2nd Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON laid upon the table the following paper : -
Report of Mr. H. C. Castilla, Engineer and Surveyor, Western Australian Public Works Department, on boring operations for water on the route of the proposed railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, published in the West Australian of 19th July, 1904.
Ordered to be printed.
– I desire to ask the Attorney-General, without notice, a question with reference to the case of some young men in Queensland who were invited j some time ago to present themselves at the Public Service examinations in that State. It will be within the recollection of the honorable and learned senator that I stated that their fees were accepted, that they’ passed the examination successfully, that they were not notified to that effect, and that they have received no employment. I desire to know what the Government propose to do in the matter?
– AsI promised, when the honorable senator called attention to the matter in a speech recently, I communicated with the Public Service Commissioner, who has supplied me with the following memorandum-: -
The Public Service Commissioner found, on investigation, that there was no necessity to make appointments to the Clerical Division in Queensland, as there were sufficient surplus officers in that State to fill all the vacancies occurring within the eighteen months the candidates’ names remain on the books. The law provides that, at the expiration of eighteen months from the date of passing, the names of all candidates who have not secured appointments are to be removed from the register. There will, consequently, be no opportunity of utilizing the services of any of these examinees : candidates at all examinations of the kind take the risk of vacancies arising which cannot be filled by those within the Service, and no guarantee is given that because they pass the examination they must necessarily get appointments. The case has been exceptional in Queensland, because the Commissioner has been able to fill all vacancies in that State without adding to the Service, and he expects to be able to do so for the ensuing eighteen months.
With regard to the examination fee, the Commissioner fears he has no power to refund it, and if he had the power, he thinks it would be unwise, as it would involve a rule applicable to every case of a candidate examined, and for whom no appointment became available.
It might be mentioned that a candidate who, although successfully passing an examination, does not get an appointment, yet would, if he so desired, receive a certificate of his having passed the examination, which might be of considerable value to him.
– Why was not the information forwarded to the young men ?
– I observed that the memorandum does not refer specifically to that point. I shall communicate with the Commissioner, and inform my honorable friend.
– I desire to ask the honorable and learned senator if the Governmenf propose to retain the ‘fees, seeing that the young men were invited to compete for vacancies which were said to exist at the time.
– I think that my honorable friend will find that the Commissioner’s answer, which I have read, deals with tnat point.
– I. desire to ask the Attorney-General, without notice -
Thi Australian High Commissioned.
Sir John Forrest ‘ is one of the few wealthy
Australian statesmen. He has, moreover, an enviable record of practical service, for, like Wentworth, the greatest of Australians, he first won distinction as an explorer. He was the pioneer in crossing the Continent from Adelaide to Perth, and was one of the party sent to find Leichhardt. Until Mr. Seddon beat the record, Sir John held office, as Premier of Western Australia, longer than any other Premier in the Australasian Colonies. In Coolgardie he will always. be remembered as the statesman who gave them the greatest of all boons in a hot climate - a good water supply. Since Federation, Sir John has been a member of the Commonwealth Ministry qualifying for his present position, for he entertained largely in Melbourne, where Parliament sits temporarily, and the manner of it few Australian politicians can hope to rival.
– I have not noticed, and I think I may go “so far as ,to say that the Ministry has not noticed the paragraph in question. In fact, 1 never heard of the newspaper before. There is not one scintilla of truth in the statement that any arrangement, or a promise of any kind has been made.
– Is the honorable and learned senator in a position to say that?
– What about the Prime Minister ?
– Well, the question is addressed to me.
– On behalf of the Ministry.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Has the attention of the Government been called to a paragraph in the Argus of 12th October that Mr. Philp, leader of the Opposition and late Premier of the Government of Queensland, stated in his place in Parliament on the previous evening that the Commonwealth owed Queensland £2,300,000, and that they should also sue the Commonwealth Government for the difference between three-fourths of the Queensland Customs Revenue and the proportion they received, as there had been a distinct promise that threefourths of the money received from that source would be returned ; what information have the Government on the point?
– Before reading the formal answer, I wish to say that the subject referred to in this question is under the immediate and earnest consideration of the Government. The answer is -
The Government has no knowledge of the claim of ^2,300,000, unless it is in respect of “ transferred properties.” Under the Constitution, a State is not entitled to three-fourths of its net Customs and Excise Revenue, but the States, as a whole, must receive three-fourths. As a matter of fact, however, Queensland received ^70,523 more than three-fourths of her own net Customs and Excise Revenue in the first six months of Federation, and in the following three years, up to 30th June last, the shortage was only ^7,597.
Is it the intention ‘of the Government to continue the office of General Officer Comman’ding the Military Forces of the Commonwealth, or to establish a Council of Defence, and appoint an Inspector-General as principal Military expert?
The intentions of the Government with regard to the future command and administration of the Military Forces will be announced to Parliament, as. already stated by the Treasurer, in his Budget Speech when the Defence Estimates are under consideration.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
It does not appear to me necessary that I should occupy very much time in urging that the Senate should take steps to make provision for the taking of all evidence, either by itself, or by any of its Committees on oath or affirmation.
– Have they not got that power now ?
– I suppose I may speak without any breach of decorum in reference to the proceedings of any Committee. Speaking in a general way, I would point out that the practice hitherto has been various. One Committee has been taking evidence on oath while another Committee has been taking it without any such recognised safeguard. I think it- is the view of the majority of civilized beings that, in the matter of veracity, there is a safeguard in having evidence taken on oath or affirmation with the possibility of punishment following the giving of false evidence. Under the Standing Orders, if a witness gives false evidence on oath, he can be punished; but under a system, which sometimes obtains, of taking evidence without any such safeguard, there does not appear to be any means of bringing a dishonest or untruthful witness to punishment. I submit with the greatest possible confidence, that it is ‘highly desirable that there should be no doubt with reference- to the manner in which evidence taken by the Senate, or any of its Committees should be received. I submit that it must of necessity be advantageous that all evidence be taken under the legal safeguard of an oath or affirmation. It seems to me that I need not elaborate that aspect of the question, because the practice of other Parliaments and our various courts of law has so established the principle of some safeguard either by oath or affirmation that it would be really beating the air for me to argue in support of that proposition. I find myself face to face with this position : that at the present time there is a different practice existing with our Select Committees, and it is so absolutely anomalous that within the last few weeks, without particularizing too closely, we find that the same senator has been sitting on two Committees, in one case hearing the evidence on oath, and in the other hearing the evidence without veracity having that protection. That, I submit, is a state of affairs which had better be terminated speedily, in the interests of the dignity of the Parliament, and in the interests of truth.
– Does not the honorable senator know that that is possible in the House of Commons?
– I shall come to that point after I have dealt with the present state of affairs here. I think that if the difficulties I have drawn attention to exist in respect to Select Committees, the disadvantage would be ‘ immensely augmented if on any occasion the Senate desired to examine a witness at the bar. I think it would be altogether below its dignity to examine a witness at the bar except on oath. If that be proper for the Senate as a whole, it must equally be proper, I submit, for any delegated body, a Select Committee, to wit. I now come to the aspect of the matter which the interjection of Senator Pearce aptly leads up to. I know that under section 49 of the Constitution the Senate, as part of its inherent rights, has the powers, privileges, and immunities of the Imperial House of Commons. I take it that those powers - we need not trouble about the privileges and the immunities particularly just now - include not only the powers which have grown up by the following of precedents there, but also the statutory rights possessed by that House when our Commonwealth was established. If that be the case, necessarily the Senate has the right to administer oaths, and so have its Select Committees. But there are two points to which I would ask the attention of my fellow senators. The first is the legal point of the right to administer, which, while admitted by the majority, is contested in certain quarters. I take it that the only way in which any doubt on the point could be cleared up would’ be by reference to the High Court. T-hat is a clumsy way of settling the matter. By passing a brief Bill, suda as this one, we could do away with the necessity off any application ‘to the High Court. There is, however, another point to be considered. Granted that we have the power, we have not framed the machinery. We want some machinery to adequately administer oaths and adequately punish wrong-doers who give false evidence on oath. Even if there be a majority who think that we do not require authority to administer oaths, that we already possess it, I would ask them to support the second reading of this Bill, because if that view should be held in an authoritative manner, a verbal amendment or two in the Bill would make it adequate to the purpose of carrying out as a machinery measure the administration of oaths, the examination of witnesses on oath, and the punishment of untruthful witnesses. To recapitulate my reasons for asking honorable senators to assent to the second reading of the Bill : First of all, we have a divergent practice of oaths being administered in some cases and not in others. I propose that we should get rid of that anomaly. Secondly, I submit that even if the Constitution gives the Parliament the power to administer oaths, there are those who deny or dispute that it does, and who say that we mustgo to the High Court to clear up the difficulty, unless we pass a measure for that purpose.
– But the Senate is superior to the High Court as regards’ the conduct of its own business.
– That again raises a legal question, and my honorable friend will, I am sure, recognise that it is possible for us to pass laws here. and find that they are declared unconstitutional by the High Court. I suppose that one function of that body under the Constitutionis to keep a watchful check, from the constitutional stand-point, on the doings of Parliament. Finally, even if it held by a substantial majority that an Act is not required . to enable the Parliament to administer oaths, still some machinery is required ; and, even from that standpoint this Bill, with one or two slight verbal amendments, would admirably answer that purpose.
– Could it not be done under the Standing Orders?
– Possibly it might, and that is another of the many aspects of this matter. The interjections point clearly, I submit, to the existence of difficulties, and may I say indicate doubt, in the minds of honorable senators as to the exact position. I think it would be well, therefore, to pass this Bill. Of course, the House of Commons never had authority to administer an oath, by any inherent right ; it was not until 34 and 35 Vic. c’ 83 was passed that that House was given power to administer the oath, and deal with disobedient and untruthful witnesses. The question is whether our Constitution gives us the right the British House of Commons had to acquire by statute; and I am disposed to think that the Constitution does give us the power, though I find lawyers who say it does not. We have a strong case in point, where a Select Committee, presided over by a legal gentleman, who is a member of this Chamber, failed, declined, or avoided, or, at any rate, and I suppose for good reasons, did not administer the oath. Here was a case in which a legal gentleman acted in opposition to the idea that we possess the power under the Constitution.
– Not necessarily in opposition to the idea that we possess the power. It is optional in the House of Commons, and the Bill before us would still leave it optional, seeing that the word “ may,” and not “ shall,” is used.
.- When I had the draft returned to me from the parliamentary draftsman with some verbal amendments, I did not notice that particular word, and I thank the honorable senator for drawing my attention to it. In my opinion the word “ shall “ might very well be substituted for “ may.” The object I have is, that all witnesses examined by the Senate or by any Committee of the Senate, shall give their evidence on oath or affirmation.
– I think that Senator Neild is entitled to credit for calling the attention of the Senate to this matter, and for submitting a Bill for consideration. So far as the Government are concerned, I have no intention whatever of opposing the measure. The honorable senator first introduced a Bill of the kind in 1901, and on that occasion it was drafted in the form adopted, I think, in New South Wales. That form was open to criticism, and the then Vice-President of the Executive Council, Senator O’Connor, directed at tention to matters which required consideration. When the Bill was in Committee a suggestion was made that it should be redrafted, and brought more in accordance with the practice under the British statute. That suggestion was adopted, and the Bill now submitted is substantially a replica of the Imperial Statute 34 and 35 Vic, c. 83. Senator Neild has pointed out an objection which was taken when the Bill was submitted in 1 90 1, namely, that under section 49 of the Constitution, it is open to any one to contend that, on the establishment of Federation, we took over, on the part of the Senate and House of Representatives, the powers, privileges and immunities of the Commons House of Parliament until otherwise declared! The honorable senator very frankly says that if the effect of that section is to import into our powers, privileges, and immunities, the statutory power, as well as all others, this Bill is unnecessary. But the honorable senator also says - and in this respect I agree with him - that if there is any doubt on the subject, it is better that the Senate should declare what its own course is to be, and what its powers are in this respect, than to leave the matter in doubt.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral anv doubt?
– I cannot say that I am oppressed with any grave doubt on the subject. But even if I were very clear in my opinion that the statutory law in this respect in England is equally in force here, I should still say it was proper for us, by our own statute, to declare our own powers. It is well we should do so; and the course would be in conformity with the views which the President has expressed, and the Senate has confirmed, in respect of our own Standing Orders. It is, therefore, obvious - and in this view I agree with Senator Neild-that not only can the Bill do no harm, but it is consistent with the position and dignity of the Senate, that we should establish our o.wn right, in agreement with the view the Senate may take as to the course of procedure. I do not agree, however, with Senator Neild in the view he expressed in answer to an interjection, as to the use of the word “ may “ ; that word, I think, should remain.
– It is the word used in the Imperial Act.
– That is so ; and the administering of the oath ought not to be made compulsory, if a Select
Committee or the Senate think that the circumstances of a particular case do not warrant that course.
– Then, why the Bill ?
– This is a Bill to enable evidence to be taken on oath or affirmation - to make it clear that there is the power, and that it can be exercised, if the occasion warrants it.
– But has not a Select Committee that power now?
– That is the point I have just referred to.
– Under this Bill we shall administer the oath by our own power, instead of by a borrowed power.
– That is a short way of expressing the position. The retention of the word “ may “ does not mean that a Select Committee could administer the oath to one man and not to another - that would be altogether an invidious and improper course. A Select Committee would probably, in one case decide to take the evidence on oath, and in another case express their intention of dispensing with the oath. The judgment of the Select Committee is not to be called in question by any of the parties or witnesses called before them - no reflection should be cast upon the discretion they exercise. The honorable senator will be well advised if he retains the word “may”; I could not support the amendment he indicated. In other respects, I have no objection to the Bill.
– As this is a matter involving the procedure of the Senate, I may fairly claim to exercise my right of speaking. I draw the attention of the Senate to sections 49 and 50 of the Constitution Act. The former gives the Senate, until we otherwise decide, all the powers, privileges, and immunities of the House of Commons. At the time the Constitution was passed by the Imperial Parliament, one of the powers of the House of Commons was to administer an oath. In the Act 34 and 35 Victoria it is expressly stated in the preamble, “ Whereas it is advisable to give to the House of Commons the power to administer an oath.” This clearly indicates that, in the opinion of the British Parliament, it is a power. Section 49 does not draw any distinction in reference to the method in which the House of Commons may have acquired a power. All the powers of the House of Commons are given to us; and given to us, it seems to me, whether they have been acquired by prescription or by Statute. The reason why the House of Commons had not the power to administer an oath until an Act of Parliament was passed, while the House of Lords had such a power, can be found by reference to the history of England. The House of Lords always was, and is still, in some respects, a Court of Judicature, whereas the House of Commons never was a Court of Judicature, and, therefore, had not the power to administer an oath. The House of Commons obtained the power bv Act of Parliament, and as we acquired by our Constitution all the powers of that Chamber, I think that we have the power to administer an oath. But the question arises in my mind whether it is advisable to throw doubts on the powers thus acquired. If we do so in one particular case, may not that possibly raise doubts in other cases? That is a question the Senate ought to consider. If we look at section 50 of our Constitution, we find that it relates to procedure, and that we have to make rules and orders with respect to the mode in which our powers, privileges, and immunities may be exercised and upheld. In the Imperial Act, the method by which the power to administer an oath sHould be exercised was left to the standing orders, which were passed as follows : - 374. By Statute 34 and 35 Vic, chapter S3, witnesses may be examined upon oath by the House ; or by any Committee thereof. 375. An oath or affirmation taken or made by any witness before the House, or a Committee of the whole House, is administered by a clerk at the table.
And so on. Our Standing Orders make no reference to the practice of the British House of Commons ; and, therefore, although we have the power to administer an oath, we have no procedure by which an oath may be administered. The procedure was laid down in Great Britain by two standing orders, but we have no corresponding standing orders although we have the power. Therefore the question will arise as to the method in which it shall be exercised, and undoubtedly the matter ought to be set at rest either by a standing order or by Act of Parliament. I cannot say that in my opinion any great harm would be done by passing the Bill.
– Would not the passing of the Bill limit to some extent our powers ?
– No, I do not think the passing of the Bill would in any way limit our powers. We have power to administer an oath, but we have no standing order, or authority given by anybody - by the Senate, or in any other way - concerning the method in which the power is to be exercised.
– Do not the House of Commons Standing Orders apply where our own do not?
– No. We expressly struck out a standing order which would have had that effect, and we have therefore to rely on our own Standing Orders.
– We make our own procedure.
– Of course we can do so; but we have made no procedure in regard to the administration of an oath. It is a matter of considerable doubt whether or not it is wise to pass the Bill. . It is a matter upon which I do not hold a very strong opinion ; but in my opinion, though I may be wrong, we have the power, while it is clear that we have no regulation as 1o the method in. which the power shall be exercised. It is only right that I should make this statement on a matter concerning the procedure of the Senate.
– The point raised by you, Mr. President, is very interesting; but I do not intend to address myself to the legal aspect of the matter. Senator Neild, in his remarks, made use of words which might be construed as meaning that, because Select Committees of the Senate have adopted differing attitudes on the matter of an oath, they are doing something unusual. That is very far from the fact. The fact that a Select Committee does not administer an oath, does not mean that they have not power to do so. As a matter of fact, May shows that this is frequently done by Committees in the House of Commons. At page 406 of May we see - -
It is not usual, however, for a Select Committee to examine witnesses upon oath, except upon inquiries of a judicial or other special character.
That goes to show that even in the House of Commons there are some Committees which do not, and others which do, examine witnesses on oath.
– It is entirely discretionary.
– That is so; and in’ the case mentioned by the honorable senator two Select Committees saw fit to exercise their discretion in different ways. It does not follow that the Chairman or any member of the Select Committee did not exercise the power because they thought they did not possess it; it was simply meant that, for various reasons, they did not think it advisable to administer the oath. Section 49 of the Constitution is -
The powers, privileges, and immunities of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, and of the members and the Committees of each House, shall be such as are declared by the Parliament, and until declared shall be those of the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom, and of its members and Committees at the establishment of the Commonwealth.
If we pass this Bill, shall we not be declaring our powers and privileges? Could it not be said that the whole of the powers and “ privileges of the Senate were as declared by the measure?
– No; this Bill has one particular subject-matter..
– That is the point which occurs to me, as a layman. It seems to me we are by the Bill asked to declare our powers, and we ought to do so in a comprehensive measure.
– We could deal from day to day or week to week with new matters as they cropped up, each in a separate Bill.
– I suppose the position is similar to that of the Commonwealth in regard to navigation, half-a-dozen branches of the administration of which we may take in hand, leaving others which belong to the States. As to the point raised on the question of procedure, both you, Mr. President, and the Attorney-General agree, or seem to agree, that the procedure is not laid down by our Standing Orders. But it will be admitted that we can lay down procedure by the practice of the Senate - that is, if the Senate indorses a certain practice it becomes a recognised part of our procedure. As a matter of fact, one Select Committee of the Senate have administered the oath, and as its report has been laid on the table, I take it that its report and proceedings are the property of the Senate. I submit that the procedure of the Committee is our procedure until objected to by the Senate.
– What Select Committee is that?
– The Select Committee appointed to inquire into the case of Major Carroll.
– What power was there for the clerk of the Select Committee to administer the oath?
– The House of Commons power.
– The President pointed out that we have no procedure because we have not adopted the Standing Orders of the House of Commons.
– Then the action of the clerk of the Committee was clearly illegal.
– No; I take it that, as our Standing Orders are silent, the Committee have adopted a procedure.
– Each Committee cannot adopt their own procedure in that way.
– Surely a Committee may do so when the Standing Orders do not forbid, and they have power under the Constitution to administer the oath. The only difficulty is as to who shall administer the oath.
– And that is a very important point.
– May T mention that, under the Imperial Act it is not specified, as in the Bill, that the oath shall be administered by the President, the Speaker, and so on ; and the result was that a standing order had to be passed.
– The Imperial Act left that matter to the Standing Orders.
– THe procedure of the House, I take it, consists of the Standing Orders and the practice. We have separated ourselves from the procedure of the House of Commons, so far as relates both to practice and to standing orders, but we are building up our own procedure. Certain rulings have been given by the President, extending and amplifying standing orders - rulings as to cases on which the Standing Orders are silent. Those rulings have been indorsed by the Senate, not by vote, but in the absence of any dissention ; and here we have the ruling of a Chairman of a Select Committee, that the clerk may administer the oath.
– I am afraid that would not be sufficient.
– I think it would. Surely the actions of a Select Committee of the Senate may be considered as much the procedure of the Senate as the action of the President, or Chairman, in the Senate. I take it that we have in that matter already established our procedure, and until it is rejected by the Senate it must stand as the procedure of the Senate. I do not hold that, because our Standing Orders are silent as to who shall administer the oath, Select Committees of the Senate are, therefore, powerless to take evidence on oath.
– It may be irregular.
– It may be law, but it is not common sense, to say that we have the power to administer the oath under the Constitution, and then to say we cannot exercise the power. I think Senator Neild would be wise if he were to withdraw the Bill, and if any further action is necessary to propose the adoption of two new standing orders.
