5th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
asked the Minis ter representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
General Post Office on the reserved area in Perth yet been decided on?
– I regret that owing to the public holiday yesterday, the Departments wore closed, and that I could not obtain a reply to this question.If the honorable senator will kindly postpone it until the next day of sitting, I shall endeavour to get a reply.
asked the Minister representing the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
When will the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs reply to a letter addressed to him some weeks ago asking for information in connexion with the dismissal of about seventy men from the Kalgoorlie end of the Trans-Australian Railway?
– The answer to the question is -
I am informed by the Engineer-in-Chief for Railways that there are, approximately, seventy men less now employed in connexion with the Kalgoorlie end of the Railway than were engaged six weeks ago.
A clearing gang and an earthwork gang have ceased work, owing to the absence of water at (he head of works. In addition, certain plate layers have temporarily finished, and unloaders have been reduced owing to slow deliveries of sleepers and cessation of rail arrivals.
I am causing inquiries to be made in regard to the reason for the slow delivery of materials. Every effort is being made to complete the railway speedily and economically.
– Arising out of the answer, will the Minister inform me why such a period was allowed to elapse between the time I sent the letter to the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs and the time of the reply which has just been given, and which would not have been given had I not given notice of the question?
– I regret that I cannot inform the honorable senator, but if he will drop me a line on the subject I shall endeavour to obtain an answer.
– Arising out of the question which has been partly answered, I desire to ask if the Minister has any information to give as to how it has come about that there is no water supply at the head of the line to enable the men to continue at work?
– I am unable to answer the question at present.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Is it not a fact that borings had been put down to a depth of 40 feet on both the Parmelia and Success Banks at Cockburn Sound, West Australia, under the direction of the late Go vernment, and were not the’ reports of such borings in the possession of the Naval Board before February, 1913?
– Owing to yesterday’s holiday and the Minister being very busy, I would ask Senator Pearce to repeat this question.
– Still no business.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The information covered by this question is being sought in Sydney. I have not beenable to obtain it,and I ask the honorable senator to repeat the question.
– Still no business.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– To this question, also, I have to reply that the information has not been obtained.
– Still no business.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Why,in connexion with the calling for tenders for the conveyance of mails to and from Flinders Island, the important town of White Mark is not mentioned as a port of call?
– The answer to the question is -
White Mark is included as a port of call in the Service in question, vide Commonwealth Gazette of 12th July,1913.
– Arising out of the answer, I desire to say that the advertisements published in the newspapers did not give the town of White Mark as a port of call.
Senator BAKHAP (for Senator
Oakes) asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the proportion and amount of gold reserves held by the following banks as against their note issue : - Bank of England, Bank of France, Commonwealth Bank?
– I have to give the same answer to this question as I have given to others - that the information has not yet been obtained. May I be permitted to remind honorable senators that they themselves enjoyed a holiday yesterday, and that one of the results of the Senate enjoying the holiday was that all the Departments enjoyed it, too.
– It means two days off for you.
– Not for us. I am merely telling honorable senators a fact, of which no doubt they are very well aware. All the Departments had a holiday yesterday. If honorable senators object to that, I can say nothing. At the same time, if I may be allowed to do so, I would remind the Senate that invariably it has been difficult to give replies to questions on Friday.
– You are too busy making speeches at meetings.
– Some of these questions were given notice of a fortnight ago.
Customs Duties at Broome.
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
Will he lay on the table of the Senate a return showing -
The number of indented seamen engaged in the pearling industry at Broome, Western Australia, on the 30th June, 1912, and their nationality?
The arrivals and departures of indented seamen during the year ending 30th June, 1913, showing number of each nationality?
The number of indented persons convicted at Broome during the same period, showing the nationality of the convicted person, the offence, how disposed of, and name of employer?
The number of deaths of indented seamen at Broome for the same period, showing nationality of deceased persons and causes of death?
The amount of Customs duties collected at Broome for year ending 30th June, 1913?
– Perhaps I can congratulate the honorable senator upon my being able to tell him that the answer to his question is in the form of a return, which I now lay upon the table.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information desired is practically a return. It is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Min ister of Defence, upon notice -
If he has yet got any information regarding the alteration and conditions of men working at Garden Island, Sydney ?
– I must ask the honorable senator to repeat this question at the next day of sitting.
– That question is a fortnight old.
– Another Show Day.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has the Government submitted the reports of the Royal Commission on the Fruit Industry to the State Governments of Australia for their consideration, report, and advice?
– The answer is-
The Reports were forwarded to the State Governments on 16th September. Attention was invited to Recommendations 12 of the Majority Report, and 7 of the Minority Report, and a request made that the opinions of the Railways Commissioners be obtained.
– May I presume, Mr. President, to ask the first question standing in my name on the notice-paper ? -
Is the Queensland loan from the Commonwealth represented by way of deposit or by way of Bills?
– Mr. President. With regard to this question-
– If there is no reply, I will simply sit down.
– With regard to questions 12 and 13, I have to say that if there had been no holiday yesterday and to-day were not Friday, replies would have been available. Such information cannot be obtained at once. As a matter of fact, inquiries have been made, not of any Department, but of the Commonwealth Bank. I can assure the honorable senator that as soon as a reply is available, he will get the desired information.
– I give notice of my intention to repeat the questions.
– They will have to be repeated.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
In regard to the recent arrival of several hundreds of boy immigrants in Australia : Will the Minister be good enough to say whether the boys passed the medical test required, and whether the High Commissioner’s Office had anything whatever to do with the despatching of the boys in question?
– The answer is -
The Minister is informed that each of the boys introduced under the auspices of the State Government was medically examined in England prior to departure. The High Commissioner had nothing to do with the despatch of the boys.
Motion (by Senator Rae) agreed to -
That there be laid upon the table of the Senate a return showing -
The number of contested elections in each of the six States of the Commonwealth at the general elections of 31st May, 1913.
The number of polling places respectively in each of the six States.
The number of duly appointed scrutineers in each of the six States, showing separately the respective numbers appointed by each candidate for both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament.
Motion (by Senator Maughan) agreed to-
That there be laid upon the table of the Senate a return showing -
The number of names placed on the rolls within one month before the issue of the writ for the last election.
The percentage of votes -
to the estimated adult population qualified to vote; recorded at the various elections for the Com monwealth Parliament, including that for the present Parliament. 3.. The number of votes recorded at the last election in polling booths erected at hospitals in any State of the Commonwealth.
Motion (by Senator Ready) agreed to -
That the following papers be laid on the table of the Library -
The original application from W. Mays for employment in the Queen’s Bridge Ordnance Stores.
The original answers submitted by the successful applicants at the examination held in June last for storemen and labourers for the Ordnance Stores.
The stock sheets containing quantities and descriptions of stock held by. the Defence Department in the Queen’s Bridge, Melbourne, Ordnance Stores as at 31st December, 1912.
The Senate : Conduct of Business : Statementsby Ministers - Treasurer’s Advance - Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway: Dismissal of Workmen - Tasmanian Mail Service - Select Committee: Mr. H. Chinn - Electoral Rolls : Objections - General Elections : Alleged Double Voting - Liberal Party’s Funds - Address-in-Reply - Attacks on Labour Party - Postage Stamp Designs - Small-pox in Sydney: Quarantine - Papuan Oil Deposits - Telephone Mechanics : Arbitration Court Award.
Bill received from House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Clemons) proposed -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent this Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
– I think it is rather deplorable that the Standing Orders should be suspended so frequently. The Opposition up tothe present time have refrained from interfering with the ordinary course of business in accordance with the Standing Orders, as far as they possibly could; but as the Government are setting us such a deplorable example, it may be found necessary in the future, seeing that we are not furnished with business to the extent that we might be, to suspend many standing orders. There is no member of the Opposition who has not in the past shown every anxiety to assist the Government to carry on business. Supply has not been blocked. Everything has been done to help in that direction. Yet when members of this Government go about the country addressing ladies’ meetings and ‘bun struggles, ‘ ‘ they are continually complaining about the obstruction of business in Parliament. It is nearly time that that sort of thing should stop. .It is time that the Government were given t6,under.stand that if they are not prepared to carry on the business of the country as it ought to be conducted, it will be necessary for the Opposition to take a hand.
– To show that Senator McGregor has not been talking without some warrant, I intend to quote what the Prime Minister said, as reported in the Age of the 26th of this month, when addressing the annual convention of the People’s party.
– Which one is that?
– It is number seven.
– I understand that it is the Liberal organization of the primary producers of this State. Mr. Cook said this -
The Government had asked for a month’s Supply for the wages of civil servants. The Opposition had debated the matter during the whole day and would not give it.
There were cries of “ Shame.” The Prime Minister continued -
The Government had had to adjourn the House without it, and he doubted whether the Government would get it that day. He supposed the Opposition would have something to say on the matter which was totally irrelevant to the question of Supply. There was a systematic obstruction of business going on, and he hoped the country was taking note of it. Meanwhile the Government was doing the best it could - it was doing nothing, but it was doing it well.
I suppose that the gentlemen whom the Prime Minister was addressing were quite unaware of the fact that these Supply Bills afford the only opportunity we have, as representatives of the people, to criticise the administration of the Government. When he told his audience that we were hanging up the Supply Bill, they cried, “Shame!” Were we hanging up the Supply Bill ? I venture to say that the debate in another place on the Supply Bill which we are to consider to-day was about the shortest on record. I think that will be the experience here also. . I am surprised that, in order to make political capital, Ministers should say these things outside. They must result in reprisals here. Honorable senators on this side do not propose to interfere with the motion now before the Senate, although when similar motions were submitted during the. last Parliament no one more vigorously denounced them than did Senator Millen when leading the Opposition in this Chamber. It is time that the country was informed that the humbug which Ministers talk outside is merely intended to cover up their tracks, and that the Government do not desire- to. do anything. The speech which I have just quoted would warrant honorable senators on this side voting against the motion now before us, and if it were defeated the retaliation would be justifiable. I point out that, even if it were defeated, the civil servants would still get their pay in time, as we could sit to-morrow and pass Supply before the end of the month, and their wages and salaries are not due until the end of the month. The statement of the Prime Minister that we are preventing the payment of the civil servants is an absolute falsehood, and that gentleman ought to know it. It was made merely to mislead the people. In the helpless position in which- the Ministerial party is in the Senate, it . is very unwise of members of the Government to make these malicious statements outside. They will undoubtedly provoke reprisals if they are continued. .
