2nd Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia).I wish to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, whether the Government would be favorable to holding the sessions of Parliament in the summer instead of in the winter, and whether he will bring the matter under the notice of the Cabinet with a view to making a change in that respect ?
– I should like the honorable senator to give notice of his question. A reply will be furnished on another occasion.
Senator McGREGOR laid upon the table the following papers : -
Reports of Mr. Scriviner and Mr. Chesterman, surveyors, on the proposed Federal Capital sites in the Southern Monaro and Tumut districts.
Ordered to be printed.
Transfers approved by the Governor-General, Appropriation Act1 903-4, dated23rd May, 1904.
The Clerk laid upon the table the following paper : -
Report by the right honorable Sir John Forrest upon the proposed Federal Capital site at Lyndhurst, with appendices.
– I may say with regard to the papers relating to the Federal Capital sites, that they were not laid upon the table previously, as it is only recently that Mr. Chesterman’s report was received. The report from Mr. Scriviner is a progress report. The full report will be available in a few days.
– I move -
That there be laid upon the table of the Senate copies of all papers connected with the selection and approval of the present Commonwealth Flag.
I may say at once that there is absolutely nothing behind my motion. But I feel that we are under some little disadvantage, as it was understood that the papers in question were to be laid before Parliament. The selection of a Commonwealth flag is a very important matter, and it has apparently been left to judges whose qualifications have been seriously questioned. I have ‘no other desire than to have an opportunity of seeing the papers, and to understand what has led to the selection being, made without any reference to Parliament. I think that Parliament ought to have been consulted quite as -much as outside authorities - indeed, much more so.
– Having made a selection, I believe they put the flag in a box, and have never taken it out again.
.- I do not press for the printing of the papers, because that might cost money ; but we ought at least to have an opportunity of seeing how the choice was made. I hope that the motion will not be objected to.
– I second the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That this Senate, in terms of section 124, subsection 4, of the Defence Act 1903, hereby disallows the following Regulations issued under the said Act, viz. : -
Part III., Regulation 72, portions objected to
Part III., Regulation S3, portion objected to - c and d.
Part V., Regulation 27, portions objected to - 20, 21, 30, and 44.
Part V., Regulation 28, portions objected to - a, d, a, and d.
Appendix K, clause 7.
Although my motion occupies a little space on the business paper, it will riot be found to be a difficult matter to deal with. There is a provision in the last section of the Defence Act enabling either House of the Parliament to disallow any of the regulations made under the Act within a certain number of days. I believe that to-day is about the last on which such a motion can be moved ; and in view of the fact that I ask the Senate only to disallow some minor portions of six regulations, I think it will be seen that there is nothing captious in my proposal, and that it is very mild. But while the regulations objected to are not numerous, they deal with an important subject. I suppose that it will be best to move with regard to each regulation separately. 3 h
– I suggest that there should be one debate, but I shall put each motion separately.
– We shoud go into Committee on a motion of this kind. That has always been done. It was done with regard to Senator Stewart’s motion affecting the Public Service Regulations.
– It is entirely a matter for the Senate. The honorable senator who has charge of the business has moved the motion, and has not proposed that the Senate go into Committee.
– It will be far more convenient to go into Committee, seeing that in the Senate we can only speak once, whereas in Committee we can speak as many times as may be necessary.
.- It will be a simple matter to move the. motion without entering into particulars, and afterwards some other honorable senator can move that the Senate go into Committee.
– Why should not the honorable senator amend his motion ?
.- If that be the will of the Committee, I shall be happy to fall in with the suggestion if I can do so.
– I will put the question that Senator Neild have leave to amend his motion accordingly.
– I thank the Senate for its courtesy in the matter, an’d submit the motion in its amended form, as follows: -
That the Senate resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole for the purpose of considering the following Regulations issued under the Defence Act 1903 : -
Then the regulations are enumerated asbefore. It will be, perhaps, desirable that I should, in the briefest manner possible, indicate the amendments which I shall ask honorablesenators to make. I shall do so in a very few words, and shall not argue the proposition. Regulation 72, paragraph g, which is the first one objected to, provides seven” grounds on which an officer’s commission may be cancelled. I think that the first six amply cover the field, and that the seventh, which I propose to strike out, is unnecessary. It affords scope for undesirable practices. As to portion c of regulation 83, that is a proposal for seconding officers of the Defence Forces if they sit in the Federal Parliament. Seconding means putting officers on the military shelf - out of the way. My reason for proposing to interfere with that regulation is that it seems to me that it is an insidious attempt to interfere with the constitutional rights of members of the Defence Forces who sit in Parliament. The next provision to which I object - paragraph d of regulation 83 - is an extraordinary one. It provides that if any member ‘of the Defence Forces obtains a civil appointment, he is to be seconded, and is to lose his military position. T cannot but think that the inclusion of that provision is an accident’; because it would not permit any civil servant in this country to hold a position in the Defence Forces. Of course, in the case of a man who is a paid officer, the regulation ought to apply, but this applies to citizen soldiers, and would even go so far as to apply to members of rifle clubs. The idea, that a member of a rifle club cannot hold a Civil Service appointment seems to me to be extraordinary. As to regulation 27, it contains a provision that if a citizen soldier, who is not under any obligation to attend every parade - indeed, the regulations do not require him to do so - does not attend every parade, he shall be liable to three months’ imprisonment. That is sub-section 20 of regulation 27. If he fails to attend at a p’lace of assembly he is liable under a further section that is referred to in my motion to all sorts of pains and penalties - three months’ imprisonment or ,£20 fine. Yet the regulations as a whole do not require his attendance on every occasion. With regard to sub-section 44 of regulation 27, which is mentioned in my motion, I may say that I do not propose to press for its disallowance. There may be reasons for it. On page 54 of the regulations there is an extraordinary proposition, that if a citizen soldier when not on duty commits the offence of drunkenness, he shall be liable to a £20 penalty or three months’ imprisonment, a sentence which no magistrate in the country could pass on him.
– Why- leave out refer- ence to sub-section 22 ?
.- If a soldier is in camp or in garrison he is under obligation to do his duty. I do not want te interfere with a soldier once he has undertaken his military duty. He must stand by it then. What I object to is penalizing a man in this unreasonable manner for a technical offence, which may not be an offence at all - for not being present at some parade.- In regu lation 28 the portions objected to are those that fit in with regulation 27, to which I have made reference. As to regulation 38, printed on page 59 of the regulations, I may point out that it was one of the most deliberately enacted provisions of the Defence Act which this Chamber carried unanimously on the amendment of Senator Higgs, that no men of the Military Forces should be expelled without the right of court-martial.
– Is the honorable senator going to discuss these regulations while the President is in the chair ? .
– I am merely stating the facts. The regulation I allude to is one that stands in the way of an officer demanding an inquiry if he is charged with misconduct. The last regulation to which I take exception requires an officer to attend at Head-Quarters for examination for promotion. Honorable senators who come from distant ‘States which cover large areas, and which have scattered defence forces, can realize what this means. An officer may be required to travel for a considerable distance in order to be examined in his capacity for drill, and, under this regulation, if for some reason or other, the officer should unhappily fail to please the inspecting or examining officer, he is to be allowed no expenses for what may have been his 300 miles’ journey each way, nor is he to be paid his hotel expenses or incidental expenses for attending the examination. Hitherto in New South Wales officers have been grouped for examination purposes, and have been examined locally by one of the Head-Quarters staff or at camps. But this regulation places the obligation on a candidate for promotion to travel to HeadQuarters, and then if he fails to pass the examination he is to get nothing at all for his travelling expenses. It is difficult enough now to obtain the services of suitable men. This regulation will make it almost prohibitive. I hope it will be recognised that these are reasonable matters for the consideration of the Senate. I trust that the Minister also will regard them as reasonable, and allow us to go into Committee to consider them. I say no more now, feeling sure that the Senate will adopt the motion, and that the regulations enumerated will be considered in detail in Committee.
– I have no objection to the Senate going into Committee; but I do not make any promise that I shall agree with the propositions which are contained in the proposal of Senator Neild, and which I recognise involve some matters of very great importance.
Question, as amended, ‘resolved in the affirmative.