– Some honorable senators have contended that because we have no standing order upon this question a Select Committee of the Senate has no power to administer the oath. Section 49 of the Constitution is very clear; it provides that -
The powers, the privileges, and the immunities of the Senate shall be those of the House of Commons and of its Committees.
It is not necessary for us to ask where the House of Commons gets its ‘powers, privileges, or immunities, or where Committees of the House of Commons get them. It is the practice of House of Commons Committees at the present time to administer the oath to witnesses, either by the Chairman, or through the Clerk at the table.
– The point is that they do that under Standing Orders which we have not passed.
– And which we have said we do not want. .
– If honorable senators contend that we must pass Standing Orders before we can have this power, surely it is necessary also that we should pass an Act of Parliament before we can exercise the powers, privileges, and immunities of the House of Commons? If we must pass a standing order to administer the oath, why is it not necessary to pass an Act of Parliament to give us some other power, privilege, or immunity enjoyed by the House of Commons? I take it that the powers,’ privileges, and immunities of theHouse of Commons, under the standnig orders referred to, are included in the powers, privileges, and immunities conferred on the Senate by the Constitution. I venture to think that had Senator Neild remembered section 49 of the Constitution he would not have bothered to move in this matter. To my mind, the great objection to the Bill is the doubt which it throws upon that section of the Consti- tution. If we pass the second reading of this Bill it will go forth to the world that a majority of the members of the Senate are in doubt as to what that section means.
– This Bill supplies the want of a standing order on the subject.
– If honorable senators agree with the Vice-President of the Executive Council, then the way in which this matter should be dealt with is to pass a standing order. In all matters of this kind, it is better that we should embody our practice and procedure in Standing Order? rather than in Acts of Parliament. I think that in the circumstances the Bill should be referred to the Standing Orders Committee for consideration and report. On the principle of the measure, I am heartily at one with Senator Neild. I have had experience of witnesses before Select Committees on oath and not on oath, and I must say that the demeanour of witnesses on oath is far more satisfactory than that of witnesses who are not on oath.
-Col. Neild. - Does the honorable senator refer to the same witnesses ?
– That is too much of a detail for me. I say that the demeanour and conduct of witnesses on oath is far more satisfactory than that of witnesses who, because they are not on oath, seem to think that they may say anything. I invite, the attention of honorable senators to the extravagant statements which have been published in the press as the evidence given by witnesses who were not on oath before the Electoral Committee appointed by another place. I firmly believe that some of those statements would never have been made if the witnesses making them had been on oath. There are special cases in. which witnesses should be compelled to give evidence on oath. Where evidence is given which is likely to affect the personal character or the private interest of any individual, it should always be given on path. Although witnesses may attach but very little importance to the sacred nature of an oath, I venture to think that though they may not be greatly afraid of the Deity, they are very much afraid of possible imprisonment in the gaols of the Commonwealth as the punishment following false testimony given on oath.
– We have no gaols.
– Under the powers given us by the Constitution, we have passed
an Act compelling the various States Governments to carry out the laws of the Commonwealth. I move -
That all the words after the word “be” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ referred to the Standing Orders Committee.”
– I am not quite sure whether that motion should not be taken after the second reading has been dealt with. Standing order 186 says-
Amendments may be moved to such question by leaving out “now” and adding “this day six months “ - which, if carried, shall finally dispose of the Bill, or the previous question may be moved.
And standing order 187 provides -
No other amendment may be moved to such question except in the form of a resolution strictly relevant to the Bill.
It is quite in accord with the practice of Parliaments to move that a Bill be referred to a Select Committee for report, but I am not quite sure whether such a motion should not come after the second reading has been dealt with.
-Col. Gould. - I think our Standing Orders provide that it should come after.
– I do not think that our Standing Orders say anything about it. Standing order 188” provides that after the second reading, unless it be moved “that this Bill be referred to a Select Committee” it shall be referred to a Committee of the Whole. I am’ not clear upon the matter,, and I shall put the amendment.
– Whatever may be the result of themotion or amendment, the action taken by Senator Neild will have the effect of directing attention to certain “ powers which are: conferred upon us by the Constitution. It is evident that a very diverse practice has been followed hitherto, and some attention should be drawn to the matter. Senator Higgs has pointed out that the practice adopted in another place by one Select Committee, of taking evidence not upon oath, has led to rather extreme statements being made by some witnesses. The honorable senator has also pointed out that when a man is giving evidence on oath, whether he believes in the sanctity of the oath or not, he has a very lively impression of what may happen to him if he should make a false statement. We should be very clear as to how the law stands, and we should be determined T; make it equally clear to the public that wc have certain powers, and that they can be very readily ascertained. I take it that, when any matter of special importance is being inquired into by a Select Commicee. it is well that evidence should be takenon oath. I can realize that in many cases it might not be necessary totake evidence on oath, but it is absolutely necessary in certain cases. I believe that in Major Carroll’s case the Select Committee took evidence on oath, and in Senator Neild’s case evidence was not taken on oath. No one can say that these were not both important inquiries, in connexion with which it was absolutely necessary that we should have the clearest and most reliable evidence placed before the Senate.
– How does the honorable and learned senator know that in Senator Neild’s case evidence was not taken on oath? The proceedings of the Select Committee inquiring into that case have not yet been published.
– Though I may have been misinformed I have heard that the evidence taken by that Committee has not been taken on oath. The matters inquired into in Major Carroll’s case were of great importance to himself and to the administration of the DefenceDepartment ; and whatever procedure may have been followed by the Select Committee inquiring into Senator Neild’s case, it will be admitted that the inquiry was one of great importance, because the powers, privileges, and immunities of members of Parliament were there called in question. The practice adopted by the Electoral Committee appointed by another place differs from that partially adopted here. We require to have that kind of thing remedied. It is all very well to say that we -have all the powers, privileges, and immunities given in the Imperial Statute, but we cannot take a portion and not the whole of those powers. Senator Pearce has argued that the Chairman of a Select Committee of the Senate has a right in the absence of Standing Orders on the subject, to determine who shall administer the oath to witnesses. The Imperial Statute says -
Any Committee of the House of Commons may administer the oath to witnesses examined before such Committee.
It proceeds further to say -
Any oath or affirmation under this Act may be administered by the Speaker of the House of Commons or by such person or persons as may from time to time be appointed for that purpose, either by him or by any standing order or other order of the said House.
In Major Carroll’s case, the oath administered’ to witnesses appearing before the Select Committee was not administered by the President of the Senate, by any body authorized by him, or by any standing order or other order of the Senate. I take it, therefore, that from the very inception, the putting of those witnesses on oath was invalid, and if any man gave false evidence upon oath in that particular inquiry, there is no power to prosecute him for perjury.
– Is it not the House of Commons practice for the Clerkto administer the oath ?
.- Yes ; but that is guided by standing orders which we have expressly stated shall not guide our procedure in any way whatever. The oath is administered under the House of Commons practice by virtue of Standing Orders which we have expressly set aside, because we have said that the Standing Orders of the House of Commons shall not be applicable to our procedure.
– We have not expressly said that.
.- Having put those standing orders on one side, we have not authorized any one to administer the oath to witnesses. If we carry the . matter a step further, and assume for the sake of argument that the gentleman selected by the Committee for the purpose has power to administer the oath, what are we going to do if the witness says,’ “ I shall not take the oath from you “ ?
– We should come to the Senate then.
.- What is the Senate going to do?
– Put him on his trial. ‘
.- That would do no good. The Senate cannot send a man to prison for refusing to give evidence.
– Yes it can.
– A witness can snap his fingers at a Select Committee and say, “ I shall not take the oath from you.” We could bring him to the bar of the Senate and tell him that he was in contempt of the Senate, but what are we to do with him then? In the practice of the Stares Parliaments, where they have taken power under an Act to administer the oath, if a witness . refuses to be examined he can be taken before a Supreme Court Judge. The Supreme Court Judge can make an order that he shall take the oath and give evidence, and if he fails to do so he is then iri contempt of the Court, and he can be sent to gaol until he is prepared to purge himself of his contempt. We have not that power, and that is the difficulty. It is of no use to say that we can administer the oath to a man if he can snap his fingers -in our faces and say, “ I will not take the oath.” It is of still less use to attempt to administer the oath to him in any illegal way by an officer when, if he snaps his fingers at us, we cannot punish him for it. The Bill submitted by Senator Neild will enable us to get over this difficulty.
– Can it not be got over without a Bill?
-Col. GOULD. - It cannot be got over by a standing order. We cannot make a standing order under which we can send a man to prison for refusing to take an oath.
– The honorable and learned senator has lost sight of standing order 369 -
If a witness fails or refuses to attend, or to give evidence, the Senate, on being acquainted therewith, shall deal with the matter.
.- That will not assist us in the swearing of witnesses. I wish to find out how the Senate is going to deal with the matter. Can the honorable senator refer me to any particular standing order ?
– Look at standing order 37i-
.- That does not say how the Senate is to deal with the matter. I cannot find any power under our Standing Orders to enable’ us to deal with a. man in the way in which we should deal with a person who declines to be sworn of to give evidence.
– We can do anything with him as a Senate. We can send him to prison.
.- Is it not. very much better that we should have power under an Act?
– We should have a prescribed power.
.- Could we send a man to prison for twenty years because he refused to give evidence?
– It would be a matter for further consideration whether we should fine him £i or sentence him to twenty years’ imprisonment. It would be very unwise for the Senate to lay down what its powers are in every case. 9 q 2
.- Under the Bill it is proposed that -
Every witness who wilfully gives false evidence before the Senate, the House of Representatives, or any Committee of the Senate or of the House of Representatives, shall be guilty of an indictable offence, and liable to imprisonment for any period not exceeding five years.
Under that provision the offence would be treated as an ordinary crime. Under the Imperial Statute, if a witness gives false evidence, he is liable to the penalties attaching to perjury. Under the Bill a witness giving false evidence could be prosecuted for perjury, and the punishment is defined. Do not honorable senators see that if an Act were placed on the Statutebook every one would have an opportunity of knowing exactly what position he was in ? If we rely on the powers which are conferred upon us by the Constitution, assuming that we have the right to go as far as honorable senators believe we have, itwill not definitely and clearly allow the public to know what their liabilities will be in the event of giving false evidence or refusing to answer questions. It is much better that the powers of the Senate in this regard should be defined by Statute. An honorable senator asks, “ Why should we put on the Statute-book any Act which would throw doubts upon our rights” ? But I do not take it that it would. Assuming that the Senate possesses all the rights which are contained in this Bill, the mere fact of passing the Bill would not take away any rights to which it was entitled under section 49 of the Constitution, and, as the Attorney-General has said, we could still deal with the question from time to time. We are not, as an honorable senator has suggested, asking the other House to define our duties and privileges. Assuming for the sake of argument that the Bill was passed by the Senate and rejected by the other House, it would not take away’ any powers that we have under the Constitution. But if the Bill were passed by both Houses, we should know that the practice in each House was exactly the same in connexion with Select Committees, the chairman in each instance being clothed with a discretionary power as to whether the- case was one in which an oath ought to be administered’. Taking all the circumstances into consideration, and assuming that the Senate has the strongest powers, I think it is better to pass the Bill in its present form, and not to rely solely on Standing Orders.
– It appears to me that there is no objection to passing the Bill, because in doing so we shall be simply taking advantage of our right, under section 49 of the Constitution,’ to declare what our powers in regard to witnesses, and we shall not in any way weaken the effect of that section. I do not know whether! Senator Higgs noticed t’hat the procedure by which the House of Commons shall exercise this power is not provided in the Statute, but by standing orders made thereunder. While we take the same step as was taken by the Imperial Parliament to obtain this power for each House, we have not the standing orders of the House of Commons under which the procedure is regulated, because, having omitted the drag-net rule from our code, we cannot fall back on the practice of the House of Commons. It is in that respect that our powers are defective.
– The honorable and learned senator is contending that we have the right to take over a law, and not to take over a standing order made thereunder.
– We do not take over the standing order of the House of Commons, which was necessary in order to provide the mode in which the power granted by the Statute should be exercised. No standing order would be necessary if we passed this Bill, because it regulates the procedure. I do not think it would weaken our powers under section 49 of the Constitution. It would be a substitute for a standing order.
– A standing order of the Senate would not apply to the whole Parliament, as the Bill proposes to do.
– I thank the honorable senator for reminding me that the Bill applies to the two Houses. An amendment has been moved to refer the Bill to the Standing Orders Committee, and I understand, sir, that you have expressed a doubt as’ to whether it is strictly sanctioned by standing order 187. We have had. one or two debates on this subject, and I think it has not yet been decided what amendments, except by way of postponement, can be moved to a motion for the second reading of a Bill. Under these circumstances I would suggest to Senator Neild that it is not advisable to proceed further with the Bill to-day, in order that that point may be more carefully considered. A reference of a Bill to the Standing Orders Committee does not appear to have been contemplated by our code. I do not suppose that Senator Higgs is desirous of pressing his amendment.
– There are some Select Committees sitting that would like to be sure as to their powers.
– I do not think that the passage of the Bill would be expedited by referring it to the Standing Orders Committee. I am not quite sure whether it is a right course to take. Of course we have a provision for referring; a Bill which haspassed its second reading to a Select Committee for consideration, but when the second reading of a Bill is pending, and the Senate is called upon to express an opinion, it is hardly advisable that it should be referred to the Standing Orders Committee. I throw out the suggestion that a little time should be given for the consideration of this point.
– I am willing to withdraw my amendment for the present.
– Of course this amendment is not contemplated by the Standing Orders. But the Bill refers to the practice and procedure of the Senate. A Standing Orders Committee has been appointed -to deal with those matters, and it is only right that if a matter in reference to its practice and procedure is brought before the Senate, It should have the power to refer it to the Standing Orders Committee for consideration. Perhaps, in the circumstances, it would be better to pass the second reading, and then refer the Bill to the Standing . Orders Committee.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia- Attorney-General). - I think that every one will agree with the course which you, sir, have suggested as to the special functions of the Standing Orders Committee. Perhaps it may meet the situation if Senator Neild will get the debate on the second reading adjourned, so that the point which has been raised may be considered before the Bill proceeds further.
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - I think that the suggestion of the Attorney-General hardly meets the case. I understand that Senator Higgs withdrew his amendment with a view to moving it after the second reading was carried. I think it would be desirable to carry the second reading, inasmuch as it would then be laid down that the Senate desired that some action should be taken to bring about a course of uniformity and legality in connexion with the examination of witnesses. I am entirely in the hands of the Senate, and willing to bow to its wish. I believe that the matter should be eventually referred to the Standing Orders Committee. If we carry the second reading of the Bill, and Senator Higgs then moves his motion, it shall have my support. Two years ago the Senate unanimously agreed to the second reading of a similar Bill I then brought forward. It has undergone alteration, and, I trust, improvement, since that time. I only desire to see a legal and a general practice established, and to those hon-. orable senators who have been warm advocates of a practice being made by Standing Orders, I would point out that the Bill proposes to do a very great deal more than provide for the taking of evidence by the Senate or its Committees. It applies to the two Houses. We cannot deal with the other House by standing order. No doubt’ the Standing Orders Committee will consider the question whether it is not advisable to have an Act on the subject, rather than Standing Orders. It would be very much better, I submit, that there should be one method for both Houses. I submit that it is eminently desirable, in the interests of the public, that knowledge of the method of taking evidence and dealing with recalcitrant or truthless witnesses should be accessible in a handy and complete form, and that persons should not be called upon to examine the Constitution and Imperial Acts in order to ascertain exactly what their position is, or might be. It would be infinitely better that persons who are liable to be called as witnesses by either House should have in a concise form a definition of their responsibilities. That cannot be done by Standing Orders, which would necessarily have to make reference to an Imperial statute. I undertake to say that no member of either House can very readily turn up the British statute in order to ascertain what has to be done. I wanted to get. the Act this afternoon, as I had forgotten its number, but it took some minutes and a few references before it could be found. If the method is defined by Act, it would be bound up in our hand-book with the Constitution and Standing Orders, and could be turned up at a moment. At the present time one has to make a search for an Act whose existence is not generally known. This is a matter which I hope will be dealt with by the Standing Orders Committee, in whose wisdom, I have no doubt, the Senate has implicit confidence. I hope that the second reading of the Bill will be passed, and, on Senator Higgs moving its reference to the Standing Orders Committee, I shall be very happy to vote with him - as happy as, I hope, he will be to vote with me at this stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a. second time.
Motion (by Senator Higgs) agreed to -
That the Bill be referred to the Standing Orders Committee.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreedto -
That the Select Committee on Old-age Pensions have leave to extend the time for bringing up the report to this day four weeks.
Motion (by Senator Higgs) agreed to -
That the Select Committee on Privilege : Case of Senator Neild have leave to extend the time for bringing up the report to this day week.
– I move -
That there be laid upon the table of the Senate aprecis of the statements made by Mr. John Renfrew Craig, of Samarai, in correspondence with the Government of British New Guinea and with the Commonwealth Department of External Affairs, containing certain charges against the Executive Council of British New Guinea, and specific allegations with regard to the maladministration of the Government of British New Guinea.
From his action in calling “ not formal “ yesterday, when this motion was called on, I apprehend that the leader of the Senate proposes to oppose it.
– Hear, hear.
– That being so, it is necessary for me to advance a few reasons why this precis should be prepared. At the present time there is before Parliament a Bill dealing with the government of British New Guinea. Most of the members of the Commonwealth Parliament have very little information concerning this Possession, and information is extremely necessary In the face of charges which have been made against those connected with the administration of New Guinea. Mr. J. R. Craig, who lived a considerable time in the Possession, makes certain charges in correspondence extending over a number of years, and it is highly desirable that those charges should be placed in. a concise form, so that we may have information to assist us in shaping our legislation in such a way as to prevent similar occurrences in the future.
– Who is Mr. Craig?
– He was for some years resident in New Guinea. He was in the employment of Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. for a period, and was also, I believe, a recruiting agent for a number of years.
– At any rate, he is a citizen of the Commonwealth, and is entitled to be heard.
– Surely we have a right to know who he is.
– I shall supply information regarding Mr. Craig at greater length later on. The Attorney-General will no doubt tell the Senate that Mr. Craig is eccentric, that term apparently being applied to any man who becomes objectionable on account of the persistence or ardour with which he advocates a cause. Mr. Craig has certainly been most persistent in this matter, and I can well believe that people who want to get rid of him, or to do a good turn to friends, may ask us not to pay any attention to him, because he is a faddist. The Attorney-General may go even further, and tell the Senate that Mr. Craig has been accused of murder and several other crimes almost as bad. I hope, however, that the Attorney-General will tell the Committee that Mr. Craig has not been convicted on any of those charges, which, that gentleman claims, have been made against him because he endeavoured, as he says, to go straight in New Guinea, and in consequence came into opposition with those who control the Possession.
– A man ought to be above suspicion, like Caesar’s wife.
– Is.it not the honorable senator’s experience that persons very often trump up a charge against an individual in order to injure or destroy his credibility ?
– Hear, hear !
– What is -the meaning of Senator Millen’s sympathetic “ Hear, hear “ ? Has some one ever trumped up a charge against him of political delinquencies or misdemeanours?
– The honorable senator did.
– It was no trumped-up charge, when I accused the honorable senator of being a delinquent in regard to the exploded doctrine of free-trade. The cor respondence which, as I say, extends over a number of years, relates to the Samarai Customs fraud’s, a prominent trading firm in the Commonwealth - Messrs. Burns, Philp and Co. - being specifically charged with robbing the Government. The correspondence also refers to the “ iniquitous judicial decisions “ in connexion with the Woodlark Island mining leaseholds; “unjust judicial decisions “ in regard to dredging areas; magisterial and miners’ raids in the northern division ; charges in connexion with what is called the “ Gibari magisterial raid “ in April, 190.1 ; “ the notorious and most iniquitous” Milne Bay trials in November, 1901 ; and also the “composition and personnel of the Public Service of the Government of British New Guinea.”
– What does the last mean ?
– I suppose the letter contains statements as to the capacity and method of appointment of the officials of New Guinea?
– Has the honorable senator read the letter?
– There appears to be only one honest man in New Guinea, and his name is Craig !
– Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. and the officials are not the only people in New Guinea, and I do not, for a moment, believe that Mr. Craig has charged all the officials with being incapable, or with being dishonest.
– He has charged them with much worse offences.
– That may be so, in regard to some of the officials.
– He has brought railing accusations against the whole magistracy of New Guinea - he de- scribes them as a “corrupt magistracy.”
– Is the AttorneyGeneral justified in suppressing the facts which would be disclosed in the precis?
– I am not going to. make the Senate the vehicle for disseminating slander, if I can help it.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral, in his busy life, been able to devote sufficient attention to the wholesale charges made in this correspondence, to be in a position to say whether or not they are true?
– Does .the honorable senator make those charges on his. own responsibility?
– No; the AttorneyGeneral does not expect me to do that?
– Yes I do, if the honorable senator makes public the charges against those persons.
– The Attorney-General will not expect me to do so, when I know nothing about New Guinea.
– Why should an irresponsible person make this Chamber a vehicle for slander?