.. - No one can be surprised at the remarks made by Senators McGregor and Pearce, as, . quite apart from the Prime Minister’s statement referred to, we have a member of the Government in the Senate, Senator McColl, making statements of the same kind regarding the conduct of the Opposition. These statements are obviously made for political purposes, and Ministers should really have some greater respect for the truth . Time after time we read that Senator McColl has made statements such as those attributed to the Prime Minister, and casting unwarrantable reflections on the members of the Opposition in this branch of the Legislature. In the interests of decency, and that fair play which should characterize the relations between parties, Senator McColl, when he is next addressing the electors, should seriously consider whether the statements which he has been in the habit of making are quite fair to the Opposition in the Senate. I claim that members of the Opposition in this Chamber have done everything to facilitate public business. I direct attention to the fact that, in reply to questions from this side, Senator
Millen, as Leader of the Government in this Chamber, openly acknowledged that it is not their intention to introduce any business here which has not already been dealt with in another place; although, except in regard to Money Bills, the Senate has co-equal powers with the other branch of the Legislature.
– I think the honorable senator must have misunderstood what Senator Millen said.
– I shall be glad to be put right if I have done so; but I certainly understood Senator Millen to say that the Government had no intention to bring forward any business involving their policy in this Chamber which has not first been passed in another place. Matters of the first importance to the country, that, although referred to in the Ministerial statement of policy, are quite non-contentious, might very well be brought forward here; but it is not the intention of the Government to introduce such measures in the Senate. Senator McColl has recently made the statements which have been complained of.
– I am not aware that I ever made the statements which have been referred to.
– If the honorable senator has any sense of political fair play, he must admit that his speeches in the country at week-end meetings have been calculated to make the electors believe that the Opposition are determined that the Government shall do no business.
– I never referred to the opposition in the Senate at all as intended to obstruct business.
– If that be so, I shall be very glad to have the honorable senator’s assurance, when he next addresses a public meeting, that he never intended to lead the electors of Victoria to believe that there has been opposition in the Senate with a view to the obstruction of business. , The honorable senator might, at the same time, inform the electors that his leader does not intend to bring forward any business in this Chamber which has not first been passed in another place. I have no desire to obstruct the passage of this Supply Bill; but we have reached that stage in the existing dispute between political parties when some greater sense of fair play should be exhibited by Min isters in addressing meetings than has been exhibited by the Prime Minister and the Vice-President of the Executive Council during the past few weeks. I have observed that the Minister of Defence and Senator Clemons have not been guilty of quite such indiscreet deliverances.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [11.31]. - One would imagine from the criticism of honorable senators opposite that this is the first occasion upon which the suspension of our Standing Orders has been sought. Senator McGregor said that, although, when the late Government were in office, vigorous protests were made against the suspension of our Standing Orders by honorable senators upon this side of the Chamber, the present Ministry were following the same course. He knows very well that there has not been a Supply Bill submitted to the Senate unaccompanied by exactly a similar proposal. Honorable senators opposite were in office for three years, and, during that period, they never took any course other than is being taken to-day. It is true that we protested against it on the ground that Supply Bills were frequently brought forward at the last possible moment, when there was no adequate opportunity of discussing them. The suspension of the Standing Orders in such circumstances was a gross infringement of ordinary political decency and propriety. Honorable senators opposite abuse their privileges for political purposes, and not from an honest desire to do the business of the country.
– Do not get cross.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - I am not in the slightest degree cross.
– The honorable senator cannot be in earnest in saying that we have no honest desire to transact the business of the country. The Government have provided us with no business.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - It has been urged this morning that the Opposition in this Chamber have not obstructed business, and it has been suggested that an explanation from Ministers should be forthcoming to that effect.
– Does the honorable senator say ‘that the discussion of this
Bill for a day and a half in another place constitutes obstruction ?
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - I say that, while my honorable friends claim that they have not been guilty of obstruction, they all belong to one party, and, if placed in a similar position to that of their confreres elsewhere, they would be just as enthusiastic in their obstructive tactics. In a Senate which is composed of twentynine Labour members and of only seven Liberals, what need have the former to obstruct? They can do just as they like. It is extraordinary -that honorable senators opposite should take this opportunity of protesting against the suspension of the Standing Orders and then affirm, as Senator Pearce did, that, if they chose, they could negative this proposal, and put this Supply Bill through to-morrow. He distinctly stated that it would serve the Government right if the Senate negatived the motion, and that it could do so without interfering with the payment of our public servants.
– It is an absolute misstatement to say that we have protested against the suspension of the Standing Orders.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - Then, did the honorable senator rise this morning for the purpose of administering a castigation to Senator McColl for statements which he made outside of this Chamber?
– Will the honorable senator give us an assurance that those statements will not be repeated ?
– Unfortunately, I am not in a position to do so. If the Government intend to follow the golden example set by my honorable friends opposite, a similar motion to that which is now before us will be submitted every couple of months during the present Parliament. I think that honorable senators will be quite prepared to suspend the Standing Orders on the present occasion, and to pass the Bill through all its stages, in order that they may not be charged with having attempted to deprive the public servants of the Commonwealth of their wages after they have become due.
– Do not be so childish.
– I should have to go to the honorable senator for lessons in childishness.
– As a new member of the Senate, I must express my astonishment that the honorable and gallant colonel who has just resumed his seat should have become so excited over a little matter. In view of his exhibition, I shall certainly be apprehensive, should the time ever arrive when he is called upon to lead troops against an invading force, because it is an axiom in military campaigning that one needs to keep cool under fire. I realize, therefore, that even the honorable senator could hardly be regarded as a fitting example in this respect to the rank and file. But my main object in rising is to indorse, to a very large extent, the remarks which have been made by my colleagues on the front Opposition bench concerning certain misstatements as to the status and general conduct of members of the Opposition in this Chamber. One would imagine that the twenty-nine Labour senators had no right to be here. One would think that the electors who had sent them here had committed a dreadful crime. May I point out that we are not responsible for what the States may do. If the States in their wisdom decide in a constitutional way that they will be represented by Labour senators, we will represent them. If I do not misjudge affairs in the Commonwealth, in the event of another appeal to the people, the Labour party in this Chamber will come back stronger than ever. As a new member, I note with regret the attitude adopted by certain political veterans in the matter of belittling this great institution, the Senate. On every conceivable occasion certain gentlemen in another place, as well as here, persist in attempting to belittle this Chamber. I think it is absolutely undignified on their part to do anything of the sort. I, of course, can quite understand what some honorable gentlemen have in view. As a matter of fact, they do not like the idea of the Senate being elected as it is.
– Is that really pertinent to the question of suspending the Standing Orders ?
– I have allowed a great deal of latitude on this subject. Honorable senators have insensibly wandered away from the real question, which is that the Standing Orders be suspended for a certain purpose. All these remarks would be quite in order on the first reading of the Bill. I ask honorable senators to confine their attention to the question before the Senate.”
– I must plead guilty to leaving the proper line of demarcation. I regret that the remarks made by previous speakers somewhat led me off the track, but, with your permission, sir, I would like to call attention to the remarks made by the Honorable Joseph Cook yesterday at the function referred to by Senator Pearce.
– Those remarks have no bearing on . the question of suspending the Standing Orders.
– I will defer my comments to another occasion. I wish to say in conclusion, that the Labour party, whether in State or Federal politics, have always cheerfully voted Supply for the services of His Majesty.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a first time.
I take this opportunity to reply to the debate - which, perhaps, was a little irrelevant - on the previous motion. I very much appreciate the attitude of the Opposition with regard to Supply Bills, especially when I remember their number - I never can forget that. I do not hesitate to assure Senator McGregor that I regret very much the necessity of suspending the Standing Orders in order that Supply Bills may be submitted here. But I feel sure he will agree with ‘me’ that, no matter what the desire of the Government may be in the Senate, it is almost impossible, with regard to the early Supply Bills, to avoid taking that course in order to get the measures before the Senate. The Government could have introduced at once- whether the Senate would have allowed the Bill to pass or not, I do not know - a Bill for two months’ Supply, which, of course, would have obviated the necessity of suspending the Standing Orders twice.
– Why not ask for three months’ Supply, seeing that the Senate is not going to be called together for any public business? .
– I want to point out the reasons why the Government did not . ask for Supply for two or three months. There were several reasons.
– The chief one was that you were frightened that you could not get more than a month’s Supply.
– I will not say that we were frightened in that regard. There was, of course, one reason. I admit, frankly - that it was net certain that the Opposition would not have replied to a request for three months’ Supply, “ We do not care to give it to you.” But there was another reason for our action, and I venture to say that it must appeal to every honorable senator, no matter where he sits, and that is that the first reading of a Supply Bill affords, what every member of the Senate has always wanted, an opportunity of dealing with general matters of policy.
– The Prime Minister said that they should not do it.
– So far as I am concerned, I have never objected. I have frequently appreciated the opportunity of. speaking to the first reading of a Supply Bill; and, as it can only come once a month, I do not think it is too much for honorable senators to ask, no matter where they sit, for a monthly opportunity of dealing with matters of policy.
– That is why we feel the absolute unfairness of the Prime Minister’s statement.
– I hops that my honorable friends opposite are not too sensitive this morning. I am quite prepared to take my share of the blame. I am merely making these observations in reply to what has been said, chiefly by Senators McGregor and Pearce. I wish to refer to a statement which has been made regarding the business of the Senate.’ It is not the intention of the Government to abstain altogether from doing any business here.
– Senator Millen said so the other day.
– No. I. think that my honorable colleague was misunderstood.
– He said that nothing- would be originated unless an assurance was given by honorable senators on the. other, side that they would cooperate loyally in its achievement.
