2nd Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator DOBSON.- I beg to ask the Attorney-General, without notice, first, whether Ministers have satisfied themselves by expert evidence that£20,000 is a sufficient sum to provide for a proper survey of the proposed transcontinental railway route; second, is it the intention nf the survey party to obtain evidence as to the character of the country which the proposed railway will traverse, and if so will that evidence be obtained by . the surveyors or by an officer specially appointed to accompany them ; and, third, in view of the information which will be obtained by. the two States interested, ought not those States, in the opinion of the Minister, to bear a portion of the cost?
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON. - I scarcely think the honorable and learned senator can expect me to answer his questions off-hand, and, therefore, I ask him to give notice of them.
MILITARY FORCES : GENERAL OFFICER COMMANDING.
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - I move -
That there be laid on the table of this Senate, copies ‘of the minuteor minutes stated to have been written by the late Minister of State for Defence, Senator Dawson, reflecting upon the conduct of the General Officer Commanding the Military Forces of the Commonwealth, together with any replies thereto.
The motion of which I originally gave notice asked for the production of the minutes - …” stated in the press to have been written by the Minister of State for Defence, reflecting upon any alleged unsatisfactory insubordinate conduct of the General Officer Commanding the Military Forces of the Commonwealth.”
I ask the Senate to allow me to alter the terms of the motion, which, in the first place, was prepared rather hurriedly with a newspaper statement at my elbow.
Senator Staniforth Smith. - What are the reasons for the motion ?
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD. - It is not usual to give reasons for a motion of this kind.
Senator Staniforth Smith. - It is usual unless the motion is formal.
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD. - I think the terms of the .motion sufficiently indicate the reason for its submission. I might add, perhaps, that certain alleged documents have appeared in the press, and it is desirable, in a matter of importance as affecting the public interests, that there should be no garbled representation of correspondence. As part of the correspondence has been made public it is only fair that the whole should be produced.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia - Attorney-General). - Honorable senators will agree with me that it would be scarcely fair, either to the Senate or to the General Officer Commanding, that the motion should be passed in the terms proposed. Senator Neild has very properly - if he .will allow me to say so - modified the terms in which the motion first appeared oh the notice-paper, terms which, indirectly at any rate, committed the Senate to an opinion on the conduct of an officer before being placed in possession of material on which to base a judgment. But while the motion, as now submitted, reduces the objection on that score, it is scarcely fair to ask the Senate to express ah opinion about some memorandum which is unknown to the general body of senators, so far as concerns its effect in reflecting - a term which conveys an injurious imputation - on the General Officer Commanding, until we have an opportunity to know it’s contents. The ‘ usual course might, I think, very well have been adopted ; and with a view to assisting Senator Neild, T suggest that the motion should simply ask for the production of a document which can be identified by its date, without conveying any imputation, or committing the Senate to any opinion. The amendment I am about to submit was, T understand, communicated to Senator Neild by Senator Drake. I. have not read the memorandum referred’ to, and,’ therefore. I atn not in a position tq say whe ther or not it reflects on the General Officer Commanding. If my amendment be adopted, any other papers connected with the matter can be laid upon the table, if the Senate desires. I move -
The the words “ reflecting upon the conduct of “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ upon leaving office, dated ii 8tl August, 1904, in relation to.”
The inference as to any reflection is one which we may or may not draw, but certainly it is an inference we ought not to place on the records of the Senate, until we have had an opportunity to see the document. I am sure that neither the late Minister of Defence nor any honorable senator would desire to say that a docu- ment reflects upon any one until it is shown that it does so reflect.
Senator Lt.-Col. Neild. - The statement is only that such a document is alleged to have been written.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON. - But the motion indirectly places it on the records of the Senate that there is a document which is alleged to reflect on the General Officer Commanding. We ought to be ready to condemn when condemnation is necessary,, but slow to convey, even indirectly, an imputation in respect to any officer, until we have had an opportunity to consider whether or not the allegation is borne out. The Government have no objection to lay this document and the reply upon the table.
Senator DAWSON (Queensland). - I . have absolutely no objection to every document to which I, as Minister, put my signature, or any reply sent by the General Officer Commanding, being laid upon the table of the Senate for the inspection pf honorable senators. I understand, however, that what Senator Neild wants is not only the particular memorandum which was published in the press, but other minutes which passed ‘ between the General Officer Commanding and myself during my term of office.
Senator Lt.-Col. Neild. - Hear, hear!
Senator DAWSON.- If that be so, the amendment of the Attorney-General will not meet the case:
Senator Sir Josiah Symon. - The other documents may be asked for afterwards.