– The Attorney-General describes Mr. Craig as an irresponsible person. The honorable gentleman must know, through his officials, that Mr. Craig has signed a document containing those charges, and thereby has laid himself open to all the painful penalties for slander.
– I,s he liable ?
– Is Mr. Craig not liable ?
– The Attorney-General will find’ himself under a misapprehension.
– No; I have read the documents.
– The Attorney-General knows that this man has made wholesale charges against the magistracy, and he also knows very well that, within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, such a man is liable to be sentenced to imprisonment for slander.
– The chances are a hundred to one against that being done.
– I do not know that the chances are so great. New Guinea is a British Possession, which we propose to take over, and I think I am right in saying that there is not one man in the whole of the Commonwealth Parliament who knows a great deal about the place. Senator Smith certainly visited the Possession, but I do not think he would claim to know much about its history or the administration of its government. When the AttorneyGeneral disparages Mr. Craig’s statement, let me say I have in my possession a letter from a gentleman - who unhappily has died since - Mr. Cusack, secretary to the Associated Miners of Woodlark Island - who charges the Executive of New Guinea with inefficient administration.
– Does the honorable senator think it right to refer to that matter, now that Mr. Cusack is dead, and it does not refer to Mr. Craig ?
– But the AttorneyGeneral has made a wholesale charge against Mr. Craig.
– I have made no charge against Mr. Craig ; I merely said he had made grave charges, not against individuals, but against the whole magistracy.
– The Attorney-General charged Mr. Craig with being a reckless slanderer.
– I did not use the words “ reckless slanderer.”
– The Attorney-General said that Mr. Craig had made wholesale charges of conspiracy.
– I never used the word “ conspiracy “ ; I said that Mr. Craig had stated that there was a “corrupt magistracy.”
– The Attorney-General said that Mr. Craig had made wholesale charges against the magistracy of being corrupt.
– The honorable senator said that Mr. Craig had charged individuals, and I said that Mr. Craig had made railing accusations against the whole magistracy.
– And then the AttorneyGeneral added, “ I am not going to make this Chamber a vehicle for slander.”
– Hear, hear 1
– I should like to hear the Attorney-General on the point in a Court case on a charge of defamation. The meaning of the Attorney-General could only be that the man who had brought this correspondence under the notice of the Department was a slanderer of the worst type. On that I said I had received information from a gentleman, whom I had every reason to regard as credible, that the miners at Woodlark Island were suffering greatly, owing to the inadequate and inefficient administration, not to call it by any worse name. What objection can there be to the ! officials of the Department for External Affairs preparing a precis if the statements are of such an extravagant character? A precis would enable members of this Chamber to appraise the charges at their due’ worth. Does the Attorney-General not see that if, after Mr. Craig has signed a letter exposing himself to all the painful penalties for slander-
– Where has he publicly done that
– What I mean is that Mr. Craig has signed a document which could be made public; it is not marked “ private and confidential:” By signing that letter Mr. Craig has withdrawn the embargo which might have attached to his former communications.
– How did the honor.oble senator get a copy of this correspondence ?
– It was supplied to me by Mr. Craig.
– With instructions to go ahead?
– There were no instructions.
– There were o instructions, but a request.
– A resident of Queensland approached me as his representative wit’h an appeal for justice; but 1 can assure honorable senators - if such an assurance is necessary- that there was no promise whatever of any fee or reward which might be inferred from the use of the word “ instructions,” nor. would a fee or reward be accepted if offered. Here, for example, is a letter addressed to the Executive dealing with an interview Mr. Craig had with the Resident Magistrate at Nivani re oppression of natives at Louisiade Archipelago, and adoption of S. W. J. Wilson, European Papuan. There are a number of other letters referring to illegal’ recruiting and certain atrocities.
– A lot of atrocities have been smothered in the past.
– The honorable senator is right; a lot of charges of the kind have been suppressed. The Government of the Commonwealth, which will have to govern New Guinea, has been kept in the dark as to a number of illegal transactions with native labour. On the 9th September, 1903, there is a letter addressed to the Department of External Affairs relating to Samarai Customs frauds, alleged to have been “ perpetrated by Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. Ltd., in participation with certain officials of the British New Guinea Government,” and on the 5th October, 1903, there is another letter referring to -“ compulsory * recruiting of native labourers, and the oppression of natives of the Louisiade Archipelago.” I urge the Attorney-General to allow the summary I ask for to be made. If the request is not granted, some member of the Chamber will be compelled to make a precis ; and it would be much better if the Attorney-General were to instruct his officers to do this work properly. Mr.
Craig has undertaken to charge an official, at present in the pay of the Commonwealth, with murder.
– Why did Mr. Craig not do that in the public Courts ?
– Mr. Craig is prepared to give particulars. This was not a direct murder.
– Not a real murder ?
– An official who is named Symons-
– Could Mr. Craig not have applied to the proper authorities?
– He could not, because he complains that in New Guinea there was a little ring, through which it was impossible to break.
– A ring to protect murderers ?
– It was a ring to protect people guilty of corrupt practices.
– Do you suggest that a person is being shielded from a charge of murder?
– This gentleman, whose name is Symons, did not commit the murder himself, but he did what some Australians were charged with doing in South’ Africa - he instructed somebody else to kill. It appears that this man handed oyer a native to four individuals, and- told them to put him out of the way - a precisely similar crime for which certain Australians were executed in South Africa. However, Mr. Craig is prepared to come forward and substantiate those charges to the best of his knowledge, and to give the names of other people who may be called on to give evidence. I am anxious that the Senate should have a precis of the charges, because, if such were laid before the Senate, we could have an inquiry into the whole of the administration of New Guinea. An inquiry is absolutely necessary if we are ever going to do any good with that Territory. At present we are spending some ^20,000 a year on New Guinea, and I suppose we shall be called upon in the very near future to expend a considerably larger sum. We do not wish to spend that money uselessly or extravagantly. If we are to govern New Guinea we should do so in a fair and honest way. These charges, made by a man who has had considerable experience in New Guinea, should enable us to see in what respect past administration has failed, and should guide us for the future.
– Can the honorable senator say whether Mr. Craig, before appealing to Parliament in this matter, made any effort to move the ordinary legal machinery there?
– Yes, I believe he tried to move the Administrators, but without success, and when he endeavoured to have .these charges investigated, bogus charges were made against himself. As I have said, he has been charged with murder, and called upon to pay ,£20, and to appear when called upon ,to answer the charge. He afterwards received his £20 from one of the officials, and was never called upon to meet the charge. Several other charges were made against him in connexion with which partial inquiries or none at all have been made, and no sentence was passed upon him. If, as the AttorneyGeneral claims, this’ man has unjustly made gross and wholesale charges agains,t certain members of the New Guinea magistracy, does he not realize that if the magistracy could prove the charges which have been made against Craig they would have had him in gaol long ago? I do not, at the present stage, propose to say any more on the question. I hope the Attorney-General will not compel me to read the whole of these documents to the Senate.
– I do not think the honorable senator would do so in any case.
– I do not suppose I would, but I think honorable senators will see the wisdom of having the statements which are made placed in print in a readable form, that they may not be compelled to wade through the piles of correspondence which this gentleman has written during the past six or eight years.
– Are these charges six or eight years old?
– Some of them go back to 1896, but others are of more recent origin - as recent as 1901.
– Were they made to or against the head of the Executive in New Guinea ?
– Some of the letters were written to the Administrators there, and other letters, since the establishment of the Commonwealth, have been sent to the Department of External Affairs.
– Senator Dobson asked whether any were written against the head of the Executive there.
– I am not sure about that, but I know that Mr. Craig has made very serious charges against some of the ‘ magistracy. These people against whom Mr. Craig has made these charges, will, when we have taken over the Possession, become Commonwealth servants. Very extraordinary statements have been made with respect to what is taking place in New Guinea. I heard’ of one case where, when they wanted a magistrate, they put the steward of a boat running to New Guinea on the magistrate’s bench.
– He might be a very good man. It is nothing against him that he was a steward.
– Certainly not; but is it reasonable to suppose that a steward, said to be without experience or education, would possess the legal mind and legal knowledge which would enable him to adjudicate? It is a very difficult thing to weigh evidence, and decide whether a man is guilty or innocent of a charge preferred against him. I am sorry that the Attorney-General has come to the conclusion that, because this gentleman has made such charges, and so many charges, he is, therefore, a man to whom no attention should be paid ; that he is eccentric, or a faddist, who should not move any honorable senator to take up the time of the Senate. I shall be glad to hear what the honorable and learned senator has to say.
– I am quite sure that Senator Higgs has moved this motion from a sense of his public duty. ‘ We should all be assured of that, even without the emphatic statement which he has made that, Mr. Craig being a resident of Queensland, and the honorable senator one of the representatives of that State, the motion is moved in the discharge of what he believes to be a public duty. At the same time, I am sorry that the honorable senator has moved the motion. I cannot agree with it, and with very great confidence I shall . ask the Senate to reject it. When my honorable friend hears one or two things which I have to say, with pain and regret, he will, I think, in the circumstances, be disposed to withdraw his motion. In the first place, I am gratified that the honorable senator has shown that consideration and fairness which we all’ expect from him in abstaining - as I think he will continue to do, even if this freds is not given - from reading to the Senate this multitude of communications. It would not have to be a freds, but a kind of expurgated edition of a series of communications which are persistent, and which have emanated from a man who, according to my honorable friend’s own view, has been under serious charges, though he has not been sentenced in respect of them.
– And if they had dared to proceed against him they would have done so.
– He has not himself proceeded to trial in respect of the serious charges he has brought against persons, one of whose names has been mentioned.
– He has tried to do so.
– I wish to put the matter with all fairness and moderation. The making of these charges has extended over a period of seven or eight years, and they have been made against high officials, including, though Senator Higgs says he is not aware of it, former heads of the Executive administration who are at present away from New Guinea, but who occupy high office elsewhere. I am glad to say that my honorable friend has altered his motion to the extent that he does not ask for a precis of charges, but of the statements in the correspondence implying or involving charges. The honorable senator was, I think, well advised to do that. I used the expression before, and I use it again with deliberation, that we have not so much charges as “ railing accusations,” and ex parte statements’ of the most abominable character made against all and sundry with perhaps one exception, to which I shall refer. My interjection, during Senator Higgs’ speech, was not made in any way with a view to retaliate upon this gentleman, because I am sorry for his sake that the matter has been referred to. He has made railing accusations against the whole magistracy of New Guinea, which is described as a “corrupt magistracy.” No specific instance of corruption is given, but the whole magistracy is described in this way. Senator Higgs has said that we shall be shortly engaged here, as honorable members are now engaged in another branch of the Legislature, in dealing with a Bill affecting the government of New Guinea, and all information with respect to the Territory is.of value. I agree, ‘but I think we have to consider the source of our information in estimating its value, and the Senate will pause before it accepts information from what appears to me to be a poisoned, and polluted source. Senator Higgs is justified in representing Mr. Craig as a citizen of Queensland, but his communications are, I will not put it more strongly than discredited, at least by the fact that he is a man not of one, but of many grievances, and has been mixed up in the matters to which my honorable friend himself has alluded. Senator Higgs truly says that it is very easy for a man who has a grievance to trump up charges against other people, and that we should be on our guard. But that applies to both sides.. May it not be said of Mr. Craig that it is very easy for charges to be trumped up, and persisted in time after time, by one who has himself a grievance? That very fact should make us specially careful of giving publicity through the proceedings of the Senate to the ex parte statements which are to be found in these letters, and of making the Senate the means of disseminating calumnious statements associated with the names of men who are held in esteem, who held high office in the Possession, and who still hold high office elsewhere. Untold injury might be done. I asked Senator Higgs whether he is- willing to take the responsibility of making these charges? He very properly said “ no, “ and I never dreamt of his doing such a :thing. But before the Senate should launch imputations of this sort, charges should be made on the responsibility of the honorable senator who submits them. He should be prepared to pledge himself that a prima facie case is made out, or to something of the kind, before grave injury is done to persons who have hitherto borne an unblemished reputation, and who are now holding high office, by the mere fact of gross imputations being affixed to them.
– Does the honorable and learned senator take all responsibility for his clients in a court of law?
– I am very glad that my honorable friend has made that interjection. I do not treat it as a light interjection, and I say that if this man undertakes to bring and prove a charge of murder - and that is what mv honorable friend has said - this is not the forum, and this, is not the place in which it should be heard. The Courts of this country are established for that purpose, and he can go to them and lay his charge without its costing him a solitary farthing, and I say further, that that is the place to which we should send him.
– The question is whether he could do that in New Guinea ?
– I do not know ; it is for my honorable friend to show that he cannot. I will tell honorable senators what he did do. I adopt the honorable senator’s statement that charges may be trumped up, and made in correspondence. Statements are made in this correspondence which, unless they are formulated as charges by some responsible person, and with corroboration, are dastardly. For that reason I again congratulate my honorable friend upon having abstained from reading it. I do not wish to discuss the question as to how far there is privilege when a communication is made by a citizen to the Minister of External Affairs or to a Government, or to a series of Governments, upon matters of public interest. Probably there would be privilege. It might be absolute privilege, or, as lawyers say, qualified privilege. But, at any rate, for a long period, this man’s charges were made under the seal of secrecy and confidence. For what? In order to absolve him- from the possibility of being rendered liable to those proceedings which Senator Higgs mentioned, and to make it clear that he was prepared to libel, but he was not prepared to take the consequences of libel. But if there be any doubt upon that score, it is certain that if these charges are circulated in the Senate, there is privilege. They would then come from the lips of my honorable friend as a senator, and there is absolute privilege here. If these things are declared within the walls of this chamber, and are then published as a fair report of our proceedings, all these persons, past and present officials of New Guinea, will be without redress of any description. I do’ not believe that Senator Higgs will press for such a situation. I do not believe the Senate will agree to be such an instrument. I shall’ not say that this gentleman is eccentric. That is not the term which I should apply to him at all, but a verv different appellation altogether. Senator Higgs says that He may be called eccentric; there is no harm in that, but the honorable senator also says that he was accused of murder, but that he was not convicted.
– “ Nor discharged,” I added.
– So that it is still pending over him.
– The records of the Court were destroyed.
– My hon- 01 able friend, Senator Guthrie, said very properly that when a man comes for justice the Senate should never be slow to lend a helping hand in doing justice to him. But this man does not come here and ask the Senate to do justice to him. He is not asking for justice for himself. He is simply using this Senate as an instrument for making retaliatory and abominable charges against other persons. It reminds me of the story of the prisoner in the dock, who was looking very despondent, and the Judge said, “ Prisoner, you seen very much out of spirits; you must recollect that you will get justice here.” The prisoner said, “ Good gracious, my lord, that is the very last thing that I want !” Craig is not here for justice in respect of accusations against him. He is here to get revenge.
– Is the honorable and learned senator justified in saying that ?
– What is it, then?
– He wants an inquiry.
– Are we to grant an inquiry on ex -parte statements containing gross accusations against officials on the part of a man who is moved by personal grievances, . and who is himself surrounded with this atmosphere of discredit? Why should we?
– Charges must be made ex parte until an inquiry takes place.
– Does my honorable friend, who is so thoroughly familiar with the rules and Standing Orders of the Senate, and with the high principles which should govern the proceedings of Parliament, which is a High Court, think that we ought to enter upon an exploitation without some definite and. specific charge being placed before us on the responsibility of some member of the Senate ? That is what I contend for. I say that if you go to a Court, a specific charge has to be made. But my honorable friend wants an inquiry without making a charge.
– He asks for information.
– Information which involves slandering officials without charges being made. The names must be made public. For instance, let us take two charges which have been referred to, and names mentioned. Craig brings in the name of Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. My honorable friend says that he imputes robbery to them.
– Customs frauds.
– Surely a definite charge should be made in that respect. If an investigation has taken place, there is a remedy.
– But if there has been no investigation?
– There appears, according to the correspondence, to have been an investigation at Samarai. When we know that the Customs laws are enforced every day, and that there is a Court for the purpose of investigating charges - when the Courts of the Commonwealth are openfor , the purpose - why should they not be dealt with in that way? Why is this Senate to be flooded with these cases when other tribunals are established for the purpose of investigating them ?
– The officials would not proceed.
– Then bring a specific charge against the specific official, and it can be dealt with. But do not let us have these statements circulated in the Senate under the privilege of Parliament, doing infinite damage to presumably innocent persons of unblemished character. But, of course, if my honorable friend, as a senator, takes the responsibility of making these charges, and satisfies himself that they are prima facie true, it is a different matter. That is why I asked my honorable friend if he had read some of the letters he referred to. He frankly said he had not. But I think that he ought to have done so.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral read them all?
– I read them until I was’ sickened of them. “ Eccentric,” my honorable friend says this man is. Unless he is eccentric, I cannot understand his conduct, although that is not exactly the term I should have applied.
– Would the honorable and learned senator have used the word, if I had not done so ?
– I do not think I should. I should have used one which would have more exactly conveyed my own meaning, and ‘ I do not think it would be quite, so mild as “ eccentric.” But I do not wish to do any hurt to this man.
I am sorry that the matter has cropped up. But as to this charge against Burns, Philp, and Co., my honorable friend said that Craig charged that firm with robbery. He happens to be a discharged servant of theirs.
– He probably knows something about them, then.
– Why did they discharge him?
– Let him fight that out with them in a court of law. I am not defending Burns, Philp, and Co., but are we to accept these charges from a servant, discharged without a character, and who then brings accusations against them? For what purpose? In retaliation for their having discharged him without a character.
– Did they say he was a bad character?
– He says in ‘his own correspondence that the term applied to him in New Guinea is that he is “ a dreadful character.”
– By certain people.
– Apparently that is his general reputation. But let me go on. This gentleman is also an unsuccessful applicant for a government billet in New Guinea.
– Under the “corrupt magistracy “ ?
– He wanted to be one of those officials himself. He wanted to be the leaven that would leaven the whole lump. A pretty piece of leaven he would be.
– Because a man has been discharged, does that prove that he is an incredible witness?
– We are not dealing with his credibility as a witness. I ask my honorable friend if he would expect even an enemy of his to act upon a charge brought against him by a discharged servant, or a person who had applied to him for a billet which had been refused? Surely not. And can my honorable friend expect the Senate to act differently or in a way which would do immense mischief and circulate statements which are slanderous if they are not true.
– May I ask whether there is anything in the correspondence, or any information in the possession of the Government, which corroborates the statements ?
– Nothing that I am aware of.
– There is a charge of murder; is there no corroboration of that?
– I am going to refer to that case. It is the case of Mr. Symons. I put it to Senator Higgs as an individual, and I put it to the Senate, that we ought not to be made the instruments of circulating charges of this kind. We ought not to permit the Senate to be made use of as an instrument of retaliation against other people. My honorable friend Senator Guthrie has alluded to a charge of murder. The name has been mentioned. I suppose that Mr. Symons is still living.
– He is a Customs official in New Guinea.
– I am not complaining of my honorable friend having mentioned the name. But is it not an unfair thing that we should have it stated in the Senate, to be circulated throughout the whole of Australia, that one of the officials of New Guinea is charged with murder ? I do feel that it is not acting upon the principle of doing to others as we would be doneby.
– The honorable and learned senator said that Craig is a dreadful character.
– I said that that was what this man reported” was said of himself. I did not call him by that name. Singularly enough, the only individual in connexion with the administration of New Guinea against whom Craig has not made these dastardly statements is the late Mr. Robinson. Mr. Robinson had some of these charges before him. I mention that so that . honorable senators will appreciate the fact that Mr. Robinson wrote the despatch to the Governor-General, from which I am about to quote. This Mr. Craig has been in the habit of making charges, and not backing them up. When he has been brought to the pitch of having to support them, or to proceed with” them, he has backed out of them after great expense has been incurred, and great inconvenience has been gone’ to. In connexion with complaints against Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co., and also the charges against Mr. Symons, the matter was in the hands of Mr. Robinson, when he was Acting-Administrator. That gentleman wrote a despatch, and I will ask honor able senators to listen to it carefully. He says -
My reason for taking Mr. Symons with me - that is when he went to Saimarai - was that I had received from Mr. John Renfrew Craig, one time clerk in the employ of Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. Limited, and subsequently a trader in these waters, voluminous notes and correspondence marked confidential -
Honorable senators will see that that is how he used to make these charges until lately. They were always voluminous - in which he seriously reflected upon Mr. Symons’s action in connexion with various matters during the time when he (Mr. Symons) was acting-Resident Magistrate at Samarai, andI wished Mr. Symons to be present so that he might have an opportunity of replying to any of the charges made by Mr. Craig, in the event of my considering it necessary to hold an inquiry, or to make any official investigation into them. Mr. Craig also desired to bring an action against Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. Limited for several hundreds of pounds, and had been complaining of the law’s delays in the institution of the proceedings. The facts are, however, that on my arrival in the Possession, and assumption of the judicial office, I prepared the writ of summons, &c, in connexion with Mr. Craig’s claim ; he was not at that . time in the Possession, but had given his address as Samarai, so I handed the document to the Resident Magistrate, Mr. Campbell, with instructions to date the summons and issue if on payment of the Court fees, and Mr. Craig was duly advised of this.