– Senator Millen does not often fail to make himself very clearly understood, and I must still reserve my opinion as to what he did say. It is the intention of the Government to- submit to the Senate, presently, some measures which, in our opinion, at any. rate, do not involve any serious questions of policy. That is to say, they belong to that class which it is to be hoped will secure the full concurrence of the Opposition.
– That is the Audit Bill ?
– The Audit Bill has been sent to us from another place. It surely ought not to -be necessary for me to remind honorable senators that, under the Standing Orders, it is not possible for the Government to bring on any business until the Address-in-Reply has been disposed of. So long as it remains on the notice-paper, so long must we refrain from introducing any business.
– That does not excuse Senator Millen’s statement.
– That is hardly our fault, you know.
– I do not think that there was anything in my words to convey an accusation of failure on the part of the Opposition, or any one else. I was merely stating a fact.
– It was the Government who desired the special adjournments of the Senate.
– Is that quite a generous remark? Have the special adjournments of the Senate been moved owing solely to the strong desire of’ the Government to adjourn ? I certainly found, in moving for those adjournments, that I had the full concurrence of honorable senators opposite. Indeed, I had to get their full concurrence in regard to every adjournment we desired over the ordinary sitting days. I think I have replied, as far as seems desirable to me at present, to the remarks which have been made about introducing Supply Bills, and I shall say no more at present.
– I hope that the representatives of the Government in the Senate will not imagine for a minute that any member of the Opposition was opposing, or even complaining about, the suspension of the Standing Orders: We know that no business of this character could be dealt with to-day unless that course were followed. In our remarks, we only meant to call attention to the conduct of those who are now carry ing on the government of the country when we were in office with respect to suspending the Standing Orders. A motion for that purpose was never moved in the Senate without being complained of, and complained of very strongly, by Senator Gould. He has been a perpetual grumbler at anything which has ever been proposed by the party represented on this side. We have a right to complain of the conduct of business in the Senate, and the very contention of Senator Clemons, who is leading the Government here today, that he had to obtain our concurrence, shows that the members of the Opposition have such sympathy with the small band of heroes opposite . who are endeavouring to carry on the business of the country in this Chamber that we are prepared to always treat them leniently. I am very glad that the honorable senator has made that admission. I am also pleased to learn that it is the intention of the Government to bring business before the Senate. Parliament has been in session for nearly three months, and the Senate has sat only about one week altogether, The reason why we agreed to special adjournments was because we thought that the Government were in a difficult position and wanted to help them out of it. Owing to the manner in which we have been referred to, in almost every case, where an opportunity has been afforded to members and supporters of the Government, we may be compelled to abandon, the leniency which we have shown hitherto, and, in the interests of the people of Australia, to introduce measures to which we are pledged. I am sure . that if that time should arrive, the members and. supporters of the Ministry here will not be in a position to complain-. With regard to the action of the Government in connexion with Supply .generally, it may be easily realized that, so far as a first Supply Bill is concerned, there are always certain limitations which are recognised, and that, consequently, a Supply Bill for a large amount might not be acceded to, though the Opposition in another place allowed the Government six weeks’ Supply. Was any attempt made to find out the attitude of the Opposition with respect to the second Supply Bill? So far as my knowledge goes, no one in the Senate, in’ view’ of the circumstances existing, would have complained about a Bill for two months’ Supply. The grant-, ing of one month’s Supply just landed the Parliament of Australia in the middle of the visit of the Parliamentarians from Great Britain, and also in Show Week, which is a most difficult time for getting Supply of any kind. If* the Government had had any foresight at all, they would have anticipated that position, and put these facts to the Opposition in another place, as well as to the Opposition here, when, I feel sure, two months’ Supply would have been granted, and all this wrangling and waste of time would have been saved. With respect to this Supply Bill, we must admit that the amount, asked for one month’s Supply is very moderate. I am not going to complain, but to call the attention of honorable senators, and the people of the country, to the fact that scarcely a Supply Bill has been introduced by a Labour Government without very strong criticism being indulged in, and serious objection raised to voting any considerable amount for the Treasurer’s Advance. Yet, in one Supply Bill this session, an advance of £250,000 to the Treasurer was asked for by the present Government; and in this Supply Bill an advance of no less than £300,000 is asked for. That means over £500,000 in two months for purposes of the Treasurer’s Advance. We may be ignorant of some of the conditions requiring a larger amount than would appear to be necessary. It may be the intention of the Treasurer, quite apart from the sanction of the Government, to proceed with the works at Cockburn Sound. It may be his intention to do many things without the advice and sanction of his own colleagues. Therefore, we, as members of the Opposition, have stronger reasons for objecting to this extended Treasurer’s Advance than has been the case previously. But I do not think that any member of the Opposition intends to oppose the grant. Of course, we know that Sir John Forrest finds no difficulty in spending any money that is advanced to him. What is a million to him? I thought it right to call attention to the large amount of the Treasurer’s Advance in order that it may be known that we are watching what is occurring. Every honorable senator will have an opportunity of expressing his opinion on grievances and matters of policy, but I hope that before we adjourn to-day the Supply Bill will be carried, and that no public servant will be alarmed as to the prospect of receiving his salary next week.
– I welcome this opportunity of saying a few words by way of taking up the challenge thrown out by Senator Clemons that we should criticise the work of Ministers, and generally review the political position. I wish to refer to the statement made by Senator Millen earlier in the week. His declaration has been somewhat clouded, but there is no doubt whatever that, in reply to a question from our leader, he did say that the Government would not introduce any measure in the Senate this session which involved a question of policy. There is no getting away from that position. When I asked Senator Millen whether, in making that announcement, he was not ignoring the Senate, he jocularly replied that he was not, because he was recognising the present position of parties here. The statement of the honorable senator is being re-echoed from every platform from which a member of this Ministry speaks. They are doing all they can to belittle the Senate. I hold in my hand a copy of the policy statement issued by the Government. It refers to a number of measures involving Government policy, some of which are non-contentious and might easily be introduced in the Senate. But let me pin Senator Millen down to his own statement, that it is not the intention of the Government to introduce any Bill involving Government policy in this Chamber until the question has been reviewed in another branch of the Legislature. I say that such an attitude is absolutely in defiance of the wish of the people of Australia. One would think that the twenty-nine Labour senators had been sent here in a surreptitious manner - that they had been forced here against the wish of the people. One would think that the electors had not sent them here by means of a free adult franchise. I have had the honour of being a member of the Senate for about seven years, and I can recollect occasions when the party to which I belong was in a minority. We did not hear from Ministers of the Crown in those days statements reflecting on the constitution .of the Senate, and upon the judgment of the electors of Australia. That is really the cardinal point. The people of Australia on the 31st May were faced by two political armies, which, through their leaders and candidates, laid certain proposals before the people. The election was taken. The result was that the Senate was composed of twenty-nine on one side, and seven on the other. For Ministers of the Crown to reflect on the judgment of the electors, as has been done lately, is unheard of in the history of Australia or of parliamentary government. The attitude of Ministers on public platforms is decidedly different from their attitude when speaking here or in another branch of the Legislature.
– They are quite mild here; they will eat out of your hand.
– Let it be remembered that this Senate, in common with the House of Representatives, is elected by the franchise of every man and woman in this country over twenty-one years of age who has been a resident here longer than six months. Practically the whole manhood and womanhood of the country is qualified to vote for both branches of the National Parliament. Except in regard to money Bills, the Senate has co-equal powers with the other House. The attitude of Ministers is, therefore, not comprehensible, and will certainly tend to a situation with which honorable senators opposite may not be altogether pleased. If it is the view of Ministers that the Senate is not worth considering, the best thing they can do is to abandon their seats on the Ministerial bench, and say that they will have nothing more to do ‘ with this Chamber. They know perfectly well that they are helpless, and that at any time the majority of the members of the Senate can compel them to bow to our will. They are as mild as babes when they are here, but when on the platform outside they are like roaring lions.
– More like braying asses.
– Take Senator McColl. From the way in which he discharges his functions, one wonders whether he is really in the Ministry or not. At any rate, he is a tiny little mite when he is here. But when he is at a “teafight,” he speaks as if he were going to move empires. I trust that the Government will reconsider their determination, and will introduce here measures, even though they involve Government policy. We have every right to have Bills brought before us. The present attitude of the Government is simply defiant -to the people of Australia. I wish to say a word in connexion with the dismissal of a number of men from the Kalgoorlie end of the trans-Australian railway. The Honorary Minister certainly gave me a reply to my question, but he said nothing about the discourteous treatment which I had received. I can only assume that it was due to the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Kelly. I remember on another occasion making a statement about a matter of public policy affecting the Minister of External Affairs; and, when I found that I was wrong, I made the amende honorable on the next day of sitting. But when I asked Mr. Kelly, over the telephone, a question relative to the dismissal of about seventy men from the Kalgoorlie end of the railway, he curtly told me that I must put my question in writing, as he declined to answer it across the telephone. I said that I would send him a letter, and did so. This occurred during the debate on the no-confidence motion in the House of Representatives; but I received no reply from him, nor did I even get an acknowledgment of my letter. Treatment of that kind towards representatives of the people, when asking for information directly affecting their constituents, is nol worthy of a Government; and I hope that it will not be continued, no matter what party is in power.
.- I should like to ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General a question.
– This is not the time for asking questions, but I will endeavour to answer the honorable senator.
– I do not think that it will be a very serious act of condescension for the Minister to reply in this instance. In ‘the Legislature of Tasmania, according to the Age of yesterday, Mr.. Earle, leader of the Opposition, on Wednesday last - moved the adjournment of the House to ask the Government to protest against the contract which the Federal Government proposed to enter into with the Union Shipping Company for seven years. He said if the Labour paTty had been returned, Tasmania would now have had an efficient national mercantile fleet, but as it was the service had got more inconvenient than ever. It was a continual experience for boats from Victoria to miss the connecting trains in the north, and strand passengers and mails at Launceston and Burnie, while the commerce of Tasmania wai chronically dislocated.
ThePremiersaidhewould ask the Federal authorities that before the contract was completedhe should be informed of its conditions .
