum, than that he should talk in that way to the House of Representatives ; that he should beseech them not to tie his hands or hobble his feet, when he must have known that by that memorandum of his colleague his hands were tied and his feet hobbled in such a way that he could never throw them loose 1 That is what I desired to elicit by these questions. I desired to find out what Parliament could possibly think of Sir Edmund Barton at the . date he made these statements to the House.
– How does that memorandum bind Sir Edmund Barton 1
– That memorandum bound Sir Edmund Barton in this way : The right honorable gentleman or some one else placed it in Mr. Chamberlain’s hands ; a copy of it was furnished to every member of the Premiers’ Conference ; and, as I can prove by newspaper correspondence, it was set out as the official view and the official opinion of the Government of this Commonwealth.
– The official opinion of the Government ?
– It went forward as an official document. It was an expression of opinion by the Minister for Defence, put forward by the Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton. Surely that is sufficient.
– It’ is only a minute addressed by the Minister for Defence to the Prime Minister.
– It is a minute addressed to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth by the Minister for Defence, and laid before the Premiers’ Conference as a public document. The honorable and learned senator will find ‘from the press notices that it was obviously and admittedly taken as an official expression of the opinion of the Commonwealth Government.
– The opinion of one Minister.
– That brings me to the next point upon which I desired to elicit information. It is perfectly clear that the other members of the Cabinet knew nothing about this memorandum, which was put forward as an official document. I challenge Senators O’Connor and Drake to say that they were aware of this document prior to its being placed before the Premiers’ Conference, or for long after.
– It only became an official document because it was sound and well thought out.
– How can the fact that a document is sound make it an official document t Most official documents are absolutely rotten. The distinction the honorable and learned senator draws is that because it was sound it was not an official document. I am inclined to agree with the honorable and learned senator that that may be considered reasonable in most cases. There can be no question that it was put forward as an official document, whether it was sound or unsound.
– There is very good stuff in it.
– Yes ; that we should pay £5,000,000 per annum towards the maintenance of the British Navy.
– We shall debate that by-and-by.
– The result was that Sir Edmund Barton went to England to attend this Conference, leaving the Senate and the other House under the impression that his hands were absolutely free. We all believed that that was the case, and that no trouble would arise.
– I presume he adopted the memorandum as embodying his own views.
– I shall come to that directly. If the Prime Minister adopted these views it must have been after he went to the Conference, because before he attended the Conference, speaking at a banquet, he repudiated them. I have the newspaper cutting. Question 4 was as follows : -
Had the Prime Minister approved of the terms and sentiments of the memorandum prior to the debate in the House of Representatives of 30th April, 1902, when an undertaking was given that he would not bind the Commonwealth to any arrangement respecting naval defence whilst in England?
This, far from being an impertinent question, is a most pertinent question. If Sir Edmund Barton had this memorandum in his pocket at the time, how on earth could he be justified in speaking to Parliament in the way he did? That is the point I desire to make. That cannot be answered. The fifth question was -
Why was the memorandum not laid before Parliament at that date as an indication of the intentions of the Government with a view to securing the opinion of Parliament on its terms ?
That, I take it, is another most pertinent question, and very far from being impertinent. I am not playing upon the words, because this is a question which it is most vital that we should have an answer to. I never heard of a memorandum of this sort intended to be used to influence the destinies of a nation being treated as a secret document in this way, when the matter was being discussed before Parliament. Parliament was deprived of any opportunity of expressing its opinion upon the subject. To my mind it is most monstrous that such a course should have been adopted. The next question I asked was -
Was the memorandum laid before the Cabinet, and approved of by the members of the Government, prior to its being placed in the hands of Mr. Chamberlain ?
That, again, is most pertinent. This document was sent forward, as I said just now, in answer to an interjection by Senator Best, as an official expression of the views of the Commonwealth Government, and it was treated by Mr. Chamberlain in that way, and published amongst the records of the Conference as an official paper put forward by the Commonwealth Government. Fancy this document being brought before the Federal Parliament, and Mr. Deakin and Mr. Kingston being asked to express their opinions upon it ! Do we not all know exactly what the opinions of those honorable gentlemen are upon this question ? Can we conceive of them defending a document couched in the absurdly hyperbolic terms of the memorandum in question 1 I am satisfied that if those honorable gentlemen had known of the existence of the memorandum it would never have been permitted to go forward. That is one of the reasons why I asked these questions, and I could get no reply to them. The next questions I asked were as follows : -
Did the Prime Minister forward the memorandum to Mr. Chamberlain to be laid before the Conference of Premiers ?
If so, on what date?
Are those impertinent questions ?
If not, was the memorandum forwarded to Mr. Chamberlain by Sir John Forrest?
If so, on what date ?
There is no impertinence conveyed in those questions.
If not, then by who was it so forwarded, and on what date ?
I was obliged to put the questions in this categorical way, because unless I had been careful in expressing what I intended, word for word, and letter by letter, honorable senators know that it would have been absolutely impossible for me to get a direct reply. I should not have got the information which I sought to get and which even then I failed in getting. I was anxious to do every justice to the Prime Minister. If I am asked what my private opinion was, it was that the Prime ; Minister never read the document until he saw it in Mr. Chamberlain’s hands. That is my private belief. I have, as I have said, the greatest respect for Sir Edmund Barton, and I cannot conceive of his talking to Parliament in the way in which he did, if he was at the time aware of the terms of the memorandum, and that it was being conveyed at that moment to Mr. Chamberlain.
– The document was no more binding upon the Prime Minister than upon the honorable senator.
– What was Sir Edmund Barton’s position? He attended this Conference, and was confronted by this expression of opinion from his colleague, the Minister for Defence. What’ would Senator Dobson have done under those circumstances, if he had been in Sir Edmund Barton’s place? Would he have thrown over his Minister for Defence in the face of all the other Premiers ? Would he have asked how the document came into Mr.
Chamberlain’s hands? And would he have said “ Bless my soul, I never saw this before”? Certainly not. Sir Edmund Barton found himself, as I have said, with his hands tied, and his feet hobbled by the fact that this document had been issued. I can prove to a very large extent that that was Sir Edmund Barton’s position.
– Does the honorable senator say that the memorandum preceded Sir Edmund Barton to Mr. Chamberlain?
– I am led to believe, in the absence of further information, that the memorandum did precede Sir Edmund Barton to the Conference.
– That is very important.
– That is exactly the point upon which I desire information. The honorable and learned senator now appears to under stand my point, and to see how important these questions really are. I cannot see how it can be said that these questions are couched in terms of “ studied impertinence.”
– As the honorable senator puts it, the Prime Minister was confronted with a secret document ?
– That is my private impression. Officially, I am bound to conclude that the Prime Minister knew of this document, that he had read it, and approved of it ; that it had been before the Cabinet, and that it was handed to Mr. Chamberlain as an expression of Cabinet views, because that is the only official procedure which would be correct. That is what I desire to impress upon the Senate. Officially that would be the correct procedure; but to the best of my belief this business was not carried out officially. I believe that at the time Sir Edmund Barton was speaking in the other House, this document was in the post on the way to Mr. Chamberlain. That is what” I have been informed. I have never given expression to that opinion before, because I desired to get at the truth. I should not have ventured to give expression to that view if I could have got the truth in answer to these questions.When I have failed to get answers to the questions, I am bound to bring the subject up, and submit the information I have, even though it may prove to be incorrect. I have told the Senate what I have been informed, and that I believe this course was adopted in order to justify Sir John Forrest in interfering at the Premiers’ Conference, at which he was not entitled to be present. He transmitted this secret document by post to Mr. Chamberlain, and when Sir Edmund Barton went to the Conference, he found Mr. Chamberlain already in possession of the memorandum. All this might have been contradicted if it were not true, and I should not have needed to give vent to the statement I have made if my questions had been answered. Speaking at a banquet on the 23rd June, a week prior to the meeting of the Conference, Sir John Forrest endeavoured to anticipate Sir Edmund Barton, who was present at the banquet, and to force his hand. He began by saying :
I have, I believe, a very responsible position in the Commonwealth in being Minister of Defence.
At the very commencement of his speech, he thus labelled himself as an official of the Commonwealth, and he went on to say, amongst other things :
What do we colonists do to support the great navy which is so necessary for the mother country and for us as its parts ? With the exception of £126,000 a year paid by Australia, and £20,000 paid by New Zealand, there is no contribution onthe part of the Colonies to the £30,000,000-I think the amount is - a year, expended by Great Britain on her navy.
The right honorable gentleman went on to say a great many things in that speech which I do not propose to quote, but the result was that Sir Edmund Barton, who was present in the room, had to get up and make a disclaimer. It was for this reason that I say the Prime Minister, if he could have prevented it, would not have allowed that memorandum to go before Mr. Chamberlain. The right honorable gentleman said :
I shall not follow my worthy friend in his statements of what, in his opinion, should be the policy of the Australian Commonwealth on the subject of naval defence. He has well said he has been expressing his private opinions, of which, no doubt, he gives ample publicity, and therefore I need not dwell on them. I am quite sure that he will not expect me to anticipate the Conference to be opened this day week.
It is evident from these quotations that the views of Sir Edmund Barton and Sir John
Forrest were not on all fours at that date.I find that there was so much ignorance existing amongst the colleagues of Sir John Forrest, with respect to this memorandum, that when certain questions were asked of Mr. Deakin, which can be found at pages 15932 and 16106 of Hansard, the honorable gentleman made it evident that he was unaware of the existence of thememorandum. On the 23rd September, 1902, Sir Langdon Bonython put a question about the naval defence proposals, to which the AttorneyGeneral replied in these terms: -
There appears to have been, however, a contingent proposal that either the whole of the increase, or a large part of it, shall not be paid as a direct subsidy, out shall be applied by Australia for the purposes of its own naval defence in connexion with the Imperial Navy.
That was a scheme of naval defence which the people of the country imagined had been put forward and agreed to by the Prime Minister. That was again shown on the 25th September, 1902, when the AttorneyGeneral spoke about the Imperial Conference in these terms : -
These are the outlines of a proposal which will, After approval by the Cabinet, be laid before this Parliament next session when all the details will be submitted to thejudgment of honorable members.
Mr. Higgins. Which Government is to have control of the Australian seamen ?
Mr. DEAKIN. In time of peace the control would be vested in the Australian Government, but in time of war the men would form part of the forces of the Empire, under the control of the chief naval officer on the station.
At that time it was perfectly clear that the Government of the Commonwealth were entirely out of accord with both the memorandum put forward by Sir John Forrest’ and with the arrangement which had been made by the Prime, Minister with the Imperial Government.
– They got wiser when they got home.
– The Prime Ministerhas not got wiser; on the contrary, he has tied our hands by this agreement, and now gentlemen like Senator Dobson are prepared to support him simply because he gave these conditional pledges to the Imperial Government. Question No. 12 read as follows : -
If the memorandum was not forwarded by the Prime Minister, was his approval previously sought and obtained ?
There is nothing impertinent about that question. On the contrary, it is most essential that we should know whether the memorandum was submitted with the approval of the Prime Minister previously obtained, and I have reason to believe that that was not the case.
The reason for asking the last question was that on the 5th November, or thereabouts, it came to the knowledge of the people of Australia, who were thunderstruck, that this agreement had been entered into. The details were then published, and Sir John Forrest was interviewed by the press.
Sir John Forrest is astonished to find from the cables to-day that a blue book just issued by the Imperial Government contains a reference to a minute of his regarding colonial defence. Sir John explains that the minute was of a confidential character, and contained no more than an expression of his own personal views.
If that was the case, why was this document submitted to the Conference at all 1 What right had the private opinions of Sir John Forrest to be placed before the Conference unless they were submitted by the Prime Minister as the official views of the Cabinet? That is the reason why my questions were drafted. Sir John Forrest went on to say that he had asked the Prime Minister to make the contents public, so that any misconception on the matter might be removed.
I submit that not one of my questions was in the least sense impertinent. I have no doubt that Senator O’Connor will get up and say that I have placed a false construction on all these matters ; but, to prove that that is not the case, I shall quote from a leading article which appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph on the 8th November. I wish to show that it is not malice against Sir John Forrest which induces me to take this view, but that it is expressed by a sober newspaper man writing with the utmost impartiality in the public interest.
When Sir Edmund Barton left Australia for the Colonial Conference it was upon the understanding that, as he had not sought instructions from the people, or even consulted them, he had no authority to pledge them. Throughout the Conference proceedings the impression was consistently conveyed that the Prime Minister was honorably keeping to that understanding. Especially was this view encouraged by the report of his “guarded” proposal that colonial contributions to naval defence should be utilized to form the nucleus of a colonial navy. Now it transpires that the exact opposite of that was put before the Conference in the name of the Common wealth Government. Sir Edmund Barton made some suggestion in favor of an Australian Navy ; but what goes before the people of England is his Defence Minister’s total opposition to any such project, and distortion of the proposal made to that end in Australia. . . . Now that it has been published in England, the Prime Minister and his colleague make the poor excuse that the minute was “ of a confidential character “ ; that it was not intended to commit the Government; and that it “contained no more than an expression of Sir John Forrest’s own personal views.” The explanation is as preposterous as the offence. Sir John Forrest had not, and could not have, any “ personal “ standing at the Conference. He was there, as a Minister, and only because he was one ; and what he said there was inevitably said on behalf of the Government - unless, indeed, he formally repudiated it, of which there is no hint. The minute was obviously presented to the Conference as a Ministerial document, otherwise it could not appear in the transactions. Consequently a statement by a member of the Australian Government making practical proposals on a subject of vital local importance, comes to the Australian people second-hand, having first been published in England, though it was in the hands of the Prime Minister eight months ago, before he left for the Conference. Merely in the process, then, there is a grave implication against Sir Edmund Burton. In his presence, and, consequently, under his auspices, a member of his Government has made a proposal which was concealed from the people whom it purported to represent, and the very submission of which, unless there is some other explanation than the lame one that has been given, grievously violated the understanding as between the Prime Minister and the public.
In fact, nobody was more disgusted than the Prime Minister and Sir John Forrest when this document was published. It revealed an entirely new light, not only to the public and to the Parliament, but also to their own colleagues, who had been in ignorance of the existence of this precious Statedocument. It is perfectly clear from that editorial that my few remarks cannot be considered as being animated by private hostility to Sir J ohn Forrest ; it was written by a person who had probably never met that gentleman. I hope that I have satisfied the Senate that in not a single question was there the least tinge of studied impertinence directed at the Ministry. I felt bound to put the questions in a categorical way, in order that I might, if possible, get categorical answers. I have failed to achieve my purpose, and it is for the Senate to express its opinion whether the violent and studiously-abusive language of Senator O’Connor was warranted under the circumstances - whether it was language which should have been addressed to any honorable senator, or to the Senate. I trust that no honorable senator will hesitate to express his opinion on the subject. If honorable senators think that the questions were impertinent. I shall bow to their decision, but I submit that they were not.
– No one can object to any matter which is really of public importance being brought forward in the way in which the honorable senator has introduced this subject, but I doubt very much whether the Senate will believe him when he says that he was actuated simply by a desire to ventilate these public questions.
– I do not think that the honorable and learned senator ought to make that remark.
– If it is out of order I withdraw the remark. I am in the position in which Senator Matheson described himself just now. It is difficult to express my feelings in parliamentary language, and it may be difficult to express what the Senate thinks in parliamentary language. It was impossible to listen to the honorable senator without feeling that almost every word he uttered in regard to Sir John Forrest was bubbling over with personal malice, but I will leave honorable senators to form their own judgments on the matter. That is an aspect of the question with which as a Senate we have nothing to do, and therefore I do not wish to deal with it. It is merely mentioned because it really does seem extraordinary that all this time should be taken up in an attempt by the honorable senator to assuage in some respects his wounded vanity. He did not like the answer I gave him.
– Nor would the honorable and learned gentleman.
– Any honorable senator who puts a series of questions such as Senator Matheson did to me as representing the Government here, must expect to get a similar answer. He has been good enough to say that he does not charge me with any ill-feeling or malice to him, and he exonerates me from the responsibility for the terms of the answer. Standing here as the representative of the
Government I do not accept any such distinction. I am here to answer any questions asked of the Government. I take the full responsibility, both personal and political, for every answer that I give. And I submit that I gave the only kind of answer to Senator Matheson which aman occupying my position with any self-respect ought to give. What is the position of a Minister who stands here to conduct the business of the country? It is that he is bound to answer any question which is put to him on public affairs, but not one which conveys an insinuation of improper conduct on the part of his colleagues. If a charge is to be made let it be made in such a way that it may be answered. If there is anything dastardly and destestable in the conduct of public affairs it is to insert in a series of questions some charge, be it duplicity, or hypocrisy, or whatever you will, rather than to make the inquiry in such an open way that it can be answered.
– There was no insinuation in my questions.
-The honorable senator admits that there was an insinuation in the questions. Does he suppose that I did not see the insinuation, or that the Senate did not see it ?
– The honorable and learned gentleman might draw an insinuation from the questions, but they contained none.
– So long as I am in a position to conduct Government business, and answer questions relating to public affairs, . I shall take care to answer no question which makes a dastardly insinuation against any one of my colleagues. If these questions had been asked in terms of ordinary courtesy, they would have been answered by me at once. We have had many questions asked here which in some respects have transgressed the ordinary procedure relating to the questioning of Ministers.We may have thought that they went too far, but there was nothing discourteous about them, and the Government did their best to answer them. I shall allow no consideration for mere form to stand in the way of giving information on public affairs if it is properly asked for.