Part III., Regulation 72 -
The services of an officer may be dispensed with for any of the following reasons : -
Absence without leave for three months or from continuous training.
Misconduct or incapacity.
Failing to pass the prescribed examinations.
On reaching the limit of age prescribed. (/) By sentence of Court-Martial. [g ) For any other cause which the GovernorGeneral may deem sufficient.
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - I move -
That paragraph g be disallowed.
I think that the words of paragraph g are so unnecessarily wide, and so absolutely dangerous, that they may be made an excuse for doing almost anything, while the six preceding paragraphs clearly cover every rational ground for dispensing with an officer’s services. He can be got rid of if he neglects his duty, or if he is medically unfit, or if he fails to pass the examinations, or when he reaches the age limit, or by sentence of court-martial. That, I think, is sufficient provision to make in that direction. I object to paragraph g-, because under it a man may be thrust out of the service without any action known to himself. I rather startled the Committee when we were considering the Defence Bill by stating that secret representations were made to get rid of officers. The Minister knows perfectly well that, at the present time, there are in his office papers connected with a secret attempt to get rid of an officer. This has not met with Ministerial approval so far, and will not, I feel quite sure. But that> perhaps, is because the officer against whom the attempt has been made is in a. better position to defend himself than are others. I object strongly to power being given by regulation to afford opportunities for character assassination for any reason, particularly if the reasons are splenetic.
– I wish to state briefly the reasons why I think that honorable senators should not agree to this motion. Senator Neild appears to think that paragraph g can be used for the purpose of character assassination; that if a man who is in a commanding position has a set on an officer, he will be able to destroy him, and, therefore, ruin his character as a public man.
– It has been done.
– It has not.
– Not under this Act, or by this Ministry.
– It has not been done by any Ministry.
– I am glad’ to hear the Minister speak in that way. I have a higher opinion of him now than I had before.
– I thank the honorable senator. I think that the retention of paragraph g is absolutely essential. It is provided in the orders that certain offences shall be punished, but certain general conduct of an officer may be improper, and may not come specifically under any paragraph in the regulation except paragraph g. His general conduct may be so offensive that it may be necessary in the interest of the force to get rid of them.
– He can be got rid of by court martial under paragraph /.
– The honorable senator seems to forget the exact meaning of paragraph g. Surely he has been sufficiently long in Parliament to know that the; term “ Governor-General “ does not mean the General Officer Commanding the Military Forces. Surely he knows that His Excellency will only take action that has been deliberately determined on by the Executive Council, and for no other reason. There is every reason why this power should be maintained, and therefore I ask the Committee not to agree to the motion.
– I agree with the Minister of Defence. It would be very inadvisable to cancel this part of the regulation, because it would make a very great difference in the position of an officer who holds a commission. The theory is that the commission is always held from the Crown, and that it may be withdrawn by the Crown at any time. There may often be reasons why a commission should be cancelled, which may not be 3 h 2 covered by paragraphs a to / of the regulation. I think it is right that paragraph g should be retained. I wish the Committee to understand that this is not a mere trivial matter. It will make a very considerable difference in the conditions under which a commisson is held.
– I was very pleased indeed to hear the Minister of Defence speak as he did. I am surprised to learn that a high officer like Senator Neild should try to get rid of discipline. He is the last man who should introduce a proposal of this kind to the Senate. If we have not the power of enforcing this discipline, what is the good of having a Military Force at all ? I chiefly rose to say that if the Minister decides with such good common sense in other matters I shall be very glad indeed to support him on those occasions also.
– I am glad to hear that.
– I think that Senator Drake really gave us an indication that there would be no detriment to the service even if paragraph g were omitted from the regulation, because he pointed out, very truly, that the theory is that the commission is held from the Crown, with the reserve power to take it back at any time, for good and sufficient cause.
– The Crown has to formally take the power.
.- The Crown has that power without the regulation at all, but, of course, it is always understood that it will not be exercised without abundant reasons.
– It must also be understood that all officers serve at pleasure.
– It has been clearly and distinctly laid down by the Privy Council, in a case which was tried some time ago, that the pleasure of the Crown is never withdrawn unless there are good an I sufficient reasons. The Crown -always errs on the side of leniency towards the officer. I think that with that reserve power the discipline is safeguarded.
– What case does the honorable senator refer to?
– I do not remember, but it was quoted in my own case, though it was not quite applicable. Does not the regulation, without paragraph g, cover pretty well the whole ground which it is necessary to cover in order to maintain discipline ?
– It does not, for the reason I pointed out - that it may not be possible to prove incapacity for command.
.- If paragraph g is retained the other paragraphs can be done away with, because it places everything in the power of the GovernorGeneral, and the question arises at once whether it is wise in the case of our citizen forces .to place the Executive Council in the position of being able, behind an officer’s back, if it saw fit, advise the Crown to withdraw his commission. Of course, if there was a provision made that iri all these cases the officer should be called on to show cause before his commission was withdrawn, there would be the possibility of replying to the contention of Senator Neild. . But I am under the impression that, taking into consideration all the provisions which are made, and the reserve power of the Crown, the regulation will be quite sufficient without paragraph g.
– It seems to me that the position taken up by the Minister of Defence ought to be supported. This general power should rest with the Executive Council, and we are amply protected from any captiou or improper use of the power in the fact that the Executive Council is responsible for its every act. We have a perfect assurance that there can be no base or improper use made of this power without the possibility of the act coming under the ieview of Parliament. While there does appear at first glance to be ample protection against any possible offence in the preceding paragraphs of the regulation, still there may happen circumstances for which we have been unable to provide. A man may be guilty of conduct which altogether unfits him for his position in the military service, and yet -such conduct may not be covered by any one of the specific conditions named in paragraphs a to /. We might trust the Executive Government in a case of that kind. If there should ever occur a time when we could not trust the Executive Government, and they took action which was improper, we should have all the power of Parliament to bring them to book.
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - In bringing these matters before the Senate I am acting in what I believe to be the interests of the Citizen Force. It must be borne in mind that these regulations apply even to membership of rifle clubs. My desire is to see the best possible Citizen
Force that we can have. I told one or two honorable senators before entering the chamber that I did not intend to fight any one of these proposals. I submit them believing that it is the proper thing for me to do, and if the Senate should disagree with me, I, to use a well-known phrase, shall not “ barrack “ about them. If I am in a minority it will not follow that I am wrong.
Question resolved in the negative. Part III.. Regulation 83 -
An officer below the substantive rank of major shall be seconded in his regiment or corps : -
From the date of application to be seconded, if a member of the Commonwealth Parliament.
From the date of appointment or em barkation in the case of an oversea military appointment, a civil appointment, an appointment on the staff of a Civil Governor, or an appointment under a foreign Government.
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - In the first place, I move -
That paragraph c be disallowed.
This regulation deals with the seconding of officers. If a military officer becomes an aide-de-camp to a State Governor he is at once seconded. He does not cease to be an officer of his regiment, but he is put on the shelf - he is out of the way while he., is holding- the other appointment. An officer of the regiment I command in New South Wales is private secretary to the General Officer Commanding the Military Forces, and he is seconded while he is away on other duties. What I am taking exception to is the proposal that an officer is to be seconded from the date of his application to be seconded if he becomes a member of the Federal Parliament. That refers to officers below the rank of major.
– Then it does not apply to the honorable senator.
– There is nothing personal in the motion.
– The regulation does not say that an officer shall be seconded.
– But, while that is not actually expressed’, there is great danger of it being alleged when the regulation has been in print long enough.
– It is not laid down in the regulation that an officer must apply to be seconded.
– An officer may be told to apply, and if he does not do so he lays himself open to a charge of disobeying an order. Honorable senators may think this rather a fine-drawn proposition, but those who have had any experience of military discipline, know that such a contingency is very likely to arise.
– Does the ‘ honorable senator think that in submitting such a proposition he is carrying out military discipline ?
– There is no question of discipline involved in my submitting this motion. This is a matter of law-making; and every senator, equally, has a right to question the wisdom pf any proposed law.
– But who is going to be injured by the regulation?
– No one that I know of at the present time.
– Then what is the good of altering the regulation?
– It might as well be asked, in the face of a proposal to enact capital punishment for murder, who was going to be murdered? Senator Playford has a reputation for strong commonsense, but it is a reputation he will rapidly lose, if he submits such questions.