I wish to asktheMinister whether the Government intend to give the Premier of Tasmania anopportunity of seeing that contract before it is finally agreed to? If so, why not give the information to the Senate? I understand, on the very best authority, that the. contract is to be for a period of five years, and that the subsidy to be paid is £2,000 more than the present subsidy; whilst the service is to be one of four days per week, such as was proposed when the Fisher Government were in office. There are to be two boats each way between Launceston and Melbourne, and two viâ Burnie. I hope, before the contract is ratified, the repeated protests of the representatives of Tasmania will be taken into consideration, and that we shall have an opportunity of seeing the contract before the final steps are taken. I ask the Minister to say what he intends to do with regard to the request of the Premier of Tasmania.
– The fact that we are meeting here in the twelfth week since the opening of this Parliament, and have so far’ done nothing in the way of legislation in the Senate except to pass the necessary Supply Bills, shows that whatever their professions may be the present Ministry are doing their best to belittle, flout, and ignore this Chamber. I think that a most reprehensible and regrettable example has been set by the Prime Minister in denouncing the Senate wherever he may happen to be. There never was in the history of Australian politics a man who chattered -more, who uttered more piousplatitudes, cheap wit, and smug hypocrisy generally than the honorable gentleman. There never was in Australian politics any one who so disgraced his office as has this renegade Prime Minister, who is the most splendid liar in Australia to-day !
– Order ! The honorable senator is not entitled to reflect on any member of Parliament in those terms.
– If that be so, then I will not repeat what I have said.
– Surely this is a breach of the Standing Orders, and I submit to you, sir, that Senator Rae should be called upon to withdraw the remarks he has made.
– On the point of order, I should like to say that if it is a breach of order for me to use words which every one knows to be correct-
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - The honorable senator is only aggravating his offence.
– The honorable senator is not entitled to dispute my ruling calling him to order. He must submit to the ruling, and I ask him to withdraw the words he has used.
– Is it usual for an honorable senator to ask for the withdrawal of what he considers offensive words which have not been addressed to himself? I always understood that it is the person of whom the offensive statements have been made who has the right to call for their withdrawal, but this is quite a different case from that.
-The Standing Orders are definite and emphatic in stating that no honorable senator is entitled to reflect upon any member of this Parliament.
– I was referring to the withdrawal of the words.
– It is entirely in the discretion of the President to demand the’ withdrawal of disorderly expressions or not. I ask Senator Rae to withdraw the words he used.
– Before Senator Rae withdraws the statements he has made I should like, on the point of order, to have an expression of opinion from you, sir, as to what portion of his remarks Senator . Rae is called upon to withdraw. He has used a great many expressions to describe the conduct of a gentleman or individual who for many years past has been prominent in public life, and who is not very particular as to what he says about other people. When it comes to collecting all these statements together, and characterizing them as deliberatelies, I recognisesome necessity for the withdrawal of anything of that kind. If the references were made to the private conduct of an individual the case would be entirely different, but when they apply to the public conduct of an individual, though I agree that it would not be in order to charge him distinctly with lying, I should like tobe informed as to what portion of his statements Senator Raeis expected to withdraw.
– I should like, for my own part, to know what I am expected to withdraw.
– The standing order dealing with this matter is very emphatic. It reads -
No senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any Member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament, or against any statute, unless for the purpose of moving its repeal, and all imputations or improper motives, and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
The conduct of the gentleman who has been referred to is outside the jurisdiction of the Senate. We cannot call him to order. We are concerned with the conduct of our own members, and Senator Rae was distinctly out of order in the reflections he cast upon the Prime Minister by saying, amongst other things, that he was a renegade, by describing him as a liar, and by using several other opprobrious terms. I ask the honorable senator without further argument to withdraw the offensive terms he used.
– I am most anxious to obey the ruling of the Chair, and anything which I have said which was not parliamentary, I withdraw. I do not know what specific words I am asked to withdraw. If I have to withdraw the statement that the Prime Minister is a renegade, however well that may be known to the general public, I have no desire-
– A general withdrawal will be quite sufficient.
– Very well, sir. I think I am amply justified in the most extreme criticism of . a person who, holding a very high public position, continually tries to belittle -and degrade the Senate. I want to know where, in these circumstances, our remedy lies. The Senate is a coordinate branch of the Legislature, and we should have some remedy against those who indulge in a confirmed habit of continuously belittling and degrading this institution. At the last, as well as during previous elections, members of the party that now happens to be in power were very emphatic in their statements that the Constitution under which this Parliament exists deserved to be treated with respect, and even with veneration, because of the eminent gentlemen who originally drew it up. On every platform in Australia, the Opposition were assailed for attempting, it was alleged, to destroy the Constitution, but nothing could be more destructive of the Constitution than the attitude recently adopted by Ministers in attacking this important branch of the National Parliament,, and continually referring to it as “the undemocratic Senate,” and suggesting that we are blocking public business, and taking it out of the hands of the Government. The members of the party led by the present Prime Minister have been foremost in making these accusations and charges, and in this way attempting to degrade the Constitution which they profess to so revere. It appears to me that, while the Senate may wisely ignore the statements of outside bodies, we have reason to protest against the statements made by the Prime Minister. There is no more self-contradictory man in the world than the honorable gentleman, and it is therefore not surprising to find that, while we are accused of standing in the way of the policy of the Government being placed on the statutebook, he has been assuring public meetings that the best thing that could happen Australia would be a complete rest from all legislation. The language I used regarding him was not used in heat, but calmly and deliberately.
– I thought it was inthe heat of the moment.
– It was not in the heat of the moment, but was due to a strong, deliberate, and growing conviction that what I said was true, although, unfortunately, unparliamentary. I did not speak without warrant. I take the statement that the Opposition in another place held up Supply, and it is evident from the reports appearing in the daily press, which practically agree that it was made for the purpose of inducing those who were listening to the Prime Minister to believe that the Labour party were trying to prevent the wages of the civil servants being paid. The honorable gentleman was attempting to arouse- animosity by putting before his auditors “a false issue.
– But the honorable senator will agree that that would be the effect.
– Senator Bakhap knows the answer to the question as well as I do. I am aware that it is put merely for the purpose of a record in Ilansard, and not with any serious desire to obtain information.
– I wanted to get at the truth of the matter.
– The evident intention of the Prime Minister was to put a false position before the electors. With respect to the speeches made all round the country, I should like to say that I am in no way alarmed about the threat to secure a double dissolution. That rests very easy on my mind. I am quite prepared to meet my old political opponent and personal friend, Senator Gould, at any time before the electors. I should welcome the opportunity. I am not afraid of a political combat in New South Wales to-morrow.
– Z do not think the honorable senator would be afraid of any one in a political combat.
– I am not; and I have do reason to be. The result of the last elections goes to show that there is a growing feeling in favour of Labour all over Australia, and so far as it was a victory for the party opposite, it was due only to the deliberate misrepresentations of the press, and the more deliberate misrepresentations of many candidates on the alleged Liberal side. My object in rising was to call attention to the fact, especially in view of the standing order under which I had to withdraw the truth, that that standing order should be put in force in regard to some one else. As I read it, we are not supposed to reflect on members of the State Parliaments. That should be a mutual obligation, and they should, in like manner, abstain from casting reflections on us. I find- that at a meeting of the alleged Liberal People’s Party, held last night, the Premier of Victoria said, amongst other things, “ The most amazing farce yet perpetrated in Australia was the Chinn inquiry.” He then proceeded to say that the matter was sub judice, and he could not therefore express any opinion on the merits of it. This was after he had denounced it as the greatest political farce ever perpetrated in Australia. He goes on to refer to the celebrated French trial, which was satirized by the humorist Dooley, who said that the Court denounced the prisoner as a monster of iniquity, and proceeded to record a verdict before hearing any evidence. But even worse follows. Towards the close of his remarks, Mr. Watt said -
There was the Chinn inquiry as presided over by Senator de Largie. Whatever the verdict might be, the people would take no notice of it, because it was a thoroughly polluted tribunal, and not a judicial one.
– The man who says that is a liar.
– It is one of the most scandalous and disgraceful statements which could possibly be made, and it has been made without any provocation whatever by a man who has no justification for interfering in this matter. I do not suggest that State and Federal politicians have not mutual interests, and that a member of any political party has not an interest in the State as well as the Federal politics of his country. But for the Premier of a State to go out of his way to pronounce opinions on a question which is sub judice, and with which he is not concerned, to denounce the members of the Chinn Committee as men who are incapable of doing justice to anybody, is nothing short of an outrage. If the Senate is to be subjected to these continued onslaughts by those who ought to be its defenders, instead of its assailants, it is time that we took action. There would be an outcry from one end of the Commonwealth to the other if anything of a similar character were hinted at by a Labour member.
– Has the honorable senator read the comments on the proceedings of the Committee which have appeared in newspapers that are well disposed towards Labour ? The Bulletin, for instance, has commented upon the proceedings of the Committee.
– I have not read any newspapers which are well-disposed towards the Labour party.
– What has the honorable senator been doing ?
– Any self-respecting Government would take action in this matter. They would defend the measures and the acts which are constitutionally performed by the Legislature. If they fail to do so, it is the duty of the Senate to take action without undue delay. I wish also to point out that every act on the part of the Senate is prejudiced in the eyes of the public- first, by those who should be its defenders, and, secondly, by a corrupt press, which systematically reports anything to the detriment of the party in opposition, and as assiduously cloaks the most infamous acts when committed by their political friends. Until this sort of conduct is altered our parliamentary institutions will continue to be degraded. We know that there is not a member of this Parliament who dare attack the bona fides of any member of the Chinn Committee by saying outside what these high politicians are permitted to say at their party gatherings. An action for libel would be laid if any individual member of the Committee were attacked. An attempt has been made to cast disgrace and obloquy on those who constitute the Committee collectively, but not on its members individually. It is part of that universal mud-slinging policy which has been adopted by the Government, from the Prime Minister downwards, and which wa3 very largely responsible for the success of the so-called Liberal party at the recent elections.