– What was there discourteous about my questions ? What fault had the honorable and learned gentleman to find with my first question ?
– The honorable senator is not going to lead me into a discussion on each of his questions. He framed his questions very cleverly. He is an expert in the art of insinuation, and I do not propose to follow him through his questions. He may be able to satisfy me that each question contained in itself no inference, but if I find that the questions as a whole contain an inference and an insinuation which he admits, I shall regard them from that point of view. I think I have met a sufficient number of persons of his type to knowhow they should be dealt with. In his statement to the Senate he has made a number of insinuations and charges against the Prime Minister and Sir John Forrest.
– Not insinuations - direct charges.
– As regards the “facts” which the honorable senator has stated, in many respects they are purely fanciful. How he gets his “facts” I do not know. In what way he has access to the waste-paper baskets of the Department, or by what backstairs methods he gets hold of secret information I do not know.
– Is the honorable senator in order, sir, in saying that I get my information by backstairs methods ?
– I did not catch the exact words.
– Senator O’Connor said I secured my information by backstairs methods.
– I said I did not know by what methods-
– By what backstairs methods !
– What I did say was this : That I did not know by what methods the honorable senator had access to the waste-paper basket of the Departments, or by what back-stairs means he obtained the information. If you, sir, consider that that remark is out of order, I will withdraw it.
– I think the remark ought to be withdrawn.
– Then I will withdraw it, and say that I do not know in what way the honorable senator gets his. information. But I do say that it is without foundation - the greater part of it. I come at once to the history of this memorandum. Let us see what the document is. Honorable senators have read it, and they will see that it is simply a memorandum from the Minister for Defence, ‘ and is directed to the Prime Minister. It deals with the subject of naval defence. I assume that there is no great crime in the Minister for Defence, who has charge of that Department, making recommendations to the Prime Minister. In one of the questions, which Senator Matheson put to one last week, he asked -
Whether it is mi ordinary practice for the members of the Cabinet to produce pamphlets on matters connected with their Departments for the Instruction of the Prime Minister.
I do not know what the meaning of the word “instructions” is as there used - whether it means that the honorable senator supposes that the Prime Minister requires to be instructed upon these matters ; or whether it means that the memorandum was for the imformation of the.Prime Minister. I take it that he means that it was for the Prime Minister’s information. There is nothing that is more common than for the Minister in charge of a Department - especially a Department which has technical matters under its control requiring special knowledge - to have the expert knowledge which is accessible to him placed at the disposal of his colleagues in a memorandum of this kind. It is constantly done, and therefore the Minister for Defence was perfectly within his rights in writing for the information of his colleague this memorandum of the 15th March, 1902. It must be remembered that at that time the invitation to the Conference had been received. It was addressed to the Prime Minister. It was known then that the Conference was to be one of Prime Ministers and Premiers only, and that amongst the subjects to be discussed was that of naval and military defence. Therefore, the Minister for Defence was not only within his rights,- but was acting according to his duty iri writing this memorandum - and a very able memorandum it is - putting the whole matter before the Prime Minister for his consideration. This memorandum is spoken of as though it were an emanation entirely from the inner conscience of Sir John Forrest himself. As a matter of fact, every one who has read it knows that it was founded upon the recommendations of Rear- Admiral Beaumont, who was stationed here. RearAdmiral Beaumont’s letter was laid upon the table of both Houses of Parliament in
August, 1901. It was open to every honorable senator, and to every member of the general public. That . letter from RearAdmiral Beaumont was written to the Governor-General at his urgent request in response to a minute from the Prime Minister asking for the opinion of the RearAdmiral upon these questions. That request was made’ in June, 1901, and the letter of the Rear- Admiral was written in July, so that this was the opinion of the highest expert whose views were accessible at the time as to the course to be adopted in reference to the naval defence of Australia.
– Only in part.
– What does the honorable senator mean by ‘ “ only in part “?
– The opinion expressed by Sir John Forrest in his memorandum is very much in excess of anything which Rear- Admiral Beaumont said.
– Sir John Forrest’s memorandum is based upon Rear-Admiral Beaumont’s suggestions. The whole scheme is based upon those suggestions, though Sir John Forrest may in some particulars, which I do not intend to go into now, have modified and departed from some of them. The main gist of Sir John Forrest’s memorandum is contained in those suggestions which,- in August, 1901, were before Parliament, and were open to the consideration of every member of both Houses, and every member of the public. It was on that document, and not on some technical idea of his own, that these suggestions were made by Sir John Forrest to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister having received the document, was at perfect liberty either to have it discussed in Cabinet, or to consider it as secret and confidential. He was at liberty to do what he liked with it. It was a memorandum simply not for publication, but from his Minister for Defence containing suggestions as to the proper course to be adopted when the matter had to be finally considered. How can anyone say that in drawing up that memorandum Sir John Forrest did anything contrary to his duty, or that there was anything wrong in making it public ? I am reminded here of an extraordinarily mean insinuation, as it seems to me, on this subject, which has been made by the honorable senator. He suggests that the key to the memorandum is to be found in the last paragraph of it, in which the suggestion is made that -
The Imperial Government should be consulted as to the advisability of holding a Conference in London at which representatives from Canada, the Cape, New Zealand and Australia might be asked to discuss, and if possible arrive at a conclusion, as to the views herein set forth or any others that may be submitted having for their object the strengthening of the naval defence of the Empire, and that the conclusions arrived at should be then forwarded for the consideration of the Governments and Parliaments concerned.
The honorable senator has actually gone out of his way to suggest that the object and purpose of the memorandum, at the time when it was written, .was that Sir John Forrest might in some way or other cause himself to. be invited to take part in the Conference, or establish an occasion for his going home to take part in the Conference.
– I never said that.
– Then what was the honorable senator’s suggestion 1
– The first . part of what the honorable and learned senator has said.
– That Sir John Forrest wished to -be invited to the Conference ?
– Hear, hear; obviously.
– Well, we know the kind of man that Sir John Forrest is. Many honorable senators do not agree with him in his views ; but he is a man to the backbone, and he is not the kind of sneaking creature who would invite himself to a Conference, or who would go to the elaborate pains of writing a memorandum of this kind in order to get an invitation. I was going to say that the suggestion is unworthy of the honorable senator, but I will say that I am sorry that any honorable senator should make a suggestion of ‘ that kind, and suppose for one moment that the Senate would believe it. Well,- the memorandum was handed to the Prime Minister. Now I come to the information which the honorable senator asked for, and which he would have obtained in the first instance if he had asked for it in the proper way.
– I did ask for it on the 29th of last month ; and it was refused to me.
– As the honorable senator has represented the matter, because the information was refused to him he was driven to give notice of a- series of crossexamining questions. The questions which he asked on the 29th July were as follow : -
Any one would suppose that the meaning of the first question was - “ How was it that that pamphlet came before the Conference”? People who read questions of that sort do not perhaps know the turnings and twistings of the honorable senator’s mind ; nor do they know what he has in his mind at the time he is asking his questions. They take a question in its broad ordinary language, and any one would suppose that what the honorable senator wanted to know was how the memorandum got into Mr. Chamberlain’s hands ? The answer given to the honorable senator was as follows : -
The paper was included in the records of the Conference with the assent of the Prime Minister.
The answer to the second question was -
There is no doubt that that is the meaning that any one would put on those questions, and that is the way in which they were answered. But the honorable senator was not satisfied with those answers ; and he proceeded to put a variety of questions. I am going to give all the information which it is in the power of the Government to give, and which the honorable senator could have obtained long ago if he had asked his questions in a proper manner.
– Well, the honorable senator has got an advertisement which he would not have .obtained except for the steps he has ‘taken. His first question was -
Was Sir John Forrest’s memorandum on naval defence of the 15th March, 1902, and addressed to the Prime Minister, prepared at the request of the Prime Minister ?
The answer is -
The second question was as follows : -
Is it an ordinary practice for members of the Cabinet to produce pamphlets on matters connected with their Departments for the instruction of the Prime Minister ?
The answer is -
No ; and this has never been done, but it is ordinary and regular for Ministers to express their views on questions affecting their Departments by minutes addressed to the Prime Minister.
The third question was -
Did the Prime Minister peruse the memorandum prior to his departure for England in May, 1902 ?
The answer is -
The fourth question was -
Had the Prime Minister approved of the terms and sentiments of the memorandum prior to the debate in the House of Representatives of the 30th April, 1902, when an understanding was given that he should not bind the Commonwealth to any arrangement respecting naval defence whilst in England ?
The answer is -
No : and the undertaking was that any course he adopted could be subject to the approval of Parliament. It was not confined to naval defence.
I may here comment upon the charge which has been accentuated - that Sir Edmond Barton was guilty, to use the honorable senator’s own language, of “sickening hypocrisy “ and of “duplicity” in having told Parliament what he did when he left Australia to take part in the Conference, because he was all the time in possession of, and had in his pocket this memorandum. Now, what Sir Edmund Barton said when he was leaving was this -
I shall endeavour to conduct the mission upon which I embark in such a way as not to disgrace my native country, and I shall not enter into any such undue commitment as might take the work of Parliament out of its hands.
Mr.Wilks. - No hobbles.
Mr. BARTON. I wish to start without hobbles, because it is idle to enter into a Conference which implies that one is prepared to hear arguments on both sides, if one lays down stringent rules, by resolution or otherwise, which mean that one’s mind is already made -up in regard to any particular question. I have never consented to being hobbled ; but it does not follow that I will do anything to leave Parliament with its hands tied whenI return.
What was the attitude expressed in those words ? It was the only statesmanlike attitude that could have been adopted; and it was this : Sir Edmund Barton was going away to attend a Conference in which the affairs of a huge Empire and the various portions of the Empire would be discussed. Amongst those questions was the defence of the Empire, particularly the question of Australian defence. The Prime Minister stated that he would enter into no admissions which would bind the Parliament of this country. He said that he would go there unfettered and unhobbled ; because it must be obvious that if he obtained instructions and directions from Parliament when he went there his usefulness in the discussion of the whole matter from every point of view would be entirely discounted. Therefore, he refused to be put in any such position. But it is now said that because the Minister for Defence had written him a memorandum embodying the views - the private views only - of that Minister, and because he went home with that document in his pocket, he was actually bound to those views ; and that although he had told Parliament that he was not hobbled or fettered in any way he was so in reality, and was, therefore, guilty of hypocrisy in making that statement in regard to his future action. It is impossible to imagine a charge so absolutely baseless as that. What is this memorandum, and whose was the responsibility ? The Prime Minister, representing the Commonwealth, is alone responsible to the Commonwealth for his action at that Conference. The Minister for Defence was not responsible. He did not represent the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister was responsible ; but because the Minister for Defence expressed certain views to him, those views are taken to bind him and to bind the people of the Commonwealth !
– That is not true ; it is not the fact. It is only the extraordinary distortion of views which the honorable senator’s feelings in this matter seems to induce, which could possibly lead him to any such conclusion.
– The Prime Minister took the memorandum away with him in his pocket, I understood the honorable and learned senator to say?
– Thatis what Senator Matheson said. I do not know where he gets his information from. I shall state how the memorandum came to be laid on the table of the Conference ; but I wish to show, in passing, that there is no foundation for the statement that Parliament was in any way bound by it. It has been said that the memorandum preceded Sir Edmund Barton. That is absolutely untrue, as will appear from the categorical answers which I shall give to the honorable senator’s questions. The fact of the matter is this : When the Colonial Conference began, Sir John Forrest - who was not a member of it - with the consent of the Prime Minister, sent his memorandum, accompanied by a private letter, to Mr. Chamberlain. It was not put forward at that time as the view of anybody except Sir John Forrest himself. Afterwards, when the discussion had been going for some time, and it was thought by Mr. Chamberlain that this memorandum was a very able contribution to the literature of the Conference, he asked for permission to lay it on the. table. It was laid on the table of the Conference, not by Sir Edmund Barton, but by Mr. Chamberlain. It was not considered for a moment that when it came into Mr. Chamberlain’s possession, accompanied by a private letter from Sir John Forrest, written with the consent of the Prime Minister, it was the expression of the views of the Commonwealth Government. Mr. Chamberlain had it as a private and confidential communication, and he asked that it should be laid upon the table of the Conference. Subsequently it was published. But does that give it any greater weight or any more binding effect upon the Prime Minister, or upon the Commonwealth, than it had before ? There were a number of memoranda placed upon the table of the Conference. There was a memorandum from the Canadian Minister for Defence, a memorandum from MajorGeneral French, and a memorandum from Major-General Hutton. These were amongst the papers laid upon the table. Sir John Forrest’s memorandum was one of many. It is said that it bound beforehand the Prime Minister to the views contained in it. How could that possibly be ? As I have said before, the Prime Minister was responsible for his own views. If he thought fit to adopt the views of his Minister for Defence he was at perfect liberty to do so. But he did not.
– If he did not approve of the memorandum, he should not have allowed it to be given, to Mr. Chamberlain at all.
– Not as an expression of the opinions of the Minister for Defence ? Why should he not ?
– I think it is irregular.
– What possible effect could it have 1
– It is just a piece of literature.
– Exactly ; the Prime Minister had the opinion of the Minister for Defence, just as he might have had that of the General Officer Commanding the land forces - Major-General Hutton - and might have had any other opinion. The Prime Minister took part in the Conference. He was there, to express his own views. It was not the views of the Minister for Defence for which he was responsible, but his own views. He was responsible also for the agreement which was made subject to the approval of Parliament.
– I should like to point out that the Canadian Minister’s memorandum was a Cabinet memorandum.
– That makes no difference whatever.
– It is the very point.
– If it does make any difference, it shows that the Canadian memorandum, being a memorandum by the Cabinet, of course bound the Cabinet, whilst this memorandum was one giving the views only of Sir John Forrest. That carries out the distinction to which I have been referring. In what way has that memorandum affected the making of this agreement, because that is what the Senate has to consider t As I take it, it may or may not be the usual course to. follow that a memorandum of the Minister for Defence should be laid upon the table of such a Conference. I say it is perfectly right and reasonable that it should be, but how has it affected in any way the making of this agreement t The Senate will have to consider the agreement as it is. That memorandum may have been adopted by the Prime Minister in its very words, and even if it were, and he came out here with an agreement which did not follow that out, what we have to judge his action by is the agreement he entered into, subject to the approval of Parliament, ‘ and not any memorandum which may have been made in the course of the negotiations. Now it is said that Sir Edmund Barton, by that memorandum, bound this Parliament to the agreement. I absolutely deny that there is any fact whatever upon which that suggestion can be made. How can it bind us to this agreement, which is made, on the face of it, subject to the approval of Parliament ? Until Parliament approves of it, it has no efficacy whatever, and the honorable senator is making a misstatement of the facts when he says that we are coming to Parliament having in any way pledged or fettered the freedom of discussion, or the liberty of decision of Parliament, in regard to this matter. It is just as open to the. decision of Parliament as it was when the Prime Minister left here.
– Does not the Prime Minister’s approval unduly influence Members of Parliament?
– How could the Prime Minister have done otherwise than he did? Let me put the matter to Senator Dawson as a reasonable man. Let the honorable senator consider the position in which the Prime Minister was when he went home. He was there to make an agreement of some kind. How many Conferences do honorable senators want, or how could we ever get finality if each representative of a Government got certain instructions from his Parliament, and put them before a Conference, with the statement that he was unable to make any agreement of any kind until he got back to his State and obtained some indorsement from his Parliament? We could not carry on business in that way.
– A mere delegate.
– He would be a mere delegate. It would be impossible ever to reach finality. The only way in which we can get matters of that kind decided is by giving the person who goes to such a Conference authority to do what he thinks best.
– As a delegate.
– As a representative. He must have full authority to do what he thinks best.
– I wish the honorable and learned senator would tell us what the difference is.
– I will tell the honorable senator the difference. A delegate will go to a Conference with certaincutanddried views which he cannot go . beyond ; but a representative will go to do the best he can according to his judgment in the interests of the Commonwealth. If he exercises his best judgment in discussion, and comes to what he considers the best conclusions in the interests of Australia, he will do it as a representative subject to the approval of Parliament. If Parliament does not approve, the matter ends. If Parliament does approve, we get the benefit of his negotiations, and of the united wisdom of those who were present at the Conference.
– If Parliament does not approve, it repudiates its Prime Minister, and that is where the influence comes in.
– It does nothing of the kind. As I put it to the honorable senator before, what does he think the Prime Minister should have done ?
– I will tell the honorable and learned senator by-and-by.
-I should have thought that Senator Dawson would have had his answer pat, because this is a practical question. I say that the only practical way of dealing with that question was the way in which it was dealt with. The Prime Minister has arrived at this agreement, an agreement of the utmost advantage to Australia, as I shall be able to show by-and-by. It is not necessary that I should go into that now, but it is an agreement which could only have been arrived at by the exercise of full powers of discretion on the part of every one who took part in that Conference, and by the assent of the Prime Minister being given to it subject to the approval of Parliament.
– We are here to take objection to it if we choose.
– Of course we are. The fifth question was -
Why was the memorandum not laid before Parliament at that date, as an indication of the intentions of the Government, with a view to securing the opinion of Parliament on its terms ?
