17 November 1908

3rd Parliament · 3rd Session

The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.

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Special Adjournment

Senator McGREGOR:
Vice-President of the’ Executive Council · South Australia · ALP

– I have to announce that on the retirement of the late occupants of the Treasury bench, the Honorable A. Fisher was sent for by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, and commissioned to form a Ministry. That task he has accomplished, and the following compose the new Ministry : -

The Honorable Andrew Fisher, Prime Minister and Treasurer;

The Honorable William Morris Hughes, Attorney-General ;

The Honorable Egerton Lee Batchelor, Minister of State for External Affairs ;

The Honorable Hugh Mahon, Minister of State for Home Affairs;

The Honorable Josiah Thomas, PostmasterGeneral ;

Senator the Honorable George Foster Pearce, Minister of State for Defence;

The Honorable Frank Gwynne Tudor, Minister of State for Trade and Customs ;

Senator the Honorable Gregor McGregor. Vice President of the Executive Council ; and

James Hutchison. Esq., Honorary Minister

We have had sucha short time in which to get acquainted with the business ways of the different Departments that it is impossible at the present time to announce to Parliament the course which we intend to pursue with respect to the remaining portion of this session. Therefore, I move -

That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 3 p.m. on Wednesday,25th November.

I intend to lay upon the table at the proper time a summary of the papers in connexion with the acquisition of a site for Commonwealth offices in London.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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Assent reported.

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– I have to announce that on Friday last I received from Senator Pearce a letter tendering his resignation as Chairman of Committees of the Senate.

Letter read by the Clerk as follows -

The Senate,

Melbourne, 13th November,1908.

The Hon. the President of the Senate.

Dear Sir,

Having accepted the office of Minister for Defence, I, beg to resignmy position as Chairman of Committees of the Senate.

Yours faithfully,

  1. F. Pearce.
Senator McGREGOR:

– I desire to give notice that on Wednesday, the 25th November, I shall movethat the vacancy caused by the resignation of Senator Pearce as Chairman of Committees befilled.

Senator GIVENS:

– I desire to give notice that on that date I shall move that Senator Henry Turley be appointed Chairman of Committees.


– There is no necessity for Senator Givens to give notice of a motion, but if he desires to take thatcourse there is no objection. That will not, however, preclude any other nomination from being made.

Senator McColl:

– Is it proposed to proceed with the election of a Chairman of Committees on Wednesday next, or merely to receive the names of honorable senators on that day, and fix the election for another day?


– I presume that it is intended to proceed with the election on Wednesday next.

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Senator McGREGOR:
Vice-President of the Executive Council · South Australia · ALP

– I beg to lay upon the table a summary of the papers relating to the purchase of a site for Commonwealth offices in London, and to move -

That the document be printed.

Only a few phrases have been left out of the summary, and any honorable senator can see the complete file of papers at the office of the Minister of External Affairs.

Senator Guthrie:

– Why not lay them on the Library table?

Senator McGREGOR:

– If that course were taken, the phrases might become public property. It is not because the phrases are objectionable, or that the Commonwealthdesires to conceal anything; but merelyas a matter of etiquette that they have been omitted.

Senator Sir Robert Best:

– Besides, the papers are confidential.

Senator McGREGOR:

– They are, practically confidential remarks. I am submitting thismotion so that the summary maybe circulated in time to enable the members of each House to discuss, with full information, the question when it is submitted. The time for completing the negotiations has been extended to the end of this month, but those with whom we are negotiating would like the business to be completed by the 25th instant.

Senator Trenwith:

-Is there any material difference between the papers which the Minister is submitting and the originals ?


– There is no material difference.

Senator Findley:

– Are we to understand that the Minister is submitting a summary of all the communications which have been received from those in London who are acting in connexion with this site?

Senator McGREGOR:

– They are almost complete, only one or’ two phrases having been omitted.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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Order of Business - Fisher Administration - Papua - Industrial Dispute - Land Tax - Trusts - Colliery Catastrophe

Motion (by Senator McGregor), proposed -

That the Senate do now adjourn.