It will be observed that in connexion with the charges against Burns, Philp, & Co., the chief judicial officer of New Guinea took every step in order that the case might be investigated -
Of Mr. Craig’s recent letters to me, one purported to have been written at Samarai, andI expected to try his action on my arrival at Samarai indeed Mr. Craig’s business was one of the main reasons for this visit of mine to the Eastern Division.
As a gale was blowing, we anchored inside the reef for the night, and proceeded on our way at an early hour next morning ; and after a rather rough passage we berthed at the wharf at Samarai at about noon on Monday, 30th November. I found that Mr. Craig was not there, and that there was no news of his coming, and also that the fees for the issue of the summons were still unpaid. I may here state that on my return to Samarai on the 18th December, I learnt that a letter had been received from Mr. Craigwritten from Townsville, from which it appeared that he was aware of my presence in Samarai, but he stated that he did not intend to take any further steps in the matter of his action against Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. Limited, at present; and countermanded the instructions previously given to his agent in Samarai as to the payment of the fees. Mr. Craig has apparently no present intention of returning to the Possession, either for the purpose of prosecuting his claim against Burns, Philp, and Co. Limited, or of carrying out his voluntary undertaking to place me in the way of obtaining proof of his many and serious charges against Mr. Symons. Mr. Moreton, who is also included in Mr. Craig’s condemnation, as it chanced, was also present at Samarai, and was prepared to meet Mr. Craig’s charges. Apart from the inconvenience and loss of time which Mr. Craig’s action entailed upon the service, Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. have been subjected to no little trouble and expense in retaining employes at Samarai, and in preparing to resist Mr. Craig’s claim, and they, equally with myself, were quite ready to have the matter adjudicated upon any of the eight occasions upon which I have visited Samarai since my arrival in the Possession.
The despatch goes on to say -
The Merrie England had a quantity of stores to deliver at Cape Nelson, Kumusi River, and Tamata, and I had intended sending her to these stations and remaining at Samarai until she returned. Under the circumstances, however, I decided to myself visit these stations, and I thought that possibly I might fmd Mr. Craig at Samarai on my - return.
Which he did not do. So far as these charges are concerned, when the opportunity was given to him, and when proceedings had been initiated, and the documents were prepared, and he was assisted by the Acting-Government Resident and chief judicial officer, who went to Samarai for the purpose of investigating them, Craig was found to be hon est.
– Did Craig know that Mr. Robinson was going to investigate the charges ?
– It is said that he had notice of it. Not only so, but Mr. Robinson expected to find him at Samarai on his return. He went back to Samarai, but Mr. Craig was not there. And this is a report from an official against whom, so far as I am aware, and so far as I am informed, and can gather from the papers which I have personally investigated, Craig makes no charge whatever. Yet he requests my honorable friend, Senator Higgs, to obtain a -precis of the correspondence, which is to be made public, giving publicity to it under the shelter of parliamentary privilege, and reflecting in this manner upon Government residents, high officials, and other people, making charges of corruption against the magistracy, and railing against all and sundry. I say that this is intolerable. No member of this Senate - certainly no one who has occupied any responsible position in a Government - would be worthy of his position if he did not respectfully protest, and ask the Senate to support his protest, against this High Court of Parliament being made the channel for the propagation of libels of that kind, which the person making them has had opportunities of proving, if he had chosen, but of which opportunities he has refrained .from availing himself.
– Can the honorable and learned senator tell the Senate whether Symons was removed from his position of sub-collector at Samarari to another position, and suspended from his duties as a magistrate ?
– I do not care whether he was or was not. But if he was, and it was in consequence of any impropriety of conduct on his part, that is an additional reason why the Senate should not revive a matter which has been dealt with, and settled, and in which punishment is suggested to have been allotted. If my honorable friend is prepared, as Senator McGregor suggested, to read the whole correspondence, it may be within his competency, if he has a copy of it, to do so. I do not think he will. I am glad to feel that he is shrinking from doing it.
– I shrink, because it would be a physical strain to read all these letters.
– It would be more than a physical strain. The Senate will scarcely credit one form of this gentleman’s eccentricity. He was not content with writing to the Minister of External Affairs, and sending these letters to officials I suppose in British New Guinea. He duplicated them over and over again. He sent some of them to the Attorney-General’s office, and others ,to other departments. Really, he distributed them broadcast where he thought he could do so without risk. His application for a billet in British NewGuinea has been going on apparently from the 3rd May, 1899. He has been, constantly struggling for a billet.
– Is it not a dreadful offence to try to get a job ?
– He was only showing his qualifications !
– I know my honorable friend’s power of satire, and appreciate the irony of his remark, “ he was only showing his qualifications.” I hope that neither British New Guinea, nor any other part of the Commonwealth dominions, will be afflicted with any one who exhibits so much persistency of malice arising, it may be, ‘ from the grievances - I am not saying whether they are ill or well founded - under which he seems to consider himself labouring. This correspondence was going on during Mr. Watson’s Ministry and during preceding Ministries. It is a remarkable fact that subsequent to that report by Mr. Robinson, which I have read, there was a Royal Commission appointed - at the instance of Mr. Watson’s Government, I think - to investigate the unhappy incident of the Garobari massacre. This gentleman, who is going to purify the administration of British New Guinea, asked that the scope of the Royal Commission should be widened, so that it should take in all those matters to which Senator Higgs has been referring.
– Yes; but if the former Ministry had pursued the honorable and learned senator’s plan, they would not have ordered an inquiry into the Garobari affair, because it was a reflection on the administration.
– My honorable friend is not entitled to say that, and I do not think he means it. But whether that be so or not, we. are not trying the question of the former Ministry - their derelictions or the performance of their duties - because it never came up; nor are we trying the question of this Ministry in that respect, because it is a past action. Whatever other Ministers would have done, I am going to give credit to the Watson Ministry for appointing the Royal Commission, and therefore, so far as that is concerned, there is an end of it. What I am saying is that this Mr. Craig applied to have the scope of the Commission enlarged, so as to investigate all these things, which are now sought to be brought before the Senate - Mr. Watson’s Ministry had before them the charges, and if these allegations of murder against Mr. Symons - if all these other things, some of which have been indicated by my honorable friend - had been thought deserving of investigation, the Watson Ministry were inspired by as high a sense of justice as any other Ministry, and they would have granted his request ; but they did not.
– One thing at a time.
– This indirect method, proposed by the honorable senator, of practically reversing the decision of the Watson Ministry in a fashion which will be much more mischievous, by giving to the public the names of honorable men - holding high office still in other parts of the Commonwealth - attached to the statements which are supposed to import these charges. We know that when an accusation, however unfounded, is circulated against a person, it is very difficult to rebut it. My honorable friend knows that it means perhaps endless investigation with regard to the most hollow charges. But so far as this case is concerned, I can only say that from 1898 until the final decision in the beginning of September - not one of these applications of his was successful. Whilst I do not say that an applicant for a situation is to be held in less esteem simply oni that account, still I say that when we find an applicant for a Government billet in British New Guinea coming forward when he is unsuccessful and told that he is not wanted, to make these accusations, and to bring them forward free from the seal of secrecy and confidence, but launched on the floor of this Chamber, and under its privilege, then, I think, we have a right to view with at least suspicion the accusations which he makes. The Senate, I believe, will pause before it allows itself to be made the instrument o.f disseminating statements, importing these things under such circumstances or at such instance.
– How long is it since be first applied for a situation?
– He has, I gather, been applying periodically since 1899, and his last application was dated the 31st May, 1904.
– Was he applying for any positions for which applications had been invited, or was he applying generally for any kind of employment?
– The last application was simply general. It was - for an appointment in the service of the British New Guinea Government.
He wished to serve the Government which he denounced as embracing amongst other things a corrupt magistracy, and in that country in which he says he is spoken of as a dreadful character. From 1896 he had been doing this, showing, if I may use Senator McGregor’s expression, his qualifications for this appointment. Then, when finally unsuccessful, he requests my honorable friend to bring the matter forward in this shape. I do not wish to allude to other matters. My honorable friend says it will be a terrible tax to read the correspondence, and, short of reading the correspondence, no effective precis could be given, even if it were desirable to do so.
I think, after what my honorable friend has said, he will agree with me that, before the privileges of the Senate are availed of, in order to brand the names of high officials and the wholebody of the magistracy of New Guinea with calumnious statements, and to circulate them, or even aprecis of them, broadly throughout Australia, , the honorable senator should take the responsibility if he can of making specific charges to the Senate on a bonâ fide case. And then, of course, no one can deny that in the discharge of public duty others may have temporarily to suffer, but that suffering I do not think we should occasion on the facts to which I have, called attention. I appeal to those who have had responsibility in Ministries to sav that it would be a very serious thing if Ministers who are unfortunately made the recipients by disappointed men, of all sorts of charges, perhaps against others or against an. Administration, should lightly consent to bring them into the glare of publicity, affecting, as they do. persons by name. ‘ I feel sure that the Senate, rising to the high level of its own duties, and its place in the Constitution, will be slow, even if there were a doubt about it, to make itself an instrument for disseminating slanders.
– I should like to know why all this unnecessary heat has been imported into- the discussion of a matter of this kind. The Attorney-General has surpassed himself in his exhibition of earnestness in trying to repel a motion which simply asks for the light of day to be thrown on certain transactions.
– And persons.
– I wish to deal with one or two statements made by the AttorneyGeneral, who has not placed the case fairly before the Senate. Above all things, the Senate should be fair in dealing with any person who asks it to take action in any direction. In the first place, the AttorneyGeneral has echoed the cry which was raised by Senator Walker when this matter was first brought forward, when he interjected, “Who is this Mr. Craig”? The humbiest citizen of the Commonwealth has as much right to come to the S’enate and ask for a fair deal or a fair inquiry as the wealthiest and most influential gentleman.
– We all agree with that. It is not a question of wealth.
– We all say that we do, but we do not all carry out what we say.
– I simply asked for information. I have not the pleasure of knowing him.
– Both here and outside we continually hear the question asked, “ Who is such and such a person”?
– There is a very great difference between a man defending himself and a man trying to persecute others.
– The first thing which Craig asks for is an inquiry into charges made against himself, as I shall be able to show conclusively before I have finished. The Attorney-General said that the source of the information is poisoned, simply because this man is under suspicion as a discharged servant - because he happens to be “ hard up.” I am sorry that the name of the firm, or of any individual should have been mentioned, because that is quite unnecessary under the circumstances.
– The firm was mentioned not by me, but by Senator Higgs.
– There is no dishonour or discredit in a man receiving the “ sack “ from his employers. What I consider the most honorable incident in my career is, that I received the “ sack “ from a certain firm.
– But the honorable senator did not afterwards malign that firm behind their backs.
– No, I took my justification in my own way, which was quite as effective. Mr. Craig all the time has been asking for an inquiry into the charges made against him. Most abominable charges were levelled at him by people in the way of retaliation for certain action he took to expose what he regarder as their guilty conduct.
– Why should we inquire into charges against Mr. Craig ?
– Because those charges are made bv officials who are under the control of the Commonwealth, and who, if a certain Bill becomes law, will have the right to enter the Commonwealth Public Service. Mr. Craig alleges that the reason he was discharged was that he refused to “ wink “ at the efforts of the firm w’ho emploved him to circumvent and defraud the Customs.
– That is his version.
– I am giving Mr. Craig’s version.
– Burns, Philp, and Company do not give that as the reason.
– There were seven specific charges made against Mr. Craig, ami he has a perfect right to ask for justice.
– We are not a Court of that kind; let him proceed in law.
– How can he proceed in law when the officials refuse to take action ?
– He could have taken action himself if they libelled him.
– But he is a POe: man and unable to take action involving large expenditure.
– What expense would there be except Court fees in a place where there are no lawyers?
– But who would try the case? The officials who have made the charges.
– Are we to try every libel action, when a man cannot afford to go to law?
– No, but an inquiry is all that is asked for, and it would be more than justified if only one-tenth of the charges had any foundation in fact. The statement of the Attorney-General that Mr. Craig makes no specific charges is contrary to facts, because, from what I have seen of the papers, I know that ‘he makes many specific charges, and indicates the evidence which can be called in support of them.
– Has he made those charges outside, or under privilege ?
– Mr. Craig, in order to protect himself, at first sent his communication to the Department of External Affairs marked “private and confidential,” but I am happy to inform honorable senators that he has since removed all embargo, and has, further, obtained a justice of the peace in Queensland to witness his signature to a document containing the charges.
– That does not make the charges public, to justify an action for libel.
– - Seven charges were brought against Mr. Craig, but no legal writ, summons, or warrant of arrest, was ever issued. Informal trials and inquiries, semi-official and semi-private, were held in irregular places, at irregular hours. Every citizen charged with an offence has a right to be tried publicly in the full light of day. Why were those charges not proceeded with, and the man either convicted or acquitted ?
– Has he no influential friends who can confirm his statements?
– Here we have the same idea to which I have already referred -a man must have “ influential “ friends to assist him.
– I do not use the word in the sense indicated by the honorable senator.
– It is a very unfortunate attitude which the honorable senator has taken - it means that only the wealthy and influential can obtain what is just.
– What I mean is some friend who can be relied on.
– I do not know whatthe honorable senator means, but I know what he said. I have known Mr. Craig for a very long time as a creditable, reliable, and deserving citizen.
– Then help him to go to law.
– There are certain reasons why he cannot go to law. ‘ To go ‘ to law in New Guinea at the present time would be like going to law with” a certain objectionable gentleman in a Court in a very warm place. It has been said that Mr. Craig is worthy of no reliance simply because he sent most of the charges as “private and confidential “ - that he protected himself against the consequences of what the Attorney-General has described as slanders and libels.- Possibly that remark was made by this distinguished legal gentleman from the point of view that “ the -greater the truth the greater libel.” It is that which probably enables him to say that the charges are slanders and libels?
– The honorable senator ‘ has suggested that the charges are proved, and that the Attorney-General knows it.
– I am not suggesting anything of the kind. The AttorneyGeneral has had no more opportunity than myself of ascertaining whether the charges are true or untrue.
– What did the honorable senator mean ? ‘
– The AttorneyGeneral cannot say whether the statements are slanders or libels until he knows whether or not they are true. I am not in the habit of insinuating or suggesting, but of speaking out quite plainly. I. shall quote to the House an instance in which Mr. Craig made a statement when he could claim no privilege or protection from the consequences. He wrote a letter to a certain firm accusing them of fraud, and demanding that they should pay him a certain sum of money, not to hold his tongue, but to satisfy a just claim which he had against them.
– He would have let the fraud go if they had paid him.
– If this firm had not been guilty - if there has not been some presumption in their own mind that they would not come well out of a trial - they would have proceeded against Craig for endeavouring to extort blackmail.
– They might treat him with contempt.
– Sometimes it is convenient to treat charges of this kind with “ contempt. ‘ ‘
– The Reid Customs fraud would not have been found out but for a discharged employed
– Mr. Reid was absolutely innocent in that matter.
– I suppose that on the plea that we should say nothing but good of the dead, Senator Walker may be excused for such an inaccurate statement. The letter was sent on the 5th September, 1904, to Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co.
– Quite recently?
– The honorable and learned senator need not think that the date of the letter shows that the firm have not had time to take proceedings. A similar demand was made on 10th February, 1903, and afterwards on the 18th May and 22nd July in the same year. In order to insure that Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. would receive the letter, Mr. Craig took thetrouble to register it, and if Mr. Craig’s statements were untrue there was ample time to institute the charge of blackmail. The letter was as follows: -
Wharcroa, 130 Grey street, East Melbourne, 5th September, 1904.
Adverting to my letters of the (1), 8th December, 1902; (2), 14th January, 1903; (3), 10th February, 1903 ; (4), 13th July, 1903 ; (5), 22nd
Owing to the inadvertent disclosures in connexion with, and to the semi-publicity of the matter of the Samarai Customs frauds, and to the summary dismissals of members of the stall of the Samarai branch consequent thereon.
I hereby again request that you will furnish me with a just, written reference of the testimonial, certifying truthfully with regard to my personal length of service, character, and abilities generally.
Mr. Craig alleges that he was dismissed from the firm because he would not assist or “ wink ‘ ‘ at frauds which he alleges were being perpetrated by the firm or their officers on the Customs Department.
– The letter pro ceeds -
Being yourselves thoroughly cognizant of the fraudulent practices systematically engaged in by former members of the staff, together with the former Customs officials, it most certainly was the duty of your numerous staff of branch inspectors themselves to be on the qui vive for a recurrence of similar corrupt practices.
On repeated occasions I have distinctly refused to directly assist, or even to connive, at defrauding the Customs in Samarai, more especially in February, 1897, October, 1898, and August, 1902. I maintained my own personal integrity in spite of much coercion, nevertheless, it was not my especial personal duty to become an “ informer “ upon my fellow employes or others.
By the mere withholding of a just written reference, you do me a grievous personal injury.
I hereby again request that you will forward to me, without further delay, your cheque in settlement of my claim for a rectification and adjustment of the statement of my personal account in the books of your Samarai branch, together with interest and a suitable allowance for damages as hereinafter mentioned.
Then he goes on to give a statement of his claim, amounting in all to , £12,968 3s. 3d.
– How is that claim made up?
– It would take too long to explain how it is made up.
– He has never proceeded for one shilling of it.
– His latest claim was made on the 15th September, 1904, and he has received no reply. I do not know whether he will proceed, but the point I wish to make is that if there is no truth in his charges, Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. have him in their hands, as they must succeed in a charge made against him for blackmail.
– He might not be worth powder and shot.
– Is not his claim barred by the Statute of Limitations?
– Was not a writ actually prepared by the late Mr. Robinson?
– I know nothing of that, beyond what we have heard from the Attorney-General.
– He abandoned it, apparently.
– There may have been very good reasons for the abandonment. Every .one is aware that, unfortunately, fever is very prevalent in New Guinea, and if a man is attacked by it, he may have to abandon everything.
– But he was at Townsville.
– He was ill in Townsville. Any one> who knows anything of New Guinea fever, will know that an attack may last for months, and a man may not be in a fit condition to attend to any business.
– Did not Mr. Robinson’s report say that Mr. Craig was then in Townsville, and that he instructed his agent at Samarai not to proceed.
– Very likely. What I am stating is that Mr. Craig had left British New Guinea, and had come to Townsville, not because he was unwilling to go on with the case, but because the condition of his health required that he should leave .New Guinea. I point out that in order to proceed with the case he would have had to go back to Samarai before he had quite recovered. It takes months, and sometimes years, to- effect a complete recovery from an attack of the malarial fever which is prevalent in all newly-opened up tropical countries.
– Does the honorable senator say that Mr. Craig was suffering from fever, or that that is a possible explanation ?
– I am not certain that he was suffering from fever, but I know that he was ill in Townsville.
– The honorable senator suggests that that is a possible explanation?
– It is, and it would i:over the whole case. That he has not proceeded in the ordinary law Courts might be explained also by something I said a little while ago. I pointed out that he might have some hesitation in going to law in New Guinea, where the whole administration of affairs is in the hands of a few, and where as Craig seems to think, the administration of justice may be tainted to some extent by the bias, conscious or otherwise, of officials over there. He might be very easily excused for hesitating to go to law in New Guinea, and, perhaps, live there for a considerable time waiting for delayed justice, and I ask if Craig is to be for ever debarred from having the very serious charges made by him inquired into? Is it right that the Senate should ignore the very serious charges which have been made by a citizen of the Commonwealth against certain public officers of the Commonwealth. The charges may or may not be true, but some of them are exceedingly serious charges, and the officers against whom they have been made, are now under the control of the Commonwealth Government.
– Some of them are not. They are now in the Imperial service.
– I grant that some of them are, but those who remained in New Guinea are now under the control of the Commonwealth Government, and when the Papua Bill becomes law, they will, under clause 19, be eligible for positions in the Commonwealth Public Service, and we should be very careful about the honour of our public servants.
– We should be more careful of the honour of the public servants of New Guinea than to make charges, such as these, without any corroboration.
– Circumstances may render it necessary that many charges shall, in the first place, be made without corroboration.
– Does the honorable senator not think it is very hard to damage all these public servants upon the unsupported statements of this man?
– How have they been damaged ?
– Will they not be damaged, if we make all this public now?
– I think I can answer for Senator Higgs, and say that if the leader of the Government in this Chamber will promise a full and impartial inquiry into the whole of the circumstances, the honorable senator will withdraw his motion immediately.
– Why did not the Watson Government add this inquiry to the work of the Commission that was appointed?
– The Commission to which the honorable and learned senator refers was appointed for a special purpose, to investigate a disturbance which arose very unexpectedly, and the investigation had to be made hurriedly that the evidence might be obtained while it was fresh.
– The investigation was not so hurried as to prevent Craig sending in a request that the Com: mission should be enlarged.
– That only shows how watchful Mr. Craig is about his own affairs, and the affairs of the country.
– The kindest thing the honorable member could say is that he was peculiar.