It is quite clear that there was no necessity for that, because, if Parliamenthad been asked to pronounce its opinion then upon this suggestion - a suggestion made without a. knowledge of the circumstances, or of what Great Britain was willing to do, or what the other colonies of. the Empire were willing to do - of what value would an expression of any opinion upon that question by Parliament have been ? The sixth question was -
Was the memorandum laid before the Cabinet and approved of by the members of the Government previous to its being placed in the hands of Mr. Chamberlain?
No, there was no necessity for it, because neither the Government nor the Prime Minister himself could lay down any hardandfastrule until they entered into a discussion with the other members of the Conference. The next question was -
Did the Prime Minister forward the memorandum to Mr. Chamberlain to be laid before the Conference of Premiers ?
No ; but he consented to its being laid before the Conference.
I do not know the date.
Yes, confidentially, and with the Prime Minister’s consent.
I do not know the date, and therefore I do not answer these questions.
That has been answered already.
Yes, in a private letter to Mr. Chamberlain. That private letter to Mr. Chamberlain conveying this document stated expressly that it contained only the irresponsible views of Sir John Forrest as a member of the Ministry.
– The views of one man.
Yes. He was, with the concurrence of the Conference, invited to attend by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who presided, but he did not address the Conference. As a matter of fact, Sir John Forrest was ill during the greater part of the time when the Conference was sitting in London, but at the invitation of Mr. Chamberlain he was present, but did not take part in the discussion.
– Then the newspaper was right?
– Which newspaper ? Before I say that a newspaper is right I must know what newspaper is referred to ; because with regard to some newspapers prima facie what they say is always right, and with regard to other newspapers prima facie what they say is always wrong.
The answer to that is that several Canadian Ministers were present with the concurrence of the Conference, and more than one of them addressed the Conference by invitation. That is a plain and full statement of all the facts connected with this memorandum. I cannot imagine any person who looks at this matter with a clear mind, who takes an ordinarily impartial view of it, and who has any knowledge of the world, supposing for one moment that the interests of the Common weath have suffered in any way whatever as a result of the course which has been taken in regard to this memorandum. It was simply a memorandum prepared, as it might very well be, by the officer of the Commonwealth who had from his position a knowledge of all the technicalities and circumstances’ connected with the question. He gave the Prime Minister the benefit of his opinion, and the memorandum went before the Conference simply as the expression of his own individual opinion. The agreement has not been affected byit in any way. It is an agreement which was arrived at as a result of the whole of the information which was before the Conference, and arrived at in such a way as not to bind the Parliament, but to leave the whole matter absolutely open for the consideration of the Senate, as it was for the consideration of the other House. Under these circumstances I hope that I have satisfied the Senate from the history of this memorandum that there is absolutely no ground for Senator Matheson’s insinuations or charges, and that every one of them, whatever may be behind them so far as the honorable senator is concerned, and with that I have nothing to do now, has absolutely failed to be established. I hope that when we come to the Bill, which we have to consider this afternoon, honorable senators will see that they are not bound by this agreement, but are absolutely and entirely free to come to a decision regardless either of the memorandum, of the Minister for Defence, or any action taken by the Prime Minister at the Conference.
– I think we have just listened to the longest answer ever given in Parliament to a series of questions, and it was. an answer given after two absolute refusals to deal with those questions at all. The questions have been termed studied impertinences, and yet the answer given has evidently been carefully prepared. I am very sorry for a great deal that has happened in connexion with these questions. I am sorry that Senator O’Connor should have thought it necessary to import such an extraordinary amount of heat into this discussion. I am extremely sorry that the leader of the Senate should have had to be twice called to order by the President, and compelled to withdraw expressions of abuse.
– I do not belong to the order of people who turn the other cheek
– I sympathize with Senator O’Connor, but I think it is a pity that the leader of the Senate should set us so poor an example of courtesy and decorum as to have to be twice called to order for using expressions which he ought not to have used. I desire to. say this with regard to these questions : When they were first put on the paper I paid no attention to them, and I did not read them, but after I had heard with amazement Senator O’Connor’s first reply to Senator Matheson I made it my business to study them. I must confess that I could not discover in any one of the questions, or in the whole of them, anything to warrant the description given of them by the leader of the Senate. I fail to see now that Senator O’Connor can properly describe these questions as consisting of studied impertinences. I feel I am bound to make refer:ence, also, to this point : The businesspaper is, I understand, subject to the censorship of the President. The President passed these questions, and, therefore, the reply given by the leader of the Senate to Senator Matheson was not only offensive to that honorable senator, but it reflected upon the President himself.
– The only obligation I have is to see that questions are in order.
– I am glad to hear from you, Mr. President, what your duties are in this respect. I confess that it was my idea that the duties of the President went a little further. I had thought that if the President found on the business-paper a question which was offensive in any way, or a question that could be properly described as a “ studied impertinence,” he would erase it .and prevent it appearing on the business-paper. I thought that was one of the duties appertaining to the President’s office. I am’ glad to hear the President’s ruling that in future, so long as a question is in order it may be couched in any language whether it is language of “studied impertinence “ or not.
– I did not say that.
– Whatever the President’s ruling may be with regard to this matter, the questions, having passed his censorship, I regard them as having been approved of by him, and therefore having been approved of by the Senate, and I say that Senator O’Connor was wholly unjustified in characterising them as being couched in language of “ studied impertinence.” If they were couched in such terms, why has the honorable and learned senator answered them now 1 We have been delayed for two and a half hours in getting answers to questions which might have been answered long ago. Senator O’Connor, after two absolute refusals to answer these questions, has answered them in a lengthy address to the Senate, when a simple answer might have been given to them weeks ago. I can see nothing either in the questions or the answers to justify all this waste of time. I see no reason why the questions should not have been answered long ago, or why Senator O’Connor should have spoken of them as he did. I do not feel very strongly on the point, because so far as the subject-matter of the question goes, my sympathies are not with Senator Matheson. I am concerned with what I regard as a breach of the decorum of the Senate, and it is a great pity that all this heat should have been ‘ imported into so simple a discussion. Senator O’Connor used a most extraordinary argument a little while ago when he said that there was no difference between Sir John ‘ Forrest, as Minister for Defence, submitting a memorandum to the Conference, and some official, such as Major-General Hutton, submitting a similar document. I am sure that Senator O’Connor must recognise the weakness of such an argument. There must al ways be an enormous difference between a memorandum submitted by a responsible Minister, who cannot divest himself of his position, and a memorandum submitted by a paid official. There is no doubt that the memorandum was placed before the Conference under unusual circumstances, and in an unusual way, and it is fair criticism to say that it ought never to have been there. I do not wish to import any heat into the discussion, but I think that the document ought not to have been at the Conference ; and in my opinion its presence there cannot be justified by Senator O’Connor or anybody else. I know - and I say this in the most friendly way - that Sir John Forrest has a playful habit of inditing letters, and I dare say that Senator O’Connor has been, I shall not say the victim, but the recipient of these missives.
– Sir John Forrest is one of the best letter writers I know.
– I admit that Sir John Forrest is a very excellent letter writer, and I am only saying that he indulges in the habit. Excellent as Sir John Forrest may be in. this respect, Senator O’Connor has, and other members of the Ministry have, at times suffered from those letters. Personally, I feel no surprise that Sir John Forrest should have sent a letter to Mr. Chamberlain; and, since hearing Senator O’Connor’s explanation, I can well understand how the memorandum got to the Conference. It is, as I say, Sir John Forrest’s habit to send letters to anybody and everybody.
– He might write a letter to the King.
– That is so. Considering the time that has been occupied in getting answers to the simple questions of Senator Matheson, I shall not detain the Senate at any length. I recognise that Senator O’Connor has failed to apologize for his original answer, and has failed to modify his language, but, at the same time, he has conceded all that Senator Matheson wanted. If I am to congratulate any one on the turn of events I must congratulate Senator Matheson, because he has at last, after much tribulation, succeeded in extorting a full answer to all his questions, though it is an answer which has been accompanied by torrents of abuse, and one given, evidently, with great reluctance.
– With Senator Clemons I think that all this discussion might have been avoided if there had been a little more courtesy extended by the Government to Senator Matheson. After all the debate and heat, we find that the replies furnished have really very little in them - that they could just as easily have been supplied in the first instance. A great want of tact has been shown on the part of the Government, and this ought to be a lesson that the easiest way to meet cases of the kind is to give a straightforward reply. Senator Matheson has succeeded, after all the attempts to frustrate him, in “ drawing the badger,” and he is to be congratulated on his persistency. But for Senator Matheson, other honorable senators who ask questions, to which the Government do not wish to reply, might be staved off. Senator Matheson is deserving the best thanks of the Senate, and I again congratulate him on his persistency, because he had every right to the replies he has now received.
– I am glad that Senator O’Connor has given the fullest answers to the questions asked by Senator Matheson. The Senate is entitled on all occasions to the most complete information regarding any subject on which we are entitled to legislate. The information asked for has now been supplied, and I think it might have been supplied before. I have read Senator Mathe son’s questions, and they do not appear to me to be of such a character as to deserve the reply they originally received. I can see no harm in Sir John Forrest submitting his. views in a private letter to Mr. Chamberlain, so long as it,was clearly understood, as Senator O’Connor stated it was, that those views represented his own personal opinions. I can see no harm in Mr. Chamberlain asking and receiving the consent of the Prime Minister to place those views before the Conference, so long as the Conference clearly understood they were the individual views of the Minister for Defence. As Senator O’Connor stated, Ministers from other States were not only present at the Conference, but were able to express their views verbally, and that being so, I do not see why Sir John Forrest should not be allowed to express his private views by means of a memorandum. By the way, this; celebrated memorandum has been elevated into quite an important State document; it has become almost as important as the celebrated Dreyfus dossier. I am sure that when Sir John Forrest wrote that memorandum he had no conception of the trecmendous importance which it has since attained. We find, however, that it has formed the subject of leading articles in the British newspapers, and hours have been occupied here in its discussion ; and even now we do not know whether it has been properly “laid.” The answers given by Senator O’Connor are such that we now know exactly what took place ; and I must say, in fairness, that in my opinion there is nothing wrong in the action of Sir John Forrest, the Prime Minister, and Mr. Chamberlain. Senator O’Connor clearly states that the document was used by the Conference as the personal private views of Sir John Forrest : and, no doubt, Sir John would have expressed those views there verbally if he had not been ill during most of the time the Conference was sitting. I do not for a moment take up the role of censor of the morals of the Ministry, or of their conduct, but it would have been more dignified on the part of Senator O’Connor if he had not stated that the questions asked by Senator Matheson showed “ studied impertinence.” If Senator O’Connor had decided that the questions were of such a nature that they ought not to be answered it would have been possible for him to have informed the Senate that no good purpose could be served by complying with the request of Senator Matheson. But the questions were pertinent to a very important matter on which we have to legislate, and Senator O’Connor would have been better advised if he had then given the answers which we have heard this afternoon. I must also express regret at the tone of this discussion, and in this respect I do not excuse Senator Matheson, some of whose expressions were regrettable. Senator Matheson spoke about the “sickening hypocrisy “ of the Prime Minister, and Senator O’Connor retorted by describing the remarks of Senator Matheson as “ a dastardly insinuation,” and the senator himself as “ bubbling over with malice.” If we desire that this Senate shall have any prestige we are going the wrong way to earn it. In the Senate itself we have adopted methods of discussion of which we complain outside. Members and Ministers ought not to descend to.language such as has been heard on both sides this afternoon. If these matters were discussed in a more cool and dignified manner our constituents would, perhaps, have a higher opinion of the Federal Parliament.
– I sympathize with Senator Matheson, but not because I have at any time received other than the greatest courtesy from Ministers. I sympathize with Senator Matheson because I think that the original reply given to the questions was to a great extent unparliamentary, quite uncalled for, and a reflection on the honorable senator. If Senator O’Connor had given the replies at an earlier stage he would have shown that he was acting on the Biblical precept that a “ mild answer turneth away wrath.” Senator O’Connor has shown himself in a new light this afternoon. I never before heard such a torrent of abuse from him or any other member of theSenate At the same time I do not blame Senator O’Connor, who, feeling strongly, spoke strongly, and had no doubt been stirred up a good deal by Senator Matheson. It is a good thing for the community generally that opinions are held by members of this Senate with such tenacity that we are not likely to develop into a mutual admiration society. This little storm has cleared the air greatly, and I am sure it has infused new life into honorable senators.
– It certainly has cleared the notice-paper.
– No doubt. Senator O’Connor states that the memorandum was very ably prepared, and that Sir John Forrest is a very fine correspondent. That may be so ; and Sir John Forrest’s letters may be equal to those of Junius. But Sir J ohn Forrest has stated repeatedly that he is a man of peace, and knows nothing whatever about the arts of war ; and although this memorandum was signed by him, and some honorable senators are inclined to think that it was his own compilation, my opinion is that it was the work of some military or naval expert in the states, whose sentiments Sir John adopted.
SenatorStaniforth Smith. - There are quotations for Rear-Admiral Beaumont’s report.
– Quotations from RearAdmiral Beaumont’s report find a place in the memorandum ; but there are other expressions which Ido not believe come from that gentleman. I am certain that Sir John Forrest would not in his place in the House of Representatives, or in any part of the Commonwealth, express the opinion that our fair contribution to the Admiralty is something like £5,000,000 per annum.
SenatorFraser. - That was based on our trade.
– No doubt the whole calculation is based on trade and commerce, and in the compilation of the memorandum the statistics relating thereto would be considered.
– I must ask the honorable senator not to discuss the merits of the proposed naval agreement.
– I do not propose to do so. The question as to by whom this memorandum was prepared is before the Senate, and I am only endeavoring to show that in all probability Sir John Forrest, as a man of peace and an Australian patriot, was not the author of the opinion that £5,000,000 per annum should be our contribution.
– Sir John Forrest made himself responsible for what is in the memorandum.
– No doubt; but the object of Senator Matheson’s questions, so far as 1 can see, was to ascertain who really furnished this document, how it found its way to the Conference, and how it was allowed to influence the decisions there arrived at.
– It had the approval of the Ministry.
– It has been suggested that this document had the approval of Ministers. If Senator Matheson’s questions had been answered, as they should have been, we should have known exactly who prepared the memorandum - whether the author was an Australian or merely a distinguished visitor to Australia for a few months. We should then have been able to make up our mind regarding certain business which is to come before the Chamber.
– I do not want to speak about the series of questions put by Senator Matheson, because these have been amply answered already. I think, however, that the attention of honorable senators should be called to a practice which has grown up in the Senate- a practice which seems very strange to me - of putting offensive matter into questions. The practice of asking questions in order to get information is most useful in Parliament, but all questions should be put in Such a way as to elicit information without conveying anyinsinuation or charge, I am not referring to the particular questions under discussion, but to a practice which seems to have grown up in this Chamber. Only quite recently a question, which could have been couched in the simplest terms, was put to me in terms studiously offensive: The difficulty is that when there is a question of that nature it is impossible to simply give the information asked for without impliedly admitting some charge or insinuation. Therefore, when questions are asked in that manner, the only way in which they cart be answered is by making a long, roundabout statement. When a series of questions is asked, a speech is necessary in order to give the. information, which should be made public unless we are to allow to pass some charge or insinuation which is wrapped up in them.
– Does not the honorable and learned gentleman evade the point in his answers very often?
– I think not.
– I think so.
– I do not wish to argue that question now. It is a very wholesome rule that Ministers, in giving answers, should supply information in a concise manner, and that the questions should be only sufficient for the purpose of eliciting information.
– It appears to me that in answering questions Ministers forget the relation in which they stand to Parliament. They appear to set themselves up on a. pedestal, to assume a superior position, and to’ look down on ordinary members of the Senate as persons altogether beneath their notice. Probably that is one of the evils which we have inherited from the British Parliament. One by one we are severing the silken strands, and I hope that we shall adopt what I conceive to be a common-sense idea withregard to Parliament. What is the Ministry? It is simply the Executive Committee of Parliament.
– That is blasphemy.
– It is my opinion, and I believe it is the fact. If an ordinary Member of Parliament desires information on public business, I submit that he is entitled to get that information. Ministers, I believe, do not question that ; but Senator O’Connor has laboured here this afternoon, to prove that the manner of Senator
Matheson was studiously impertinent ; that he was bubbling over with malice toward the ex-Minister for Defence, and doing a great many other nasty things. Who is to judge whether a question is impertinent? It may be impertinent without being studiously impertinent.
– Or it may be studious without being impertinent.
– Yes.. If a question is studiously impertinent, that certainly aggravates the offence ; but I do not know who is to be the judge.
SenatorFraser. - The President has to be the judge.
– Every question, I believe, sir, has to pass your censorship. Apparently you did not think that the questions put by Senator Matheson were either impertinent or studiously impertinent, otherwise they would not have appeared on the notice-paper. But I object to even the President having the power to cut out questions.
SenatorFraser. - We must give that power to him.
– I do not know whether we must give that power to the President. What I assume to be correct is that he is practically in the position of an autocrat, so far as the putting of questions is concerned. If he permits a question to be put, the Minister cannot refuse to answer the question on any ground.
– Except on the ground of discourtesy.