– The places in which these statements are made do not protect their authors.
– My complaint is that they are made in such a general way as to prevent the members of the Committee, individually, from securing any legal redress. Of course, I am not out to defend Senator Bakhap personally. I am speaking of the Committee and of the Senate which appointed it. As a matter of fact, the reactionary attitude of the Government upon most questions must call forth determined opposition. If they had sufficient political nous they would bring forward measures of a non-contentious character - measures the enactment of which would be to the benefit of this country. Such Bills would receive proper consideration, and would probably be placed upon our statute-book. It is only because they are anxious to avoid going to the country that the Senate is prevented from doing practical business. They are afraid of the consequences.
– Will the honorable senator name a few of the Bills to which he refers?
– The Leader of the Opposition mentioned several the other day. For example, there are the Bureau of Agriculture Bill, the Audit Bill, the Bankruptcy Bill, and the laws relating to marriage and divorce. There are quite a number of matters which, if they are not non-contentious, are certainly nonparty in character.
– Do not forget the Tariff.
– Even that is of a nonparty character. The reason why a policy of drift is being pursued in the Senate is that the party who are in power are absolutely afraid to bring forward any legislative proposals of a serious character. They are merely marking time in order that they may enjoy the distinction and emoluments of office and the chance of giving effect to the most reactionary policy possible, not by means of legislation, but by means of administration. The confession of the Attorney-General that objections will be received from any organization against the name of any person on the electoral roll without a deposit of 5s., if not a direct breach of the law, is one of the most scandalous acts which have yet been committed by this most scandalous Ministry. There has never been a more deliberate attempt to effect the wholesale disfranchisement of the workers than that which is now being made. I recollect some years ago, when the pioneers of the same party which is endeavouring to do this thing here, attempted the same dodge in New South Wales. I remember taking an oath at the time upon a blackthorn stick that I would brain the man who was responsible for my name being removed from the roll if the objection succeeded. Luckily for him, he withdrew his objection. The same method, I repeat, was adopted in New South Wales to strike the names of people off the roll in a wholesale fashion before the advent of Federation. It is idle for Senator Gould to suggest that it is only proper that any person should be permitted to lodge an objection. We know that it is objections by the Tory organizations which have created and which rule the Ministry for which this provision has been made. These associations are levying blackmail on the commercial classes of the community to provide them with funds with which to do their infamous work. They are sending out circulars to the business people of every State demanding practically that they shall contribute to their funds.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Has’ the honorable senator a copy of any of these communications? They ought to be easily . obtainable.
– I have a copy of one of them.
– I know business men who have informed me personally that they have received a polite request - blackmail at first is generally put in a polite form - to contribute to the funds of the Employers Federation and these political associations, and to pay on a percentage basis.
– I wonder if Labour ever gives anything towards its funds.
– I hope so; and if it knew its duty it would give a great deal more than it does. The honorable senator knows quite well, although he is attempting, as he always does, to cloud the issue, that there is no objection to an honest contribution to any party, whether it is his or any other. These secret attempts to blackmail business men are worse than anything which could be charged against any union in Australia. Business men are threatened with boycott, loss of trade, bank pressure, and so ou, unless the demands are complied with. Not only the gathering in of these funds, which is sometimes accomplished in an objectionable way, but the manner in which they are used from the moral point of view, is absolutely criminal. To disfranchise thousands of electors in every State is the chief end and aim of the reactionary party, headed at present, from a legal stand-point, by the Attorney-General, who practically invites people to come along and show reasons why persons should be disfranchised. The statement is made that no harm can be done by handing in an objection to a name on the roll ; that any one giving information that So-and-so is supposed to be dead, or to have left the residence for which he is enrolled, cannot do that person any harm, -because a philanthropic policeman will go and make inquiries before any positive action is taken. This morning the daily press of Melbourne states that the Opposition are raising a false alarm - -a storm in a tea-pot; that we do not seriously believe that there is any harm in this thing being done. But our past experience shows us that where a large number of objections are made, a very large proportion of them are upheld, because, in the ordinary walks of life, there are thousands of men who are away from their homes temporarily - I refer, to men who are going shearing or following an occupation of a casual character which takes them away from their abodes, and naturally, being poor, they are less settled as to place of residence than the wealthy’ and property-owning classes. There are tens of. thousands who get struck off the rolls, because once an objection is urged against a man’s name he may not hear of the objection until it is too late for him to reply. I have no wish to run down the police in any way, or to depreciate the valuable services they render to the community, but I can say that in New South Wales the police are so overloaded with duties quite extraneous to ordinary police work that it is impossible for them to adequately look after the various matters which are referred to them. There is no reason why they should be expected to do so. This is a deliberate, wicked, and infamous plot on the part of the Ministry to strike as many as possible of their political opponents off the rolls. They have their well-paid organizers to object, as well as their associations. At the same time, they have every facility, every power and influence which money can give, to look after their own pets - those who are likely to be their supporters. The rest of the community are looked upon as poor and friendless by comparison, and the Liberals are making a bitter, ferocious, and wholly unjustifiable attack upon them. Their electoral proposals teem with reaction from beginning to end, and all attempts to carry a measure of that kind into law will, I hope, be met with the most strenuous opposition from this side. Whatever good there is in the Bill, by all means let us adopt it and carry it. It is in keeping with the whole of their proposals. The proposal to prevent electors from being enrolled for a considerable time before the date of an election, the proposal to compel all electors to sign butts, and thus to make it impossible for men to get through the polling booth quickly, and all the other reactionary proposals, justify, not merely a suspicion, but a conviction, that the motive urged by the Attorney-General - the arch-priest of Conservatism in .this State–
– In Australia.
– In Australia, probably. It is all in keeping with their action. The whole tendency of the measures of the present Government is in the same direction.
– What can you expect from the father of coercion in Australia ?
– Yes, and of a Coercion Act which would have disgraced the worst one ever levelled against Ireland. It would be even justifiable on our part to hold up this Supply Bill, if necessary, to make the Government climb down from the absolutely untenable position which the Attorney-General has taken up. I am prepared to go to any length in doing so on the next opportunity.
– Next time. Let them off this time with a caution.
– The honorable senator need not enroll me amongst those who say “ Give us peace in our time, O Lord!” I believe in peace so much that I would fight for it. Any man is justified in maintaining, even with armed force, his political rights, because on them depend all other rights.
– You ought to go and join Carson, inUlster.
– No ; I leave that to the “law and order” crowd on the other side. I do not want to join him. Honorable senators on the other side, who are very loud in objecting to this, that, and the other being done by the Labour party, whether in office or in Opposition, have always preached about upholding the dignity of the Senate and maintaining its rights. Yet they not only look, but speak, from the same platforms as their State friends, who are not merely denouncing the Senate, but holding it up to contempt and ridicule, and are guilty of the disgraceful conduct of practically condemning a body before it has presented a report, or even dealt with the matter referred to it. If they are not prepared to allow their party feeling to sink sufficiently to uphold the dignity, the rightful power and influence of this branch of the Legislature, they are bringing down upon themselves a fate which they will richly deserve. I do not intend to say anything in regard to the question of Supply, but I think it will be quite right, on the part of the Senate, to take the business out of the hands of this inept Government now, and act in regard to the insulting and disgraceful attitude of the Premier of Victoria in his comments on the action of the Senate. If the leaders of the Labour party do not see fit to do so, Iam not prepared to take any action, but I do protest most strongly against this kind of proceeding. Furthermore, the whole attitude of the party in power is to try to bring disgrace and ridicule upon this branch of the Australian Parliament. We should do away for ever with the obsolete provision which prevents the Senate from going on with business until another place has finished its discussion on a motion of censure or similar matter. While the motion of censure was pending - and the debate lasted three or four weeks - it would have been quite possible for the Senate to have effected a great deal of useful work, besides disposing of the Address -in-Reply. Yet we were perforce kept idle, and dragged at the heels of the other House, although the Constitution has charged us with responsibilities and duties which are rendered futile by this absurd deference being paid to the attitude taken up in another place. It is time that we acted independently of that House. Whatever rights and powers we have under the Constitution, we should proceed to put them into full and effective use. I am utterly sick of this plan of adjourning the Senate for a week, then for three or four weeks, and then for four or five days, thereby putting in the greater part of the session in practiccally tailing away after another House, which is doing little better.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Bear in mind that our own Standing Orders prevent us from doing anything until after the Address-in-Reply has been dealt with.
– It is time that the obsolete and farcical Address-in-Reply was wiped off the face of the earth.
– If honorable senators did not speak to it, it would soon go.
– I consider it is absolutely nonsensical that we should have such a rule in our code, but no doubt, as we have it, it must be regarded as an example of the utmost wisdom.
– It is essential to the cabinet system of government.
– I think it is ridiculous that we should be prevented from dealing with any matters until the farcical AddressinReply has been disposed of. I hope that our Standing Orders will be so amended that when we come here we shall be able to do business, and go right on, irrespective of the other House; and if a double dissolution will give us that chance, I shall welcome it much more than will honorable senators opposite.
– Senator Rae remarked, at the close of his speech, that if certain things were brought about he would welcome a double dissolution. Every observing man, I think, has come to the conclusion that a single dissolution is very imminent, and is likely to take place any day. Every observing man, too, must realize that a double dissolution, so far as the immediate future is concerned, is unthinkable, and absolutely impossible. Realizing, as our opponents do, that a general election is not far distant, and having the opportunity of fixing their own time, as the Prime Minister said they intended to do, evidences are not wanting that the Government, true to their traditions, are going to try to win the next election by hook or by crook. They hope, they say, that in connexion with the next election there will be fair play and pure rolls. I hope the day is not far distant when we shall have fair play in connexion with Commonwealth elections, and, if fair play is meted out to both parties, I know the party that will sink and the party that will swim. The Labour party has never had anything approaching fair play in political contests in Australia. We have been hampered in every possible direction. We have been weighted down by misrepresentation and vile slander. Senator McColl is one who, since he has been in office, has made many speeches in the country. They have been marked by the bitterness which is characteristic of him. I do not suppose that there is a man in public life in the whole of Victoria who stirs up so much strife, and is so vitriolic in his remarks as he is. He professes to desire to see class prejudice removed. Almost ever since he has been in public life he has lived on class prejudice, and has endeavoured, by innuendo and incorrect statements, to make people believe things which, in his heart of hearts, he knows to be absolutely untrue.