– I want to know what harm the regulation will do.
– I thought I had made that point very plain. If this regulation remains, there is great risk that officers below the rank of major, on being elected to either House of the’ Commonwealth Parliament, may be told, “ You had better apply to be seconded.” I do not say that an officer could be ordered to apply to be seconded, but he might be told that there was a provision of the kind, and that he had better make application. If an officer did not act on such a suggestion, he might be “ marked down “ at once, and he would “ go down “ sooner or later.
– Is there any authoritative definition of the word “ seconded ?”
D- I do not think there is.
– I do not know anything about the matter myself, but it seems to me that the word means more than we understand from Senator Neild.
.– The word has a well-known meaning in -military circles. An officer who is seconded is relieved from all duty, and while he is seconded, all his rights of promotion cease. Such an officer cannot go back to his regiment, unless there is a suitable vacancy for him, and he runs great risk of having his military career absolutely closed.
– There is no express definition of “seconded.”
.- No; but Senator Gould, and also Senator Drake, know that what I have stated exactly represents the position.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia^. - I cannot see where any injury can occur. The regulation does not say that an officer shall make application to be seconded, but that if he does, his seconding shall take place from the date of application. If a member of the Legislature, who occupies a military position such as has been indicated, wishes to be seconded he may apply, but he is not compelled to make application. No doubt, if an officer does apply, he places himself in a disadvantageous position as to future promotion ; but as I have said, there is nothing to compel him to apply.
Senator DRAKE (Queensland). - I do not think that any disadvantage will arise from continuing the regulation. Senator Neild is fearful that the regulation may lead to the - compulsory seconding of officers, but there is nothing to that effect in the regulation, which simply provides what shall take place when an officer desires to be seconded on account of his ceasing to perform active duty. This seconding is a very fair arrangement to junior officers ; otherwise, officers on the unattached list, would, as it were, find their position continually improving, to the detriment of others lower in rank who continued on the active list. “ Seconded “ means, as Senator Neild pointed out, putting an officer “ on the shelf,” where he is. as it were, frozen hard so far as promotion is concerned, while officers, who remain on the active list, make their way above him, as only seems to be right under the circumstances.
– I understand that a seconded officer may apply for promotion.
– Not while he is seconded, although during that period he retains his present rank. When the disqualification - if I may use the expression - ceases, and there is employment on the active list for him, he rejoins at exactly the same rank he. held when seconded. That is a very fair arrangement to junior officers, who, if on. the active list, are anxious for their proper promotion. No provision is made that a military officer, who becomes a member of Parliament, shall be removed from the active list, but if he so desires, he can be seconded, retaining his rank. There is a subsequent regulation providing that where a vacancy occurs, it may be held over for three months, in order to give a seconded officer an opportunity of rejoining.
– I should like the Senate to disagree with the motion. In addition to the excellent arguments which have been put forward by Senator Drake, there is another argument to which I should like to call attention. I have felt for some time, and I see no reason to alter my opinion, that it is not good for the efficiency of the’ Military Forces that any officer, whether major, or of lower rank, who owes allegiance to ,the General Officer Commanding, should at the same time, as a member of Parliament, be the critic of that General Officer Commanding. The dual position is not conducive to the best discipline, and cannot lead to the greatest efficiency of the military Forces. For that reason I think the regulation ought to remain as at present.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - I do not quite follow the argument of the Minister of Defence in regard to the difficulty or impropriety of the relative positions of military officer and member of Parliament. The Constitution clearly lays it down that the mere fact of holding a commission in the volunteer or partiallypaid military services shall in no way affect the right to be returned to Parliament.
– Nobody says that it should.
– The Constitution has put such men ‘in the position of being able to criticize, as it has been described, their commanding officer. Let us see what is proposed by the motion. Under the Constitution the right is not taken away, but an officer is simply told that he shall be seconded - in other words, that he shall be relieved from the active performance of his duty.
– But that is only if an officer is willing to be seconded.
– I am speaking of the effect of the seconding. An officer is relieved from his military duties for the time being, but he may be just as active and hostile a critic of his commanding officer as if he were still on active service.
– Then he ough’t to be seconded.
– But the seconding makes no difference, because the man is left just as capable of criticising his commanding officers in the most hostile manner as if he still retained his commission on the active list.
– But he will not be behind the scenes and able to get information.
– I am not so sure about that. A seconded officer would be just as much entitled to copies of the regulations and orders as if he were on active service.
– I do not think the regulation goes far enough; seconding is not strong enough.
– A man’s rights under the Constitution cannot be interfered with ; we cannot pass a regulation to say that an officer shall be seconded the moment he takes his seat in Parliament.
– I say that the moment he is sworn in as a member of Parliament, he ought to cease to be a member of the Military Forces.
.- Perhaps a man, in such circumstances, ought to resign, and perhaps he ought not; I say nothing on -that point. Men on the active list do not resign on being elected to Parliament ; at any rate, I know of none. I was always under the impression that when a man was relieved from military work he was not debarred from promotion in the ordinary and legitimate course. What I mean is that, if, for instance, the senior officer died or retired, a junior officer, who was seconded, was entitled to apply for promotion. Some years ago that was the state df the law, but the regulation now provides differently. Personally, I see no serious objection to the regulation. It deals with a matter which might well be left to the officers themselves. If an officer feels that his parliamentary work will not permit him to properly attend to his military duties, it is well that he should have the opportunity to be seconded. Senator Neild fears that the regulation may be made a means of enforcing an application to be seconded. That, however, is an apprehension which I think may be put on one side. If an officer is so weak a man as to be driven into such a position, it is, perhaps, better that he should leave the service. With all respect to the opinions of Senator Neild, I think it is just as well that the regulation should be allowed to stand.
Senator TRENWITH (Victoria). - There are two reasons why I think the regulation should be permitted to remain. First, the regulation presents itself to me as having a good deal of reason on its side ; and, secondly, the term “ seconded “ appears to be so illunderstood by honorable senators, we ought not to interfere with it, in view of the fact that it has been adopted by persons who may be assumed to be thoroughly conversant with the subject. I rose more particularly to call attention to what I think is a mistake on the Minister’s part in dealing with the question of whether soldiers should be members of Parliament. I respectfully submit that that is not a question which ought to be discussed here, except on a proposal to amend the Constitution.
– This is a proposal to amend regulations.
– The framers of the Constitution deliberately decided that, in certain conditions, soldiers might be members of Parliament.
– Of course, or there would be no soldiers in Parliament.
– And it is unwise, except on a proposal to amend the Constitution, to reflect on the Constitution. We have ‘ some distinguished soldiers in Parliament, and a remark of the sort made by the Minister may be regarded as a reflection on them.
-Col. Neild. - It certainly is a reflection.
– It is a question open to very great difference of opinion, whether soldiers should be in Parliament. But it is a question that has been decided, and . cannot be re-opened except on a proposal to alter the Constitution. It must always do harm, and cannot possibly do good, to say anything in Parliament which is a reflection on the Constitution, unless we are proposing to amend the Constitution.
– I had no intention whatever of casting any reflection on soldiers, or on the right of soldiers to take their seat in Parliament. But I expressed the deliberate opinion that, for the sake of this Chamber, and for the sake of the Military Forces, for the maintenance of which we pay so much, it would be better not to have, as’ members of Parliament, officers who, when on the active list, are subservient to the General Officer Commanding, but who as members of Parliament may be his critics. I am sorry if it be thought that I cast any reflection, when none is intended. My remarks were entirely apropos to the motion before us, and I would direct the attention of Senator Trenwith toone of the reasons given for the regulation.
– I am thoroughly in accord with the regulation; all I questioned was the wisdom of disagreeing with the Constitution.
– I am not disagreeing with the Constitution, though I regret that it does not go as far as I should have liked in this particular direction. We are not discussing anything in the Constitution, but something in a regulation, and a distinct and definite proposal has been laid before us by Senator Neild, who has dealt with the seconding of members of the Commonwealth Parliament. An opinion which a member of the Ministry may; express, apropos of the subject before us, is no reflection on the senator who moves the motion, or on the Constitution.