– Not even on the ground of discourtesy. The President would not permit a discourteous or impertinent question to be put ; and the fact that he did permit these questions to be put ought to be sufficient proof to the Senate that they were not discourteous or impertinent. If that is the position, where do we land ourselves? We find ourselves confronted with this position : That the Government, being extremely unwilling to give answers to Senator Matheson’s questions, which undoubtedly probed a very sore place, took shelter under the excuse or plea that he was impertinent. Practically they said to him, “You have not asked the questions as you ought to do ; you have not gone down on your knees to the Government ; you have not lifted your hat to the powers that be ; you have not been sufficiently obsequious ; and a great many other things of that character.” We know perfectly well that
Ministers - in doing so they commit a very serious wrong - evade questions habitually. If a senator puts a question to the Government, and they do not desire to answer it, they take advantage of any little twist or turn of language to give a misleading answer. That is not conduct which is becoming the Government of a free country. If questions are not put as accurately as they ought to be, these superior persons in the Government ought to have some pity for the ignorance and want of skill of private senators like Senator Matheson and myself, to overlook our defects in that direction, and give the answer desired. But no, they wish to hide in the archives some transaction of which probably they are ashamed, and which they cannot defend, and they get rid of the responsibility of answering questions by a side wind. Senator O’Connor did answer SenatorMatheson’s questions this afternoon, and in doing so he complained of the great waste of time. Who has scored ? According to the Government, Senator Matheson has been studiously impertinent and they have refused to answer his questions. But now he brings the Government to their knees and compels them to answer his questions however unwilling they might be. I ask you, sir, who is to blame for this waste of time? Is it not the Government ? It is not Senator Matheson. He desired information which he was perfectly entitled to get. He asked for that information in as polite a manner as any gentleman could do, but it was refused ; and now it has been supplied. So far as I can see, if any one has come out of this little tussel with advantage, it is not the Government, but Senator Matheson.
– I am very glad to say that we have very seldom witnessed in the Chamber anything approaching the heat which has been imported into this discussion. To my mind, it largely arises from a misconception. I carefully read these questions, and I must frankly confess that I saw nothing unreasonable in most of them, nothing that could be construed as’ impertinent. At the same time we cannot but respect the feeling which evidently was in the mind of Senator O’Connor when he was convinced that by the series of questions it was intended to strike a blow at one of his colleagues. We must pay a certain amount of regard to the resentment which would naturally be occasioned under those circumstances. Senator Matheson has demonstrated this afternoon that he was anxious to secure information, and it has been supplied by the Minister, who probably might have acted more wisely in giving it earlier. I do not think for one moment that Senator Matheson did intend any serious offence by his questions. At the same time the Minister was hardly justified in withholding the imformation. Perhaps the time has not been unwisely spent this afternoon, because it has indicated that if a Minister must err at all he should err on the side of giving information rather than of withholding it. Under the circumstances, perhaps honours may be regarded as easy, and the debate as having been not altogether unprofitable. I have not had the same experience as Senator Stewart. I think that Ministers, as a rule, have shown the utmost courtesy in answering questions, as well as the greatest anxiety to supply the fullest information. As a rule, the questions have been of a very searching character ; and I have seen very little attempt at evasion. I admit . at once that Ministers ought to give the fullest information on public affairs. As regards the merits of the matters submitted in this series of questions, I am not with Senator Matheson. I take the memorandum to be merely an expression of opinion by Sir John Forrest. When it was privately sent by him to the Colonial-office, Mr. Chamberlain had no right to accept it as an expression of opinion on behalf of the Commonwealth Government. The recognised practice is that when a memorandum is intended to be an expression of the opinion of a Government it must be forwarded through the Prime Minister. As this memorandum was not only not forwarded through the Prime Minister, but was forwarded with a private letter by Sir John Forrest, there was no reason why it should be otherwise regarded than as a mere piece of literature. Nothing is more usual than for minutes or memoranda to be prepared by Ministers for the information of the Prime Minister on subjects to be considered at conferences. Sir John Forrest was more or less in a position to formulate certain views on this question. He formulated his views in a memorandum which he gave to the Prime Minister for his information.
– That is all he should have done.
– Perhaps so ; but he saw fit to privately forward this piece of literature - evidently with the consent of the Prime Minister, to whom it was addressed - to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I see nothing that could bind the Prime Minister. I feel that in the expressions which hemade use of when he was leaving for the old country he was perfectly frank and honest and that in the memorandum, even if it had been previously forwarded privately by Sir John Forrest, there was nothing in theshape of “ sickening hypocrisy,” as has been suggested, in the statement made tothe other House. Perhaps it was thought that this memorandum containing certain information, and written by one who was more or less an expert in Australia, might be useful-
– Who was the expert?’
– Sir John Forrest, from the stand-point that he had special information on the subject within his control.
– I wanted to elicit that.
– This memorandum, written by one who was more or less an expert in Australia, outlining a certain, scheme, and containing certain information,, was placed before the Conference becauseit was thought it would be useful. Nothing in the memorandum could bind, the Prime Minister or the Commonwealth. I consider that the utmost good faith haSbeen maintained by the Prime Minister towards Parliament in this connexion.
– It was very carefully concealed from Parliament.
– I do not think thatParliament has anything to complain of in the matter. On the contrary, the utmost good faith has been observed. Consequently I feel that Senator Matheson certainly is not justified in the reflections he has cast upon the Goverment and in the charge of want of good faith which he has laid against them.
– I think that as far as the debate has gone, Senator Matheson must consider that, likeother great generals, he has come out of the encounter without any scratches. I havelistened very carefully to the speecheswhich have been made by some of the Ministerialists who have occupied positions in Cabinets, and I am rather surprised that those gentlemen should say that such a document as the one we have? been discussing could possibly have had no influence. We know - or at all events we feel - that it has had, and must have had, some influence. Senator Best repudiates the idea of the memorandum having had any more effect than a document sent by a private individual to the Right Honorable Joseph Chamberlain. I have heard Senator Best say before in the Senate that we should always stick to our country, whether it is right or wrong. The same maxim applies to Governments, in some cases. The members of Governments stick up for each other whether they are right or wrong, until some of them cannot stand it any longer, and then they have to take a most extreme course. We know that the memorandum of Sir John Forrest did find its way further than it ought to have gone. If it were simply a memorandum for the purpose of conveying some ideas to Sir Edmund Barton, I should say that he ought to have had enough of his Own. Certainly Sir Edmund Barton ought to have as many ideas as Sir John Forrest upon any subject pertaining to Australian affairs. One must laugh at the absurdity of regarding Sir John Forrest as a military or naval expert. If the battles of the future were to be fought under the same rules and regulations as the old battle of Pinjarrah that occurred in Western Australia a great many years ago between the natives and others the Minister who signed this memorandum might be an authority. But I think I know as much about modern warfare as Sir John Forrest does, and any honorable senator who takes an interest in the subject is likely to know quite as much about it. The views of Sir John Forrest cannot be regarded as those of an expert. That was where the great fault occurred. If the authorities in England had placed a proper valuation upon the document, and had not regarded it as emanating from an expert, no harm might have been done. As we know, a great deal of dissatisf action has been caused in regard to it in another place. Indeed, it has been taken too seriously altogether. I trust that the discussion will not be altogether useless. It should have the effect of teaching members of Ministries that when they have opinions they should adopt the proper method of expressing them, and should give members of Parliament an opportunity of criticising them, and not send them away for the benefit of Mr. Chamberlain or any one else. I hope the lesson of this debate will be taken to heart, and that it will be understood that the members of the Senate object to any Ministerial action that is not conducted in an open and regular manner.
– I propose to say only a few words in reply to Senator O’Connor. My object in raising the debate was, as I said before, to clear my character from the aspersions that had been cast upon it. I believe that I may fairly claim to have succeeded in that object. The replies to the questions which I have put have become, in my mind, more or less immaterial by this time, but it is an additional satisfaction to find that Senator O’Connor has now seen his way to give the fullest and most ample information upon the points as to which I had asked questions. As to the matter of “ studied impertinence,” I may say in the first place that the statement of the Vice-President of the Executive Council has been published throughout the whole Commonwealth in the newspapers. There is hardly a newspaper in Australia that has not contained some allusion to it. At any rate, there is no newspaper that has come under my notice that has omitted to allude to it. Most of the journals have . done so in terms derogatory to myself, as they naturally judged that Senator O’Connor would not have made his statement unless his remarks were justified. My point is gained, because it will now go out as the result of this afternoon’s debate that not a single member of the Senate who has spoken has failed to say that after reading the questions he could find no trace or taint of impertinence in them. I may fairly conclude that those honorable senators who have not spoken would have done so if they held contrary views, because I expressly appealed to honorable senators to protect me and to see that I was treated fairly in the matter. Therefore my object has been gained in the most satisfactory way possible. Senator O’Connor states in reference to my questions of the 29th July, that one could not possibly imagine that the reply which he gave would not have been considered satisfactory. Now I would remark that when that reply was given, it was received with an unanimous shout of laughter. My question was as to how the memorandum of the Minister for Defence came into the possession of Mr. Chamberlain. The question was left unanswered. The reply given was Chat the paper was included in the record wilh the consent of the Prime Minister. I hold the record in my hand. I never inquired how the document came to be included in the record, because every one knew. It was placed there by the instructions of Mr. Chamberlain. What I asked in simple language was merely how it came into the possession of Mr. Chamberlain, and how he came to be in a position to insert it in the record. I did not get the answer which I might reasonably have expected. I will direct Senator Best’s attention to that fact, because when he was speaking a little while ago he said that his experience in watching the answers to questions was not that they failed to give the information sought for. Here is absolutely a case in point. The honorable and learned senator is a lawyer, and I presume that he has specially developed powers of construing the English language. I asked how the. paper came into the possession of Mr. Chamberlain, and I was told how it came to be printed in the record. There are three points raised in connexion with Senator O’Connor’s reply. The second question is- the only one in connexion with which the honorable and learned senator takes exception to the verbiage. He questions my iona fides in using the word “instruction” of the Prime Minister. I used the expression in exactly the same way as the honorable and learned senator himself. I might just as well have’ said ‘‘information.” I happened to use the word “instruction,” but I did so without the least intention to give offence to the worthy gentleman. If it does give offence 1 am willing to withdraw it, and insert the word “information,” but, of course, the matter has passed. In question No. 4 I asked whether the Prime Minister had approved of the terms and sentiments of the memorandum prior to the debate in the House of Representatives, when an undertaking was given that he should not bind the Commonwealth to any naval defence arrangement whilst in England? The answer to that is “ No.” I allude to that question and to the reply given to it in order that I may point out that any reference I made to “sickening hypocrisy” and “duplicity” are entirely met by that answer. I must remind honorable senators that I used those words conditionally. I said that if this document had gone forward as an expression of the opinion of the Government, as I believed it had, in that case the remarks of Sir Edmund Barton mighthave been characterized by those words. I maintain that now ; but in the circumstances shown by the reply to the question, it is perfectly clear that the words do not apply to the right honorable gentleman’s conduct in the very least. I hope that that matter may now be allowed to drop, so far as any insinuations on my part are concerned. Then, iia question 5, I asked why was the memorandum not laid before Parliament while the debate was going on ? The reply to that question is that there was nonecessity. All I can say is that I differ entirely from Senator O’Connor in that view. I think there was every necessity for laying this memorandum before Parliament. Every one knows the comments which have been made upon the memorandum, with very few exceptions, by every Member of Parliament, and. even by honorable members who sit behind, the Government. With very few exceptions, honorable members condemn a large numberof the expressions of opinion which have- _ found their way into that memorandum. I am perfectly certain that if the document had been presented to Parliament before Sir Edmund Barton went away the right honorable gentleman would never have left with hands untied and feet unshackled. In the spirit displayed by Parliament at thetime he would have been bound down onlines which would have prevented this, naval agreement coming before us as it does, at present. That is an expression of my opinion. I may be wrong, but I must say that I do not think Parliament has beentreated with proper respect inasmuch as that memorandum was laid before Mr. Chamberlain before being submitted to Parliament.. Some honorable senators seem to think that the memorandum has had no effect uponpublic opinion in England. I do not propose to deal with that question in detail now, but I shall deal with it later on.. I can, however, now assure tlie Senate thatthat memorandum has proved to be one of the- most unfortunate documents for theCommonwealth which has ever been published in connexion with naval defence. It has gone forward on the authority of SirJohn Forrest that if the Australian Commonwealth contributed to the upkeep of the navy in the same proportion as the United’ Kingdom, her contribution would amountto something like £5,000,000 a year. That statement has been twisted in every possibleway by nearly every paper in the United
Kingdom. Every writer who deals with the subject makes use of that statement, and makes use of it with the object of showing that we in Australia have not the least sense of our responsibility in connexion with the matter of naval defence. In support of their contention they call, not their own writers or their own members of Parliament, but the Commonwealth Minister for Defence, and what can any private individual say in response 1 He can say nothing. He may deride the views of the Minister for Defence if he likes ; but I ask honorable senators what good is it, when dealing with the British public, to laugh at the views of the Commonwealth Minister for Defence? It does no good, and has no effect, for they simply reply that they have before them the official utterances and the official recognition of the fact that we do not act up to our responsibilities as they are recognised by our Government. Having gained my end in this matter, and having completely vindicated my character, I ask leave of the Senate to withdraw the motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
asked the Vice-Presi dent of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
Senator MATHESON, upon notice, called the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council - 1st. To the fact that the question put on Wednesday, 5th August, did not inquire as to the duties of the President and Speaker “ when
Parliament is not sitting,” but as to whether an ex-Speaker could exercise any of the functions of Speaker after he has ceased to be Speaker. 2nd. To the fact that the Constitution Act provides - “ The Speaker shall cease to hold his office if he ceases to be a member.” 3rd. To the fact that the Public Service Act provides - “ Any action or approval required by this Act to be taken or given by the Commissioner may, so far as officers of the Parliament are concerned, be taken or given by the President or the Speaker in substitution for the Commissioner.”
And asked -
Do not the administrative functions of the President and Speaker under the Public Service Act only appertain to them while lawfully President or Speaker ?
By what legal right, power, or authority can duties vested by law in the President or Speaker be performed by a person who by the Constitution is no longer President or Speaker ?
What legal validity would attach to acts required to be performed by the President or Speaker if performed by one who by the Constitution was not President or Speaker at the time ?
If the ex-Speaker is not re-elected to Parliament, will the administrative functions necessary under the Public Service Act bo exercised gratuitously, seeing that the Government do not suggest any provision for payment in such a case ?
If the ex-President or Speaker is not reelected to Parliament, by whom would the administrative functions necessary under the Public Service Act be performed, pending the selection of a new President or Speaker ?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
In moving the second reading of this Bill I am well aware that the subject has been very fully considered in another place, and very fully discussed in the press ; but that does not relieve the Senate of its duty to look closely into the whole question involved, and to exercise that duty with a clear sense of the responsibility which is imposed upon it. I do not know of any part of the duty which the Commonwealth has been called upon to perform which is of more importance than this. One of the prime causes of our union was the necessity that existed to secure an adequate system of defence for Australia. One of the matters of real Australian national concern, which could in no other way be accomplished, is the devising and carrying out of a scheme of national defence, I therefore hope that the Senate will approach this question solely from the point of view of what is really best in the interests of Australia and what is really practicable at the present time.
– Could we not subsidize the British Army?
– I quite appreciate the feelings of those who are anxious, if possible, to establish our own navy. That is a matter which will have to be considered
– Later on.
– It will have to be considered, and must be considered from many points of view. A decision to adopt this agreement does not close that view for ever. We have to deal with the present condition of things, andwe have to say whether under ordinary circumstances this agreement which has been arrived at, and which it is open now to the Senate to pronounce an opinion upon, is the best that could be made. The first question that arises is whether any change ought to be made in the existing condition of things. As honorable senators are aware, the present naval agreement was made in 1887, and has been actually in force since 1889. Under it, Australia pays £106,000 a year to the British Government, and New Zealand pays £20,000 a year to secure certain benefits. I shall refer to those benefits later on, and I shall contrast them with what we shall get under the new agreement. We have to consider whether the provisions of the existing agreement are at present sufficient in all the circumstances for the adequate defence of Australia? That was the question that faced the Federal Government when they took office, and they had, as honorable senators are aware,to have regard to the defence of Australia as a whole. The land defence is being dealt with in a Bill which I hope will shortly be before the Senate. In the meantime, we have carried on in the best way we could under the existing systems, and the expenditure proposed for defence, apart from this subsidy, amounts to something like £600,000 a year.
– Could the honorable and learned senator give the proportion of that sum which is necessary for the existing naval defence?
– I shall not go into the details of that now. Honorable senators are aware that the figures I am giving now are to be found in the Estimates. I mention them to show that when we are spending so large an amount as we are obliged to spend in land defence, it becomes a matter of very grave importance that we should consider whether our naval defence is adequate, and if not, in what shape it should be put. It is necessary to go back a little and see in the first place whether there has been any alteration in circumstances and conditions between 1887 when the agreement was made, and the present time. All the expert authorities who have spoken about the defence of the Empire are of one opinion, and that is that the force we have here now is under the changed conditions absolutely insufficient to carry out the duties which it might very well have carried out in 1887.
– The same authorities said that 50,000 men were sufficient for South Africa.
– I do not agree with the honorable senator. They are not the same authorities. In the one case the advice given was that of the military authorities of the Empire.
– Did not the naval authorities give advice also ?