– Order !
– At any rate, they are without justification. The honorable senator may smile, but any serious minded man occupying a public position under the Commonwealth should hesitate before making such statements as Senator McColl has made since the election. Not long ago he made a speech at Fitzroy, for some of the statements in which he has since apologized to this House and to the country. But, after having withdrawn them, he has, according to the public press, repeated them almost word for word.
– I only withdrew one, and that has been proved to be correct.
– The honorable senator apologized for making that statement. I will never lose an opportunity of drawing attention to another statement that he made, and will not withdraw, although it has been shown to be incorrect. It has been disproved by official statements which he knows to be true. He said that there were 5,760 cases of impersonation or ‘ double voting at the last election.’ He sticks rigidly to that statement. I say that it is absolutely incorrect.
– It is an official statement.
– It is not an official statement. If the honorable senator does not know that he ought to. If he has not read it, he should read it. There is a motion on the notice-paper standing in the name of Senator Gardiner for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into statements that have been made by newspapers, and by responsible and irresponsible persons in different parts of the Commonwealth, respecting the manner in which the recent elections were conducted. I hope that if Senator McColl does not withdraw the statement to which I allude he will be one of the first witnesses called before the Committee. As his evidence will be taken on oath, I do not know whether the Senate will be able to protect him, if it is proved to be false. At any rate, I am as sanguine as I can possibly be that Senator McColl will not make such a statement, and endeavour to prove it, before that Committee. If he does, I can promise him that there will be a . warm time in store for him.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.80 p.m.
- Senator McColl asserts that his statements have been confirmed by the Chief Electoral Officer. I wish to say, in all earnestness, that it is a grave reflection on the honour and capacity of the Chief Electoral Officer that such a statement should be persisted in, and that he should be quoted as the authority for it. It is also a matter to be condemned that a responsible Minister should endeavour to dodge responsibility for statements he has made by getting behind an official. The Chief Electoral Officer has serious duties to perform, and in the exercise of them should not be subjected to unfair criticism, and should not be made responsible for statements made for party purposes by any Minister. The Chief Electoral Officer has not in any statement, printed or otherwise, confirmed the assertion which Senator McColl has made.
– Senator McColl manufactured it.
– Absolutely so. The facts alleged exist only in the imagination of Senator McColl.
– Has he any imagination?
– A very lively one.
– What does the Chief Electoral Officer say?
– He does not say that there were 5,760 cases of impersonation and duplication at the recent election.
– He does not say anything of the kind. I ask the honorable senator to read the statement) carefully, and to remove the bias from his mind. If he does, he will come to the same conclusion as the officer has done, that there were a number of irregularities, most of which were explained away when the investigation took place. I venture to say that when the whole subject is thoroughly investigated, as it will be by the Committee to be appointed, Senator McColl will have reason to regret very sincerely the unfair and incorrect charges which he levelled against the late Government and the supporters of the Labour party throughout the length and breadth of Australia. I trust also that, in order to clear this matter up thoroughly, Senator Millen will be called as a witness. I shall have to say something about him when he is present at our next meeting. Senator McColl, Senator Millen, and the Chief Electoral Officer should be the first three witnesses called before the Committee. The two senators should be asked to justify statements made from innumerable platforms, and which Iia ve been circulated broadcast, not only throughout Australia, but throughout the world, and which consti tute a serious reflection on the honour and integrity of every man and woman who voted at the elections. Senator McColl has said that the Government want only fair play and a pure roll, and that has been repeated by other Ministers. I want to know what they mean by a pure roll. The i’dea of the present Government is that all impurities in respect, of Labour voters shall be removed from the roll. The roll is not pure if there are too many Labour voters upon it.
– That is the trouble.
– That is the whole trouble with the present Government. It is no secret that at the present time, in anticipation of an early election for the House of Representatives, there is a large army of organizers, men and women, in the service indirectly of the present Government; and their chief aim seems to be to remove Labour names from the Commonwealth rolls in order that the Ministerial party may be enabled, if possible, to win the election in any circumstances. We have on our statute-book an Electoral Act making it mandatory on the part of any man or woman lodging an objection to names being allowed to remain on the roll to deposit 5s. in respect of each objection. That is a necessary safeguard, because if all and sundry could be objected to, thousands and thousands of persons would be disfranchised improperly. These people in the service of certain organizations are not doing this kind of work for the good of their health or for philanthropic purposes. They are doing it because they are being paid for it. By whom are they being paid ?
– By whom ?
– Indirectly, by the present Government.
– And the Employers Federation.
– This army of men and women move about from house to house. One of them will ring a bell or knock at a door. They may get no response to the knock or ring. In the event of somebody responding, the question is asked whether So-and-so lives there. They do not make too strict an inquiry. The person inquired for may be away from home, or down the street. But if he or she is not at the place of residence, an objection is lodged against that person’s name remaining on the roll. Wholesale disfranchisement is taking place.
– These are all Labour voters?
– Yes. In confirmation of my statement, I have here a copy of the roll for the subdivision of Yea, in the electorate of Indi, Victoria. On this roll, there were, on the 31st May, 1,741 names. Since the 31st May, 202 names have been removed from this small roll.
– Over 200 out of 1,700?
– Yes, out of 1,741.
– The proportion is absurd ; it looks suspicious.
– What is taking place in Yea is taking place in every division throughout Victoria. I believe that the same process is going on throughout the Commonwealth. I wish to know by whom these 202 names were removed.
– Was 5s. paid on account of each objection ?
– I wish to know also whether 5s. was lodged in connexion with each objection.
– The honorable senator will never find that out.
– I have very grave suspicions in regard to this matter. I believe that it is in view of an early election that the Government is a party to this wholesale disfranchisement of thousands of men and women throughout Australia.
– I suggest the honorable senator should ask a direct question on this very point.
– I have already asked several direct questions on this very question.
– The honorable senator knows very well that this is not the proper time for asking questions.
– The honorable senator need not be afraid. I shall continue asking questions until I and other members of my party get some satisfaction with regard to the work that is being carried out by these organizations.
SenatorClemons. - I will promise to answer the questions if the honorable senator will ask them.
– According to a statement attributed to the honorable member for Flinders, these organizations were invited by him to do this work in contravention of an Act of this Parliament. He invited them to send in objec tions to names on the rolls in order that we might have purer rolls.
– Anybody may send in an objection.
– That is so, provided he lodges 5s. with each objection; but there was no 5s. deposited in connexion with the eliminations from the Indi roll, to which I have referred. No responsible officer of the . Electoral Department would remove names from a roll in that way withoutthe consent, or unless by the instruction, of some member of the Ministry. The enrolment of the citizens of Australia should be a matter above party. We have adult suffrage, and it should be the desire of every member of the community, no matter to which political party he may belong, to see that all adults outside the walls of a gaol or a lunatic asylum shall be afforded an opportunity to exercise their rights as citizens on election day We know the obstacles which were placed in the paths of electors in days gone by. I had an experience of this when standing for a seat in the State Parliament not many years ago. There were at the time three systems of voting in operation, - a ratepayers’ roll, a manhood suffrage roll, and a voters’ certificate roll. At the election to which I refer, for the East Melbourne seat, there were three booths, and in each booth, at each table where voters whose names appeared on the voters’ certificate roll had to record their votes, there were, not only responsible electoral officials, but -political partisans armed with cameras, who were taking snapshots of every man believed to be a Labour voter, with the object of overawing the electors.
– Did they snap the honorable senator ?
– No; we snapped the cameras. Dr. Maloney and I went into the polling booths and asked by whose authority the cameras were there and photographs were being taken of electors. We could get no satisfactory answer, and, to the everlasting credit of Dr. Maloney, I may inform the Senate that he smashed each camera to “smithereens.” We were told that we would be prosecuted for damaging property, but we never heard any more of the damaged property. That was the beginning and end of that kind of work in connexion with elections in this State. I have said that it should be the desire of every fair-minded man to see that we have the fullest rolls possible. The rolls used at the last Federal elections were the fullest, best, and purest we ever had in the history of the Commonwealth. It might be that a number of names were duplicated on some of the rolls; but it is far better that there should be duplications, if that cannot be avoided, than that the names of armies of men and women should -be left off the rolls, and they should thus be disfranchised. There has been no proof of the allegations of fraud and dishonesty in the conduct of the last elections. All sorts of innuendoes have been made against the party to which I belong; but when the proposed Committee thoroughly investigates the matter I am certain that the Labour party will come out of the investigation with clean hands. If any acts of fraud or dishonesty are proved, it is very probable that the chickens will come home to roost, and it will be found that the dishonesty and corruption were on the other side. Men do not do evil things without some reward, and the Labour party is too poor to paymen and women to do these evil things. If evil tilings were done at the last Federal elections they were risked by the only people who have money for that kind of work, and they are people who supported the present Government.