– I do not say that he was peculiar. I am competent to express what I think of him without the AttorneyGeneral putting words into my mouth. I do not say that Mr. Craig is peculiar, but that he is a remarkably intelligent man, as a glance over some of his letters will show. If he has committed a fault his intelligence but adds to his offence, and if his charges can be substantiated he has done a sendee to the Commonwealth in formulating them in an intelligent way. Though the statements which have been made by Mr. Craig have so far been uncorroborated, the fact remains that in many specific instances he points out where evidence in support of His allegations can be secured at the present moment. When serious charges are made, and it is alleged that evidence in support of them is to be obtained, it would be an easy matter for the Government to take one of the cases which Craig asserts can be supported by ample evidence, and treated as a test case, and inquired into. I ask the Attorney-General whether the Government will do that, and whether thev will give Mr. Craig any satisfaction at all ?
– I think that Senator Higgs might withdraw the motion to begin with.
– I know that, as a matter of fact, Craig has been trying very hard, and for a very long time, to secure an inquiry into some of the evils which he alleges exist in New Guinea, and from which he has suffered very severely. Why should he be continually refused that inquiry. How is it that he can get no assurance that the commonest justice will be meted Out/to him ;
– He will drop the inquiry if he gets a billet, of course.
- Senator Fraser’s insinuation is an unworthy one.
– The correspondence shows that.
– It does not show anything of the kind, and I defy the honorable senator to prove it.
– Does the honorable senator think that he would not withdraw his allegations if he got a billet ?
– He has never offered to withdraw his allegations against any officer in New Guinea if he got a billet. Further than that, be has assured me personally that he intends to pursue his charges against the corruption which, he asserts, is rampant in certain branches of the New Guinea service until he has effected an alteration. It is grossly unfair for Senator Fraser to say that Craig’s sole object in making these charges was to get a billet.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable senator did not insinuate it, but he said plainly that the correspondence showed that Craig would drop the charges if he got’ a billet.
– Does the honorable senator think that he would have requested an honorable senator to move this motion if he had got that billet?
– I am inclined to think he would.
– Oh, come, come !
– As a matter of fact I believe that on the exact day on which Craig last applied for a billet under the Commonwealth he sent in some of these letters re-affirming his allegations against some public officers in New Guinea.
– That is the whip he cracked over them to get the billet.
– The AttorneyGeneral immediately shifts his ground. A minute or two ago the honorable and learned senator said that Craig would never have requested that this ‘motion, should be made, and would not have taken any further action if he had got a billet.
– Seriously, does the honorable senator think he would ?
– The very fact that he took action at the time he applied for the billet sufficiently disproves the AttorneyGeneral’s insinuation. At all events, it disproves the suggestion that he desired to crack a whip over the Department. I have gone through a good deal of the correspondence, and I say that if Craig’s only idea was to revenge himself upon these people by publishing abominable statements concerning them, he need not have asked for this -precis at all, because, taking advantage of their privilege, honorable senators could have read out most of the statements he has made, and so have had them published in Hansard. In the course of an hour, if I chose to do so, I could read a great many of those statements. We have not taken that course, and I will undertake to say that if the Attorney-General will agree to an inquiry being made into some of the most serious allegations made by Craig, and will undertake that Craig shall get a fair deal in the matter, Senator Higgs will be only too pleased to withdraw his motion.
– I am very sorry that I was not present when Senator Higgs made his speech, and during the earlier part of the speech made by the leader of the Senate. I feel inclined to agree very largely with the contentions of the Attorney-General. We must remember that this Parliament has been clothed with great powers and privileges for great and high purposes. We are allowed to make statements which, if made outside, might be libellous, and might lead to proceedings for criminal libel being taken. Having that privilege we ought to guard it very zealously. We ought not to make the Senate a channel for disseminating accusations about people who are innocent. And we must remember that every man is innocent until he is proved to be guilty. Under , the aegis of privilege serious statements have been made. I have not yet been afforded an opportunity to read them, but I understood the leader of the Senate to say that they are abominable libels. Without in the slightest degree knowing whether they are true or false, I say that we ought not to circulate such statements about the highest officials in the Civil Service of New Guinea without having corroboration of them. I believe that these officials are serving us faithfully and well. Libels against them ought not to be pub-, lished without their having the slightest opportunity to refute them. Mr. Craig proposes to make, through a member of the Senate, libellous statements, under the garb of privilege, which statements, I understand, he has not, up to the present, attempted to make public. When a man writes certain statements on paper, and signs them before a magistrate, he is not guilty of libel, because he has not made them public.
– If he gives them to a third person, he has published them.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.He has accused certain officers in the employment of Burns, Philp, & Co., of defrauding the Customs. Possibly, it is true. I believe it is true. I believe there was a case in Samarai. But are there not cases of a similar character in the Commonwealth? Quite recently there was a case at Broome, where exactly the same thing occurred. But the Customs official was not discharged. He was removed from Broome to the head office in Perth. Is it to be supposed that the Minister at the head of the Department was guilty of unworthy conduct in that case? Why should we say that the highest officials in ‘ New Guinea, or Messrs. Burns, Philp, & Co., are responsible for the actions of one or two clerks, when we know nothing about the facts of the case? We should be degrading the highest functions of this Senate if we made ourselves the vehicle for spreading alleged libels by a person, who, up to the present, has not dared to make his statements publicly. What position should we be in if we established such a precedent ? Any person in , the Commonwealth might make the foulest libels against the highest officials in the country, and without asking whether they were true, or affording any opportunity for their refutation, we should publish them to the world. Surely the Senate is not going to allow itself to be put in a position like that. It is our duty to protect the honour of our officials in New Guinea. Speaking generally, those officers have done most excellent work. If we consider the poor salaries they are paid, their wretched surroundings, and the injurious climate, together with the fact that they are removed from all that makes life pleasurable, we shall come to the conclusion . that they have done noble work. Are we going to recompense them by allowing possible libels to be circulated about them behind their backs under privilege of Parliament, without giving them the slightest opportunitv to refute the statements? T do not believe for a moment that the Senate will do such a thing. I do not believe the charge that the magistracy of New Guinea is corrupt. I have met two or three of the magistrates, and I have a great respect for them. I have met Mr. Russell, the son of a very well-known man in Queensland, who, I think, wrote a history of that State. He is a man of unquestionable honour. I have also met Mr. Campbell, the resident magistrate at Samarai. I do not believe that there is a more honorable, or a more able man in our Possession than he is. He is always spoken of in the very highest terms, and has been a public servant in other places than New Guinea. Sir Francis Winter, the former Chief Justice of New Guinea, was a man against whom I have never heard a breath of suspicion, and one of whose judicial decisions the miners, traders, and the whole of the people of New Guinea speak in the very highest terms. The LieutenantGovernor at the time these events are supposed to have happened, was Sir George Le Hunte, the present Governor of South Australia. Surely we can trust a man who occupies such a position as he does - a man of the highest honour and integrity. These are the officers who we are asked to believe were corrupt.
– What about the Somers Vine syndicate?
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.That has nothing to do with the case. The Somers Vine syndicate made certain applications for land which were not granted. They had no connexion with the magistracy or the judicial officers of New Guinea. Mr. Craig himself has been accused - I do not know by whom - of all kinds of heinous crimes. I do not believe one of them. I am very loath to believe any charges against a man’s character until I have proof that they are true. We all value our ownreputations, and I prefer to believe that a man is an honest man until he is proved to be otherwise. But Mr. Craig is unconsciously biased to an extraordinary extent in these matters. So far as I have heard, he has never done anything of which he need be ashamed, but while I make no charge against him, I am solicitous for the honour and prestige of our officers in New Guinea. Let us consider the motives foi bringing these charges. Are Mr. Craig’s motives purely patriotic? Has he made the charges with a view of clearing out the Augean stables?
SenatorStewart. - Has the honorable senator read this paper?
– No ; and I shall not accept the exaggerated statements of Mr. Craig, or any one else, until there is some proof in support of them. If the honorable senator is going to allow a libel to be published, simply because an individual’ makes it, he has a very poor opinion of the functions of Parliament, and does not pay a high regard to its honour and prestige. Mr. Craig was a discharged servant of Burns, Philp, and Co. He may have been perfectly innocent. Personally, I do not believe that Mr. Craig ever did a dishonest act. But he had certain business relations with Burns, Philp, and Co. in a trading venture. He seems to think ! that the firm treated him badly or fradulently ; that they robbed him of a certain amount of money. Has he not the same opportunity as any other individual in this Commonwealth to go to the Courts and proceed against Burns, Philp, and Co. for the recovery of the money which he says is due to him? The people of New Guinea are in the happy position of having no lawyers. There is absolutely no expense attached to bringing an action. All one has to do is to go to the Court and himself plead his case before the Chief Justice, and he has only a layman to oppose him. The law is cheap, and at Samarai it is right at the door. Mr. Craig could have made his charges against Burns, Philp, and Co. before Sir Francis Winter. But he says : that he distrusted the magistracy. I have never heard a word said against the justice of the decisions of Sir Francis Winter. At a later period Chief Justice Robinson presided over the Court. He would have heard Mr. Craig’s charges, who had every facility for making them. Possibly he was ill when Chief Justice Robinson visited Samarai. But these proceedings have not lapsed through the course of time. Mr. Craig has the same opportunity now as he had before of taking proceedings against Burns, Philp and Co. The Statute of Limitations does not apply. We now. have as Chief Justice of New Guinea a man in whom - I think Senator Higgs will agree with me - we may have the most absolute confidence. I refer to Chief Justice Murray. Mr. Craig, like any other individual, can go before Chief Justice Murray, and bring his case of fraud against Burns, Philp, and Co., and if he can prove it, justice will be done. But, instead of doing that, he prefers to ask for an inquiry. If we granted it, what would it lead us into? Suppose every person in the Commonwealth who had a grievance against any other individual asked that a Royal Commission should be appointed to inquire into it. It would be a perfect farce. We should have Royal Commissions and inquiries appointed every rive minutes. The work would be taken out of the Law Courts altogether. Our affairs would be like a Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera. It would cost an enormous sum of money. Every man in this community has the same rights before the law, whatever his position may be, and every man’s story should receive the same credence before the Courts, until it is proved to be incorrect.
– Not if he has applied for a position in the Public Service, which has been refused to him.
– Of course, every man has a right to apply for a position. He may be a perfectly honest man. and may believe that he will carry out the duties satisfactorily. I do not altogether blame Mr. Craig for applying for such a position. He says, “ Well, because I allege that other members are corrupt I can go there and carry out these duties, whatever they are, honestly,” I do not say that that is anything against Craig. I understand that certain Customs fraud’s have occurred in Samarai, and that certain charges! have been brought against Mir. Symons. In British New Guinea, we have a Chief Justice, who is quite competent to hold a fair and impartial inquiry. He has had some experience both as a barrister and as a Judge in receiving and sifting evidence. Seeing that these accumulated charges have been made, I would ask the Attorney-General to invite the Chief Justice to make an inquiry into certain charges which have been made against some civil servants. That, I think, would be a correct position for the Senate to take up. We have had most grave charges, which I have not read, against the Administration in British New Guinea, both before and since its transfer to the Commonwealth by letters patent. It would be quite competent for the Ministry to request the Chief justice to make an inquiry into all the charges which have been made since that time. It may be that some events have occurred in that Possession, which if inquired into would necessitate the dismissal of some officers. Personally, I do not think that any such events have occurred, but as these accusations have been made, surely an inquiry could be ordered in the interests of those officials? I do not think for a moment that the LieutenantGovernor would allow any fraudulent operations to be carried out, as he is a gentleman of the highest character. At the same Dime, accusations have been made as to the existence of corruption in the Possession, and it is the duty of the Ministry to vindicate the character of the officials by having an inquiry made, without expense, by the highest local authority. If an inquiry were held by the Chief Justice, both sides of the question would be heard, and a decision would be arrived at on the spot. The Senate would then be in a position to consider whether any further action was necessary, or whether these were merely trumped-up charges of which no notice should be taken. I ask Senator Higgs not to make the Senate a vehicle for disseminating possibly gross libels on high officials in British New Guinea, when there is not one scintilla of evidence as to whether they are true or not.
– The honorable senator has not read the correspondence.
– Outside the statements of the writer, who has a grievance against Messrs. Burns, Philp and Co., is there any evidence that the accusations are well founded? Ought we to allow the Senate to be made a vehicle for disseminating libels under cover of privilege, so that their author cannot be proceeded against? I submit that their sense of justice ought to inspire honorable senators not to allow these accusations to be published to the world until the officials accused shall have had an opportunity of replying to them. I think that Mr. Craig should be satisfied if an inquiry is made by the Chief Justice, whose impartiality will not be questioned.
- Senator Higgs has brought forward a very important matter, and every honorable senator should be very careful as to the way in which he shall record his vote if a division is called for. I can quite understand that the Senate, as a branch of the Parliament, should be looked upon by every person as perhaps the highest Court in Australia: but I cannot agree with Senator Higgs that it is the place in which charges made by one individual against others, and uncorroborated to the slightest extent, should be disseminated. Every honorable senator has the right to make such charges under the cover of privilege. It is very hard to overtake a lie once it gets a start. If a -precis were given here it would get into Hansard. Suppose that on an investigation being held, the charges were found to be false, the lies would have had a long start, and that would be very unfair to the persons accused.
– Does the honorable senator know that the Government has refused an inquiry to this man?
– I do not know that. Whilst I am in thorough sympathy with the honorable senator in his desire to see that every man shall get justice, I wish to ask whether from the evidence he has before him, or the investigations he has made, he is satisfied that there’ is any real foundations for these charges. If he is not thoroughly satisfied that they can be cor.roborated by independent testimony, the Senate is not the place in which they should be made public. I take this view with some diffidence, because I appreciate the motive which is actuating my honorable friend. I do not know Mr. Craig, or any one of the individuals, against whom the charges are levelled. I do not know any man who has been or is in the Civil Service of British New Guinea. It .matters not to me whether the officials concerned occupy high or low positions. I think that the speech of the AttorneyGeneral was too heated, and savoured too much of special pleading for the other side. Probably he felt that an injustice might be done if the precis were published.
– I was thinking just as much of the dignity of the Senate.
– I can hardly conceive it possible that, if there is any foundations for these charges, Mr. Craig should have had to wait for seven or . eight years to get corroborative testimony.
– Has the honorable senator never heard of a similar case?
– I can mention one case which occurred in Queensland.
– I can hardly conceive it possible in this age that these accusations can be true, and that Mr. Craig has not been able to get any testimony ;o support them. If he was able to get corroborative testimony he would not have the slightest difficulty in getting the big newspapers to publish his accusations.
– Yes, he would.
– We know very well that the big newspapers - unfortunately not too scrupulous at times in what they say - are always glad to get any sensational matter. What more sensational matter could they have than charges against high officials in British New Guinea?
– They are afraid of being sued for libel.
– It has been shown over and over again that the big newspapers are not afraid to publish sensational statements when they feel satisfied that they can be substantiated if questioned in a Court. I cannot conceive it possible that, if there were any truth in his charges, Mr. Craig could not get some person to corroborate them in some degree. If he were able to get that corroborative testimony I feel satisfied that he could get his accusations published in the press. I recognise that’ a great responsibility rests upon an honorable senator when he is asked to vote on this question. I should not like to be the means of denying justice to any individual. But I think it would foe a rat’her serious step for the Senate to accept charges made by one individual against others before he has appealed to the ordinary courts of justice. In these circumstances I shall feel impelled to vote against the motion if a division is called for.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).This is probably a much more important matter than many honorable senators appear to realize. I have no doubt that the AttorneyGeneral went very (fully into his brief. It appeared to me that during his address he was acting the part of special pleader for the Government and officialism.
– A special pleader for fair play.
– The honorable senator made a long speech, but he confessed that he had never seen the documents which I hold in my hand
– I never had the opportunity.
– However, the honorable senator can speak with much better effect on a subject of which he knows nothing than he can on a subject with which he is familiar. The speech of the AttorneyGeneral came with especially bad grace from the legal administrator of the Government. Mr. Craig makes serious charges against the administration of justice in New Guinea, a Possession which is under the control of the Commonwealth, and the AttorneyGeneral, instead of affording every opportunity, as every one would imagine he would, to insure that the ermine of the Judges, even in that place, is as pure as it ought to be, tries to stifle inquiry. The AttorneyGeneral proceeds on the assumption that the Judges there are angels.
– Not angels, but Judges.
– The AttorneyGeneral assumes that in that free and easy place everything goes on as fairly and above board as it does in Australia, where the eyes of the public, the press, and members of Parliament are continuously on the occupants of high and responsible public positions. Mr. Craig makes a serious charge against the administration generally of New Guinea, and he ought to be afforded an opportunity to prove his case, or the public ought to know that he is neither more nor less than a slanderer - nothing more than a person who desires, as the Attorney-General puts it, to retaliate on people who he considers have done him an injury.
– The honorable senator is quite right; but is this the place for that opportunity to be afforded?
– I propose to show that this is the place. Senator O’Keefe seems to be in the same position as Senator Smith - he knows nothing of the charges, and naturally he is very chary about taking any action which he fears might bring the Senate into disrepute. I should like to tell the Senate what happened to Mr. Craig in New Guinea, and I ask Senator Smith whether he would tamely submit to such treatment.
– Whose statement is the honorable senator going to read ?
– I am going to read Mr. Craig’s statement. We are informed that there were seven specific charges brought against Mr. Craig, who does not seek to hide any single fact; the only persons who appear to be anxious to cover up the matter are the officials. I may say that Mr. Craig was arrested without warrant, and there was no writ or summons issued against him; and he desires to have a Commission to discover whether the assertions he makes are correct. He is prepared to prove his assertions up to the hilt if he is afforded the opportunity ; and the Senate is bound to see that justice is done to the humblest citizen in the Commonwealth. Senator Gray asked earlier whether Mr. Craig could not get the assistance of “ some influential friend.” Senator Gray appears to find himself in a new atmosphere, he having been used to places where the influence of persons in authority goes a long way. He will find the conditions here altogether different. We do not care whether a man be the richest or the highest in the Commonwealth.
– What have riches to do with the matter?
– Why did the hon. orable senator ask whether Mr. Craig could get an “influential friend” to help him? However, the first charge made against Mr. Craig was the embezzlement of a parcel of gold. Then he was charged with the forgery of native labour agreements.
– Was he tried for that?
– Yes. Mr. Craig was also tried for alleged illegal recruiting, then with murder, rape, temporarily purloining, and surreptitiously using the Resident Magistrate’s Government stamps to impress false copies of depositions, and then again with murder by drowning of a native of Dobu. Amongst the several offences there were three involving capital punishment ; but the extraordinary thing is that, although Mr. Craig was tried, he was neither discharged acquitted, nor convicted nor punished on any one.
– That, I presume, is Mr. Craig’s statement.
- Mr. Craig naturally felt annoyed that he should have been brought up on a charge of murder, and neither found innocent nor guilty. I ask Senator Smith what his feelings would be if he underwent a similar experience? A Court, I understand, is bound to find ah accused man either guilty or not guiltv - to either acquit or condemn.
– What “was done with Mr. Craig?
– The proceedings stopped short- were abandoned.
– I suppose a nolle prosequi was entered.
– It was not a case of no true bill.
– There was a true bill, then?
– The AttorneyGeneral knows more about legal procedure than I do ; he knows that a public prosecutor can file either a bill or a no bill. Mr. Craig was brought before the Court, and witnesses were examined and depositions taken. Yet the Court found neither for him nor against him.
– They discharged him?
– They did not discharge him.
– Well, he went away ?
– The proceedings were abandoned.
– What more did he want?
– On one occasion, we are told the Court adjourned for a drink, and never met again.
– The honorable senator does not want us to inquire into that matter, does he?
– Is it not a matter affecting the administration of justice in New Guinea ?
– The allegations are quite serious enough to warrant an inquiry, but there is a much more serious charge yet to come. Mr. Craig, naturally desiring that his character should be cleared, demanded the production of the depositions in those cases, but it was found that none of the depositions were available - every document is unobtainable. That is a fact which demands some explanation. I have here the words of Mr. Craig, and their truth, or otherwise, can be easily ascertained if £in inquiry is held. Mr. Craig says -
It has been officially acknowledged by the Resident Magistrate, Samarai, in his letter of 24th October, 1902, and also by the Government secretary, Port Moresby, in his letter of 20th January, ^03, that no trace of the depositions, or any record whatever of those seven trials, can be found amongst the official documents or records of the Government in the Possession.
Mr. Craig broadly suggests that Mr. Symons. the magistrate, himself destroyed the records, so as to obliterate all trace of hi« mal-administration.
– That is the gentleman who went to confront Mr. Craig, and the latter did not attend.
– This is a most serious charge. In the first place there are those informal trials which would damage the character of Craig in the eyes of the people of the Possession, and then there is the disappearance of all records. The position in New Guinea, according to Mr. Craig, is a very peculiar one. He asserts that a certain firm trading in New Guinea habitually defrauds the Customs.
– Everybody has been a rogue but himself !