Senator Sir ROBERT BEST (Victoria) [3.8]. - I should like to ascertain from the Vice-President of the Executive Council what business he intends to proceed with when the Senate reassembles. Perhaps he will be able to make a statement as to the intentions of the Go,vernment

Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales [3.9]. - I desire to congratulate the honorable gentlemen who have assumed office, and I trust that they may meet with the success which their merits and their principles entitle them’ to. There are one or two questions which I desire- to put to Ministers, and to which they may or may not reply as they see fit. To-day, the Age announces that it is the intention of Ministers to press forward the consideration of the Navigation Bill as far as possible this session. I should like to know whether that is a fact. If the journal in question has been authorized to publish the statement, I presume that Ministers will have no hesitation in giving the desired information to the Senate. A few” days ago, the Age also announced that Ministers intended to at once appoint Judge Murray as LieutenantGovernor of Papua, and Mr. Staniforth Smith as Administrator of that Territory. If the statement has been authorized, I think that the Government might say so to-day. I also desire to direct the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council to the statement which he made in this_ Chamber about ten days ago regarding the industrial dispute which exists at Broken Hill. Upon that occasion, he declared - I think with some show of anger - that the New South Wales Government had despatched a quantity of arms and ammunition to Broken Hill. The accuracy of his statement has since been denied in the New South Wales Parliament, and I presume that he is acquainted with that fact. I think, therefore, that he might well explain to the Senate how the information which he gave it - I am quite sure in perfect good faith - came into his possession.


– I should be glad, too, if the Vice-President df the Executive Council would inform us whether the motion In has name which appears upon the business-paper, and which affirms the desirableness of imposing a progressive tax upon land values, is to be proceeded with, or to be with- drawn. The Minister of Defence might give us similar information in respect of his motion relating to trusts. I desire to say nothing further except to congratulate the Government upon the very kindly and wise message of sympathy which, on behalf of Australia, they despatched ito Germany in connexion with the catastrophe in the coal-mining industry at Westphalia. I feel exceedingly pleased that such a message was forwarded. I hope that this Ministry - and other Ministries - will take advantage of every opportunity which presents itself to promote good feeling between the .Commonwealth and all other countries.

Senator Sir ROBERT BEST (Victoria) [3.13]. - By leave of the Senate, may I be permitted’ to offer a word of congratulation to my honorable friends who have succeeded the members of the Deakin Government upon the .Treasury bench. I can only say that I hope the same generous feeling will be extended to them which was extended to the late Government. No doubt the policy which they will announce to this Chamber when we re-assemble will be such as will commend itself to us, and as will meet with the approval of the country. I hope that their term of office will be a successful one.

Senator McGREGOR:
Vice-President of the Executive Council · South Australia · ALP

– I must thank both Senator Best and Senator Pulsford for the very kindly sentiments which they have expressed towards the present Government. With Senator Pulsford, I sincerely hope that the Ministry will betreated with all the courtesy and consideration - especially the consideration - which they deserve. In reply to both honorable senators, I merely wish to say that I have no authority to make a policy speech on this occasion, and I have already announced that the brief space of time which has been at our disposal has rendered it impossible for us to familiarize ourselves with the work of the different Departments. But in respect of the statements which Senator Pulsford alleges have been made in a local newspaper, I can assure honorable senators that when the Government have determined the course of action which they intend to pursue during the present session, their announcement will be made in Parliament, and not in the press or elsewhere. That announcement will be made as scon as Parliament reassembles on the 25th inst. I hope then to be in a position to make a statement which, if not satisfying to honorable senators, will certainly enlighten them as to the course of action which we intend to follow. The only other matter to which I need reply is the request which Senator Pulsford - with his usual desire for knowledge - has preferred regarding the statement which I made in this Chamber that arms and ammunition had been forwarded to Broken Hill. I made that statement in good faith, and acting upon reliable information. I am aware that the statement has been subjected to a kind of contradiction - a contradiction that does not affect its accuracy in the slightest degree - because arms and ammunition have been sent to Broken Hill. I am quite sure that if the question be fairly put to the Commissioner of Police of New South Wales, he will not deny the truth of my statement. But, of course, if it be put in a certain way he can reply that “ certain accoutrements have been despatched for a certain purpose.” That, however, is a mere evasion of the question. Arms and ammunition were forwarded. As to my authority for the statement which I made-

Senator Guthrie:

– It was the best in the world.

Senator McGREGOR:

– It does not matter whether it is the best in the world or not, I am not in a position to make public the source of all the information that I have received during my lifetime.

If I conceived it to be wise to do so I am sure there is nobody to whom I should more willingly give the source of my in. formation than Senator Pulsford.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at 3.19 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 November 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.