– What about the bet made in Ballarat)
– The eyes of Australia were directed to Ballarat. That was the place where it was said that corruption was rampant, and where, according to the Argus, one man voted nineteen times. It was said that this man’s name and address were known, and the charge could be sheeted home to him. It was said that he was known to the police and to several people belonging to the Liberal party. Where is he ? A thorough investigation was made by the Electoral Department, and this was followed by an inquiry by a special detective, and neither investigation has shown that there was one case of dishonesty or fraud in connexion with the Ballarat election. If there has been, ‘ why does not the Government produce the proof? They are in possession of the report of the special detective, and I ask why the Senate has not been furnished with a copy of that report ? Why are we not in possession of the reports from different centres in connexion with the inquiry recently held ? The reason is that none of the charges made has been proved to be correct. That is why the Government are not anxious to furnish the information they have to Parliament. We are all aware that it is the intention of the Government to do something in connexion with the Tasmanian mail service, which, according to the unanimous opinion of representatives of Tasmania, has not been conducted satisfactorily, whilst the shipping company having the contract has been enabled to exploit thousands of men and women in Australia. We are given to understand that a private agreement has been submitted to the shipping company, which Senator Clemons, when in opposition, described as nothing but a combine. Although the honorable senator has never belonged, and probably never will belong, to. the Labour party, he has been as strenuous as any member of the Senate in his opposition to monopoly. I wish now to ask the honorable senator whether the Senate will be given an opportunity to discuss and express an opinion on the agreement referred to before the contract is definitely signed. Senator Ready, in company with other representatives of Tasmania, has interested himself in this question. Last session the honorable senator carried a motion in the Senate in favour of the establishment of a Commonwealthowned line of steamers between Tasmania and the mainland. His speech showed special study, and was worthy of the honorable senator. He showed clearly that the Union Steam-ship Company had made, and is making, huge sums of money out of the Tasmanian mail service. The honorable senator quoted figures to show that, as a matter of fact, the Loongana had been paid for by the subsidies received by the company from the Commonwealth. We are now given to understand that the present Government are prepared to increase the present subsidy to such an extent that this rich company, which has been exploiting the public, will be enabled to build another Loongana at the public expense. It will, no doubt, give a better mail service to Tasmania, but I ask whether the people who send goods to and from Tasmania, and the passengers who travel between the mainland and that State, should not receive some consideration. If the Government are disposed to increase the subsidy, surely those making use df the service should have something to say in fixing the freights and fares to be charged by this monopoly. I again ask Senator Clemons to say whether we shall have an opportunity to peruse and discuss the agreement which, we understand, has been drawn up before the contract is definitely signed. When the present Government came into power, to the great joy of certain people, we were told that their policy was to be bold and progressive. If there was one item in their programme which, more than another, gave satisfaction to a number of their supporters, it was one which they considered of paramount importance. When it was announced by a certain member of the Government, it was received with intense enthusiasm by a certain newspaper supporting the Government in this State. I refer to the proposed abolition of the Commonwealth stamp. The Melbourne Age said that the late Government had taken two years to decide upon a uniform stamp for the Commonwealth, and that the present Postmaster-General was only in office a fortnight when he decided to abolish the kangaroo on the stamp and substitute for it the King’s head. This newspaper, in its wild enthusiasm for the abolition of the existing postage stamp, stated that the Government had taken only a fortnight to accomplish what a previous Government had taken two years to accomplish. According to this organ, the present postage stamp was to be abolished in a fortnight. More than a fortnight has elapsed since the Government took office, the representation of the kangaroo is still upon the stamp, and the Government are still printing the stamps. Ministers have been in office for twelve weeks, and yet this much boasted reform has not been effected. According to newspaper reports, the Government intended to do two things which were to save Australia - to abolish the postage stamp and to restore the postal vote. These were matters of national importance. In last night’s Herald, a short article was published with catchy headings, the first of which read, “ King and Kangaroo,” and the second, “ Two Kinds of Stamps.” Previously we were informed that we were to have only one stamp. Evidently this matter has been considered in Cabinet, and, according ‘to the latest decision, we are to have two stamps, one containing a repre- sensation of the King’s head, and the other a representation of the kangaroo. The Postmaster- General has decided that those persons who desire to have a reproduction of the King’s head on the stamps shall be able to get it, whilst those who prefer a representation of the kangaroo will be able to indulge their fancy. To use the vernacular, ‘ ‘ One pays his ‘ brown ‘ and takes his choice.” Anticipating that there will be a greater demand for the purely Australian article, it is intended to keep the printing presses going in order to supply it. When the Government came into power it was openly stated that they intended to restore confidence and to place the finances of the Commonwealth on a stable basis. There was to be no extravagance. But, according to the statement in the Herald, the Postmaster-General is of opinion that there are a number of persons in the world with funny ideas - persons who develop hobbies - and in order to encourage the hobby of stamp collecting, he intends to have special stamps printed containing a representation of the King’s head. There is no doubt that catering for this class of people will do_ a lot. for Australia, because, when they get the stamps, they will put them in their booklets, where they will remain until they are able to make a profit, when they will sell them. Thus, according to the PostmasterGeneral, Australia will be better advertised than she could be in any other way. The idea is a brilliant one, and the simultaneous issues of these stamps - one bearing the King’s head, the other the kangaroo - will be more beneficial to Australia than all the recent bountiful rains ! In the opinion of the Government it will be an excellent thing if we hang on to the kangaroo stamp in addition to a stamp containing a reproduction of the King’s head. The Cabinet later on may hold a special meeting for the purpose of considering the advisableness of introducing additional designs for our stamps. We are told that 400,000,000 of these stamps are printed annually, and that there is to be a small edition of the stamp containing a representation of the King’s head. The Government which declared they intended to stop extravagance - although they have never been able to prove extravagance on the part of the late Administration - propose to incur an additional expense of £3,500 in order to satisfy the curiosity of a number of stamp collectors in different parts of the world. We were further assured that the stamp was to be a uniform one throughout Australia. Now, it appears that we are to have as many different designs as possible. I trust that, in his reply, the Minister will give us the information in his possession concerning the three matters which I have mentioned, namely, the deletion of hundreds of names from the electoral rolls, the agreement which has been entered into concerning the Tasmanian mail service, and the abolition of the existing postal stamp.
– The rapid rate with which we are dealing with legislation in this Chamber is sufficient to take away one’s breath. We are now about the middle of the session, and yet, with the exception of Supply Bills, no legislative proposals have been introduced into the Senate. The present Government, who were going to repeal the bad legislation of the Labour party, and to restore responsible government, have hitherto only provided us with a “ dead horse,” in the shape of the Address-in-Reply and three Supply Bills. This is about the only opportunity that honorable senators have of refuting the unfair statements which are made from time to time by members of the Ministry. I am pleased to say that not one of the Ministers of whom I am going to complain is a member of the Senate. But they must accept their share of responsibility for the misdoings of their colleagues in another place. No later than last night we had another disgraceful exhibition. From time to time, we have had exhibitions of the most blackguardly conduct on the part of members of the Government that I have ever known. We know that a certain case is at the present being inquired into by a Select Committee appointed by the Senate, and that the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General,, and the whipper-snapper who holds the position of Honorary Minister in another place, have indulged in the most scandalous criticism of that body.- I say, advisedly, that, from the very inception, the Government have done their best to prevent an honest inquiry being conducted into one of their acts of administration. When the constitution of that Select Committee was brought forward, I endeavoured to secure the services of Government supporters upon it, and, on the floor of the
Senate, I invited the Government to nominate members of the Select Committee. No fewer than four senators upon the Government side of the , Senate were approached with that end in view, but only one of them would consent to act. That fact evidences that, from the very beginning, the Government endeavoured to burke inquiry into this case. Twenty-four hours later, we had a further proof of that. Speaking at one of the Fusion gatherings in Victoria, before a single step had been taken by the Committee, the Prime Minister declared that it was a partisan Committee. I challenged his statement in this Chamber, affirmed that Mr. Chinn had Been a persecuted man, and that evidently the Prime Minister was prepared to go on persecuting him. My statement was based upon the findings of the Royal Commission which was appointed to investigate some of the most scandalous charges that were made against him by a member of the Fusion party, not one of which was proven. As a matter of fact, five out of the six charges preferred were clearly disproved. In the light of these facts, I declared that political persecution was being indulged in. I care not whom I offend in this connexion, and so long as I believe there is a case of injustice, I shall be man enough to stand up for the individual concerned. No matter how unpopular the cause may be, no matter how powerful are the individuals who are trying to deprive that man of his rights, I shall secure justice for him if I can. The people of Australia ought to know who the members of the Government are that try to burke inquiry into their administration of public affairs, and into their dirty tactics, because dirty tactics of the most contemptible kind have been pursued in opposition to this Committee ever since, and even before, we began to make our inquiry. We had the last exhibition of it only last night, when Mr. Wait, the Premier of Victoria, went completely out of his way to interfere with the affairs of another Government. I think I can shed some light on the cause of this outbreak on his part, although I may not be able to clear it all up, but just as a straw sometimes shows which way the wind blows, I may be able to show, by reading a statement made by Mr. Hedges at the last election in Western Australia, why Mr. Watt pushes his oar in at the present time. This Chinn case was, perhaps, more before the public at the last election than was any other Government matter that I know of in any other election in Australia, and the most blackguardly statements were made against a man who had just cleared his character from the charges made against him. Certain statements, made during- the election, were submitted to eminent members of the Bar in Western Australia as to whether they were libellous or not, and two at least of those gentlemen declared that Messrs. Fowler, Hedges, Forrest, and the rest . of them had gone right up to the line of the libel law, although they did not cross it. They were very careful how far they went. They were ready to wound, ready to injure this man, although they were not prepared to take the responsibility of their actions. This kind of conduct had been going on for such a time that, when I had an opportunity of refuting the statement of the present Prime Minister that the Select Committee was a partisan body, I was entitled to declare that Mr. Chinn had been the victim of a conspiracy on the part of the Fusion party, who condemned him on the floor of the House of Representatives last year, using the coward’s castle to damn this man’s character. During the election, we had these matters dished up to us from different standpoints. Even before the Royal Commission undertook its investigations, the ‘very same tactics were pursued that are being pursued at the present time. The other side are ready to damn this man, and to force him to seek a living elsewhere, because if a man is once condemned by thai section of the community which has the power to employ him, he is compelled, even though he is a native of Australia, to go elsewhere to earn a living. That is- the kind of persecution that is going on, and that I am going to expose, if it is in my power to do so. I was, therefore, justified, when speaking of the past, in saying that the Fusion, party had persecuted this man, simply because he differed with them in politics. That is my statement, which I repeat fearlessly, and I am not at all afraid that I shall not be able to prove it from what has already taken place. Even after a Judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria was appointed a Royal Commission by the Fisher Government to inquire into the case, and after closely scrutinizing the various charges made against Mr.