– It is all very fine for the honorable senator to talk ; but a considerable number of people were thought to be honest until they were proved to have been guilty of robbing the Customs. Mr. Craig boldly asserts that defrauding the Customs had been quite a common thing in New Guinea for years, and that the public officials of the Possession were acting with the traders. I do not say whether his statements are true or untrue, but he also alleges that because he would not stand in with these people, they determined either to hound him out of the Possession, or to so damage his character that it would not be possible for him to remain there. He says that these trials upon trumped-up charges were in the nature of a conspiracy against him. Naturally, as I have already pointed out, he is anxious to obtain justice, and that the truth or otherwise of his statements shall be demonstrated. The AttorneyGeneral made a great point of the fact that Mr. Robinson had gone to Samarai for the express purpose of trying this case, but Mr. Craig asserts that he was in Townsville at the time the trial took place, was given no notice of it, and knew nothing at all about it.
– He could resuscitate it.
– This is in connexion with his civil claim against Burns, Philp, and Co., and I am not dealing with that at all. I am not troubled about Mr. Craig’s claim against Burns, Philp, and Co’. ; it is not a matter with which the Senate need have anything whatever to do. But I say the Senate is bound to see that Mr. Craig gets justice. On the face of it, very serious accusations have been made against the administration of justice in New Guinea.
– Absolutely unsupported.
– But he says that he can support his assertions if he is afforded an opportunity.
– Why did he not get his corroboration, and submit it with these papers ?
– I do not know, but he says that he is prepared to substantiate every assertion that he has made. I submit that if the Attorney-General is anxious that the reputation of these public officials shall be maintained, the very first thing he will do will be to order an inquiry into all the circumstances about which Mr. Craig has written. I have no wish to detain the Senate any longer, but I submit that a case has been made out by Mr. Craig for inquiry, and I think the AttorneyGeneral will consider the best interests of New Guinea arid of the Commonwealth by consenting to such an inquiry taking place.
– That is not the motion at all. < Debate (on motion by Senator Guthrie) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 19th October (vide page 5732) on motion by Senator Sir Josiah Symon -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-I do not think that it would be wise on my part to weary the Senate by a lengthy speech, because both the’ members of the Federal Parliament and the citizens of Australia recognise by this time that the subject of conciliation and arbitration has been worn almost threadbare. It has led to the defeat of two Governments, and I trust that the hint given’ by the Attorney-General may not prove to be true, that before the measure is put upon the ‘ Statute-book it will lead to the wreck of a Parliament. The subject has been before the people of Australia for the last fourteen or fifteen years. You yourself, Mr. President, had a hand - although . your effort may have been a very humble one - in connexion with the introduction of a Conciliation Bill in South Australia. Even the AttorneyGeneral was not slow to borrow reflected glory’ from the author .of conciliation and arbitration legislation in Australia - the right honorable C. C. Kingston. The first and main object of such legislation is to prevent industrial disputes, and to put an end definitely to strikes and locks-out. With that object in view, we propose to establish a Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, whose purpose shall not be merely to arbitrate compulsorily, but also to conciliate between employer and employe so that they may be. able to settle their differences without a conflict. It is proposed that whenever the Courts acts in its conciliatory capacity, and .the parties arrive at an agreement, that agreement shall be registered and given the force of law. There are three objects in view - the prevention of strikes and locks-out, the establishment of the Court; and facilitating the organization, of the industrial sections of the community, .both employers and employes. As far as concerns the main object - the prevention of .strikes and locks-out - the AttorneyGeneral. has entered fully .into the merits and demerits of the proposed legislation. But with a view of inducing the Senate to vote for this Bill, he rather curi ously, cited the impossibility of establishing international arbitration for the settlement of. international disputes. In his’ long well-prepared, and ‘-eloquent address,’ he has also shown the difficulties that stand in the way of conciliation and arbitration in industrial affairs. . I was really surprised that, at the conclusion of his address, .he’ expected any one to vote for the second reading of the Bill, seeing that he regarded it as impossible to carry out its provisions, Indeed, his attitude made me think that the honorable’ and learned senator- was preparing for two contingencies - the possibility of the measure being carried, and of gaining some credit from that fact; or the possibility that Parliament might be sent to the country, and that he might afterwards conscientiously oppose legislation of this description if he was not in the next Government: That was the only conclusion I coUld come to from the “ yes-no “ attitude that he assumed.
– I should think that the honorable senator is alone in that conclusion.
- Senator Dobson is nearly always alone iri any conclusion at which he arrives. ‘ The Attorney-General did everything he possibly could to show the difficulties that stand in the way, and yet he asks us to vote for the Bill. He was not very earnest in his desire that we should vote . for it. He was not very pathetic in his appeal. But when he was describing the great difficulties that many people in the community have had to contend with through the old barbarous method of settling disputes, he was eloquent. He drew many true pictures. Those who have been connected with industrial life, not only in Australia, but in other parts of the world, for some length of time, as I have been, must confess that such difficulties have arisen. Hence our earnest desire that something should be done to obviate the necessity for resorting to strikes in the future. Our sole, object in desiring arbitration legislation is to prevent the disasters that have overtaken the industrial classes in the past - both employers and employes. We hope that this legislation will be passed by the Federal Parliament this session. But there is one thing about which those who are associated with me are convinced, and that is that the Bill as it stands will not carry out the intentions of those who have a desire for industrial peace. We do not’ think that the provisions of the measure are all that they ought to be, and we shall take every step for the purpose of improving it, in order to make it a Bill that, in our opinion, will have the effect of creating peace and harmony, and bringing prosperity to the industries of Australia.
– With tyranny thrown in !
– I do not see where the tyranny comes- in. Persons will have a right to settle their differences without going to the Arbitration Court. If they do not, it will be their own fault. Some honorable senators say - “ Leave matters alone.” The devils that infested the poor youth two thousand years ago wanted to be left alone. Similarly the opponents of this Bill say - “ Do leave us as we are ; we are quite satisfied.”
– Are we demons ?
– As far as industrial legislation is concerned, I think the honorable senator is going in that direction. I do not intend to deal with the efforts that have been made in the past to secure concessions and rights for the working classes. The Courts provided for in this Bill are of a very .effective character, yet they involve the minimum of expense. The original intention of trie Bill, as introduced by the Barton Government, was to create a Court consisting of a Judge of the High Court, and two other gentlemen, one to be chosen from the industrial classes, or by them, and another to be chosen from the employing classes, or by them; each to receive a fairly liberal salary. It was considered by those who altered the Bill that, as disputes arising under a measure of this description would embrace the whole industrial life of Australia, disputes extending beyond the bounds of any one State would be, comparatively speaking, few in number, and that it would be unwise to incur too great an expense. The thought, as well as the hope, was that the existence of legislation of this description would benefit the community as much by its deterrent as by its active influence, and as long as the Court existed those engaged in the industries of the Commonwealth would know what would happen, if they did not consult with each other and come to an agreement ; and with that knowledge they would do all they possibly could to work amicably together. It was thought, and hoped, that it might be many years before there would be any necessity for the Court to be brought into active operation, and they knew that it was to be constituted of a Judge of the High Court, who, under certain circumstances, might be assisted by assessors. In another place that view was, I think, almost unanimously concurred in, and here, I believe, there will be agreement, so far as the constitution of the Court is concerned. Incidentally this legislation provides that the Federal Court of Conciliation and Arbitration may act with the Conciliation and Arbitration Courts of the different States. The Attorney-General was rather unfair in stating the intention of the framers of this Bill with respect to the action of the Federal Court on the States Courts. I do not think that any one who had anything to do with framing its provisions ever meant that the Federal Court could step in and interfere with the work of the States Courts.’ But it was anticipated by its framers, that if in any State there was an industrial dispute which the State Court found a difficulty in settling, it could, if it desired, call in the Federal Court to assist and advise it on the matter, and by united action endeavour to do something which would bring the parties together and effect a settlement. There was no intention that a decision of. the Federal Court should ever take effect in any State; and it is absurd for the AttorneyGeneral to imagine that there is an endeavour to strain the point in order to create difficulty. The next, and, I think, one of the principal objects of this legislation, has been, the promotion of the organization of the in,dustrial classes, the employers and the workers. That is one of the main objects of this Bill, and those who talk in any other way lose sight of the fact that it provides for encouraging organization.
– Exactly on the same lines as the New Zealand Act.
– In the New Zealand Act its intention- the encouragement” of organization - is set out in its title. But” in this’ Bill it occupies a lower place. Ihold that it is one of the most important’ features. I have no desire to go into the details now, because I wish the debate on the second reading to come to an end asspeedily as possible. In Committee weshall have an opportunity of more fully expressing our opinions as to the merits or; demerits of the different provisions. When we come to consider the question of organization and the question of preferencewe should not lose sight of their import,ance. We should be prepared to acknow-ledge the claim which, those who are willing. to organize under such legislation have in connexion with preference. But so far as the organization of labour is concerned, it has been absolutely necessary for hundreds of years. It does not matter how generous our friends on the other side may be in their professions of respect and regard for unionism. Unions and unionists always have their respect as’ long as they do not want anything, and are always good fellows at election time.
– They have no business to want anything, as against other people. They have no business to want a preference.
– As long as they do something in return for what they get the community ought to be satisfied, because that is only just treatment. I would remind Senator Dobson that every concession that the working classes have obtained for the last hundred years has had to be organized for, struggled for, and suffered for.
– And got through unionism.
– Yes. For that reason organization ought to receive some consideration to-day. Referring to the time when men, women, and even children, were compelled to work twelve hours a day for a miserable remuneration, can Senator Dobson tell me of any instance where, to any great extent, the employers, or any of those associated with them, came down and said magnanimously, “ Well, we’ll give you eleven hours a day, or a penny an hour extra.” He knows very well that that never has happened.
– Yes, it has.
– Well, in a very limited degree, and not until it had been fought for probably for a quarter of a century, as the honorable senator knows.
– What about the Christian principles preached from Sunday to Sunday ?
– Does the honorable senator follow them out always?
– I try to.
– Why does the honorable senator exact usury, and belong to an institution which exacts usury?
– All I want Senator Walker to do is to practice what he preaches.
– I should like to speak about it.
– 1 rise to a point of order. I desire to know, pir, whether Senator Givens is in order in saying that Senator Walker belongs to an institution which exacts usury ?
– He was only joking.
– I do not feel inclined to intervene.
– There is no necessity, sir.
– All I wish the honorable senator to do is to practice what he preaches.
– I endeavour to do so.
– I ask the honorable senator to observe the golden rule, “All things whatsoever ve would that men should do to you, do ve even so to them.”
– And you unionists do not do that.
– That is exactly what we want to do. We want to do unto every individual in the community what we would like him to do unto us.
– You unionists want preference.
– Would the honorable senator like any one in this community to ask him to work for twelve or fourteen hours a day, as many persons have to do ?
– I have done it often.
– Yes, but the honorable senator did not like it.
– I did ; I worked from a sense of duty.
– I also have done it thousands of times, but I did not think it was fair, and I am sure that the honorable senator did not think it was fair.
– I have worked eighty hours’ a week.
– The honorable senator did not like anybody to ask him to do it. Supposing that he had a wife and six children in Melbourne or Ballarat, would he like to bring home to them only 25s. or 30s. a week, as many men had to do in this State prior to the establishment of Wages Boards, and as many men still have to do where they are not brought under the influences of such legislation ? I ask the honorable senator to think over that position, and see if he would be fulfilling the doctrines he preaches, particularly those contained in the text I have just quoted. If, after reflection, he still thinks it is fair that men. should be compelled to work for twelve hours a day for miserable remuneration, he has a perverted idea of the Christianity I should like to see preached in Australia. But I do not propose to dwell on the struggles that the working classes have had to bring about their very limited state of emancipation, because the honorable senator ought to know that although there is organization to some extent here, still a very considerable proportion of the labour of this country is not organized. In many cities young women have to work twelve hours a day - even children have to work almost as’ long - and get very low remuneration. We need some legislation to bring about better conditions in the community. I leave industrial organizations to their fate, and I hope that they will be generously treated here. I ‘wish to deal again with the position which was put by the AttorneyGeneral in his very lengthy address. The honorable gentleman in discussing the details of the Bill, referred to clause 4, in which, at the instigation and through the instrumentality of the Labour Party in another place, and their more liberally inclined friends, there was inserted the provision which caused the resignation of the Deakin Government. I should here like to say a word or two as to the position of the Watson Government under similar circumstances. Like Senator Playford and many others, I could see no reason why Mr. Deakin should resign on a detail of a Bill. No one ever expected him to resign, or thought that it was a proper action to take under the circumstances. “ But the position of the Watson Government was entirely different. Prior to the defeat of the Deakin Government, the whole press of Australia, and dozens of public men, many of whom were senators, -were persistently declaring that the Labour Party was a selfish organization - that it was prepared to squeeze every Government, and every political party, for the purpose of obtaining all possible concessions, but was afraid ~io fake the responsibility of office, and endeavour to carty out the measures they expected at the hands of others. There was some very clever manoeuvring in Parliament on that occasion, though not on the part of the Labour Party, who have never been guilty of intrigues of the kind.
– The Labour Party are very innocent !
– I can vouch that the Labour Party are innocent so far as parliamentary intrigues are concerned. When the Deakin Government were defeated, the Labour Party were bound to take office, in order to contradict such statement!! as those to which I have referred. It was predicted that they would not hold office for a week; but a good many people were disappointed when it was found that they occupied the Treasury bench for a considerably longer period. While in office, they endeavoured to carry out the Arbitration and Conciliation Bill introduced by the two previous Governments, the only difference being that they included public servants, as far as possible, within the operation of the measure. As soon as .they took office there was a combination formed against them, though I do not know who formed if, or how it came about.
– It was an unholy alliance.
– I will not say that anything in Parliament is unholy, but there was a combination with an evident desire to hamper the Labour Government in every way, so far as the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was concerned. Every clause which had been introduced by a previous Ministry was opposed by ex-members’ of that Ministry. The provisions which the previous Government had agreed to in Cabinet were opposed by ex-members of that Cabinet, simply because the Bill was in charge of a Labour Government. Everything was done to make the Bill as objectionable as possible to the representatives of labour both inside and outside Parliament.
– Can the honorable senator give any particular instances?
– The honorable senator has only to read the Hansard reports of the debates in another place in order to get instances. Surely the honorable senator does not want me to furnish him with that information now? I do not know how the honorable senator is going to vote in connexion with this measure, but I suppose we shall ascertain by-and-by. It is a well-known fact that everything possible was done to make this Bill, not only unworkable, but objectionable.
– I think the Labour Party and the Bill were very fairly treated.
– The honorable senator’s ideas- of fair play are limited.
– They are very different from those of the honorable senator.
– 1~ cannot take Senator Drake as an authority on fair play under present circumstances. Amendment after amendment was proposed on clauses which members of the previous Government and their supporters had previously been prepared to accept. The Labour Party were always opposed to the introduction of the -legal profession into Courts of this description, but an amendment in clause 27, providing for the employment of legal advocates, was forced on the Government, and this clause now differs considerably from that originally drafted. Then in clause 40, a condition was inserted in connexion with preference to unionists, and a similar amendment can be seen in clause 55. Not only every newspaper, but many public men outside, raised the cry, “ Oh, the Labour Party have got into power, and are- prepared to make every concession, even in connexion with arbitration, so long as they can enjoy the sweets of office.” Senator Drake knows it to be true that this cry was raised all over the country, and not only were the newspapers employed in spreading it, but people were hired in Victoria to travel, and talk about the Labour Government being prepared to accept almost every amendment which they had opposed before they assumed office. The right honorable gentleman now at the head of the Government was continually taunted that all he wanted was office; and under, the circumstances he could do nothing but make a stand. Every week the leader of the persent Government declared that he was going to submit a motion of want of confidence; and the crisis was bound to come. Mr. Watson and his colleagues determined to take the opportunity as soon as it arose, and, consequently, Mr. Watson declared that he might as well make a stand on the point he did, as on any other question. Mr. Watson, in the minds of some people, might have taken tip a more favorable position, but he was not afforded the opportunity to do so. When he attempted to recommit clause 48, action was taken which, I was going to say was never tolerated, but, at any rate, it was action very seldom taken in any legislative body. When Mr. Watson desired to recommit this along with other clauses, the Opposition refused to pass the motion. Mr. Watson would have lost the confidence of Parliament, of the country, and of his friends if he had taken any other course than that which he did, and which has raised him in the estimation of all the people of Australia. He showed that he was not prepared to sacrifice every principle he had advocated in the past, merely for the sake of sitting on the Treasury bench. It is not in the composition of Mr. Watson, or of any of those associated with him, to sacrifice principle for office - they would rather adhere to their principles on the floor than put them aside, in order to occupy .the Treasury Bench. I have not the least doubt that when the time comes the people of Australia will reward Mr. Watson ; and that is the very reason why, at present, many honorable members in another place are afraid to meet their betters in the shape of the electors.
– Their masters.
– No doubt the electors are masters of the situation.
– Masters are not always the best.
- Senator Walker is trying to discredit the electors who sent him here.’ I am not talking of the electors as individuals, but collectively. There may be a number of electors not so good as Senator Walker, but I believe that there are millions who are better, and a similar remark may be made about myself. I have been led away from the thread of my remarks in an endeavour to justify the position which Mr. Watson assumed. The Attorney-General, in speaking of the public servants, took up a dreary cry we have heard repeatedly, like the wail of the forlorn. The cry is that the Commonwealth is going to interfere with affairs of the States - that it is going to violate States rights and take their business out of their hands, and vest it in an Arbitration Court under the control of the Commonwealth. There is no intention in the minds of any members of the Federal’ Parliament who are supporting this Conciliation and Arbitration Bill to do anything of the kind. Some honorable senators do not seem to understand the full meaning of a Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. A good many people, as the Attorney-General has said, are top full of expectations, while others are too full of alarm. If those are not the exact words of the Attorney-General I hope he. will not repudiate the inference I have drawn. We know that the AttorneyGeneral will refute almost any quotation’ unless it is in the exact terms. When an honorable senator will, as the old saying goes, “ make a prevaricator of a man for the sake of five minutes,” as he did with me the other day, he will do almost anything. If he will make a whole threemonths’ attendance out of one day’s attendance, he will exaggerate almost any position. So far as the Conciliation and
Arbitration Bill is concerned, every honorable senator knows that it can only have effect when a dispute extends beyond the boundaries of any one State. We are all agreed on that. But honorable members must recollect that there is a very large section of the community, and I believe of Parliament, who believe that all industrial affairs of the Commonwealth should be under one control, and that the principles of Inter-State free-trade can never be given complete effect whilst there are conflicting interests ‘in connexion with industrial matters in the different States. I wish to show , now a fair, well-thought-out, and welladministered Conciliation and Arbitration Act may have that effect. We have people today alarming the small manufacturers and producers of Victoria with such statements as these : “ Do you want the Government to step in under an Arbitration and Conciliation Act, and take the control of your affairs out of your hands?” At the same time, they know very well that a Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill is not going to have any effect upon the blacksmith at Warrnambool or the carpenter at Geelong. They know these things, but they continue to go about the country endeavouring to frighten the people. Does any honorable senator here imagine that the Tanners’ Association, of Geelong, can register under this Commonwealth Bill if it should become an Act ? Does any one imagine that a Timber-getters’ Association in the backwoods of Queensland could register under an Act of this description? Nothing of the kind. So far as the control of the affairs of the different States is concerned, it can never foe effected until there is a complete registration of all those who are associated in the same occupation in the different States. That can be brought about, and this Conciliation and Arbitration Bill may have a much greater scope than many people have yet imagined. ‘ I am going to show that, and to show , now we can justify its application to State servants as well as to any other servants. When an association is registered under this Bill it will not be an association of Victorian workers, New South Wales workers, or the workers of any particular State. It will be registered, for example, as “ The Federated Seamen’s Union of Australia,” as “The Australian Workers’ Union,” “The Australian Bootmakers’ Union,” or “The Australian Tailors Union.” Honorable senators must see that if this measure were carried to-morrow there would have to be a complete re-organization and amalgamation of the different workers in each of the States. Can honorable senators not see the necessity for that? It is really what must come about before such legislation as. this can have any effect.
– Hear, hear ; we shall have an Australian Bank Clerks’ Union yet.
– Yes ; we shall have ail Australian Bank Clerks’ Union yet.
– We had better have a Senators’ Union.
– It would be a very good idea. I shall not say any more about that until I have dealt with the States employes, about whom so much has been said. Honorable senators have only to look at the provision affecting ‘ the workers in the different industries carried on by the States to find out the meaning of it. It refers to the railway servants. How are they going to register under this Bill’? Not as “ The Railway Employes’ Union of Victoria,” but as “The Railway Mutual Association of Australia.” That would be a combination of all the railway associations in each of the States. When that was done, any difficulty that might arise would not be a difficulty affecting employes in only one of the States, but the Federated Union would have a grievance, a complaint to make, or a cause of dispute, and the result then would be that it would be an Australian question and not a question affecting the employes of any one State. The danger the Attorney-General was endeavouring to point out was that we might nationalize the tobacco industry, and that if the employes in that industry came under, this Arbitration and Conciliation Bill it would be a calamity. Why should they not come under it? I put the matter in this way : Suppose the tobacco industry were nationalized in Victoria, what would then be the condition ?
– There is no fear of that with “Tommy “ Bent as Premier. .