– No. In the other case we are dealing with the naval authorities, and I think I may say that if there is one branch of the British service of which we have always been justly proud, it is the naval branch, both in regard to its fighting capacity and its administration. No part of the British administration has maintained a higher degree of efficiency. Senator Higgs’ interruption has therefore no point. Whether an error was made in under estimating the forces required in South Africa, and whether those who gave advice in connexion with the matter were or were not justified by the circumstances in the opinion they gave, it is not for me to say. But I do say that the advice of all experts on naval matters is that the fleet we have at the present time is insufficient. I think that even those who propose that we should now have an Australian navy are of the same opinion. The question is whether in the circumstances we must accept some modification qf the present system which will bring it up to modern requirements, or launch out into this new scheme of a navy of our own, and begin to carry it out at once. In determining the view I am about to put to the Senate now, that the circumstances are so altered that it is necessary to make a change in our naval defence arrangements, I should like to quote a passage which’ stands at the head of a very able paper by my honorable friend, Senator Matheson. It is the report of a lecture which the honorable senator delivered. I entirely disagree with the views which the honorable senator has expressed, but I give him credit for the ability of his paper, and I wish to use as my text the following quotation which is to be found at the head of it :-
All defence - whether it is purely defensive or whether it is of the offensive-defensive character - ought to be based upon some intelligent appreciation of the power of the adversaries to be faced ; and if those adversaries cannot be exactly defined, then it must be founded on the actual strength of the probable action of those who may be adversaries.
I entirely agree with that text, and I propose to apply it in comparing the position of affairs in 1887 with the position of affairs at the present time. We had to look for immediate danger when we made the agreement of that year to the East, and principally to the fleets which might be kept in our neighbourhood. Of course, the danger to commerce al ways exists : but the principal danger to us must be that of the interruption of our trade which passes through the eastern seas, whether to the north or to the west of Australia. In 1887 the wonderful change which has taken place in China and the China Seas had not begun ; in that year matters were comparatively quiescent. Russia was building her railway across Siberia, and the fleets of Russia, Britain, and France were nothing like of the same strength as they are at th’e present time. The Russian fleet then consisted of three armoured vessels of about 5,500 tons each, and six unarmoured vessels of about 1,400 tons each. These nine ships, so far as we can get information, appear to have represented their whole strength. The
British strength was about the same. There was one armoured ship of 7,600 tons, six unarmoured ships, three of them about 2,000 tons each ; and three small vessels under 500 tons each. That was the force which was thought at that time sufficient to patrol those seas in the interests of British and Australian commerce. It affords a very fair measure of the danger then anticipated in that quarter ; because the Admiralty are always on the lookout in different parts of the world, and keep the fleet in such a condition that it will be able to meet any force likely to be brought against it. In 1895 a very serious change took place. That was the year of the Japanese-Chinese war, which was a revelation, I think, to the world as to the military and naval preparations which had been made by Japan, and as to the effectiveness of the Japanese land and sea power. There was no further very important crisis in that part of the world to which it is necessary to call attention until we come to 1898, when there was a sudden accession of interest in the Far East. At the end of 1897 or early in 189S Germany took the first step by seizing a large territory at Kias Chau. That was followed in the next year by Germany obtaining a concession for 99 years of a large territory in the Shantung peninsula. A month or so later Russia, seized Port Arthur, and subsequently obtained from the Chinese Government a lease of a large territory in the neighborhood. Great Britain about a month afterwards acquired rights over Wei-hai-Wei, closely adjoining Port Arthur under the terms that she was to retain that territory so long as Russia remained in possession of the Port Arthur concession. Later on in the same month France, obtained territory at Kwang Chan Wau, opposite the island of Hainan, near the French possession. Thus we find that within a few months in 189S the four great powers of Great Britain, Russia, France and Germany all acquired a foothold in China ; and in order to assert their rights all brought powerful fleets into the Far East. The Boxer movement took place in 1900; and it became apparent then, that in order to preserve the interests which all these European powers had in China, intervention of some kind would be necessary. Intervention did take place, and we had the occupation of Tien Tsin a little later, which brought together the armies of those European powers, along with the American forces, and fleets from every nation in the world, in order to watch the interests of the nationalities concerned. That also taught another lesson, namely, that the whole of the vast Empire of China keeps its peace at the will, practically, of one person. No one can properly predict what is likely to take place on the death of the present Dowager Empress of China. Whatever one may suppose will be the future of China - whenever one may suppose the break-up of China will take place - it is quite clear, in view of all the interests which the different powers have on the mainland, and of the fleets at present in Chinese waters to watch those interests, that the time must come when the position of China will probably lead to disputes and to complications, which we may hope will be peaceably settled, but which have within them the elements of difficulty and war.
– Division of the loot !
– Senator Stewart may call this the “division of the loot,” or use whatever terms he likes.. I do not care what it is ; I am not here to defend the morality of any of the transactions which have taken place in those seas. We have to look at this matter from the point of view of people who are preparing to defend themselves, and, whatever the cause- of the war may be at the time, we have not to inquire into its morality. How does it affect us or our defence, even if the war does arise from some cause not strictly defensible on grounds of morality? I do not care what may be the cause of the war, or what may be the action of the powers. What we have to consider is the probability of the danger, which is war. From what direction will the danger come t Are we prepared for it when it does come ? What we have more to do with, of course, than the occupation of the territories of China, are the -fleets which are kept in the China seas. Just one glance will, I think, enable honorable senators to realize .the immense difference between the position of affairs there from 1887 up to 1898, and the position of-affairs at the present time. The Russian force in the Far East now consists of six battle-ships, three first-class cruisers - -and the fact that the Gromoboi is one of the latter, will give some idea of the kind of vessels they are - five second-class cruisers, three third-class cruisers, two armoured gun-boats, three sloops, three gun-boats, and five torpedo destroyers - a total of some 30 vessels. I am not going into details, because it is not necessary to do so. It may be that there is very little difference between a first-class cruiser and a battle-ship of a smaller kind ; and I am only giving the vessels as they are described in the books of authority. The British fleet consists of four battle-ships, three first-class cruisers, three second-class cruisers, two third-class cruisers, eleven sloops and gunboats of a smaller kind, and three torpedo destroyers - a total of 26 vessels. The French fleet consists of thirteen vessels, the best of which is a first-class cruiser. There are also some second and third class cruisers, sloops, and gun-boats. Germany has a fleet of twelve ships, including one first-class cruiser, two second-class cruisers, three third-class cruisers, and other craft.
– Where are these figures, taken from ?
- Brasseys Annual. One cannot contemplate that condition of preparation on -the part oi the powerful nations in the China seas without at once’ realizing that there must be some imminent danger- that there must be some interests, to be guarded, interests which are in such immediate danger that it is necessary to keep that immense force in a state of watchfulness. I may mention, in addition, that the large fleet of Japan is becoming still larger. At the present time, Japan has four first-class cruisers and two second-class battle-ships ; while four more are building. Japan has, besides, a number of armoured cruisers, gunboats, torpedo boats, torpedo destroyers and other vessels of that kind, giving a fleet with very heavy preponderance over the fleet of any other nation, except, perhaps, that of Great Britain or of Russia. The programme of Japan is now to spend something like £2,000,000 on her navy, in order that .she may be strong enough to protect her interests. Japan, of course, is an ally of Great Britain, and although under the terms of the treaty it is1 a defensive alliance only, we never know at what time the fleet of Great Britain may be involved by reason of something which takes place on the mainland - some action of Russia or some action of Japan. Let me remind the Senate that, in addition, Russia has acquired an entirely new strength - a strength of a different kind from that of - any other nation in the Par East - by the practical -completion of the Siberian railway. That railway is not absolutely completed, but it has so far progressed as to practically give Russia a European base. At any rate, the railway is so complete as to enable warlike stores and men to be transported even at the present time from Europe to Port Arthur.
– There is evidently no Kyabram party there.
– Evidently not. The doctrine of Kyabram may be all very well in moderation and under certain circumstances ; but it would be a dear kind of policy for the people if it resulted in diminishing in any way the efficiency of defence, whether that defence, as has been suggested, be supplied by an Australian navy, or the fleet which the Government propose under the agreement. “What we must all endeavour to realize is that we are preparing for actual war, which we may some day have to meet. What I think a great many persons do not realize is that we are really preparing for a day when there will be the clash of war, and, unless we are ready then, the economy which we have been exercising in years of preparation will indeed be a very poor thing to look back upon. Let me give a practical “illustration of what I mean. Take the trade of Australia - amounting last year to £109,000,000, and perhaps by this time to £1.10,000,000- which is carried upon vessels passing in a stream through the Eastern seas, a large portion of it going round by the Cape. What would be the effect on Australia of the blockading for two or three months of any portion of the seas through which that commerce passes, of the stoppage of that stream which takes our produce away and brings us back the returns for it ? We have had our droughts, we have had our financial calamities of different sorts ; but these, would be absolutely trivial compared with the cost to Australia of the stoppage of her trade with Europe and other countries for a space of three months. What is it that keeps that trade as it is but the domination of the seas by the navy of Great Britain, the domination of the seas by our own section of the navy ? Unless we can keep control of these seas, in the event of the breaking out of war, what is there to prevent our commerce not only from being interrupted for months but from being destroyed? That of course is altogether apart from the question of what would take place if an enemy actually landed on our shores. So never let us forget that we must prepare for actual war. We must be prepared for the carrying out of these schemes of defence. However long it may be postponed, the day must come when we shall have to put our defence to a test. If it fail us, looking at it from the mere point of view of money, it will mean more to Australia than the cost of the armament under this or any agreement twenty times over. Taking a glance at the circumstances to which I have been referring, having regard to the preparations which have been going on in this part of the world, and which affect bur position so acutely, can any one say that the defence which was suitable in 1887 is suitable now ? I would refer any honorable senators who are not satisfied with these facts to the programme of the Admiralty since’ 1894 or 1895. Up to that time its annual expenditure on new ships had been about £3,000,000 ; but since that time it has been going up by leaps and bounds- £3,000,000, £5,000,000, £7,000,000, £9,000,000, until now the expenditure on new ships in course of building or to be built comes to about £10,000,000.
– They are going mad on ships.
– That expenditure extends over a term.
– It is the votes.
– No, it is actual yearly expenditure. When we find that the people of Great Britain, who Senator Stewart says are going mad, are’ spending these enormous suras; that large fleets are actually collecting in close neighbourhood to Australia, and that such a condition of preparedness exists, not only in the British fleet, but in every fleet which sails the sea, round about us how can we shut our eyes to the fact that there are new dangers to be met with in a new way, and that unless we meet them our scheme _ of defence will be hopelessly deficient? The question then is : What is to be done ? In the first place, how are we to meet this new condition of things, and, in a general way, what is to be our scheme of defence ? I should like to meet at once an objection which is sometimes urged, that any scheme such as that which the Government propose in this Bill, will interfere with harbor and coast defence. That is not so. That method of defence has been going on concurrently with the existing agreement. Harbor defence has nothing to do with the naval agreement under which our fleet is now supplied. We must always defend our harbors, whatever fleet we may have to sweep the seas. The duty of the fleet which we are now asked to subsidize is to meet an enemy wherever he may be, to preserve our floating commerce, and to keep the enemy from coming near our shores. But, however strong that fleet may be, in order to protect our harbors, and to give effective backing to our military forces, it always will be necessary, as it has been in the past, to have some kind of harbor defence.
– The Prime Minister said that the harbor defence would be disbanded.
– The honorable senator is quite mistaken. I shall state what- the view, of the Government is : The harbor defence will still have to be maintained, and of course it will have to be regulated entirely according to local conditions. We cannot lay down any hard and fast plan as to how we shall defend a harbor. Every place must be treated according to it own circumstances. Let it be always borne in mind that the perfection to which mines, torpedoes and electricity have been carried, enables any harbor to be defended at much less expense, and with a much smaller naval force than used to be the case. With torpedoes, mines, torpedo boats, and torpedo destroyers, which are all used for the purpose of harbor defence, and independent altogether of any fleet at sea, very efficient measures may be taken for our coastal defence generally. Take, for instance, the condition of things when the Government assumed control of the military forces. We found that there was being expended a considerable sum - about £65,000 - in harbor defence. It included the up-keep and maintenance of vessels like the Cerberus in Victoria, the Protector in South Australia, and the Gayundah and the Palumah in Queensland. That expenditure has been cut down to a considerable amount. £43,000 is the sum which the Government asks for on the Estimates. What we propose is that there shall be a rearmament of the Cerberus, at a cost of about £20,000, and that vessel will be utilized for I coast defence as before. In the peculiar conditions of the defence of this city, which hasat its door an immense bay 40 miles long and of great width, a ship like the Cerberus, which is really a floating fort, will be very useful. It is found that the Cerberushas a very sound hull, is well armoured, and will stand a lot of battering, and that if armed with some 75 guns she will be in a position to render adequate service. The torpedo and land defence will be improved in efficiency as the case may require. *The Protector, Palumah, and Gayundah will not be disposed of immediately. Expert opinion has convinced the Government that the period of usefulness, of those ships has practically disappeared. They will be gradually got rid of, and themen employed directly and indirectly in connexion with them will be utilized in thereserves or employed as Australian seamen in the Auxiliary Squadron.
– In 1887 they were considered effective vessels.
– -No doubt in 1887 they were considered more or less effective vessels for harbor defence. Any. honorable senators who will read theopinions which were expressed by SirWilliam Jervois and other experts at that time will find that they all insisted primarily upon harbor defence, and recommended the employment of such vessels. Under thethen existing conditions it was thought that the scene of any likely conflict would be sofar away that it was only from occasional raiders that we might expect any injury. But the circumstances have entirely changed: When we have powerful fleets near our coasts, when there is the greatest possible temptation for those fleets to come down in the event of our being engaged in a war-
– Very complimentary remarks were made in China respecting the Protector.
– I quite sympathize with the honorable senator’s natural feeling of pride, as a South Australian, in that vessel. It may be that the Protector rendered very good service in China, and I do not wish to decry her usefulness in any way ; but while she may be quite fitted to do that class of work, she may be quite incapable of doing the work which would have to be done by a cruiser in the altered condition of things. I am not making any observations derogatory to the Protector. She did good work in China ; she has always done good work,. “but it may be that the time has come when she cannot do any more good work. I make this digression because it appears to me that we must not confuse matters by supposing that the adoption of this agree-‘ ment will interfere with the adoption of any system of local defence, so far as it is confined to harbors. Of course the consideration will always remain that this defence, be it by torpedoes, ships, or forts, will cost money. We have to cut our coat according to our cloth ; we have to make the best use we can of the money which is available. It may be that we shall have to move very slowly , and cautiously in expanding this system of coast and harbor defence. What we must never lose sight of is that the naval defence which we shall have under this agreement will be worked in conjunction with our harbor defence, and we shall be perfectly free to develop our harbor and port defence as we think fit - in exactly the same way as we have done under the existing agreement.
– But the preamble does not say that.
– I shall deal with the preamble in discussing the agreement. We are masters of our own harbor defence. There is nothing in this agreement to interfere with that. We can increase it or diminish it, or deal with it as we like.
– The money we pay in the naval subsidy will prevent us from improving it.
– If the honorable senator is of opinion that we should have an Australian Navy, I can only say that the money we should have to pay for it would certainly be very much greater than the sum to be paid under this agreement. I have thought it necessary to refer to these matters, because we need to approach the consideration of the proposed agreement free from any complications or side issues. The position may be stated to be this : Our harbor defence and our coast defence being still under our own control, is the existing agreement adequate or not ? If it is not adequate what should take its place ? There are only two alternatives - because I cannot suppose that any one would say that we should leave the present condition of things unchanged. We must do something, and the question is what? There are only two courses. We must have a fleet, and the question is whether it is to be a fleet of our own or a fleet provided under some arrangement with Great Britain ; and, if under some arrangement with Great Britain, upon what terms 1 The Prime Minister took part in a discussion with representatives of six British speaking portions of the Empire, only one of whom did not fall in with the view that there should be a joint system of naval defence, useful in every portion of the Empire, but with a local complexion, towards the cost of which each of these portions of the Empire were willing to contribute. One portion stood out, namely, Canada, but each of the others was willing to contribute in some way, and according to some plan adaptable to its particular circumstances, to the cost of the fleet.
– That is ‘because their Premiers did not show such foresight as did the Prime Minister of Canada.
– That is begging the question, because we are here now to say what is the right thing to do. If our Prime Minister did not do the right thing, of course the Senate will not approve of the agreement. If he did the right thing, the Senate will approve of it, I presume. But it does not carry the matter any further to say that Sir Wilfrid Laurier had more foresight. That remains to be seen.
– He had more backbone.
– That is an expression which is always used when people do not know exactly what else to say. I do not know how Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s backbone can effect the matter, because the question is as to whether the system of defence is adequate or not. I am afraid that no backbone, however firm or unyielding, would be sufficient to form a defence for Australia.
– It is not a fair presumption that the minority is always right.
– Besides, the cases are different.
– If it were necessary to go into the question I could draw a distinction between the position of Canada and our own. Canada is restricted in the amount of money which she spends on her defence, but she is necessarily obliged to spend a very much larger amount in land defence than we should be called upon to spend, because she has a very much greater land frontier. Canada is the best judge of what suits her in regard to naval defence, and whether it suits her to enter into an agreement with Great Britain or not. “We have to provide not for the defence of Canada, but for our own defence. I propose in explaining the terms of the agreement to compare it with the existing arrangement. I shall deal with it from several points of view. In the first place, I shall show what a great advantage we get for a comparatively small consideration ; in the second place, how effective this provision is as compared with the provision made u under the existing agreement ; and thirdly, I shall proceed to show that this agreement involves a new element, which could not possibly arise under the old agreement, namely, that our own people will be employed to a very large extent in the manning of the new fleet, and that a reserve will be created - a royal naval reserve - through which, in the course of ten years, a large, number of our own people must pass, and which will be afterwards efficient for service in any fleet or naval defence we ourselves may choose to establish.