Senator FRASER (Victoria). - I entirely agree with the Minister that it is inconsistent with the discipline of the forces for an officer to remain on the active list, or even to be on the retired list, and, as a member of Parliament, to be a severe and, perhaps, an unreasonable critic of his superior officer.
– Perhaps he would be a wise critic.
– He might be a wise critic, but, unfortunately, the other side is not here, and is unable to reply. If a Government does anything wrong, Parliament is always ready to do justice. Therefore, I say, for the sake of discipline, that it would be better when an officer makes up his mind to become a member of Parliament, that he should retire altogether from the Defence Force.
– This discussion has opened up a large subject. I entirely agree with the Minister, whose remarks are quite apropos. No doubt many of us have crystallized our opinions on this subject, in view of occurrences which have taken place in the Senate, and itis not out of place for those who hold decided opinions to give expression to them. I am one who, after carefully thinking over the matter, believes that the two positions of military officer and member of Parliament are, and always will be, entirely inconsistent. Although, as Senator Trenwith says, the Constitution does not debar a soldier, under certain circumstances, from sitting in Parliament - in fact, it expressly sanctions his doing so - still, it would be well if it were understood that, in the in terests of discipline, it is inadvisable that any person holding a commission in the forces should remain a member of Parliament. I am quite sure that these remarks will not be taken as a reflection on any members of the Senate in view of recent occurrences, but it is a matter that is worthy of consideration, whether it would not be well to let it be understood that, in our opinion, it is unadvisable for any member of the Military Forces to remain in them after being elected to Parliament, where his duty may compel him to criticise the actions of the Genera] Officer Commanding. There will always be a danger of trouble arising from such a conflict of duty. I should like to see an expression of opinion - not necessarily to-day, but at some future time - to the effect that when once members of the Commonwealth Defence Forces become members of Parliament they should resign their commissions.
– I can hardly fall in with the views of Senator Trenwithon this question. He has laid it down as an axiom that, because a certain thing is provided for in the Constitution, we ought not to express an opinion about it. I think that we ought to express opinions on matters like this. We may very well turn to the mother country and see what is done there. I do not say that because a man happens to be a member of the Commonwealth Parliament, and is at the same time a member of the Military Forces, either in the lowest capacity or as an officer of high rank, he occupies two inconsistent positions. We have had full privates in our local Parliament, and we have had officers of high rank. But my judgment is that, when military officers take a seat in Parliament they should be placed on the retired list. I do not believe that they should give up their commissions, because a man may be a member of Parliament for only a certain number of years, and may wish to take up military duties again. If he does so he should be permitted to start from the position he occupied when he was elected to Parliament. The best way out of the difficulty is to follow the English practice. But it is provided in the Constitution that members of the Military Forces shall have a right to sit in the Commonwealth Parliament and criticise the military authorities to the fullest extent. Therefore, we cannot exercise any controlling power in that direction. It must be merely a matter of good taste. But I believe that the public will be of opinion that it will be better and wiser for a gentleman occupying a position in the Defence Forces, on being elected to Parliament, to cease to be on the active list. I believe that public opinion will eventually .carry weight in that direction, and that military officers who are elected to Parliament will, under the circumstances, feeling that they occupy an invidious position, voluntarily adopt the practice of the mother country. There need be no alteration of the Constitution. It is an important subject, and one with regard to which it is exceedingly difficult to lay down any hard-and-fast rule. But certainly it is odd that when a man is under the direct command of the General Officer Commanding the Forces General Officer Commanding the Military Forces he should criticise - possibly severely and unfairly, in some circumstances - his actions, or those of his fellow officers, while he himself is on the active list, and is constantly associated with them. In the circumstances, therefore, I think that it would be well for a gentleman occupying two such positions to give up his position on the active list, and that we should adopt the practice of the mother country.
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (New South Wales).- It is always very charming and interesting to hear Senator Playford, but unfortunately he is developing a faculty of putting his foot into his mouth whenever he opens it. The honorable senator says that it is desirable that we should follow the English practice. Evidently he has not .the faintest idea of what the English practice is, or he would not talk such, nonsense. He ought to know when he talks in this manner that officers of the Imperial Army, while on full pay, can sit in Parliament, and say what they like. Officers up to the rank of major can sit in Parliament on full pay, and colonels and generals can sit On half-pay.
– They are on the retired list.
.- No, they are not. A major who may be in command f a detachment 800 strong can sit in the House of Commons and express any opinion he likes; and it is only a colonel or a general who is put on the half -pay list. As Senator Trenwith says, the Commonwealth Constitution only provides for militia and volunteer officers sitting in Parliament. Under the Defence Act, which we passed some time ago, a member of a rifle club would be debarred from sitting in Parliament, according to the opinions which have been expressed1 in this debate. But in England there is no disability of any kind attaching to any officer.
– Except their good taste.
– Sometimes the honorable senator gives us examples of his good taste.
– There is nothing here about rifle clubs ; the members of them are not members of the Defence Forces.
– My honorable friend surely knows his own Defence Act. A member of a rifle club is a member of the Defence Forces under that Act.
– Not necessarily.
– I am sure that I am perfectly right. If the Minister will look at page 232 of the regulations, he will find that the Defence Forces are divided into three branches - the Permanent “ Forces, the Citizen Forces, and the Reserve Forces; and it is provided that the reserve forces shall consist of “members of rifle clubs constituted in the manner prescribed.” But under the statute law of England, volunteers and militiamen of all ranks may sit in Parliament.
– We can alter that if it is desirable.
– There is no disability whatever under the English law with respect to members of the regular forces, the militia, or the volunteer forces beyond, as I have already said, the question of pay to officers of high rank. But even that does not apply to militia or volunteers. Officers of the highest rank in either of those forces may sit in the Commons House without any hesitation whatever, and some of them occasionally use very strong language with reference to military matters. I was reading in a recent issue of the English Hansard that Major Seeley, an officer of the Imperial Army, in criticising some of the Imperial regiments recently, advised the War Office to send to Drury Lane Theatre, and borrow properties for the training of their men.
– Does the honorable senator think such conduct advisable?
D- I am stating the _ facts, not offering a lot of windy opinions. My honorable friend evidently does not like the facts when they do not fit in _ with his own opinions. Let the Constitution be altered, and we will abide by it ; but so long as it stands as it is, every one concerned is bound to obey it.
– I think, with other honorable senators, that there are very good reasons for this regulation being included. As Senator Fraser has said, every one ought to obey the dictates of good taste in matters of this kind, but we know there may come times, and there may be men in either House who may not be governed by the dictates of good taste, but who may make statements on the floor of Parliament seriously impugning the ability of the General Officer Commanding, and the efficiency of the forces. While we are considering the position of a member of Parliament, in what position do we place the General Officer Commanding, who is responsible for our troops and whose reputation is at stake ? A member of Parliament is practically one of the employers of the Genera] Officer Commanding, and he may make charges in a privileged chamber of which the door is shut to the officer whose ability he impugns. The member of Parliament may make statements criticising the ability of the General in the discharge of his duties, but the mouth of the General will be tied, except that the Minister may ask him to reply. Even then, in what position do we place the Commandant? He has to take upon himself the task of replying to parliamentary attacks. It is advisable that the General Officer Commanding the Military Forces should be called upon to reply to attacks made by officers under his command in a privileged chamber ? I agree that such attacks may be “ justifiable in certain circumstances. They are of service to the community if they are made on legitimate lines - that is to say, if the member who , makes’, them does so as a result of knowledge that he acquires in some other way than by reason of his position as an officer. But if his position as an officer gives him access to documents, and to information to which he would not have access were he not an officer, and as a member of Parliament he uses that information-
– He ought certainly to have his commission cancelled if he reveals official secrets.
– I suppose that this regulation is to prevent the cancellation of a commission in such circumstances. It certainly leaves an officer in a freer position.
– There would be a nice row if the commission of an officer who was also a member of Parliament were cancelled.