– I was only suggesting it. Suppose that Western Australia, or Queensland, in which States there’ is a possibility of something of the kind being done, decided to nationalize the tobacco industry, and suppose that were not done by New South Wales, Victoria, or South Australia, there would then be two States in which the industry would be nationalized, and four in which it would not ; two in which the employes in the industry would be employes of the States, and four in which they would be in private employment. As things are at present, the railway employes of Victoria are under the control of the Victorian Government. Many railway employes are in the same position in Tasmania, but there is also a private railway in Tasmania, and the employes on that railway are not under the control of the State Government. The same condition of affairs exists in Western Australia and Queensland. All the railway servants in the Commonwealth are not Government employes, though the great majority of them are. In the same way, in the tobacco industry, under the conditions which I have described, the great majority of the employes would be under the control of private individuals, and a small minority under the control of the Governments of Western Australia and “Queensland. In these circumstances, the registration under this Bill would be that of “The Tobacco Twisters’ Union of Australia,” or “ The Cigar-makers’ Union of Australia,” and they would consider their conditions of labour, not in Queensland, or Western Australia, or any of the States, but at a conference of the whole of the workers in the industry in Australia. If they considered that the conditions in connexion with wages, hours, or anything else were unjust to them, the whole of the employes in the tobacco trade, not only those employed by States Governments, but also those employed by private individuals, would determine to have similar conditions, whatever those decided on might be, and then the case of all Australia would be brought before the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. Honorable senators must see that in such conditions the employes of the private employer would have no claim to be treated in a manner different to the employes of the two States in which the industry was nationalized, because the interests of the tobacco twisters would be the same whether they were employed by private individuals or by the State. In the same way in connexion with the railways, of the different States ; any association of the railway employes, under an Act of this kind, would be registered, not as “ The Enginemen, Firemen, and Cleaners of Victoria,” or of South Australia, but as “ The Enginemen, Firemen, and Cleaners of Australia.” In the same way other branches of the service would be registered. For example, the Railway Mutual Association, in South Australia, would not be registered under that title, but in combination with similar employes in all the States, as one union,
under the title of “ The Railway Mutual Association of Australia.” It would not matter whether they were employed on the State railways or on the private railways in Tasmania, Queensland, or Western Australia, or on the State railways in Victoria and New South Wales, they would all be members of the same body. Would they not Have a right, whether employed by the State or by private companies to work under the same conditions? If, at their annual conference, they discussed any matter connected with their association, and considered they had a grievance which ought to be brought before the Court, it would be brought before the Court, not as a grievance in New South Wales, or in Victoria, or in connexion with a private railway in Tasmania, but as a grievance of “ The Railway Service Association of Australia,” and it would have to be dealt with as such. Honorable senators ought to open their eyes to these facts, and discover what they mean. I am giving those who are opposed to arbitration and conciliation an insight into the real position that will exist, and that ought to exist. No association will be registered under this Bill, as merely representing the workers in a small corner of Australia, That would be of no use, because they would never be able to come before the Court. I have shown what will happen, and how, ultimately, the industrial affairs of Australia will come under the charge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. It will not be the tailors of Victoria, but of Australia, as I have already said; it will not be the carters of Sydney, but the carters of Australia. And do not” honorable senators think that it will be better for Australia when such a condition of affairs is brought about? Is it not better both in the interests of employers and employes that uniform conditions should exist all over the Commonwealth - I mean uniform in value and in merit ? We know that there are differing conditions in different parts of Australia, that will render it difficult to adjust these things, but all these contingencies will be presented to the Court, and I have so much confidence in a Court of this description that I have no hesitation in saying that they, will be ultimately settled with the very greatest satisfaction. I have shown that this measure is more far-reaching than some people have imagined. It is justly so, and I believe that it is in the best interests of the community. We are here to do everything we possibly can to make it as perfect as possible in the interests, not only of those who have to work for their living, but of those who have invested their capital in the Commonwealth. I shall not trouble honorable senators much longer, but I wish to point out to those who are endeavouring, as far as they possibly can, to exempt everybody from the operation of legislation of this description, that they take up a very unfair position. I will show why. This measure is mainly for the purpose of preventing strikes and locksout and yet there are those who wish to continue the old barbarous methods of warfare adopted in the past, from which such disaster fell upon many sections of the community.
– Who says that?
– I am willing to wager that the honorable and learned senator will wish to .exempt certain sections of the community from the operations of the measure.
– The honorable senator said there were some senators who wished to continue the old barbarous methods.
– The honorable and learned senator wishes to continue them as far as concerns the sections of the community whom he desires to exempt from the operations of this Bill. I have no doubt that he is going to do all he can to exempt the agricultural, viticultural, and dairying sections, and the domestic servants.
– How does the honorable senator know that I do not share his own opinions?
– Because the honorable and learned senator has been pledged by his leader to stick to the Bill as it stands. He is bound hand and foot. Honorable senators who are in favour of exempting any class ought to know what the effect will be. Some people go about endeavouring to mislead the farming population by telling them that the wicked Socialists want to bring them under the control of the Federal Arbitration Court, and that if that takes place they will be bound hand and foot. They are assured that they will be brought under the subjection of their own employes. Honorable senators who have studied the Bill know that nothing can happen in connexion with the industrial life of Australia, affecting any class, agricultural or otherwise, unless it is an organized class. Consequently, when persons tell the farmers that there is cause for alarm, they ought to know that they are saying what is not true. The farmers and their employes cannot be brought . under legislation of this character until they are organized. They are not organized now, nor are they likely to be organized for some time to come. Consequently the Bill cannot affect them.
– Is there not a provision enabling the .Governor-General to issue a proclamation in the case of persons who are not organized?
– They must be organized to this extent - that they have to strike before such a proclamation can be. issued. Suppose that within a few years the farm labourers of Australia were to organize by joining the Australian Workers’ Union. It is possible that they might do that. Suppose that the harvest was just coming on. Suppose there was an abundant harvest, that the grain was ripening very fast, and that the men throughout Australia suddenly declared that they would not reap unless they got certain concessions. Within a week or two the whole of the harvest, involving a loss of millions of pounds to Australia, would be spoilt. That is a possibility that might be expected. Is it not better, then, that such persons should be brought under the Act, and not exempted from it? If they are organized, and the measure applies to them, they will be prevented from striking. What would have to be done in the case of a strike of agricultural labourers under such circumstances as I have mentioned? There would have to be an application to the Registrar, who would have to submit it to the President of the Court, and then probably it would have to be submitted to the Governor-General through the Government. Those processes would take weeks. The result would be that the benefits of the good harvest would be destroyed before the strike could be settled by the Court. I trust that honorable senators will bear these things in mind when we come to discuss the clauses to which I have been alluding. I do not intend to enter into further details. I might refer to the majority clauses of the Bill, and to matters that vitally affect the industrial affairs of the Commonwealth. But I trust that we shall soon get into Committee, where we shall have an opportunity to deal with them. I join heartily with the AttorneyGeneral in wishing that this measure may soon be placed in a proper form upon the Statute-book, and that it will be both effective and beneficial. I trust that by its means that happiness and that prosperity which all of us so earnestly desire will be brought about ; and I am sure that if legislation such as we wish to pass is placed upon the Statute-book, and remains in operation for the next twenty-five years, the people of Australia will bless this Commonwealth Parliament for putting it there, and will wonder how it was that their ancestors had not thought of such beneficent legislation a century earlier.
– We have all listened with attention to the speech of the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat, and to the address of the leader of the Senate in moving the second reading of the Bill. Senator McGregor has opened up a vista with regard to the measure that was not revealed in the debates that took place in the other Chamber. I allude to the part of his speech in which he showed, to his own satisfaction at any rate, that it will be possible if this Bill becomes law to so organize the working classes that every industry in the Commonwealth will be brought under the control of the Federal Arbitration Court.
– Does riot the hon orable and learned senator think that that will be so?
– I am not now discussing whether such a state of affairs if brought about would be good or bad to the community. But I do say that if such be the true interpretation of the measure it is of much vaster importance than any one has yet dreamt of.
– We cannot go beyond the Constitution.
– But the argument of the leader of the Opposition was that all that he has said would be within the limits of the Constitution.
– Then it cannot be. ruled out.
– I am aware of that. But when the Constitution was being framed, and the conciliation- and arbi- ; tration provision was under discussion at the Convention, the representatives shied off at a proposal of the kind on two or three occasions; and it was not until the last meeting of the Convention that the provision to which I allude was finally accepted by a bare majority of something like three votes. What actuated the minds of the Convention was not such an idea as has been mentioned by Senator McGregor, but the consideration that there might at some time be a recurrence of a great industrial dispute like the maritime strike. It was said, “ Let us insert some provision in the Constitution in order that we may guard against a struggle which the States would not be able todeal with efficiently.” But it was never contemplated that any Federal Arbitration Court which might be established would be able to deal with disputes that could be efficiently dealt ‘“with by means of State legislation. The whole principle upon which the Constitution was framed was that, while the Commonwealth Government was to be paramount in certain directions, the States were still to be as supreme as ever in other directions, and that the Commonwealth Parliament was to “have r.o jurisdiction in regard to such matters as were not expressly left within the purview of the States Parliaments. It will be admitted that this Parliament has no right to attempt to go one jot or tittle beyond the powers conferred upon us by the whole of the States under the Constitution.
– We have to deal with! what the Constitution provides, rather than with what the framers of the Constitution intended.
– I admit that we can do all that the Constitution allows us to do, but we have to look to the intentions of the Convention when the provisions of the Constitution were inserted.
– Does the honorable and learned senator say that the High Court will do that?
.- We certainly ought not to strain our powers unduly or unjustly, nor ought we to interfere with the rights of the States. We have no right to go beyond the powers that were given to us. Tt is all very well to say that we may have the power by some extraordinary technical reading, or by an extraordinary extension of the words of the Constitution, to do one thing or another, but we have to consider the rights of the States as well as the rights which were intrusted to us. It is as well that the Senate should pause before giving its support to proposals that may wreck States rights in connexion with industrial matters from one end of Australia to the other. During the last Parliament the other House passed a motion requesting (the various States to surrender their power of dealing with rates of wages and rates of labour, and the replies which were definite were entirely averse to any interference with States rights in these matters. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the organizations in the various States to-day did withdraw from their registration and form one big organization in order that any dispute which arosemightbedealtwithinthe Federal Court. Senator McGregor says, in. his speech, “ Suppose that the tobacco industry is nationalized in Queensland and Western Australia, but not in . the other States? Nevertheless, all these bodies will join together and form one big organization ; and if there is dissatisfaction in Queensland, although there is no dissatisfaction in. other States with terms or conditions, still that will be sufficient to bring the dispute before the Federal Court.”
– I never said that. There could not be dissatisfaction in Queensland.
SenatorLt.-Col. GOULD. - Supposing that the conditions in Queensland were not satisfactory ?
– They could not be; they would all have to toe alike.
– Then the conditions have to be alike in all the States ?
.- What about the different conditions in the States? In Western Australia, for instance, a sovereign may not go as far, perhaps, as 15s. will in Victoria. All these matters have to be taken into cohsideiration. Even if honorable senators so legislate as to enable a dispute to be extended by any artificial means - and I know that one gentleman has said it would be easy to manufacture a dispute which would extend to another State - they are going on an entirely false principle, and it will be found that it cannot be worked in the way which is contemplated by Senator McGregor in his speech. Take the case of the States railways. Does any one mean to tell me that it wouldbe a fair thing, even if we had the power,, to say that because there is a dispute in Victoria as to wages, that is to bring all the other States into trouble?
– I never said that.
– Well, what is the meaning of the honorable senator’s speech ?
– I said that they could not register as employes of Victoria.
.- Do I understand the honorable senator to say that these associations, having registered themselves under this Bill as one body, and a dispute arising between the railway servants of Victoria and its Government, it can be brought before the Federal Arbitration Court?
-No; there could not be a dispute with Victoria.
.- How would the honorable senator bring the dispute under the jurisdiction of the Federal Court?
– It would have to be an inter- State dispute.
– In his speech the honorable senator, whatever he meant to say, certainly did not convey that impression to the minds of many honorable senators.
– He said that a whole harvest might be destroyed while they were endeavouring to put an end to a dispute.
– That is what I understood.
– Here are two honorable senators who understood exactly what I did. If all Senator McGregor means is that, in order to come under this Bill, the organization would have to be registered, and then, when a dispute extended from one State to another, it could come before the Federal Court-
– The honorable and learned senator does not understand what organization means. There could not be a dispute without the consent of the whole, consequently there would be no Victorian dispute.
– Suppose that the whole of the organizations say, “ The men in Victoria- and New South Wales are being unjustly treated, and therefore we are dissatisfied,” does the honorable senator say that that would be a dispute extending beyond the limits of a State?
– They would not know a geographical boundary.
– But under the Constitution thev would have to know a geographical boundary.
– In the case of a seaman’s dispute, where is the geographical boundary ?
.- In the Constitution, a geographical boundary is absolutelv recognized. It enables this Parliament to legislate in respect to -
Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.
– The men who framed that legislative power did not know what they were doing. They did not understand what unionism meant.
– If what we have elicited from the honorable senator is really what he means to convey. - that if the States unions form one organization, and it determines to appeal to the Federal Court in consequence of a dispute existing in one State, that fact will be sufficient to give the Federal Court jurisdiction - he is hugging a delusion to his breast.
– I never said so.
– Why is there a Federated Employers’ Union ?
– That is best known to the unionists, because they work together in sympathy. I presume that they say, “ We shall be a. stronger body and better able to assist each other, because union is strength.”
– They know no geographical boundaries.
-Col. GOULD. - They do not; but the Constitution does.
– The new association will overflow the boundaries.
.- Yes, but according to the Constitution, the dispute has to extend beyond the boundaries of a State, and it must be an active dispute, not a sympathetic struggle, as the Attorney-General put it. It would be a most dangerous thing if, by any process of reasoning, we found such a state of affairs to exist under the power granted by the Constitution. Let me pass from the general idea again to the question of the States railways or any State industry being brought under this legislation. We know perfectly well that it is our duty to protect States rights to the fullest possible extent. In this the States House we are supposed to look after the rights of individual States, and at the same time to legislate in the interests of the whole Commonwealth. It is claimed by honorable senators on the other side that we have the right to pass this legislation. But where is it to be found in the Constitution? All the lawyers who have spoken on this question in the other House, as well as here, have said that we have no authority to take such powers as are proposed to be taken in this Bill. Some honorable senators may say, “ Well, what harm is there in taking the powers? If we take more powers than we are entitled to take, the
High Court will set us right.” But that will mean more grist to the lawyers’ mills.
– The leader of the Government here also says that.
– Yes, and so do Mr. Deakin, Mr. Higgins, Mr. Glynn, and other lawyers in the other House who have spoken.
– That is because they do not know what unionism means.
-Col. GOULD. - Evidently the honorable senator believes that he knows better than all the lawyers, but he is making a serious mistake in trying to force what is, after all, a crude and imperfect opinion upon the whole Commonwealth. But, assuming for the sake of argument, that we have this authority, what do my honorable friends propose to do? They propose to say that, as regards hours of labour and rates of wages, each State shall’ pay its servants according to a scale fixed by a Commonwealth tribunal.
– Have we not as much right to make a State do that as to make private employers do it?
– Assuming, for the sake of argument, that it is done, and the State clearly declines to comply with the direction of the Federal Court, how can the State Parliament be compelled to yield ?
– By stopping their allowance.
– The States will obey the law.
.- The States will obey the law while they believe that it is honest.
– Why should they not believe that this law will be honest?
-Col. GOULD. - I believe that if honorable senators attempt to pass a law of this kind they will be attempting to pass a dishonest law.
– But the majority of the people say that it is honest.
.- The power of the majority is great, but very often the majority get into trouble by attempting to di things which legally they cannot do.
– Who are the majority ?
– Unfortunately, we never seem to be able to find out, because 40 per cent, of the electors will not vote. If a State says it will not comply with the direction of the Federal Court it cannot be made to comply, unless we overawe its Government by a display of military force. A State Government can only pay its servants such wages as it is authorized by the Parliament to pay. How do honorable senators propose to enforce the penalty ? A penalty can easily be enforced against a private employer; but how can it be enforced against a State?
– The Labour Party will want to frame the State Estimates byandby.
– Have not the States to comply now with verdicts of Courts?
– Of course they do under their own laws.
– They will have to do it, too, under our law.
.- They will, so far as this Parliament has “jurisdiction to legislate, but not a step further. Although this clause may be innocuous in the opinion of the Attorney-General and honorable senators generally, still I contend that if it is not constitutional it should not be retained in the Bill.
– Why did not the Government try to throw it out?
.- Why do not my honorable friends help us to put it out?
– The Government were not game to try.
.- I shall submit an amendment if the honorable senator will support me.
– I do not intend to do anything of the kind.
– I shall probably give the honorable senator an opportunity to vote against me.
– Was it not the duty of. the leader of a Government in another place to strike it out?
-Col. GOULD - I have nothing to do with that matter. I have only to deal with the Bill as it comes here. The Attorney-General gave his reason last night for retaining the provision. To my mind it is not a sufficient reason to justify me in voting for its retention, and, therefore, I shall vote for its omission.
– The honorable and learned senator does not think it was an honest reason.
-Col. GOULD. - I do not say that. A great many members of the Labour Party who supported this Bill in another place, did so with some condition attached. So much for the. question as to how far we are to bind the States. Senator Sir Josiah Symon told us he thought that there was an exaggerated importance attached to the measure - that it was not of such immediate importance as some honorable members seem to think - but he claimed that as . we had power under the Constitution, it was quite right for the Government to proceed with the Bill. It occurs to me that there are many other powers under the Constitution which have not yet been taken in hand - powers of much more importance at the present time. Has there been a single instance within the last few years to show that, this Bill is absolutely required? A little time ago, it was stated that we were on the verge of a strike amongst the seamen, but that event has been averted.
– We are nearer to it than the honorable and learned member imagines.
.- There was an agreement entered into which appears to be satisfactory to both parties.
– A man does not wait until his house is on fire before he insures.
.- This principle of compulsory conciliation and arbitration is only on its trial. Although a similar law has been in operation in New Zealand for some time, it is still being amended, and in New South Wales, the Act is given an existence of only seven years, in order to ascertain how far it is desirable in the interests of the State. In New South Wales during the last three or four years, there have been more disputes, more trouble, and more litigation between employers and em,ployes than for many years previously.
– The disputes have been more public, that is all.
– Inducements have been offered to the promotion of disputes, and at the present time, the work set down is enough to occupy the New South Wales Court for two years to come, although the Judge has been working, pretty hard. This legislation has created a feeling of unrest and dissatisfaction, which should not exist as between masters and men. It has also had the effect of causing a reluctance to invest money in the establishment of industries^ there being great uncertainty as to what may happen.
– The reverse has been the case in New Zealand, where this legislation has given the country stability.
.- In New Zealand, the seasons have been good, and the times are prosperous. Labouring men in that country have not yet felt the pinch. no decision having been given in the Arbitration Court there, which has had the effect of reducing wages. There has been prosperity and good wages; and this, of course, is advantageous to both master and men ; but when a time of difficulty comes, and wages drop, what will be the position of the workers? We know what happened in New South Wales, in the case of the coal miners’ strike. That was a strike which the Act did not prevent; and the men refused for a considerable time to obey the award, which meant a reduction of wages.
– The men returned to work under pressure from the unions.
– I admit that.
– And the fact shows the efficacy of the unions.
.- But the men refused to obey for a long time, and much injury was inflicted on the industry.
– The men were six weeks before they obeyed the award.
– The probability is, that without an Act, the strike would have lasted six months.
-Col. GOULD. - I am sure that the ardent advocates of the Bill believe that the more employment there is, the better it is for the workers, and the country generally ; and I do not want legislation which will tend to prevent the extension of employment. I should like to see the conditions such that people will come to these States with ,£50,000, or ^100,000, prepared to invest in manufacturing industry ; and we ought to take care not to do anything to cause such people to think that they may in the future be confronted with difficulties which will render it impossible to carry on business at a reasonable profit, or cause them to lose their money.
– Such people are more likely to go to a country where they know what conditions and wages prevail.
– A little time ago a gentleman from the old world came to Australia with the idea of establishing an industry, but the conditions frightened him, and he did not invest.
– We have heard of that man before !
– Do honorable senators tell me that there is sufficient employment in the country to absorb the whole of the available labour.
– The man mentioned is named Jones. He employed three or four girls at sweating wages - girls whose hands were always bleeding owing to the hard work they did - and they went on strike.
– The honorable member will have an opportunity byandby to explain the whole of the circumstances, and I have no doubt he will cite the cases best calculated to upset my argument.
– Tell us the man’s name.
.- Honorable members opposite appear to know all about the case, so that it is not necessary for me to give the name. It would be far better to allow the States to deal with conciliation and arbitration in their- own way, and then if the legislation works advantageously by all means extend it to the Commonwealth. But when we are extending it to the Commonwealth we must take care that we do not impinge on States rights beyond the limit which was understood when this power was given to this Parliament. I recognise that a measure of this kind is a great help to trade unionism. When trade unionists managed to obtain representation in Parliament they were only a small party, but legislation has time after time been framed to as far as possible meet their wishes. They claim credit for the whole of this legislation, forgetting that opportunity was given to them long before there was a trade union in the whole of Australia. What of the principles of manhood suffrage and voting by ballot? Those reforms were not obtained by means of unionism, but by the efforts of men who were imbued with the ideas of equality and liberty, and a desire to assist their fellow subjects.