– The honorable and learned senator is assuming that our own people will enlist.
– Of course, I am.
– They are not likely to serve under British naval officers.
– I have no doubt that hundreds of Australian sailors will be found who will be proud to take part in the defence of Australia in our own ships. I do not take the same view as the honorable senator. I consider that the Australian, whether on land or sea, will not be lacking when the needs of the Commonwealth demand his services.
– The honorable and learned senator is speaking of war. I am speaking of peace. Will they enlist in time of peace under British naval officers ?
– Why not? .
– Because Imperial officers do not know how to treat Australians.
– The officers of our own Australian fleet have been trained in the British Navy. How are we going to get them trained except in the navy ? The highest praise that can be given to our own officers is that they are efficient in the training of the Royal Navy. If the honorable senator says that naval officers do not know how to treat Australians, I would remind him that under whatever system we adopt there must be discipline on board ships of war. It cannot be supposed that we could conduct the business of a ship of war with the same kind of regulations as prevailed on board “H.M.S. Pinafore” where the officers had to bow politely before giving an order, and ices were handed round on trays in the tropics. There must be discipline if we are to have any fighting force at all. I do not know any better training for naval men than is provided in the British Navy, and I hope and believe that our sailors willi not be a whit less capable, not only in fighting when the time comes, but in - submitting to discipline .and obeying orders, which will be necessary if their services are to be of any value whatever. The agreement which has been signed, and which will be adopted, subject to the approval of Parliament, is to last for ten years. It may be terminated at the end of ten years bygiving notice at the end of eight years. In other words, notice may be given in theeighth year of an intention to terminatethe agreement at the expiration of” another two years. The obligations on the part of Great Britain are these : - She will supply eleven ships of war. Theprincipal vessel will be a first-class armoured; cruiser of the Cressy class. She will cost something like £750,000, and will have a tonnage of 1 2,000 .tons. For the purposes, of comparison, I may state that the Royal, Arthur is a ship of 7,500 tons. The new flagship will be about 5,000 tons larger.. The cost of the Royal, Arthur was about- £427,000, as compared with £750,000. The new flagship will carry a crew of about 755 men: Her armament “will be eleven 6-inchi guns and fifteen small quick-firing guns. There will also be two second-class cruisers, of 5,880 tons, costing about £400,000, and’ carrying from 470 to 500 men. Thosevessels compare with the second - classcruisers under our present agreement in the following manner : The largest of our present vessels of this class is a ship of 2,600 tons, costing £130,000, and carrying- 250 men. There will also be four thirdclass, cruisers of the class of vessels weal ready have here.
– They are not obsolete, though they are not vessels of a firstclass type. They are useful in conjunction with the other vessels, and they are to housed as drill ships. They are of the classof the Katoomba, the Mildura, and the–
Ringarooma. The fourth of the third-class cruisers, three of which are already here, will be of the type of the Amethyst. She will be a vessel of 3,000 tons, and will cost£220,000. Her armament will be twelve 4-inch guns and eight quick-firing three-pounders. The drill ships, that is to say,the three thirdclass cruisers, and one of the new cruisers will be manned by our own people. There will be four sloops of the Espiegle class, of 1,070 tons, and costing £80,000. Theywill be armed with six 4-in. quickfiring guns. The total cost of the fleet proposed will be about £2,500,000. I call special attention to this very important phase of the agreement : It will be found in Article 1 that -
The naval forces on the Australian Station shall consist of not less than the undermentioned seagoing ships of war, all of which shall bo from time to time throughout the terms of this agreement of modern type, except those used as drill-ships.
That binds the British Government not only to provide these vessels, but to keep them up to date, and to supply them therefore with all necessary modern improvements, which will make them efficient as fighting ships against any ships likely to be brought against them. This is a most important provision, because we find that duringthefourteenyearsin which the fleet we have now has been in existence it has become to a certain extent obsolete. It is not useless ; it is useful enough for some services, but as a fleet to defend Australian commerce it has become to a certain extent obsolete. The armament and equipment of the ships, in many ways, are so far behind the times that the vessels are really not of the same value to us for our protection, or anything like of the same, value, as they were at the time the agreement was made.
– They are good enough to come to the Melbourne Cup in.
– I do not know that the honorable senator would care to come to the Melbourne Cup in any of them, if he had seen anything of these ships at sea.
– Yet we have been paying for them.
– The provision I speak of will be a guarantee that the new fleet proposed will always be kept up to date.
– It will be a matter of honour.
– It will be not only a matter of honour, but a matter of agreement.
– The British? Admiralty will define the word honour in this case.
– This will not be defined as we define an agreement to buy a. piece of land, a horse, or a pig. I hope that every provision in it will be observed as a matter of honorable agreement between the mother country and ourselves.
– The provision to which the honorable senator refers is essential in the interests of the Admiralty.
– That is so. This is to be a fleet for the protection not only of Australian but of British interests. It will be seen from the agreement that the fleet may be used in the Eastern seas, as part of the British seas, and therefore it is as essential to the British naval authorities as it is to us that the fleet should be kept up to date. At the present time, taking any portion of the British dominions which honorable senators can name, there can be no question that the principal point of danger is in the Eastern, seas, which are so near to us, and in which fleets are now kept by different nations of the world. I now come to the last item in article l,and I merely mention it with a view to dealing with its application more fully later on. It is that the Royal Naval Reserve shall consist of 25 officers and 700 seamen and stokers. The next matter I have to deal with is the base of the force and the place in which it will operate. That is provided for in article II.
– The 25 officers and 700 men will be supplied from the old country ?
– No ; they will form the Royal Naval Reserve to be constituted here.
– Are these to be the men in the three training ships ?
– They are to be the men in the drill ships.
-We are to train them ?
– They are to be trained ; they are not the crew - not the complement.
– Perhaps it would make the matter clearer to deal with the question of these men at once. Provision will be made for the employment of officers and seamen of an Australian force. First of all, there is the provision in article 1, that there is to be this Royal Naval Reserve, which I have described. Then, article 4 provides -
Of the. ships referred to in article 1, one shall be kept in reserve, and three should be only partly manned, and shall be used as drill ships for training the Royal Naval Reserve ; the remainder should be kept in commission, fully manned.
Article 5 provides -
The three vessels used as drill ships, and one other vessel, shall be manned by Australians and New Zealanders as far as procurable, paid at special rates, and enrolled in proportion to the relative population of the Commonwealth and New Zealand.
That is to say, there will be 25 officers and 700 men, who will be trained on the three drill ships, which will be of the Katoomba class. In addition there will, of course, be the seamen employed for the ordinary working of the ships. One ship will be manned, not as a training ship, exclusively by Australians and New Zealanders, and the proposal is that there shall be three drill ships in which there shall be permanent crews of Australians and New Zealanders, numbering 360 to 390, exclusive of the reserves trained on board. On the second class cruisers the crews employed will be entirely Australians or New Zealanders, and will number from 470 to 500. That is to say, taking the crews employed permanently -on the cruisers and on the drill ships, there will be 900 men in the Royal Naval -employ, and, in addition, there will be 700 Australians and New Zealanders who will be reservists, and trained on the drill ships. There will be 1,600 men employed altogether. Roughly speaking, 700 will be Australian reservists, and 900 will be employed permanently as seamen. The latter will be employed under certain conditions and regulations, spending a certain time on board, and then passing into their ordinary employment.
– As regards the 900 men, they will, I suppose, be renewed if necessary from time to time from the old country.
– No ; the 900 men will be either Australians or New Zealanders, though I suppose that, if it were impossible to get crews here, the number would have to be made up from the Royal Navy. If the men can be obtained here, there will be permanent employment given to 900 men at Australian rates of pay, which will be altogether different from the rates in the Royal Navy.
– That will cause the trouble.
– Those best qualified to judge say there will be no trouble.
– Can Senator O’Connor give us any idea of the Australian rates of pay?
– It is impossible to say. The honorable senator will see at once that it might be very embarrassing to the authorities who have to carry out the agreement if I were now to make any statement oh the matter.
– The Imperial authorities will fix the rates of pay?
– No ; they will be Australian rates of pay.
– It does not say so in the agreement.
– No ; I see that the agreement says that there shall be “ special “ rates of pay. Of course, it must be assumed that both sides will fairly and honestly carry out the agreement. If we are to be successful, the agreement must be carried out in spirit. It is well known that there is great difficulty in getting men to serve on ships at British rates of pay, and no doubt there will have to be differential treatment, a portion of the men being paid at Royal Navy rates, and a portion at what may be called Australian rates.
– I should not like to have charge of the stoke-hole under the circumstances.
– We may have to ask the honorable senator to take charge, but we shall postpone that as long as possible. I am now speaking of the rates of pay, whatever they may be; and we may be sure the Government will honestly endeavour to carry out the spirit of the agreement by giving such rates of pay and providing such conditions of employment as will be likely to attract good men. On the one hand, while the rates in the Royal Navy are smaller, they carry pensions, and other rewards and privileges for long service, while the Australian rates, though higher, will carry no such advantages. ‘ I have said already that those best qualified to express an opinion have no doubt that this plan will work successfully. AdmiralFanshawe, and other authorities, believe that there will be no difficulty whatever in arranging matters in this respect, so as to carry out the agreement amicably. No doubt honorable senators will very easily understand that the agreement was not entered into in a haphazard way, but that it was understood and ascertained that there would be no difficulty in arranging for differential treatment of the men in regard to pay. Admiral Fanshawe is now perfecting arrangements for carrying the agreement into effect in the event of its being passed by Parliament, and he, as I say, has no doubt about the two rates of pay working satisfactorily. The term of service will be from three to five years for the men permanently employed in the British Navy here, and the Australians and New Zealanders will have to serve a similar term. The latter will sign on for that time, at the expiration of which they will be done with the service, unless they engage afresh or pass into the reserve, and become subject to the conditions of service in the latter.
– Are all the officers to be British ?
– They are to be British officers of course.
– Are the 900 men to be officered bv British officers ?
– They will probably have to be so officered at first, but there is a proviso in article 6 to the following effect : -
In order to insure that the naval service shall include officers born in Australia and New Zealand, who will be able to rise to the highest posts in the Royal Navy, the undermentioned nominations for naval cadetships will be given annually :-
Common wealth of Australia … … 8
New Zealand………… 2
– Is that not what is given already 1
– No ; I think there are only three nominations at present. As I said before, in answer to an interjection it is impossible to have such ships as these, with our modern armaments, in charge of any except men who are highly qualified. To have these expensive weapons of war and instruments of destruction in the hands of men not competent to manage them, or -to command men, would be the worst possible kind of folly. We must have the best commanders obtainable, and until we begin gradually to train our own officers, the command must be given to officers of the British Navy or to the reserve of our own navy, who have had some experience and are qualified for the posts. That, however, is a matter- of detail, which I do not think it necessary to enter into at present. Speaking generally,, no doubt we shall have to train our own officers, and it is to be hoped that as soon, as they are trained, which will be in a few years, they will be able to take high positions in the Australian Navy. Of course,, with regard to our own officers, the Royal Navy will be open to them, and, as set out in. the agreement, they will be able to rise to the highest posts. There is also no doubt that they will be specially selected for Australian service when competent. That is an element which must be very seriously considered when dea ing with this agreement. For the first time an opportunity is given of getting together men who, whatever our future policy is, we must have here, if we are to deal effectively with our naval defence. If we were to establish a navy to-morrow our first difficulty would be to get a “ sufficient number of trained seamen in Australia. During the period of this agreement there will be passing through the ships of the fleet 1,600 men every year. A considerable proportion of that number will become highly qualified, and pass into the reserve, and at the end of the ten years we shall be in a much better position for manning a navy, if we should have one, than we are in at the present time.
– -We have 1,428 per- manent men at the present time.
– Yes, but not 1,600- men so well trained as to be capable of doingduty on the ships of this fleet.
– Better trained. Wehave 1,428 men as against 900 men for . New Zealand and Australia.
– No doubt our naval forces include a number of old sailorswho have served on men-of-war, but there is a vast difference between a man who has served on a man-of-war even within the last ten years, or a man who has been trained, as a naval volunteer, and a man who has been trained on a modern warship. In the old days our men were expected only to have a knowledge of seamanship, to possess plenty of pluck and dash, and to be able to use a cutlass, pistol, or gun. The position is quite different now. A number of the men-of-warsmen are possessed of more or less mechanical skill. They have to handle the new guns, to do work which requires exceptional intelligence on their part, and to undergo a long training. In order that the men may be useful in these ships they must be properly trained. This is a very valuable feature pf the new agreement. It will nob only provide employment for our own men, but it will also provide a large quantity of good material for the manning of our own ships at any time, for the completion of our scheme of coast and harbor defence, and give our people a more direct interest in the navy than they have had hitherto. With regard to the base of operations, and the area within which the fleet is to be used, the agreement establishes three stations - the Australian station, the China station, and the East Indies station - which are shown on a map in the Chamber. Taking the Australian station, the northern boundary may be described by a line which begins on the north-west at a point a little north of Cocos Island, runs eastward past Christmas Island to the south of Timor, then takes a turn at right angles and runs to the north until it gets past the island of Halmaheira; thence runs east at right angles until it passes the Pelew Islands ; thence goes north until it gets into line with the Marshall Islands ; whence it runs east to a point north of Fanning Island. Its eastern boundary may be described by a line which runs from Fanning Island down to the Antarctic Circle, and its western boundary by a line which runs from Cocos Island down to the Antarctic Circle. The China station “comprises all the waters extending from the northern boundary of the Australian station right up to Behring Sea, and it includes Penang, Sumatra, Java, Borneo, the Philippines, all the coastline up to the Behring Sea, and Japan. Its eastern boundary may be described by a line which runs from a point above the Equator to a point a little west of Behring Strait : it practically goes as far north as can be navigated. The boundary of the East Indies station, which is the smallest of all, may be described by a line running from a point south of Madagascar to a point a little south of the Cocos Island, where it joins the boundary of the Australian station, and goes north past Penang, opposite to Rangoon. It includes all the waters of the European Sea, the Bay of Bengal, and the East Coast of Africa. The agreement provides that -
The base of this force shall be the ports of Australia and New Zealand, and their sphere of operations shall be the waters of the Australia, China, and East Indies stations, as defined in the attached schedules, where the Admiralty believe they can most effectively act against hostile vessels which threaten the trade or interests of Australia and New Zealand.
Let it be remembered, therefore, that these vessels are not to be used necessarily wherever British interests are involved but wherever they can most effectively act against hostile vessels which threaten the trade of Australia and New Zealand. The main object, as set out in the agreement, is the defence of Australia and New Zealand, and wherever their interests can be best served within the area of the three stations the ships may be used.
– The three fleets can combine to protect Australian trade.
– Of course it carries the converse proposition with it. They act there only as part of the British Navy, consisting of the East Indian fleet, the China fleet - which is very large, and is always kept up to date - and the Australian fleet. Wherever it becomes necessary that the Australian fleet shall leave the Australian station, it must do so to act in conjunction with the other fleets, and for the protection of the interests of Australia and New Zealand. One of the immense advantages of this agreement is that it will give us not only an Australian fleet, but- the fleets on three stations, for the protection of the interests of Australia and New Zealand whenever danger arises.
– Including British interests.
– Or Indian interests.
– Not necessarily. British interests may require protecting on the Atlantic, at the mouth of the Channel, or in the Mediterranean. These ships are not to go to any of those places, but are to be confined to the protection of the interests of Australia and New Zealand within these three stations.
– And the protection of British interests within those stations.
– Of course. I assume that when we are entering into an agreement of this kind, under which we are to pay such a very small proportion of the cost of construction and maintenance, they will be used to protect within that area British interests wherever British, Australian, and New Zealand interests coincide.
– They are identical in time of war.
– They must be identical in time of war, and that is one of the strongest points which we have to submit. It is further provided that -
No change in this arrangement shall be made without the consent of the Governments of the Commonwealth and .of New Zealand; and nothing in the agreement shall be taken to mean that the naval force herein named shall be the only force used in Australasian waters should the necessity, arise for a larger force.
The fleet in the China seas, the fleet in the East Indies, or a fleet from any other portion of the British dominions, may be brought here whenever it is necessary for the protection of the interests of Australia and New Zealand that it should be done. We shall have the advantage of the services of the fleets which are gathered in these waters or in other places, and in consideration of that fact, the Australian fleet may be used in any of the three stations I mentioned when it is necessary for the protection of the trade or interests of New Zealand. The next provision in the agreement is one which I think will be admitted to be essential -
This force shall be under the control and orders of the Naval Commander-in-Chief for the time being appointed to command His Majesty’s ships and vessels on the Australian station.
If the force is to be of any value at all, it must be under one control and command. I take it that if we had a fleet to-morrow, and it became necessary to operate at any distance from Australia, it would have to be placed under the command of the Admiral. I now come to the duties which we have to perform. It is estimated that the capital cost of the new ships, excluding the three drill-ships, will be £2,500,000. Five per cent, is allowed for interest and sinking fund. When it is remembered that we are dealing with a property which depreciates very rapidly, it will be recognised that it is a very small allowance indeed. It represents 3 per cent, for interest and 2 per cent, for sinking fund.
– The fund will be likely to sink.
– Yes ; and if we had a navy of our own we should find that it would be a sinking fund. The sinking fund and interest, and the ordinary cost of maintenance and equipment will amount altogether to about £500,000 per annum.