– I should imagine that a man who would make such statements would kick up a nice row if his commission were cancelled, and he would probably do it in this privileged chamber. I think that if an officer is seconded when he is elected to Parliament he is free to come here a d use his military knowledge as applied to military questions and to give the country the benefit of it. But’ there is this difference - that he does not use his privileges as an officer to obtain information that is not given to him for. public use. In that way this is a very necessary regulation. I do not think that it interferes in the slightest degree with any member of the Commonwealth Parliament who wishes to serve his country as a soldier, but it does provide that if a man wishes to serve his country as a soldier and also as a military critic on the floor of Parliament, he should not use one office to assist him in performing the duties of the other. He ought to make a choice between the two positions. The question is an important one, and it is well that it has been raised. We are indebted to the honorable senator who has raised it. It is just as well to define the position, because we have in both Chambers of the Legislature members who have served their country well as military officers. I- am in practical sympathy with the regulation, and I shall oppose its excision.
– I am afraid that I shall have to oppose my colleagues on this matter, and to assist Senator Neild. . I find myself in opposition to opinions which have been expressed on this side of the chamber. I cannot for the life of me see where there is any wrong-doing on the part of a senator simply because when he knows that there is wrong-doing in the Defence Department he uses his knowledge to expose it for the public good.
– He should make use of that knowledge through his commanding’ officer.
– If he attemptsto do that the matter will never see the light of day, because militarism has been subject to all sorts of - corrupt practices in every country in the world throughout all theages. If we want to have these corrupt practices put right I do not see why weshould stifle the channel through which the information may come to us. It does not matter whether a member of Parliament is in the ranks or outside, or whether he got the information from any one in the- ranks and used it in Parliament. He would be equally within his rights in using it.
– Does the honorable senator believe that the Military Forces ought to be a festering sore?
– No; I believe that we should right wrongs no matter who exposes them - whether he be in the ranks or outside them. If there is a wrong to be righted it does not matter who brings the facts to light. I should object to any one being told that he had no right to take pari in the defence of his country and at the same time to be a member of this Senate. I hope that the time will come when every able-bodied man in the country will be one of its defenders.
– What should we do if we had universal service? We could not sit here.
– We could not sit here, willing or unwilling, unless we were exempted by law from a citizen’s duty to defend his country. . That position we may have to face before very long, and therefore I should be very sorry to see the Senate take up an inconsistent attitude on a matter which is very debatable. I am satisfied that Senator Neild is acting quite within his right, even though he is a member of the Defence Forces, in ventilating any grievance in every possible public way, in order to put wrong right.
– I wish to put Senator de Largie right, and to correct a statement made by Senator Neild as to the practice with regard to the Imperial Forces.
– I referred to the law. The Minister cannot put me right as to the law.
– When Senator1 Neild made his statement I thought it just as well to get official information. I find that it is a fact, as I thought it was when I made the interjection to which he objected, that no one - in his relations as an officer with the Government he serves would permit himself to criticise or impugn the’ service of which he is a member without first applying to be removed from the active list.
.- What is the Minister quoting from?
– From an official document -
This is the procedure which has been adopted in the Imperial service.
– I submit, sir, that a member of the Senate has no business to quote-
– My honorable friend may have the document to read.
– I am in accord with the regulations as they stand. It appears to me that, although a member of the Defence Forces has the right to sit here, in accordance with the letter of the Constitution, and the right to speak, and, if he likes, to criticise, still not as a question of good taste, but as a question of discipline he ought not to do so. I think that the argument of Senator de Largie is not a very weighty one. He said that if a senator, who belongs to the Military Forces, discovers any wrong-doing, he ought to make it public. But there are other ways open to him to accomplish ‘ the object, besides that of coming here and criticising his superior officer. In a matter of wrong-doing, I think that a senator would be justified in coming here and acting in that way ; but small criticisms of regulations, of policy, and of the action of a superior officer, be he a junior or not, are, to my mind, subversive of discipline. If any wrong-doing is going on, it can be brought under the notice of the Minister by means of the telephone, and it will be put right. I take it that a commanding officer, whether he be a’ general, a colonel, or a major, has to look to his captains, lieutenants, and privates for all the loyalty and support which they can give him. If they deliberately keep back from him their knowledge of what is right or wrong in the corps, in order to bring it forward in the Senate, they are not loyal officers, but are lacking that discipline which is the foundation of any defence force. If we had a Senator Colonel in one State, a Senator Private in another State, and a Senator Lieut. -General in another State, we might have half-a-dozen members of Parliament who might make the life of the General Officer Commanding perfectly intolerable. There may be a time when Old England will be at war with some nation, and we may at any moment expect an attack. What a strife there would be among the officers to go to the front in order to do something for their country ! Should the half-dozen officer members of Parliament wait from Friday night to Wednesday to come here to criticise the General Officer Commanding, when they had information which might help us to defend ourselves more thoroughly and more energetically ? Their duty would be to go to their superior officers and give them the benefit of their experience, knowledge, and opinions. It is only by that means that we shall get discipline in a corps. There are such things as discipline, good taste, and loyalty. My desire is that our regulations shall encourage and promote loyalty and discipline. When an officer in the Defence Forces takes his seat in this Parliament, he has two courses open to him, I think. He can criticise as he pleases, but in such a case he ought to resign his command.
– Not to resign his command, but to go on the unattached list.
– If he does not do that he can retain his command, and to some extent keep his mouth shut and, at all events, not criticise the General Officer Commanding in such a way as to be subversive of discipline. Suppose that in the near future we hand over the control of the Defence Forces to a Council of Defence, as has been done in the mother country - the Council of Defence ought to have the loyal support of all officers, whereas if they happened to be Members of Parliament they might be everlastingly criticising its actions. If so, they would detract from its dignity and’ its efficiency. It appears to me that a question, of discipline is raised here.
-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - The Minister of Defence has been kind enough to hand me the document from which he quoted. Instead of its being in refutation of my statements, I find that it is a memorandum which is signed by MajorGeneral Hutton.
– If I thought that the honorable senator would use the information in this way T should not have given the document to him.
– I did not know that the honorable gentleman had any objection to my using the information.
– I gave the document ;to the honorable senator in confidence.
– The real question is whether the facts set up by the Minister are correct.
– I assert distinctly that there is not one word in the document which challenges in the slightest degree what I have said is the law and practice in England. I took the trouble to ascertain what the practice was in the House of Commons. I went carefully through the Hansard reports, and, with the
Parliamentary Hand Book by my side, I traced the position on the active list of every officer who spoke in that House. There is not one word in this document to challenge my assertion that officers of the Volunteer Force, of the Militia, and of the Yeomanry, sit in the House of Commons under an Imperial Statute which I quoted here not many weeks ago. It is of no use, therefore, for Senator Fraser, who, after all, does not know anything about this matter, to contradict my statement.
– I hope that I have some common-sense.
.- The honorable senator is so dreadfully emphatic that he indicates that he is making up for lack of knowledge with positiveness of assertion.
– I have not made any assertions. I have drawn conclusions.
– I wish to point out that in their speeches, “honorable senators have really been impugning the Constitution, and setting up every variety of hypothesis which could be invented bv the intelligence of the family lawyer of last night’s debate and others. If ‘the Committee is not going to agree with my proposal, very well. I have only done my duty in bringing it forward.
Question resolved in the negative. Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - I move -
That paragraph d be disallowed.
I desire to point out that these regulations have been provisionally adopted, and that by an advertisement in the Gazette, anybody and everybody, particularly officers of the forces,’ have been invited to submit their objections. Senator Playford was the Minister who authorized their publication, and, therefore, it is the wildest unreason- for any honorable senator to object to the propriety of a member of this Chamber, who is an officer in the Defence Forces, venturing to cast a doubt on the wisdom of some regulations.
– I have no objection to the disallowance of paragraph d of this regulation.
.- In that case I shall not take up any time in making a speech.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - I wish to draw the attention of the Minister of Defence to the last line of this paragraph -
Or an appointment under a foreign Government.
Surely that ought to be a reason for a man ceasing to be a member on the active list. A little while ago we had the Consul for Japan in a State commanding a regiment. In that capacity he would have access to all military knowledge, and at the same time would be sworn to be loyal to a certain extent to a foreign power.
-CoR Neild. - Those words would not affect the Consul for Japan, because thev apply to only junior officers.
– Supposing that an officer below the rank of a major became consul for a foreign power the words would apply. Surely a man who takes that position should not be allowed to remain on the active list. I hope that’ the Minister, even although he agree to strike out the rest of the paragraph, will allow the last line to remain as it is.