– They were mostly unionist men, industrially and politically.
.- But they hail no unions pushing them from behind.
– There is not manhood suffrage in the States now. There is no manhood suffrage in Victoria.
– That is so far as the Legislative Assembly is concerned.
– We have not manhood suffrage in Queensland yet.
– Nor in any State.
-Col. GOULD.- What about New South Wales?
– Did not Sir William Lyne give adult suffrage there?
– Manhood suffrage was given long before Sir William Lyne’s time.
– I refer to adult suffrage. I think I remember a presentation of an inkstand or a snuff-box or something of the kind in connexion with the matter.
.- That was ir. connexion with women’s suffrage. I recognise that unionists have made very serious mistakes in connexion with the principle of conciliation in the State of New South Wales. Men who desired to join unions have been refused, and, under a common rule, have been unable to earn daily bread.
– That is a serious statement. What unions have kept men out?
.- The Wharf Labourers’ Union, the Hairdressers’ Union, and the Coopers’ Union. The records of the New South Wales Court show that that has been done over and over again. It is only recently, in consequence of statements by Mr. Justice Cohen, that those men have been allowed to join the unions.
– We shall be glad to assist the honorable and learned senator to impose reasonable conditions to meet such cases.
.- I am glad to know that reasonable conditions are to be observed, only I should like to know what the “ reasonable conditions “ are. No one who believes in liberty and freedom would debar any individual from the opportunity of earning an honest living.
– And of having the benefit of the Bil].
.- And of having the benefit of the Bill.
– Hear, hear ! We shall pin you down to that.
– Every man should have the benefit of the measure, and it should not be within the power of a union to exclude a single individual, even if he declines to contribute his 2s. 6d. or
– And it should be punishable to call people “scabs” or “blacklegs.”
– No one can belong to an organization worthy of the name unless he subscribes according to the rule.
.- But a man has no right to be kept out of employment because he will not pay the subscription to the union, possibly £5 or £10. I have pointed out some of the difficulties in regard to unions, and I hope that when honorable senators have an opportunity they will not say that preference shall not be given to any one except those who are good unionists, but that they will give an opportunity to men, who stand , outside, to obtain employment. I do not believe in the principle of giving preference by any legislation to any particular class. If we are to give preference it will have to be thoroughly safeguarded, and the provision in the Bill, so far as I can follow it, is better than any that has been suggested up to the present. Something still better, of course, may be suggested, and if so I shall be prepared to support it. I should like to say a word with regard to the constitution df the Court. Senator Symon referred to the suggestion that it might be better to appoint a President who is not one of the Judges of the High Court. I realize, as I think honorable senators will have to realize, that if the Bill becomes law, it will be necessary to appoint another Judge to the High Court, or to appoint another President at a very high salary.
– Why a Judge at all?
.- I think it is much better that the occupant of such a position should be regarded as beyond the possibility of suspicion in the eyes of one side or the other. We have, therefore, to face the fact that we must pay the President, whether he be President only, or a Judge of the High Court, much the same salary. The appointment of a Judge of the High Court has an advantage, in view of the fact that it is proposed to make it only for a limited period. The great strength of the position of our Judges is that their appointment is for life and during good behaviour, at a substantial remuneration. If we appoint a man who is not a Judge of the High Court for a period of seven years, he would always be open to the suspicion of angling for re-appointment, whereas, if a Judge of the High Court be appointed, and at the end of seven years it is thought necessary to appoint another President, that can be done without casting any slur on the Judge removed. A man who has a permanent tenure of office would be above suspicion, and that would not be the case with a President only who was appointed for a term. Assuming that the work of the Arbitration Court was not sufficient to occupy the whole of his time, the High Court would have the benefit of the services of the President. Although three Judges may be sufficient for the High Court at the present time, we cannot fail to recognise that the work is increasing. With the extensive area the Judges have to cover, from one end of Australia to the other, they will have to have some help, or the system will break down. If we decide that the President shall be one of the three Judges when any question of law arises, we shall not be able to get a satisfactory, decision upon it. We want at least three Judges for the Appeal Court.
– Does not a single Judge sometimes sit to hear an appeal?
– A Judge would not sit to hear an appeal from his own decision.
– Not as a Full Court.
– We have only three Judges in South Australia.
– The present Chief Justice of the High Court has sat in an appeal against his own decision in Queensland.
– An appeal on a question of law should be entirely disassociated from the Judge giving the decision in the first instance. That is as much in the interests of the one party as in those of the other.
– Is not this done in the High Court now?
.- In the High Court there are three Judges.-
– But the Full Court sits as a Court of Appeal on the decision of one of those Judges, in a case of original jurisdiction.
– It could do so.
.- Where it can be avoided it should be avoided. If a decision is required on a question of law we shall get a far more satisfactory decision if the matter comes before a Judge who has not been concerned in it in the first instance. In the ordinary States Courts there is always a power to go to the Privy Council, but here it is not proposed to give any power to go beyond our own High Court. I submit that it is far better that the President should be one of the Judges of the High Court, in order that he may have that security of tenure which will place his decisions above suspicion, and that, at the same time, we may have the advantage of the other Judges of the High Court to determine any question of law which may be referred from him to them. I regard the appointment of a Judge, with assessors called in for each case as a far better system than to have two gentlemen appointed, as in New South Wales, and forming a portion of the Court, remaining in their position for some few years, and then being subject to re-election or rejection, as the case may be. It will be found far better that a Judge should constitute the Court, and that upon him should be thrown the responsibility of decision rather than that he should endeavour to share it, as in New South Wales, with other permanently-appointed members of the Court. Fortunately, it nearly always happens that the two gentlemen sitting with the Judge, where any very troublesome matter is being dealt with, take diverse views, and the decision practically becomes the decision of the Judge in the long run. I have touched upon the principle features I desired1 to mention -in connexion with this Bill: So far as the measure itself is concerned, we might very well have waited a little longer before enacting legislation of this character. The Bill goes very much beyond our powers under the Constitution, in several respects, and so far as my voice and vote are concerned. I shall endeavour to rectify what I regard as serious blemishes on the measure. I realize the fact that it is bound to pass its second reading, and that the crucial test with regard to very many of these questions will be made in Committee. But whatever may be the result, I can assure honorable senators that no matter in what shape the measure becomes law no one will rejoice more than I shall if it is found to be the means of preventing trouble and disputes between employers and employes, and at the same time does no injury to the industries of the Commonwealth. I realize that whatever may be our views upon these matters, we are agreed that our legislation should be designed to assist the Commonwealth, to increase its power, its wealth, and its population, and to make it a much better place for those who come after us than it is for us at the present time, or possibly was for those who preceded us.
– I was hoping that one of our honorable friends opposite would reply to Senator Gould. My first’ remarks will have reference to the Attorney-General’s speech, I shall then perhaps say something about Senator McGregor’s speech, and then about the Bill generally. In common with Senator McGregor, I could not help thinking that the AttorneyGeneral’s speech was largely that of an advocate. I cannot forget what occurred in the Convention, when the honorable and learned senator gave what I thought were very good reasons why it was not desirable in the interests of the States that arbitration and conciliation should be taken over by the Commonwealth. We know very well what the honorable and learned senator’s views were in those days, and what they were not very long ago, with regard to such matters as compulsory arbitration and preference to unionists. I admit that of two evils I prefer the lesser, and, therefore, I shall rather support the coalition Government than the allied Opposition with regard to some of the matters contained in the Bill, and particularly with regard to preference.
– Is the honorable senator going to support the Bill?
– I shall support the second reading, though, in my judgment, it would have been better for us to have waited a year or two longer until we saw how the New South Wales Act worked before we took up this legislation. I agree with Senator Gould, that, so far, the operation of the New South Wales Act seems to have given rise to a great deal of ill-feeling between employers and- employed, and it has undoubtedly prevented many industries from being started which otherwise- would have been established.
– What industries?
– There was the iron industry, for instance. A home syndicate was prepared to invest ^2,000,000 in that industry, but has decided not to do so.
– The ship-owners have invested over ^1,000,000 in new tonnage during the last twelve months.
– I also agree with Senator Gould as to the constitution of the Court. The Judge should certainly be one of the High Court Judges, so that when his services were not required in the Arbitration Court the country might have the benefit of his assistance in the Court of appeal. What has been the genesis of this Bill? I 3o not know whether honorable senators have given any consideration to it. It seems to me that we may say of the Bill that it was conceived by the Barton Government, incubated by the Deakin Ministry, god-fathered and god-mothered by the Watson and Reid-McLean Ministries, and now the Senate is asked to give it its blessing, when we ought really to give it its quietus. I think that Senator McGregor, whose abilities’ we all recognise, is over fond of introducing the argumentum ad hominem. When once or twice I interjected, the honorable senator seemed to think that my remarks applied to himself, when I intended to refer only to the views held by his party.
– I never thought that.
– I do not profess to be everything that a man ought to be, far from it. I see my own faults probably more clearly than others see them.
– We love the honorable senator all the more for it. A man is no good without a redeeming vice or two.
- Senator McGregor does not seem to recognize the fact that long before there was a Labour Party in Parliament there were public and private men who endeavoured to treat their employes with every consideration. I, for one, object to the suggestion that we were not kindly to those with whom we had business relations until a certain party - the Labour Party - came into existence.
– That is not alleged.
– I think it is. Honorable senators of the Labour Party take credit for all the good things done in the interests of employes for many years past, and say that this, that, and the other have been granted only on compulsion.
– We are trying to protect the good as against the bad employer.
- Senator McGregor referred to men having had to work twelve hours a day, as if honorable senators on this’ side were anxious that every person should work twelve hours a day. I believe that the eight hours movement is an excellent one.
– Then, let the honorable senator help us to prevent men having to work twelve hours a day.
– I think that men who have to work for twelve hours a day should be paid for the extra time they work.
– Millions have to do it yet.
– I have worked for eighty hours a week, and have never received an extra penny for it ; but I have not objected to do so, because I knew that my employers were short-handed.
– The honorable senator should have been paid time and a half for it.
– Men who have their employers’ interests at heart will not think of the mere cash nexus, but will do extra work from a sense of duty.
– Men cannot live on duty.
– Unless by defrauding the Customs.
– I think it was Senator Givens who interjected something about usury. The old meaning of “usury “ is simply usual interest. The word has now come to have a different meaning, and a usurious man is one who asks too much interest. I can give good authority to justify a man putting a pound into the hands of the exchangers and getting back his principal with the usual interest. There is nothing to be ashamed of in being mixed up with a banking concern.
– No one said there was, but that it is not in accordance with the Christian principles which the honorable senator professes.
– I think it is distinctly, and the parable to which I have referred distinctly affirms it.
– “ Sell all you have and give to.the poor “ is a Christian principle.
– We have heard a good deal about the nationalization of industries. Do honorable senators opposite believe in the nationalization of newspapers? Would they desire to see one Truth, one Tocsin, and. one Bulletin for all Australia?
– We believe in nationalizing the banks.
– I do not think that Senator Findley desires to see the Tocsin nationalized just yet.
– It would all depend on the compensation.
– To my surprise, Senator McGregor has to-night posed as a prophet. The honorable senator has actually told us what the Vice-President of the Executive Council thinks, and is going to do.
– The honorable senator will find that I was pretty nearly right.
– Undoubtedly, in the honorable senator’s own estimation. Having said something about the speeches we have heard, I have a few words to say with respect to the Bill. I believe in the superiority of the success of voluntary or optional arbitration as compared with compulsory arbitration. I think I have good authority for my belief, as exemplified by what has occurred in the United States and Great Britain.
– Why, there is civil war in the United States.
– The last. Trade Union Congress held in Great Britain, by 869,000 to 383,000 votes, rejected a motion in favour of compulsory arbitration. Voluntary conciliation cannot be said to have been an absolute failure when we find that in 1902 four-fifths of the persons in the United Kingdom, whose wages were altered, had such changes arranged by voluntary boards on sliding scales mutually agreed upon. Excluding railway employes and sailors, nearly 900,000 working people were affected, while disputes that arose affected barely one and a half per cent, of those persons. So that actually three persons out of each 200 were instrumental in inducing changes, which affected 900,000 people, by voluntary arbitration. That surely is something in favour of the principle.
– What about those who will not arbitrate voluntarily?
– There were 442 strikes and locks-out, in 1902 in Great Britain, and of these 71 per cent, involving 86 per cent, of the wage earners, were settled by direct negotiation. .
– Is the honorable senator going to vote for the second reading of the Bill ?
– The experience in Great Britain in this matter doubtless affected opinion in the United States in the same direction, and I propose to give one or two extracts dealing with the experience in the United States.
– Are they about the1 Colorado strike?
– The Vice-President of the National Civic Federation was able to say at the recent semi-annual meeting -
We have participated in more than one hundred bloodless battles. We have entered into many other contests, and in more than 80 per cent, our efforts have been crowned with eminent success. We have prevented a number of ruptures that threatened misery on all sides. Many of them have not reached the public ear, as our work in some cases has to be done under, .cover, and we have had to elude the vigilance of the ever-watchful press.
That is with regard to the United States. In my opinion preference to unionists is against British and American ideas of fair play. I think the majority of the Senate will agree with me on that point. Mr.
Here, by the decision of the Court, a. skilled and efficient tradesman is prevented earning an honest living because he will not sell himself in bondage to a society, which, if he does, he’ will have to forego the ordinary legal rights of a citizen, and to accept in lieu thereof whatever a majority of the society choose to grant him.
– That is majority rule j the honorable senator does not believe in that?
– Majority rule is not always the best rule. Our American cousins intend to use all lawful means to prevent any differentiation between non-unionists and unionists, as is witnessed by the report of an American Commission appointed to inquire into the recent coal strike.
– Let the honorable senator give us his own opinion.
– These opinions are my own opinions, but they are expressed better than I can express them. I am not so vain as to think that I could express my views in better terms than these. The letter proceeds -
He must exchange British liberty for the serfdom of a union. He will not be at liberty to sell his services at his own discretion, but must unhesitatingly accept whatever the union dictates, pay whatever fines and taxes they choose to impose upon him, or starve at their direction. The illegality of such an imperium in imperio has often been shown, and the enforcing of its edicts by one of our Civil Courts is also questionable; but all these things have their antidotes. Suppose the great majority assert their rights, and decide that no unionist shall be employed? What then ? The formation of a large opposition union to include all classes of society, to secure liberty for all, arid the impartial administration of justice, is at the present time a pressing necessity, and would be the most powerful adjunct to the’ anti-socialistic movement.
A number of citizens; in San Francisco have formed an alliance for the purpose which I have mentioned. They define as follows “ what is meant by the open, shop “: -
First : It means that the right of non-union and union men to employment is equal, else the equality of right and of opportunity is destroyed.
Second : It means that union men have no right to coerce employers to discharge non-union men by boycotting or other measures taken to injure the business of the employer.
The principle involved is necessary to the preservation of the civil liberty guaranteed by the constitution and laws. ,
Grant the power of union men to prevent nonunion men from labouring, and the most offensive tyranny that ever existed will be established. It is now an every-day occurrence that men who wish to work are refused admission into unions, and are denied the right to work because they are not union men. If a labour union is permitted to do this, members of one religious creed may demand the discharge of workmen of another creed, and deny them the right to work at all.
The closed shop and the principle it represents not only destroys civil liberty, but the fabric of human society and the brotherhood of man. The constitution of the United States is paramount to a labour union constitution, and under it a man has the right to work without inquiring into his race, creed, politics, or fraternal society relations. We deny no man the right to join a labour union, but we stand for a man’s right to work without belonging to a union.
Fraternal organizations for mutual protection are praiseworthy, provided they do not deny tononmembers the right of man.
Should churches, political parties, or other voluntary associations seek to limit employment to their own members, we will be found opposing them in the name of human rights, just as we oppose the labour unions, which, by threats and violence, keep willing workers from earning bread because they do not carry union cards.
It is admitted by the president of the Federated Trades that union labourers are in the minority. But by organization and violence, threats and acts, this minority claims the right to exclude the majority from employment by insisting upon the closed shops.
The principle of the open shop is pure Americanism. That of the closed shop is un-American, and unlawful.
That is the view of the Americans. The report of the American Commission on the recent coal strike in America contains the following passages: -
It should be remembered that the trade union, is a voluntary social organization, and, like any other organization, is subordinate to the laws of the land, and cannot make rules or regulations in contravention thereof. Yet at times it seeks to set itself up as a separate and distinct governing agency, and to control those who have refused to join its ranks and to consent to its government, and to deny to them the personal liberties which are guaranteed to every citizen by its constitution and laws of the land. The analogy, therefore, is unsound, and does not apply. Abraham Lincoln said - 1 No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.’- This is true in trade unions, as elsewhere, and not until those who fail to recognise this truth, abandon their attitude toward non-union men, to follow the suggestion made above - that is, to make their work and their membership so valuable and attractive that all who are eligible to membershipwill come under their rule - will they secure that firm and constant sympathy of the people which their general purposes seem to demand…..
That the right to remain at work where others have ceased to work, or to engage anew in work which others have abandoned, is part of the personal liberty of a citizen that can never be surrendered, and that every infringement thereof merits, and should receive, the stern denouncement of the law. The language of a free people fails to furnish any form of a speech by which the right of a free citizen to ‘ work when he pleases, for whom he pleases, and on what terms he pleases,’ can be successfully denied. The freedom of labour is strongly and amply vindicated, and common sense and common law alike depounce the conduct of those who interfere with this fundamental right of the citizen….. “ That no person shall be refused employment, nr in any way discriminated against, on account of membership or non-membership in any labour organization ; and that there shall be no discrimination against, or interference with, any employe who is not a member of any labour organisation, by members of such organization.
– Same of the honorable senator’s illustrations are rather farfetched.
– I certainly do not think so. With regard to the railway employes, I am strongly of opinion that the clause of this measure which deals with them impinges upon the rights of the States.
– Yet the honorable senator will, I suppose, vote for the Bill;
– I shall vote for it with a view of improving it in Committee, but if I cannot do that, I shall let my constituents know what my views in regard to it are. I would remind honorable senators opposite that in’ this Chamber there are six senators from New South Wales, not one of whom was elected by the votes of the Labour Party. We have a right to make our views felt in regard to the framing of this legislation.
– The newspaper “machine “ had something to do with their election.
– I dare say the honorable senator wishes .that he had such a compact party from his own State. I believe that the High Court will hold that we have exceeded our constitutional powers if we include the railway servants. It must be remembered that the Commonwealth Government controls no railways of its own. Another point that strikes me with regard to the measure is that I cannot see how it can possibly apply to any bodies of men except seamen and shearers. The unions of these classes are the only unions, so far as I know, that extend from one State to another; but Senator McGregor has opened my eyes as to the possible effects of the Bill. He tells us that it is possible to have a whole harvest in Australia destroyed by unionists - a most monstrous thing. Our friends opposite are what they call Christian Socialists. Christian Socialism is a beautiful ideal, and many of us admire it, but unfortunately it is not practicable. But, so far from being “ Christian “ Socialiists, the fact of the matter is that they are the very reverse. What is the spirit of
Christianity? ls the spirit of Christianity shown by saying that a coloured man it not to be allowed to occupy a bit of God’s earth? The spirit of Christianity, as 1 understand it, is charity and love, as exemplified by the Divine law, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them.” The spirit of Christianity is certainly not exemplified in the differentiation between unionists and nonunionists, and in calling non-unionists scabs and blacklegs. In this connexion, I have recently been struck with the fact that freedom of contract, in which senators opposite do not believe, is approved of in the Bible. In one of our Lord’s parables it is recorded that some workmen went to work in a vineyard. When the time for payment came the workmen who had been employed the longest number of hours discovered that those who were engaged later were being paid at the same rate as themselves. Accordingly they murmured. But the owner of the vineyard replied in these words -
Friend, I do thee no wrong. Didst thou noi agree .with me for a penny ?
In modern currency eightpence halfpenny -
Take that thine is and go thy way. … Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?
I ask honorable senators opposite whether that is not true ? I do not subscribe to the view that we ought to bow down and pander to any majority. When they hold views which are manifestly unjust they ought to be resisted. I maintain that that is the case when unionists can practically take bread out of the mouths of non-unionists. Employers have an undoubtedly moral rightto employ the best tradesmen, irrespective of whether they are unionists or nonunionists ; and if the former dare to designate the latter “scabs” and “blacklegs” they should be imprisoned without the option of a fine. I shall vote for the second reading of the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Croft) adjourned.
– In moving
That the Senate do now adjourn,
I desire to say that I hope honorable senators opposite, and especially my honorable, friend, Senator Givens, will acquit me or any desire not to work to the latest possible- hour. I hoped that one of ray honorable friends would have been ready with a speech this evening; but I have no desire that the debate should be in any way curtailed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 9.59 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 October 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1904/19041020_senate_2_22/>.