Senator DAWSON. - The memorandum, I may say, is a kind of valedictory document. The practice of leaving “such memoranda was initiated by Sir John’ Forrest, and followed by Mr. Chapman. I fell in with the idea, with the difference that I stated what I believed to be the absolute truth.
Senator Best. - Therefore the others did not !
Senator DAWSON.-I certainly do not think they did.
The PRESIDENT. - I do not think, the honorable senator ought to say that Ministers of the Crown say what is not true.
Senator DAWSON. - Well, I say that, knowing the relations which existed between one branch of the Defence Department and the other, and having the opportunity to read those valedictory memoranda, I came to the determination that I would not write one similar. I am prepared 10 defend the memorandum I left behind. It has ‘ appeared in the press, but only one newspaper published the full text, andI shall be very pleased indeed to see the document laid upon the table of the Senate, for the perusal of honorable senators. There are other documents which Senator Neild, if he chooses, can move for one at a time, but that course would only prolong the agony. Personally, I have not the slightest objection to the whole of the correspondence being laid on the table.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - I suggest tha’t the amendment be altered to provide for the production of all the correspondence between the late Minister of Defence and the- General Officer Commanding concerning Major Lenehan, the pistol pattern, the secret code, and the relations ot the late Minister of’ Defence with the Department. Those documents would bt very interesting to the Senate, and instructive to the public, judging by the portions which have already appeared in the daily press.
Senator Dawson. - In anemascul ated form.
Senator HIGGS. - As Senator Dawson observes, the documents, have been publishedin an emasculated form, and in order to avoid waste of time, I suggest that the amendment be altered in the direction indicated. Will the Attorney-General accept the suggested addition of words ?
The PRESIDENT.- I think- the suggestion amounts to more than the addition, of words, and that it would be necessary for the Attorney-General to. withdraw his amendment
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia - Attorney-General). - I should be very glad if Senator Higgs would give me an opportunity to consider his suggestion, and not press mc to accept it . at this moment. My opinion is that we ought to pass the motion as proposed to be amended, and on a subsequent occasion, move for the production of other papers, if that be desired. ‘ That, as I say, will give me an opportunity to consider these matters, of which, of course, I know nothing, because they were not indicated when the motion was submitted.
Senator Lt-Col. Neild. - I should be quite willing to withdraw my motion in favour of the amendment suggested by Senator Higgs.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland).- I fall in with the suggestion of the AttorneyGeneral, on the understanding that the honorable and learned senator’ feels quite assured that he will have sufficient time . to go into these matters.
Senator Lt-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - I desire to say that I at once accept the amendment moved by the AttorneyGeneral, because I see that the honorable and learned senator has taken an exception to the motion -which others might take. I still think that what I intended might be covered toy the word “ stated,” and the motion might be read in that way.
Senator Dawson. - In any case the motion might’ rriean a reflection on my part.
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD. - When the Attorney-General places such an interpretation on the motion, I recognise at once that it may be read in more ways than one. As it is my desire to move for the production of the papers, and not to attempt in doing so to pass any reflection upon the Minister or General Officer Commanding, I am prepared to accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
– I have ; at this moment received an . official intimation that notice of a motion of . want of confidence in the Administration of which I have the honour to be a member has been tabled: in the House of Representatives. In view of that circumstance, and in accordance with the precedent established by the Senate in 1901-
– And all parliamentary practice.
– Why should we pay any attention to the proceedings of the. House of Representatives when they pay no attention to ours?
– To conserve our own dignity.
– We have passed motions of want of confidence in the Government before to-day, of which no notice has been taken by the House of Representatives.
– Giving due weight to what my honorable friend Senator Higgs has said, I move -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until Wednesday, 28th September.
– I have always taken exception to these frequent adjournments of the Senate. I take special exception to an adjournment on this occasion, because, even if it be undesirable to go on with Government business, the leader of the Government in the Senate might have delayed his motion until private members’ business had been considered this afternoon. We have had many adjournments while waiting for business to come from the House of Representatives, and now, when we have plenty of business, before us, we should go on with it.
– We cannot go on without the Government.
– We could very soon get another in place of it. The fact remains that we have now been about six months in session, and that we have practically done no work.
– Hear, hear.
– The proposed adjournment is not likely to make our record any better. Many honorable senators have come a very long way to attend to public business, and these frequent . adjournments are entirely unfair to them. I enter my protest, and shall push it to the length of calling for a division on the motion.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 September 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1904/19040915_senate_2_21/>.