– What objection can there be to allowing it to stand, as it only fixes the date?
– The point is that an officer taking any one of these positions can be seconded by the military authorities on the date of his appointment. It might be advisable, perhaps, that the other condition should not be in the regulation, but I do not see why a man should be seconded because he has taken a civil .appointment.
– If he is away from duty, why should he bar the promotion of another man?
– Surely he can be dealt with in another way? I hope that the question will be put before the Chair in such a way as to afford an opportunity to the Committee to express an opinion on the retention of the last line.
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - While I largely agree with Senator Pearce on this point, I submit that if there is an objection to a junior officer, who has very little knowledge, acting as a consul, there must be infinitely greater objection to a senior or commanding officer who possesses a great deal of knowledge acting in that capacity; but’ the regulation does not propose to prohibit senior officers from so acting. I believe that one of the colonels who were on the Committee that finally issued these regulations is a consul. Surely a brigadier who commands four regiments knows a vast deal more than an unfortunate company officer can know ? This regulation does not bar the colonel, but it bars the captain, and therefore there is really nothing in the objection from that stand-point.
– Then it does not go far enough.
.- Perhaps nol. I did not look verv much at the question of consuls, but I did see the apparent absurdity of an officer who is made an aidedecamp to a State Governor being at once seconded, and the Commonwealth losing the benefit of his services, merely because he did a little complimentary work for the State Governor. I did not see why the Commonwealth should lose the benefit of the services of an officer simply because he is a clerk in “the post-office, or has some other civil appointment. I am not disposed to move an amendment on the question of the consuls. But if Senator Pearce moves to amend my proposition I shall be quite satisfied. It may be easily seen, however, that an amendment is not necessary for this reason. If we strike out this paragraph, the Minister may very well be left to provide a new one. It is a very large and serious question, whether foreign consuls ought to possess this knowledge.
– What about Sir Malcolm McEacharn, the Japanese Consul?
– That is a matter of law. An officer in my own regiment is consul for some place or another which, however, has not, I think, any military strength. Several officers are consuls, including a major in the Irish Rifles of New South Wales, who represents Spain, and Brigadier-Colonel Waddell, who is ConsulGeneral for Peru. I hope that civil appointments will not bar a man from serving his country as a. militia or volunteer officer.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - I suggest that it would be as well to insert a new paragraph.
– .We cannot do that ; we must allow or disallow the entire paragraph.
– I suggest to the Minister that after the word “ Governor.” in the last line but one, a new paragraph be inserted, as follows : - [e) Any officer from the date of his appointment under a foreign Government.
That would make the regulation apply to officers under the rank of major, and there would be no objection then to leaving the rest of the regulation as at present.
– I am quite agreeable to that course.
– The question is how to take the opinion of the Committee. There might be a motion by Senator Neild to strike out all the words down to “ Governor,” and we could take the vote as an expression of opinion that the regulation be altered in the direction I have indicated.
– I do not think that could be done.
Senator TRENWITH (Victoria).- If that course is pursued we might have an officer in the service, with all the rights and advantages attached thereto, who had taken an oversea military appointment. The regulation as it stands cannot, in my opinion, do any very serious harm. The regulations were arrived at by persons with military knowledge and specially competent.
– But there is the question of policy as to persons in the employ of foreign Governments.
– The policy which the honorable senator desires is provided for in the regulations.
– But only as regards officers under the rank of major.
– That is a matter with which we cannot deal here) because as I understand, we have no power to amend the regulations or make new ones. .It is for the Minister to see that regulations are made, and suggestions of honorable senators would probably impress themselves cn - his mind. As a Senate, we can only disallow, or refuse to disallow. It would be very much better to permit the regulation to stand. First, so far as I can see there is no objection to that regulation, and. secondly, even if I could see any objection, it is highly probable that my limited knowledge of important military considerations might lead me wrong. Under the circumstances I am not going to vote against a decree, decision, or regulation arrived at by persons who must have been eminently competent to arrive at correct conclusions.
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - I ask Senator Trenwith to observe that this is a regulation which provides that an officer is to be seconded if he takes a civil appointment. What is a civil appointment but an appointment in the Public Service- an appointment on the civil staff of a Government. An officer who accepted the position of honorary aidedecamp, and performed certain little polite duties at functions, would come within the scope of the regulation.
– Senator Pearce’s objection is to the other portion of the regulation.
– I know; but Senator Trenwith is arguing for the whole pf the sub-section. I understand that Senator Pearce is willing that these disabilities should be done away with, but he wants to retain the disability with reference to consulships.
– I agree with the regulation, except as to civil appointments.
.- Does the honorable senator object to’ the regulation in connexion with appointments on the civil staff of a Government. Colonel Hoad, Chief of Staff at Head-Quarters, is honorary aide-de-camp to the State Governor. What harm is there in that appointment ?
– He would not be seconded.
– I do not think it can be said that Colonel Hoad is on the staff of the Governor.
.- At any rate, Colonel Hoad is above the rank of major, and, therefore, the regulation could not apply. But there is a regulation for officers to be appointed as aides-de-camp to State Governors, and these must be junior officers, whom the regulation would bar. The regulations are contradictory.
Senator DRAKE (Queensland). - Senator Neild seems to assume that every military officer who takes a civil appointment must at once resign his military appointment.
– Certainly, that is the position.
– That is ‘not so. Military officers have, in nearly every case civil appointments of some kind or other ; and the regulation clearly refers to such civil appointments as make the performance of military duties impossible. It is intended that an officer, under the circumstances referred to, shall not remain on the unattached list and obtain promotion, but shall be seconded, so that he may not have any advantage over young officers who are performing military duties. Like the other regulations, this deals with the date from which it is to take place, but it cannot have effect in any case unless the man ceases to perform his military duties. Ordinary civil employment does not disqualify.
– It might he as well if we did not settle this rather interesting question just now.
-Col. Neild. - It is a small matter.
– It is not a small matter, because the suggestion of Senator Pearce opens up a very big subject.
– About the Consul for Japan. 1
– Not altogether, though the Consul for Japan may have’ something to do with the matter. The statements of Senator Neild have to be taken into consideration, and, under the circumstances, I think it would be best to report progress. I move -
That progress be reported.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia). - The time, as provided by the Standing Orders, expires to-day, and-
– I must declare, the honorable senator out ‘ of order.
– Does the motion that progress be reported absolutely prohibit any further speech or action ?
– It has always been held that the motion to report progress is similar to a motion to adjourn a debate. There can be no discussion. If the Minister chooses to withdraw his motion he may ask leave to do so.
– I ask leave to withdraw the motion temporarily.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia). - Seeing that the Senate is not competent to make any alterations in the regulations, either in the way of amendment or substitution, the simplest course to adopt would be to strike out the whole of the paragraph, as an indication to the Minister of the necessity for a fresh regulation providing for the circumstances which have been described. Such a course would not bring us to a conclusion too hurriedly, and the Minister would have time to frame an acceptable regulation. This is the last day on which objection can be taken to the regulations, and if we allow this to pass we may involve ourselves in a serious position, seeing that some time may elapse before another opportunity for criticism is offered.
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - The suggestion of Senator de Largie is, I think, a sound one, and if it be acted upon, the Minister, who has heard the discussion, will be able to prepare a new paragraph at any time he chooses. Why not accept my motion, and allow the Minister to draw up a new paragraph, avoiding the difficulties of the present regulations ?
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia). - The best course would, in my opinion, be to allow the paragraph to stand, and for the Minister, who has heard the arguments for and against, to prepare to- new one, in accordance with the suggestions of honorable senators. This is the last day of the period, during which we may consider these regulations, and if we adjourn we shall be shut out from all discussion on the other points. According to law, we have power to disallow regulations only within a certain period, and if we waited until next week, any resolutions we might pass would be ultra vires. These regulations are understood tn be only provisional, and as officers and others are criticising them and suggesting amendments, the Minister might reconsider the whole matter, and prepare a new regulation having reference to the suggestions of Senator Pearce and others.
– I have absolutely no objection to the course suggested. I understand the idea of Senator Playford and Senator de Largie to be that we should not take any decision on the present occasion.