– Exclusive of interest?
– That includes everything. That is to say, the amount is fixed upon the basis of a cost of £480,000.
But it is generally admitted that the cost must be a great deal more than that ; taking it in round figures, it would probably amount to something like £500,000. The Commonwealth and New Zealand will pay six-twelfths of £480,000, of which fivetwelfths will be paid by the Commonwealth and one twelfth by New Zealand, making altogether one-half ; so that the amount to be paid is fixed at £240,000, of which we are to pay £200,000 and New Zealand: £40,000. Whatever the cost may be over and above the sum I have mentioned, theImperial Government will pay it. Honorable senators will notice a difference between the old agreement and the hew one with respect to payments, Under the old agreement we paid on the basis of the cost of the upkeep. £850,000 was the value of the ships. The interest upon that sum was £35,000. The cost of maintenance and upkeep was £91,000. So that under the old agreement Australia and New Zealand had to pay 5 per cent, interest and sinking fund on the whole cost of the squadron, together with the cost of the upkeep, no matter what it amounted to. In addition to that there was a British Squadron, the cost of which did not amount to a great deal.
– A great deal more than our own.
– I do not know that. But there is nothing to prevent the vessels of the British fleet coming hereunder the new agreement, though there is nothing to bind them to come. Thedifference is that whereas we paid interest and sinking fund on the value of the squadron, and the whole of the upkeep, maintenance and equipment, now we only pay half the cost.
– That was only on the Australian Squadron.
– Of course.
– Not the British Squadron.
– I am quite aware of that.
– The honorable and learned senator is now including the whole lot.
– No. Under the new agreement, the whole of the ships will becomprised in the Australian Squadron which will be liable to serve upon the three stations I have mentioned. It will take the place of the old Auxiliary Squadron. The new squad1 ron being so much larger than the old one, it may not be necessary to have other British ships stationed here, though there will be nothing to prevent them coming. But the point is that we have to pay only half the cost of maintenance and interest and sinking fund, on the prime cost, whereas under the old agreement we paid the whole cost of interest, sinking fund, maintenance, and equipment. Under article 8 will be found the matters with which I have been dealing. It is provided there that -
The Commonwealth of Australia and New Zealand shall pay the Imperial Government five- twelfths and one-twelfth respectively of the total annual cost of maintaining the naval force on the Australian station, providing that the total amount so paid shall in no case exceed £200,000 and £40,000 respectively in any one year. In reckoning the total annual cost, a sum equal to 5 per cent, on the prime cost of the ships of which the naval force of the station is composed shall be included.
Then there is an article to which I particularly desire to draw the attention of the Senate. It is article 9 -
The Imperial Government recognise the advantages to be derived from making Australia a base for coal and supplies for the squadrons in Eastern waters.
Of course there is no binding agreement in distincts words in that article. There is nothing to necessitate the supplies for the squadrons in Eastern waters being derived from Australia. But there can be no question that there is a recognition of the advantage of deriving supplies from this source. Na,tu rally the Imperial Government could not bind themselves because they never know what circumstances may arise in carrying out the work. But they will avail themselves as they have done in the past of .our sources of supply. It is estimated that, out of the £500,000 which will be spent on the navy in our waters, £300,000 will be spent in Australia and New Zealand. We know the large amounts that have to be spent on coal and other supplies, and there can be no question that that amount will be increased in future. In addition to that, let me point out that one of the most important factors in naval supremacy nowadays is the factor of coaling. The greater the facilities foi- obtaining coal supplies the more room there is on war vessels for fighting purposes. Of course supplies of coal can be obtained from China And Japan, but there can be no doubt that the coal which will be used on the British’ fleets will principally be either British coal or New Zealand and Australian coal. In time of real difficulty it is unquestionable that it will be in the interest of the British fleet - not only the fleet in Australian waters, but the fleets in stations elsewhere - to keep the Australian coaling stations open for the supply of this vital necessity of any modern man-of-war. It is, perhaps, one of the principal reasons for the more perfect equipment of the large navy of Great Britain that she has numerous and convenient coaling facilities. As time goes on that will become even more necessary. lt will be of the utmost importance in the British interest, as well as in our own interest, that’ the coaling ports, not only in Australia and New Zealand, but elsewhere, shall be always kept open and well defended. Article 10 of the agreement provides for the coming into force of the agreement -
This agreement shall be considered to become actually binding between the Imperial Government and the Commonwealth of Australia and New Zealand- so soon as the Colonial Legislatures shall have passed special appropriations for the terms hereinafter mentioned, to which Acts this agreement shall be attached as the first schedule.
That form has been adopted in this Bill. The agreement forms a schedule, and the appropriation will be made as soon as the Bill is passed, and the agreement becomes binding. I should like to point to that, as an absolute answer to those who say that in some way or another the Prime Minister bound this Parliament by assenting to this agreement.
– Morally bound the Parliament.
– The honorable ‘ senator says we are morally bound. In this connexion I do not understand what “morally” bound means. I should like to know what it means, if merely to answer the interjection ; but I do not understand it. What I understand is, that the PrimeMinister went to England accredited with the power on behalf of Australia to make an agreement subject to ratification by the Australian Parliament. I can quite understand, that when the Prime Minister, in conference with the British authorities and the representatives of other colonies and portions of the Empire, came to a certain understanding which he considered the best possible to be arrived at, that fact should have some weight. If this is what the honorable senator means by “ morally “ binding, I understand it. Indeed, I do not know by what other method we could carry on negotiations. I can quite understand any man who wishes to do the right thing being very much influenced by the fact that an agreement has been made in that way. But if an agreement was required some one had to make it, and, whoever the representative of Australia was who made the agreement, exactly the same inference would be drawn, and the same position would arise. But I am .at a loss to understand how it can be said that this Parliament is bound, having regard to the fact that the agreement has been entered into subject to ratification by Parliament. The agreement is put forward as being the best that could be arrived at ; and, as a rule, unless some one was prepared to take the responsibility of finding another way out of the difficulty, any such agreement would be accepted.
– Some of the supporters of the Bill have been putting forward that plea as a reason for voting for it.
– If it is implied that honorable senators should pass the Bill without inquiry because the Prime Minister consented to the agreement, I should think that that was a very bad reason. But that does not make the agreement a bad one. The agreement is not less desirable because some persons give bad reasons for supporting it. I hope we shall all be judged by what we do, and not by the reasons we give for doing it. I make no exception for myself either. I suppose we have all of us to speak a good deal in our different avocations, and to act a good deal, and I think we should always be judged by our acts. I say that whatever reasons may be given by those persons whom the honorable senator has described, their acts are all right, because they have voted in the right way. I do not think I need trouble the Senate with the other matters involved in this agreement, because they more or less merely carry out the main provisions to which I have already called attention. The next question that arises is : That being the agreement, should it be adopted 1 Some honorable senator - I think it was Senator Higgs - called attention to tlie preamble, which seems to me to give in a few words the key to the position which has to be maintained here. It says -
The Commissioners for executing the office of Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom, and the Governments of the Commonwealth of Australia and of New Zealand . . . . have resolved for the purpose an agreement as-‘ follows -. -
The first question involved is this : In the defence of Australia is it the right policy - to have a fleet that will be under our own control, if honorable senators like,* but which will not be able to move outside a certain limited area ? No matter where the enemy may be, and no matter how important it may be to follow him and destroy him - it may be thousands of milesfrom Australia - we are to keep our fleet hanging around our ports and the coast of Australia, and we are to regard that as an efficient mode of defence. According to allaccepted knowledge on the question, all modern opinion, and according to common sense, if I may say so, that plan would be absolutely useless and would be likely to break down when it was most necessary that it should be depended upon. What is it we aim at, when we are protecting a country like Australia? It. is not only the land we are protecting, the harbors, ports, and citiesof the Commonwealth, but also the immense mass of floating wealth and property, amounting to £109,000,000, which is passing out from and coming intoAustralian waters, and the stoppage or capture of which for a month or so, as I said in the beginning of my speech, ‘ would mean twenty times as much to Australia asany money we are likely to spend upon Australian naval defence- If we desire to preserve that commerce intact what are we todo? We have to ask first of all who islikely to attack us ? Surely the attack must come from one of the fleets in these seas which may some day, and we cannot tell when, become hostile. One of those fleets, powerful as I have ‘described them, of the most modern equipment, coming down across the track of our commerce, taking charge of our seas and capturing our ships, is danger we have to provide against. How shall we meet that?’ Not by keeping an Australian Navy close to the coast of Australia, or within particularlimits, but by sending it out to fight and destroy the hostile fleet. That is the only way in which we can obtain control of the’ seas. As has been said in the admirable memorandum “On Sea Power,” which is con- <tained in the Conference papers which havebeen placed before honorable senators. “ the sea is one, and the navy must be one,” and the only possible way of dealing with a hostile fleet that comes to attack Australian commerce, or any portion of the Commonwealth, is to have a fleet of sufficient power, mobility, and freedom of action to be able to go where the enemy is, and destroy him there. When once we destroy him our commerce is safe.
– We need not trouble then about our coast defence.
– If we keep our ships in Australian waters, and allow the British fleet to be overmastered, and the enemy then comes down upon us, where will we be when opposed to the navies of other nations as they exist at the present time? What will our coastal defence be worth then ?
– We must protect our coast as well.
– Of course we must protect” our coast as well. The honorable senator must remember that our coast is also the base of the British fleet, as well as of our own fleet. For the sake of the British fleet itself, it will always be kept open and protected.If the coal supplies of the East are closed to the British fleet at any time, by reason of a hostile occupation of the Eastean seas, what base is there immediately open to the British fleet so advantageous for their coal supplies as New Zealand and the Commonwealth of Australia? We may be sure that it will always be in the highest, possible interests of the whole of the ships of the British fleet operating in’ these three divisions to keep Australia open and protected, that Great Britain may keep her base always ready behind her. Senator Stewart says that Australia must be protected also. Of course, Australia will always be protected. When we say that the Australian fleet may be sent away from Australian waters, that does not necessarily mean that every ship of the fleet will be sent away, and our coast left entirely unprotected. Whatever provision will be made with the object of carrying out the idea of destroying the enemy, if it is wise and necessary in the circumstances to take away every ship every ship may be taken away, but I can hardly imagine any circumstances in which it would not be either wise or advisable to maintain and keep for patrolling and protecting the ports some small portion of the Australian fleet. But this is a matter which must depend entirely upon circumstances. There might be circumstances in which it would be right to do it, and there might be other circumstances in which it would be suicidal. The whole matter must be . determined by the circumstances, and the course to be followed must be left to the judgment of the man who for the time being is in charge of the fleet in Australian waters.
– If the enemy can be destroyed abroad, there will be no further necessity for protection at home.
-Exactly. I do not need to refer to the numerous instances afforded by history. The history of British naval warfare points always to the One conclusion that the secret of the strength of Great Britain’s Navy has been that it has not waited in port until the enemy came up to it, but has sailed out to find the enemy and destroy him. The battles for the protection of British interests have much oftener been fought thousands of miles away from Great Britain than near. So it must be always. So it must be with us, and if we desire really adequate protection for Australian trade, and the coast of Australia, that protection can only be obtained by having a fleet strong enough to deal with an enemy, and mobile enough to go where the enemy is, and fight him at the greatest possible advantage. It is on that principle that this agreement is based, and the contention which is set up by some that the consent of the Commonwealth should be obtained before this fleet can be taken away is a contention which is absolutely untenable, looking at the matter from a practical point of view.
– It is unthinkable.
– In the first place, I admit that there would be no difficulty in giving that consent if a necessity for it arose. I put this position for a moment : The Government here is informed that there is a fleet gathering in some part of the China station, and that the only possible safety for Australia is to combine and concentrate every possible force we have to fight the enemy there, and that, in the judgment of the Admiral, that is the right thing to be done. Would our Parliament or Government ever for a moment take the responsibility of refusing to allow that to be done ? If they did, on what knowledge and upon what information would they act? So, I believe, the consent would always be given, but the difficulty would be that if we made it a condition that we should not be bound to use our fleet in that way without this consent being first obtained, valuable time might be lost in waiting for the consent to be given, and the delay involved might make all the difference between defeat and victory. These are the principles upon which this agreement is founded. Let us see now what the alternative is. There is only one alternative, and that is the establishment of a navy of our own. I have been at some trouble to try and find out, if possible, on what basis it is suggested that we should have a navy of our own. Of course, the first considerations are the number, armament, and cost of the vessels of our fleet. Whether these are to be supplied under agreement with Great Britain or by ourselves, the cost must be the same.
– Not necessarily.
– I think so.
– Great Britain must have a fleet in Australian waters in any case.
– Why must Great Britain have a fleet here?
– Because her interests here are so great.
– Great Britain must have a fleet of a certain number of vessels here, no doubt ; but it does not follow that wo are therefore to have no protection. According to the argument of the honorable senator, he might go further and urge that we should trust entirely to Great Britain’s fleet. I take it that if we supply a fleet ourselves, or if it is supplied for us by Great Britain, it must be a fleet of a certain strength, equipment, armament and value. How are we to find out what is necessary 1 I take it we could not have a better basis for our calculations than the agreement already arrived at. That will provide for no more than is sufficient. What is the cost of that ? We know already that it will cost something like £500,000 a year. Even if we make allowances for any possible reductions, it must be remembered that if we are to have a fleet of our own we must pay the whole of the men employed in that fleet Australian rates of wages. We cannot man our fleet on British naval rates of wages. We must pay Australian rates of wages.
– What fleet had the United States for many years?
– The estimate of £500,000 is based upon payments on the Australian rate of wages to a small extent, but principally upon the British rate of wages. Where are we going to get the money from? What limit, and what margin is there? I ask my honorable friends, who are under the influence of Kyabram, and who are always crying out about expenditure, where they are going to get this £500,000? The only money we have available is the one-fourth of the net Customs revenue.
- Senator Styles will explain that when speaking.
– Senator Styles is one of the honorable senators whose change of front in this matter I cannot quite understand.
– I beg the honorable and learned senator’s pardon ; I have not changed my front.
– Not on this question, but the honorable senator may have changed his front on the necessity for Kyabramism in one direction, and the desirability of throwing off that safeguard in other directions.
– I am consistent.
– Then I dare say the honorable member can explain. But I cannot see how, out of the amount available, which certainly cannot be much more than £600,000, we can provide for the expenditure which must be incurred in establishing a navy of our own, or how the advantage to be gained can be as great as that which is now available for £200,000 per annum. Some cheaper method may be suggested, and I have read with a good deal of interest the paper by Captain Creswell.
– A very good man. .
– Captain Creswell is a very good man, but, at the same time, his suggestions appear to me to be quite impracticable. In the first place, Captain Creswell’s idea is that we should build four cruisers of a value of £300,000 each. These cruisers would be something between a second-class cruiser and a third-class cruiser, because, according to the estimates of the value of the ships we shall get under the agreement, the cost of a second-class cruiser is £400,000, and of a third-class cruiser £220,000.
– £300,000 is the cost of the Highflyer, which is the flagship in the Eastern seas.
– That may be so, but according to all naval authorities the least that we can do with are cruisers somewhere between second-class and third-class, whereas under the proposed agreement we shall have a first-class cruiser and two second-class cruisers, which rank higher. Captain Creswell’s proposal, which was made in February, 1902, is to expend £350,000 per annum completing the first ship in 1903, the second in 1905, the third in 1907, and the fourth in 1 909 ; so that the four ships would not be completed until the lastmentioned year.
– Quite time enough.
– But what are we to do in the meantime? Are we to suppose that war will wait until our fleet is completed ? Is it to be supposed that all the trouble and difficulty in the East, against which the British Navy is making such preparations, will simmer on till theyear 1909?
– It will simmer for the next 50 years.
– That only bears me out in saying that a large number of honorable senators deal with this question as if there were no reality behind it. They do not seem to realize that we shall ever be at war. They regard all this preparation as mere playfulness, and all this expensive warlike material as something which will never be brought into operation. I can quite understand such men holding the opinion that it would not matter if we were to wait till 1909 ; but we are making preparations for a real danger and a real war, for which we must be ready when it comes.
– Nobody will go to war with us.
– But if Britain becomes involved in war we are involved in war.
– Cannot we “ cut the painter? “
– “Cut the painter “ when we get into trouble? I should think not ; and I believe that . Senator Stewart would be the last to advise such a step. I say that this proposal to build a fleet gradually until 1909, at an expenditure of £350,000 a year, is impossible. If we really mean to provide efficient defence, there is only one way, We must make efficient and adequate preparation as soon as possible to put our defences in such a condition that we shall be able to meet any force likely to be brought against us. I have said practically all I think is necessary in explaining this measure to the Senate. I have taken some time, for which I am sorry ; but it could not be helped under the circumstances. I felt it necessary to put this matter fully before the Senate, because this is a case in which we cannot allow our duty to be done for us by other people. The question has been fully discussed elsewhere and in the press ; but a responsibility rests on every man in this Senate to bring his own judgment and the best of his ability and knowledge to the consideration of the measure. I know of no question more important. I said just now in answer to an interjection that there are men who do not seem to realize that there is any danger ; and holding the views they do, it no doubt appears to them a wicked extravagance to enter into any scheme of defence. But I think those honorable senators are in a minority. I believe that the great majority of honorable senators realize that there is danger against which we must prepare, and that the same reason which makes it necessary to expend something like £600,000 per annum on our land and our harbor defence, makes it necessary to provide for our seadefence, without which all that expenditure becomes practically of little value.