– My suggestion is that we formally negative the motion, when the Minister will have power to prepare any revised regulation he may think necessary.’
– I want a distinct and clear understanding.
– Why .strike out the present regulation if the Minister is going to bring in another ?
– I am in a quandary. I realize that some of the objections raised to the regulation by Senator Neild, and also the objection raised bv Senator Pearce, are very reasonable. The arguments on these two points are in themselves sufficient to negative the regulation ; but, before the Senate votes, I want it to be distinctly understood that if the regulation is negatived, I shall bring down another.
Senator DRAKE (Queensland).- The Minister can, if he likes, bring down a new regulation next week, and thus negative the present regulation. Why, therefore, strike out the present regulation.
– Then let us negative the motion. _ Senator Pearce. - It might be held that, since Ave have not- negatived the regulation to-day, we have no power to do so next week, seeing that the time has expired.
– It will be a fresh regulation next week.
Question resolved in the negative.
Part V., Regulation 38. (Officers under arrest cannot demand a Court- Martial).
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - I feel that by continuing this matter I should not only run the risk of inconveniencing certain honorable senators, but of attention being called to the fact that there was no quorum present. I shall not go on if the Minister of Defence will be good enough to say that if the Senate is found willing to pass motions disallowing the regulations which I propose to attack, he will be willing to bring down fresh regulations.
Senator (Trenwith. - If the Minister promises to consider the matter ; not necessarily to bring down fresh regulations.
– I do not ask the Minister to bring down fresh regulations, but I shall ask him not to object to the consideration of any motion, which I may move, adverse to these regulations, on the ground that the fifteen days within which objection to the regulations must be taken shall have expired.
– I am prepared to agree to that.
.- The Minister having given me that promise I shall not attempt to go on’ with this matter now.
– I fully realize that it is somewhat of a hardship to Senator Neild that he has not been able in the time at our disposal this afternoon to deal with the regulations to which his motion refers. Many of them are highly controversial. I may say that, as Minister of Defence, I have many of them under consideration, and I am not prepared to give the definite, clear, and distinct answer which I should like to give. I should, therefore, prefer a little delay. It is not alleged that any of the alterations suggested by Senator Neild are particularly urgent.
– No, they are not.
– In the circumstances, it would, I think, be wise to adjourn the discussion at this stage.
Order of the day for the resumption of the debate read.
– In consequence of the decision arrived at by the Senate yesterday, permitting an honorable senator to have leave to continue his speech on a future day, it appears to me that I must ignore standing order 420, or at all events, decide that that standing order shall not apply to cases of this sort. The standing order provides -
The senator upon whose motion any debate shall be adjourned shall be entitled to preaudience on the resumption of the debate.
Senator Walker moved the adjournment of the debate, and if he chooses to exercise his right of pre-audience under the standing order, an absurd state of affairs will arise: Senator Dobson will have made onehalf of his speech, then another honorable senator will intervene with a speech, and Senator Dobson will afterwards continue the speech which was interrupted. The adoption of such a course does not appear to me to be conducive to the orderly conduct of debate.
– Surely a resolution of the Senate overrides the standing order.
– I think that the proper course to adopt is to arrive at the conclusion that where an honorable senator has obtained leave to continue a speech on a future day, this standing order shall not apply. I shall, therefore, call upon Senator Dobson, and not upon Senator Walker to resume the debate.
Motion (by Senator Dawson) proposed -
That the order of the day be an order of the day for Wednesday next.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).Before that motion is decided might I suggest the advisability of making the resumption of the debate on the second reading of this Bill an order of the day. for the Wednesday after next. I understand that a request has been made for the circulation of certain reports, which contain additional information which will be of assistance to honorable senators in’ discussing the Bill.
– They can all be ready before Wednesday next.
– Even if that be so, what opportunity will honorable senators arriving here on Wednesday have to consider them? If these reports are not a mere sham, and the request for them an excuse to gain delay, we should be given an opportunity to study them. I suggest that the debate might reasonably be adjourned until Wednesday week. If that course is adopted an opportunity will be given to every honorable senator to read the promised reports, and then no honorable senator will be in a position to plead that he is asked to give a vote in ignorance of any information which has been supplied up to date. We must recognise that the Senate is to some extent marking time, waiting for the political atmosphere to clear. If I can forecast the future at all, something must happen next week. Honorable senators must be aware that, no matter which alternative is arrived at, in all human probability the Senate, if it meets next week, will simply do so in order to adjourn again.
– Not if one alternative is arrived at.
– It does not matter which, and, that being so, it is not unreasonable that honorable senators who live 500 miles from here should ask for some consideration from those who may be located in Melbourne. If the debate on the motion for the second reading of this measure is adjourned until Wednesday week as I suggest, there will be other business to occupy the attention of the Senate, if it should be in a position to transact business next week.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia).I shall be in Melbourne, and able to attend to the business of the Senate next week, but still I can see that our meeting then is likely to be farcical. On the authority of a Minister of the Crown in another place, we are assured that the reports, to which reference has been made, will not be ready for nearly a fortnight, and it seems to me that we should have an opportunity to read those reports before we are asked to come to a decision in this matter.
– Then the Bill should not have been brought forward so soon.
– The honorable senator is aware that it was necessary that the Senate should meet, in order that a statement should be made by the Government. If that course had not been adopted honorable senators would have been in a position te contend that the Government were not treating the Senate courteously.
– The Ministerial statement was made the week before.
– After the statement was made. Ministers proceeded with business. I pointed out that the House of Representatives was not in a position to go on with business. A motion of no-confidence in the Government has been darkly hinted at by Senator Millen.
– And we may depend that the honorable senator is “ in the know.”
– The discussion, of such a motion will take some time, whilst the matters before the Senate should not take long to decide. If we meet next week, and go on with the consideration of the Seat of Government Bill, we may . then have to adjourn for a fortnight to await business from another place. I suggest to the Government the advisability of agreeing to an adjournment from to-day until Wednesday week, when we can proceed with this Bill, and when it is possible that business will be received from the House of Representatives.
– I do not propose to offer any objection to the proposed adjournment, but I do think that honorable senators should seriously consider whether the Senate ought not to adopt a different course with reference to what may occur in another place. The Federal Parliament is altogether different from other Parliaments of which we have knowledge, and to the usages of which there appears to be a tendency to bind our*, selves.
– I do not bring that forward as a reason for the adjournment.
– I do not nowpropose to make any exhaustive speech on this very important question; but I do think that honorable senators should consider whether, in view of the new machinery under which we are working, and the altogether altered conditions of this Parliament, the Senate should not act more independently than second Chambers, of which we have had knowledge in the State Parliaments, have been in the habit of doing. We have, to a greater extent than any of those Chambers, the power of effective initiative, and I think it is somewhat deplorable that we should have been meeting, as we have been for so many weeks, without transacting any business.
– It is no one’s fault this lime.
– I am not blaming any one ; and, as a matter of fact, I feel that I can refer to the matter now with greater freedom, because I agree with the honorable senator in that respect. I call attention to what I think is an unfortunate position. I think we have powers in the Senate, if we choose to exercise them, to enable us to carry on legislative business efficiently, without respect to what occurs in another place.
– I quite agree with what has been said by Senator Trenwith. We expect that work should be provided for us, but the circum-I stances of the present situation are such that it is really impossible for the present Government to provide work for us. We have no reason to complain in that respect just now. What I think we may expect from the Government, is that, so far as they can do so without sacrificing public interests, they should consider the convenience of honorable senators who come from a distance, and have, to a certain extent, to neglect their private business. No honorable senator has a right to complain of being brought here as long as there is work to be done, but honorable senators coming from a distance have some right to complain if they are brought here when there is really nothing for us to do. It would have been very much wiser if the introduction of the Bill now before us had been delayed until we were in a position to deal with it effectively. A number of new members have been returned to both Houses, and in common with myself, they would, no doubt, like to be in a position to give a considered judgment on so momentous a question.
– Is the honorable senator hinting at another trip round the sites ?
– I do not desire anything of the kind. Probably I know as much concerning the proposed sites as many honorable senators who have visited them, but we have a right to expect that, if there is any expert information on any of the sites available, we should be supplied with it. That is likely to be of very much greater value to us than the recommendations of persons who may be politically interested. We are told that certain information is not likely to be available for a fortnight, and in the circumstances we are justified in asking that the consideration of the measure should be deferred until thai information is before us.
– With reference to the remarks which have been made by Senator Trenwith, I desire to say that I propose deliberately to, raise the question of the necessity for the Senate ceasing to sit because of happenings elsewhere. I propose to do that on any motion being made to terminate the business of this Chamber because of something happening in another place.
– Because, of something which may happen.
– No; because of something happening. I wish to make myself perfectly clear. It is on the re cords of the Senate that in the past, in consequence of notice of a motion having been given elsewhere, the Senate . suspended its sittings. If that sort of thing should occur again, I propose to raise the question which Senator Trenwith has raised, that under the Constitution there is no obligation on the States House to cease its sittings because of something happening in another place. It appears to me that there is a sort of double-barrelled proposition before us at the present time. Senator Millen suggests an adjournment over next week, because certain .reports are not ready, but they will, I understand, be ready next week. An adjournment is suggested in another quarter on the ground that it is not likely we shall be able to go on with business in consequence of events transpiring elsewhere. These propositions conflict to the extent that if the reports asked for are ready, we may choose to go on, notwithstanding happenings elsewhere. If those reports are not ready, happenings elsewhere apart, we should i:ot be able to go on. It occurs to me that an adjournment over next week might not involve any real loss of time> because even if the reports asked for were available there would be no prospect of our having sufficient business to occupy our time until an important measure reaches us from another place. Consequently, if we do not adjourn next week we may have to adjourn for a week later on, and we might, therefore, just as well adjourn over next week.
– It is a matter of perfect indifference to me whether we adjourn over next week or not. I clearly foresee that in the very near future we shall have to adjourn for a week or fortnight, because we shall have no work to do. It is somewhat farcical, however, to put it forward as an argument for adjourning over next week that we have not been supplied with certain reports in connexion with the Federal Capital site. If that is a good reason, honorable senators who Rave already spoken on the Bill have been placed at a disadvantage in having to speak without full information. I point out, however, that the information contained in the report compiled by Sir John Forrest has already appeared in the newspapers, and that from the beginning of this Parliament, now over three years ago, we have been deluged with papers in connexion with the Federal Capital sites. We have spent thousands of pounds in securing information on the subject, and the reports obtained have Deen so numerous as to be confusing in’ the highest degree. It would now appear that we still have to discover a suitable site. Bombala is apparently’ out of it ; Tumut has not much show ; Lyndhurst is evidently in the background; and what new site is to be recommended no one knows.-
– I must ask the honorable senator not to debate the -general question.
– On the other point referred to by Senator Trenwith, so long as we carry on our work under a system of responsible government, we shall not get a Ministry willing to go on with the work of the Government in the Senate when a motion of no-confidence has been tabled in the House of Representatives. No Government will work for other people. Why should they ? If there is a risk that they will .be turned out of office, why should they come here and carry on the business of the country in the Senate for some people who are in opposition to them, and who are prepared to turn them out of office and take advantage of the work they have done ? That cannot be expected under responsible government. I may say that even at the first Federal Convention my own idea was that we should not have responsible government in the Federal Parliament. I think that view was also entertained by the President of the Senate. I know that we seriously considered the matter with Sir Samuel Griffith and others, and there was then an impression in the minds of many that we could not have a proper federation under the ordinary system of responsible government. Mv own opinion was in favour of an elective Government, and I have not changed my view from that day to this. The best way ,in which to conduct the business of the Commonwealth would be to ‘have an elective Government, instead of responsible government by parties, under which we have troubles and intrigues right through the piece.
– I also must protest against this proposed adjournment. I do not think it is necessary. The arguments advanced so far are not of sufficient weight to induce honorable senators to adjourn the Senate when there is work to be done. One argument is that the reports regarding the Capital sites’ which have been laid on the table have not been printed. Nobody requires those reports at the second reading stage. The information is required when we get into Committee, to enable honorable senators to decide on the particular site to be selected. It is not fail to honorable senators who have spoken on the question to adjourn the Senate for a fortnight. It would be far better, as we have got work to do which, in all probability, would take some time, to proceed next week in accordance with the Sessional. Orders.
– Why not to-morrow?
– Because one Minister and some honorable senators have gone away on the understanding that the Senate would adjourn over to-morrow. Another argument used’ for a further adjournment is that something may happen next week in another place. But the Senate has no knowledge of anything that is going to happen. Every one knows what is hinted at, but until it is necessary for the Senate to adjourn work can be found for us to . do. Thursday next is private business day, and in all probability the motions to be brought forward then will occupy at least one-half of the sitting. The Fraudulent Marks Bill is set down on the paper for its second reading. If we devote Wednesday next to the further consideration of the Capital Sites Bill there will be time for other Bills to be brought forward. I understand from the statements of the Government, that other Bills are ready to be introduced ; and if they cannot be introduced in the other House they can be introduced here. There is nothing in the argument that, because some honorable senators live three or four hundred miles away from Melbourne, the Senate ought to be adjourned for. fourteen days. They should not be considered to be inconvenienced in having to come here to do the work which they were elected to do.
– - That argument has not been raised.
– The argument was used by Senator Millen that it is not fair to bring, honorable senators five or six hundred miles, when there is not enough work to keep them engaged. I am pointing out that the Government are ready to introduce measures which will facilitate the work of the- session. For these reasons, I think . it would be belter for us to adhere to the Sessional Orders while there is .work for us to do. When there is no work we can adjourn for any time that may be considered desirable.
– It is not often that the Western Australian senators ask for any arrangement to suit their convenience. On this occasion I feel impelled to mention the position in which we find ourselves. Several of us would like to go tu our States to conduct business there. But a fortnight will not allow us sufficient time to go to Western Australia or to Queensland, and remain there long enough to do any business. We should like to have the business of the Senate proceeded with next week, so that the Capital Sites Bill can be passed. Then we might possibly have an adjournment, of, perhaps, three or four weeks. - That would enable the Western Australians and Queenslanders to go to their own States and spend a little lime there. I am not putting forward any claim of a selfish nature, but we have often studied the convenience of the South Australian and New South Wales senators, and if they can see their way to meet our convenience in this matter, we shall reciprocate on another occasion.
– I wish t3 emphasize what Senator de Largie has said. We have sufficient business on the notice-paper to keep the Senate engaged all next week. When that is disposed of, we may be able to discuss the possibility of an adjournment, which would give the Western Australian and Queensland senators a chance of visiting their homes. In my opinion we should certainly proceed with business next Wednesday.
– There is evidently a little misunderstanding with regard to the motion before the Chamber. Honorable senators appear to be discussing whether the Senate should adjourn for a week or a fortnight, and not whether the second reading debate on a particular Bill should be adjourned.
– The two. things hang together.
– I merely point out that a misunderstanding has arisen. Of course, if the Senate adjourned until Wednesday week, that would cover this motion ; but I desire to say that I do not like a long adjournment, and’ intend to resist any proposition to that effect. I am anxious that this Bill should be made an Order of the Day for Wednesday next. We shall have ample business to do. Prophesies as to storms that may overtake the Government, and lead to disaster, do not affect my mind. Even if those suggestions should prove to be well founded, they merely furnish an additional reason why the Senate should meet next week. If anything over which we have no -control should happen in another place, which would necessitate an adjournment, we will consider it. Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Dawson) agreed to -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until Wednesday next.
Reports on Capital Sites. Senator WALKER (New South Wales) - I desire to ask the Minister of Defence whether he will kindly see that Mr. Chesterman furnishes reports on Tumut and other sites below the level pf 1,500 feet, because the Seat of Government Bill does not say that 1,500 feet shall be the minimum?
– The desire for information about the Federal Capital sites seem to be omnivorous. Honorable senators have tons of information. They have had reports from surveyors, engineers, experts, and there have been trips ad libitum. Vet they want more* The more they get the greater their appetite becomes.
– We cannot have too much information; it is a very important matter.
– So far as I am personally concerned, I will not agree to a solitary penny more being expended in obtaining information on this subject.
Question resolved in the affirmative. ‘
Senate adjourned at 5.x p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 May 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1904/19040526_senate_2_19/>.