– Is that logical ?
-I think it is very logical. I do not see the value of our provision for land defence, when our towns may be bombarded without the landing of an enemy, and our commerce destroyed thousands of miles away from our coast. I, therefore, ask honorable senators who believe that there is a reality in the preparations we are making, whether for our land or our sea defence, to look first of all at the question of efficiency, and then at the cost. It is impossible to provide the same kind of defence for ourselves on anything like the terms offered in the agreement. If we take the formation of an Australian Navy into our own hands, we shall embark on an expenditure which it is impossible for us to meet at the present time, and which will involve us in liabilities of an unknown character as time goes on. At the end of ten or twelve years we shall be left in the position of having ships and equipment which are very little better than old iron. In the meantime let us enter into this agreement, which, for ten years at least, will give us the best possible protection for an amount which is within our means, and which will assure that our armament and equipment are kept up to date year by year. At the end of the ten years we shall be left just as free as we are now to enter on the question of providing our own defences. .
– But we shall have paid a million and have nothing to show for it.
– What . is this agreement but an insurance ? The honorable senator might as well say that because over a term of years he has paid £3 or £4 as insurance premiums on his house, that he has nothing to show for his expenditure. If, however, the honorable member had not insured his house, and it had been burnt down, he would have suffered a great loss. There is another view of the question which I shall merely advert to. Apart altogether from the binding obligations of this agreement, our greatest safety always must be in the maintenance of the sea power of Great Britain itself. In anything we do to contribute towards that end, we shall be promoting our own interests as well as the interests of the> Empire. I have as strong a love for Australia, and as strong an Australian feeling, as has any man who is listening to me ; but I see no contradiction whatever between the freest development of Australia and Australian institutions and the maintenance of the connexion with the great Empire to which we belong. , .
– But is this agreement essential ,to that purpose?
– I see no reason why we should not develop our institutions in the freest possible way, and yet take the same interest as we do now in the Empire and have the same feeling of loyalty and the same interest in the maintenance and integrity of the Empire. If there is a choice between two ways of defending ourselves, and in one we not only aid ourselves but aid the Empire, I see every reason, from the point of view of expediency and the higher patriotism, for adopting the way which, while preserving Australian interests, at the same time preserves the interests of the Empire with whose prosperity that of Australia is, and always must be, entwined. I hope that the large majority of honorable senators will pronounce the opinion that at the present time, and under present circumstances, there is no better way of dealing ‘ with the difficult question we have to decide than by adopting the agreement which the Prime Minister made in London.
Debate (on motion by Senator Best) adjourned.
That proposed Standing Orders 26, 94, 138, and 142 be recommitted.
In Committee :
Standing Order 26 -
At the commencement of the session, after each periodical or general election of the Senate, or whenever any vacancy shall occur, the Senate may appoint a senator to be Chairman of Committees who, unless otherwise determined, shall hold office until the next periodical or general election of the Senate, whichever first occurs, provided he so long remains a senator.
– It will be remembered that when this standing order was passed we had not dealt with the term of office of the President. I wish tlie Committee to put the President and the Chairman of Committees on the same footing with regard to the termination of their respective offices. The objection to the standing order in its present form is that no definite date is fixed. Therefore I desire that it shall be amended so as to read in this way, and I move accordingly -
At the commencement ot the session after each periodical or general election of the Senate, or whenever any vacancy shall occur, the Senate may appoint a senator to be Chairman of Committees, who, unless otherwise determined, shall hold office until the 3 J st December following the next periodical election for the Senate, or, in the event of a dissolution of the Senate, until the date of the proclamation dissolving the Senate.
Under ordinary circumstances, the Chairman of Committees will hold office until the 31st December, the date when every senator goes out of office who has to stand for re-election. On the other hand , when there is to be a dissolution of the Senate, the Chairman will hold office until the proclamation to that effect is issued.
– Will it put the Chairman of Committees in exactly the same position as the President, who under Standing Order 17, will hold office’ until the day before the new Parliament meets ?
– The duties of the two officers are different. The Chairman will remain in office until the 31st December, when there is to be a periodical election, or if the Senate is to be dissolved, until the date of the proclamation to that effect, if it happens to come before the 31st December. We have provided that where the President shall remain a senator - that is, where he has not to stand for reelection - he shall hold office until the day before the meeting of Parliament after a periodical election. He is to be kept in office in order that he may discharge the administrative functions appertaining to the position. Under the Public Service Act he has administrative functions to perform, and he has administrative work in connexion with the Department; for instance, in making preparations for the meeting of Parliament and other duties of that kind. The duties of > the Chairman of Committees are only in connexion with the work of the Senate while it is being carried on, or in connexion with the Bills that may. be passing through the Chamber. He has no other duties to discharge. That is the reason for the difference, and that is the only difference.
Amendments agreed to.
– I do not wish to be unduly inquisitive, but I should like to know why this standing order is being altered at this very lai* stage 1
– The explanation is this : The standing order was passed before the alterations were made in the standing order dealing with the President. . Alterations have now been made fixing the term of office of the President until the 31st December, when he goes out with other honorable senators, and fixing the’ term until the date before the meeting of a new Parliament after a periodical election. In order to put the Chairman of Committees in the same position, as far as is necessary, we now provide that the Chairman shall hold office until the 31st December, or- in the event of a_ proclamation dissolving the Senate before then, . until the date of the proclamation.
Standing Order, as amended, agreed to.
Standing Order 94 -
In putting any such question, no argument or opinion shall be offered, nor inference nor imputation made, nor any facts stated except so far as may be necessary to explain such question.
– This standing order seems to me to be a very practical one as it stands, but to carry it out properly, we ought to give power to the President to disallow or to alter any question so as to make it conform to the standing order. I therefore move -
That the following words be added “and the President may direct the Clerk to alter any question so as to conform with this order.”
– We had a question relating to this standing order before us at an earlier stage of to-day’s sitting. The addition of the words which the Vice-President of the Executive Coun cil has proposed would put it more and more in the power of honorable senators to say that the President is the guardian of the notice-paper. The fact that he has not made an alteration may be taken as expressing his opinion that certain questions are in order. I do not know whether the President’ desires to take upon himself that responsibility. I do not know whether we shall gain anything by making the amendment, except by putting it in the mouths of honorable senators’ to use the argument which Senator Matheson very properly used to-day. that as the President has not ruled a certain question out of order, it is a proper one to put.
– The same power has been given in reference to notices of motion, and a power similar to this exists in our present standing orders in reference to questions. Our present Standing Order No. 116 is as. follows : -
In putting any such question no argument oiopinion shall be offered, nor any facts stated, except so far as may be necessary to explain such, question.
The standing order now before us contains the words “ nor inference nor imputation.”’ It gives a larger power to the President tosay whether questions contain inferencesand imputations that should not be in them. Under our present standing orders the only power the President has is underNo. 116, which only allows him to alter aquestion if, in his opinion, a portion of it should not be asked. This standing orderputs the matter more definitely. I do not see any objection to it.
– I certainly think that this standingorder should not be amended in themanner indicated by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. Instead of saying that the President may direct the Clerk, we ought to say that the President may request any senator to alter any question, and we should give the President the ultimate power to reject the question if it is not altered. It is rather a large responsibility to throw upon the Clerk to say that he should alter a question.
– The President takes the responsibility.
– But in taking an imputation out of a question, the whole point of it may be removed. The alteration may not suit the honorable senator asking the question,
– The senator who has given notice of the question may not be present when the notice-paper is being prepared.
– Thenthe President should have power to omit the question until the senator has altered it. It is unsatisfactory to give the Clerk the power to alter a question. The senator himself should alter it.
– Suppose he refuses to alter it?
– Then it should be rejected. In such a case the President would send a note to the senator.
– The President may not see the notice of question until the senator has gone.
– We ought to give the President power to request any senator to alter a question by leaving out any words that he thinks offend against the standing orders, and we should give him a final power to disallow a question. But the senator himself should strike out the words to which the President objects. I intend to move that the word “ direct “ be struck out with a view of substituting the word “request,” and later on I shall move to strike out the word “ Clerk,” with a view to inserting “senator.” Then we can add words giving the President power to reject a question if the alteration is not made.
– I would suggest to the honorable senator that he should allow the standing order to stand as proposed. We have already adopted the same principle. Standing Order 106 provides that any question containing any offensive suggestion may be amended by the President before it appears upon the notice-paper. We now propose to follow out the same principle, and to give the President power to direct the Clerk to alter a question so as to make it conform with the standing orders. It is well known that when the President sees anything objectionable in a question he always consults the senator affected before making an alteration, and I have not the slightest doubt that that practice will be continued. Under the circumstances, the course proposed to be followed appears to me to be the correct one.
– I feel considerable doubts about the proposed standing order, and the alterations proposed to be made in it by the “VicePresident of the Executive Council. The Chairman says that we have already adopted the principle in Standing Order 106, but there is a material difference between the two standing orders. It is all very well to say, and it is quite right, that the President should eliminate any unbecoming expression ; but it is a very different thing to say that the President shall be the sole judge of what is an imputation or an inference.
– Those words are in already.
– It is within our power to omit them, and we ought to avail ourselves of the opportunity to do so. If the Vice-President of the Executive Council will alter his amendment so as to give power to the President to strike out any unbecoming expression, I shall approve of the standing order. It is quite proper that the President should have control of the notice-paper. But we ought not tothrow upon him the duty of eliminating what he may consider to be an inference or an’ imputation. It will bea very invidious thing for the President to have to say that a certain question contains an inference or an imputation. The words; “ inference “ and “ imputation “ are not so clear that there is a common understanding as to what they mean. Amongst two or three different people there would be as many opinions as to what was an inference or an imputation. Indeed, the words are so ambiguous that the President ought not to be called upon to rule a question out of order because it contains expressions that, in his opinion, come within them.
Senator Sir RICHARD BAKER (South Australia). - The honorable and learned senator has appealed to me, and I must say that I see no greater difficulty in interpreting the words “ inference” and “ imputation “ than I see in the interpretation of the words “unbecoming expressions.” There can always be a difference of opinion whether an expression is unbecoming or not, and there may also be a difference of opinion whether an imputation or an inference is contained in any question. I may say that since the Senate first met I have on dozens of occasions altered questions, but in every case I have appealed to the honorable senator who has given notice of the question, and have pointed out to him the reasons why I thought his questions should be altered. In no one case has any honorable senator objected to what I have suggested.
– The honorable and learned senator has not worked under this standing order.
– I have worked under this standing order to a certain extent, though I admit not to the full extent, because I did not consider that I had the power. I have appealed in a great many instances to honorable senators who have given notice of questions. I have said, “ Do you not think these words ought to be left out i” “ Do you not think that this is an unbecoming expression 1” “ Do you not think this is an imputation V “ Do you not think that this question had better be altered V And honorable senators have in every case agreed to what I have suggested. I think these words ought to be in.
– Why should they be in the standing order dealing with questions and not in the standing order dealing with motions 1
– -For a very good reason indeed. Honorable senators cannot debate a matter on a question, but they may debate a motion. In asking a question an honorable senator might convey certain imputations which it might be very difficult to refute unless a debate took place, and as the member of the Government who answers a question is obliged to confine himself to the answer, and cannot debate the matter involved in the question, it is clear that motions and questions may well be treated differently in this respect. In asking questions, an honorable senator can only give such reasons for asking them as are necessary to elicit information. If an honorable senator moves a notice of motion involving a matter that is debatable, it can be debated, and the imputation contained in the motion may be dispelled by the honorable senator who first replies to the mover of the motion, or by any other honorable senator. This standing order was debated two or three times by the Standing Order Committee. It was very fully considered, and it embodies the practice of almost every Parliament in Australia, though this practice in some instances may not be defined in the same words. Senator Clemons will recollect, also, that we have struck out the standing order which referred us to the practice of the House of Commons. It is not the practice in the House of Commons to allow of imputations or inferences, and as the standing order referring us to that practice has been struck out, it has become still more necessary that these words should be retained in this standing older.
– What is now proposed is in strict accord with our present practice. As honorable senators are aware, Standing Order 116 provides -
In putting any question no argument or opinion shall be offered, nor any facts stated except so far as may be necessary to explain such questions.
I am referring to the standing orders under which we are at present working, and they further provide that where we make no specific provision we fall back upon the practice of the House of Commons. The practice of the House of Commons in this matter is quite clear. May says, at page 238-
The purpose of a question is to obtain information and not to supply it to the House. A question may not contain statements of facts unless they be necessary to make the question intelligible and can be authenticated, nor should a question contain arguments, inferences, imputations, epithets or ironical expressions, nor may a question refer to debates or answers to questions in the current session.
Standing Order 94, as it is proposed to amend it, would make that new standing order in strict accord with our present practice and with the practice of the House of Commons.
– If that is what is desired why not use all the words which the honorable senator has quoted from May 1 We pick out two of those words which are most difficult of interpretation.
– The standing order refers to arguments or opinions, and to inferences and imputations. I .say that we have gone as far at least in this as in our present standing orders. We could use additional words, but Senator Clemons has taken exception, as I understand, to the use of the words “nor inference nor imputation made,” and I say that in using those words we follow out the practice of the House of Commons. The standing order as it is proposed to amend it is practically in accord with our existing practice.
– I regret to notice a disposition to treat members of the Senate as if they were a lot of barbarians. On every possible occasion when we are considering these standing orders, something new is brought in to rope us in in some way or another. This standing order was quite comprehensive enough without the use of these words “ nor inference nor imputation made.” I agree with Senator Clemons that it may be very debatable whether a series of questions contains an inference or an imputation. I remember that a series of questions were asked in the Queensland Parliament, and though, in the opinion of the honorable member who asked them, they contained no inference whatever, the Minister thought he saw something in them and he would not give an answer, with the result that there was two or three hours’ unnecessary debate. If Senator O’Connor will propose a standing order such as this will be if the amendment is agreed to, great dissatisfaction is bound to ensue some time or other, and the. business of the Senate will be suspended until the difficulty arising is dealt with. I ask the honorable and learned senator whether it is really necessary to have this standing orderin the form now proposed.. I feel sure that what Senator Baker has said is correct. I know I have been colled into consultation once or twice myself, and I have never objected to the President’s suggestions. I know I am a very docile person, and other honorable senators may not agree to the President’s suggestion. I think it would be better to adopt the form suggested by Senator Pearce that the President may request a senator to make an alteration, and, if he declines, it willbe within the jurisdiction of the President to disallow the question.
– It will not be according to the standing order.
– It will if we put in words to say so.
– I shall object to that.
– I reiterate my conviction that certain members of this Senate appear to have been able to place themselves in the frame of mind of members, of the British House of Commons with its 670 members, many of whom are violent persons who disturb business, and require to be in some way checked. But here we are the most peaceful lot of sheep who have ever found their way into a Legislative Assembly.
– I hope that Senator Pearce will not move his amendment, which seems to me to be perfectly useless. If it is thought that a question should be struck out of the business paper, the President would . always send for the honorable senator who had given notice of the question, and would put his views before him before striking it out.: Is it necessary to make it incumbent on the President to request a senator to alter a question when that may make it difficult to carry out the standing orders? A question may be handed in by an honorable senator in a form which may be offensive, though he may not have the slightest intention to offend, and the matter may be brought before the President when the honorable senator -who has given notice of the question is not present. What is to be done then if the standing orders is amended as Senator Pearce suggests? I think no good end can be served by the proposed amendment.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania).- I should like to know if it is necessary by. direct words to give the President the power here proposed? If it is not, why should we put those words in? I believe that the President has power to control the business - paper, which contains notices of questions, and, if he has, it is superfluous to put these words in. I object to their insertion on that ground. I admit that owing to the action of a large and extremely sensitive majority of the Committee, we are no longer to be able to resort to the practice of the House of Commons, but even though that first standing order is left out, I believe the President has still power to control the business-paper.
– Does not the honorable and learned senator think that Standing Order 106 makes it conclusive that he has not any such power, because he is expressly given the power there ?
– My answer to that is to ask what is to become of the arguments. used against those who desired to retain the clause referring us to the practice of the House of Commons that we are going to make pur own practice. Here is an opportunity for us to make out own practice. The procedure that is adopted here is this : We find we arc losing some of the value and support of the practice of the House of Commons, and we are beginning to engraft in implicit words some of the words which we find in May. Let it be a part of our practice and procedure that the President shall control the businesspaper, and there will then be no necessity for the words proposed to be inserted in this standing order.
– Does the honorable and learned senator think that the Senate can establish a practice in the face of Standing Order 106 that a question should be struck out if it offends against Standing Order 94?
– The honorable and learned senator has already been answered by Senator Baker, who has pointed out that between a notice of motion, which can be debated, and a question, with respect to which there are very close restrictions, there is a vast difference. It might be desirable to adopt Standing Order 106 as printed, but it does not follow that we should make Standing Order 94 conform with it. The expressions we want in Standing Order 106 we do not want in Standing Order 94 and vice versa. Here isan excellent opportunity for forming our own practice and procedure. I am sure Senator O’Connor must agree with me in that; and yet we are not going to avail ourselves of it.We are taking everything out of May, and incorporating it in our standing orders. I am with the majority now in advocating that we should establish our own practice.
Amendment agreed to.
Standing Order as amended agreed to.
Standing Orders 138 and 142 consequentially amended.
Senate adjourned at 9.53 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 August 1903, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1903/19030818_senate_1_15/>.