Chinn by Mr. Fowler, under the cover of privilege in another place, had shown that not a single one of them could be upheld, Mr. Hedges the then member for Fremantle, cast aspersions on the Judge who tried the case, and insinuated that corrupt action had been taken by no less a person than Mr. Watt to bring this result about. He stated that Mr. Watt, because of his connexion with a certain timber company, had taken certain action, with the object, I suppose, of saving his own skin. Mr. Hedges went even to the length of insinuating that the Chief Justice of Victoria was a party to this sort of thing. These were serious charges to make. When I have quoted the reports published in the press of Western Australia on the subject, I will ask honorable senators to say whether there is not some ground for believing that Mr. Watt, in order to save his own miserable skin, is prepared to join in this cowardly howl against one individual. This is what they call British fair play ! I would sooner be a blackfellows dog than join in a howl against a man who is down; but these creatures, who call themselves men, want’ to hound’ him out of the service, if they can. Some of us are trying to get fair play by holding an inquiry into his case; and if he is found to be at fault, I am prepared to hold him responsible, and let him take the consequence, and so, I am sure, is every other member of the Committee. While I am a member of the Senate, however, I shall never sit quietly by and see any man persecuted without giving him an opportunity of clearing his character, when he may be innocent of the charges made against him. That is what the Select Committee is doing, and what the Senate authorized it to do. Mr. Hedges, during, the last election, went over quite a number of matters connected with the case, with which we need not trouble ourselves at the present juncture. Suffice it to say that not a single one of the charges brought against Mr. Chinn on that occasion can be proved against him. That; fact should have carried some weight with the present Government when they took office. They knew that this man had gone through a very severe ordeal to clear his character, and had been subjected to treatment which few men would have been able to come through so well. These considerations, however, carried no weight, for as soon as the present crowd got into power they got rid of him as quickly as they could.
– That remains to be seen.
– For incompetence and disobedience.
– Is the honorable senator sitting in judgment on Mr. Chinn ?
– I am not; but that is the statement which was made.
– We will see what truth there is in it. The present Government are taking every step to prevent the Select Committee from getting at the truth. They have refused us the means necessary to secure the proof of these matters. All this is part of the same conspiracy and the same contemptible tactics that we have to complain of.
– It is because you are getting the proofs that you are being subjected to that treatment.
– We shall get at the truth at all costs. If the Committee will take my advice, they will see the matter through to the bitter end, especially when we know that Mr. Chinn has been the victim of lying and vindictive charges in the past. On the occasion referred to Mr. Hedges said -
The Minister of Defence-
He was referring to Senator Pearce - speaking in Western Australia said that the Government could not have acted more fairly in the inquiry, as they had asked one , of the leading Liberals to nominate a gentleman to select a judge to hold the investigation.
That had reference to the Royal Commission, and I think any one who looks into the facts will admit that the Fisher Government acted in a very impartial manner. They did not appoint a Royal Commission of members of Parliament, or of the High Court of Australia, but went right out of their own sphere into the State arena, and asked their political opponents to appoint a Judge to inquire into and report upon the case. They acted throughout in a fair and impartial manner, but received very little credit for it. Now comes the serious portion of Mr. Hedges’ statement -
Mr. Watt was the leading Liberal referred to, and that gentleman is a shareholder in the Powellising Company.
That was in reference to one of the charges made against Chinn - that the Powellising Company had, in some unfair and dishonest fashion, obtained a contract from the Government -
One of the charges made against Mr. Chinn was in relation to commissions from that company. Mr. Watt did nominate Sir John Madden, who selected the Judge.
I am sorry that I have lost the more elaborate report of this speech which appeared in the other Perth paper; but although this report is not very full, it contains sufficient to show that there was some reason for Mr. Watt joining in the present howl against Mr. Chinn, and to explain why he has pushed himself into a Commonwealth matter. This is a question which Mr. Watt would have been well-advised to leave alone, because there may be need for a Royal Commission to inquire into Mr. Watt’s own action and connexion with these matters. We must remember how these companies can exercise influence, and bear in mind Mr. Hedges’ statement that Mr. Watt is a shareholder in the particular company mentioned. I cannot believe that Mr. Hedges would go out of his way to attack his own side. He was always ready to attack his political opponents; but there would have to be some very good reason before one member of the Fusion party would attack another. An old saying is that “ dog does not eat dog “ unless there is a particularly good reason for doing so. Here we have a case of a political party combining to “down” one man by hook or by crook. The speeches I have been finding fault with from time to time, as Chairman of the Select Committee, furnish ample reason, if there were no other ground, for the Committee to continue its work “and probe the matter right to the bottom. There is, underlying the whole affair, something which we have a right to know. I can assure the Senate that, before the inquiry is finished, we shall see that justice is done, so far as that lies in our power. We are hampered in every way. When we ask for papers that are absolutely essential to the investigation, it takes weeks and weeks for us to get them. The Government is throwing every obstacle in the way of Mr. Chinn proving his case, whilst every facility is given to the other side to put up its case. Mr. Deane, the Engineer - in-Chief , is helped by no fewer than four clerks in the room. They PUt things into his hand to make out his case. Not only has he the help of men from the Railway Office, but he has the assistance of men from the Home Affairs Department, and also from the Solicitor-General’s Department. Then, too, the Government were quite ready to engage one of the most eminent barristers at the Victorian Bar to help them to set up their case. When a request was made by the Select Committee that similar treatment should be meted out to Mr. Chinn, there was an emphatic refusal of any such help to him. In the face of these facts - and they are facts, as every ‘member of the Committee knows - it is the duty of the members of the Committee to protest here when they get this chance to do so. We are not going to be deterred from continuing the inquiry simply because the AttorneyGeneral - a man who ought to know the rules of conduct in cases of this kind - goes out of his way to make an attack upon us. He aspires to be one of the Judges of the High Court of Australia, but God forbid that such a partisan as he is should ever get into such a high position, because he would be totally unfitted to occupy, and would disgrace, the position. Then Mr. Cook - the Minister who signed the order for the dismissal of Mr. Chinn - of course, objects to an investigation into his administration. He is seeking, not only to shut down the inquiry by preventing, as far as he can, evidence from coming before us, but he is denying funds to enable us to ‘bring witnesses to Melbourne, or to go to where the witnesses are. That is the sort of attack we get from time to time from the Government for doing what the Senate has every right to empower us to do - to inquire into the administration of the Government.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [3.29].- Senator de Largie has done very well in endeavouring to cloud, as far as possible, the issue which, it appears to me, is really at stake in regard to the inquiry about Mr. Chinn. I do not propose to offer an opinion regarding any matter in connexion with Mr. Chinn which has already been investigated and dealt with.
– You have a right to do that.
– The honorable senator ought to let it be clearly understood that the inquiry intrusted to the Select Committee was as to the legality or the propriety of the dismissal of Mr. Chinn. So far as 1 have been able to learn from newspapers and reports, he was dismissed in consequence of incompetency and disobedience of orders.
– The honorable senator may put in that word. The reasons which have been given for the dismissal of Mr. Chinn are that he was incompetent, that he was insubordinate, and practically that it was quite impossible to deal with him at all as an official in the Public Service. Therefore, any statements with regard to the charges made against him previously as being reasons for his dismissal are not justified. There is a minute which states why he was dismissed. I offer no opinion with regard to the general question. I admit that I was asked to join the Select Committee, but I declined to act because I had confidence in the Ministry, and in their having good grounds for the dismissal of Mr. Chinn.
– What ground have you for making that statement?
– My knowledge of the people who are at the head of affairs, and the statements which were made in regard to Mr. Chinn ‘s dismissal.
– It is a grossly unfair, partisan statement to make.
– You are giving judgment.
– I am not giving judgment, but telling the Senate why I declined to go on the Select Committee. Would it not have been very much worse if I had said, “ I am going on the Committee with the intention of showing that the man was properly dismissed. I believe he was properly dismissed, and I am going on the Committee as a partisan?” I did not wish to be associated with the inquiry, and, judging by the papers and the method in which the examination of witnesses is conducted, and the latitude which is allowed to people, I am very glad that I am not on the Committee. I will probably take an opportunity when it brings up its report to raise my voice in protest against the principal recommendations that may be made, at any rate, if the Chairman-
– Wait until the Committee brings up its report, and then you will have something to discuss.
– Withdraw that statement like a man ! It is a cowardly statement to make.
– I shall not withdraw the statement for the honorable senator.
– I do not care whether you do or not. It is a cowardly, despicable statement.
– The honorable senator is a coward to make that charge.
– It is worthy of the party he belongs to. We must not expect anything else.
– It is not worthy of a man.
– Let me finish my sentence. If the Committee make a report in the direction in which it is very evident Senator de Largie will work to bring about-
– Here is an attack on the Chairman now.
– If the- members of the Select Committee will join in the report which I believe Senator de Largie will submit
– Will work to get.
– Yes, if the honorable senator likes to put it in that way.
– If you say that of me, it is a contemptible statement. No man would make it.
– I am very glad I have not to take part in the inquiry, having regard to the way in which it is being conducted, if I am to rely upon the newspaper reports. I do not object to the Senate appointing a Select Committee to inquire into any matter of administration by a Department, or anything else.
– Yes, you do ! You voted against it.
.- The Senate has the right to do as it sees fit, and individual senators have a right to record their votes as they see fit. Although I was not in sympathy with the proposal to appoint this Select Committee, I recognised that the Senate had a perfect right to appoint it. I do not say that anybody has the right to en deavour to burke a full inquiry into any matter which the Senate, in the exercise of its inherent right to make an inquiry, wishes to have investigated. I am not going to do anything to prevent the Select Committee from working out its inquiry to what Senator de Largie calls “ the bitter end.”
– Get your leader to withdraw his objection to money being advanced.
– Will the honorable senator let me go on?
– He is only helping you to “stone-wall.”
– Wherever the Senate sees fit to appoint a Select Committee, I think that that Committee should have the opportunity to make a full investigation. I do not object to that being done, although I did not believe that there was any need or justification for instituting the present inquiry. That, of course, was my private opinion, which was expressed by my vote in opposition to the proposal. I am very sorry, too, that there has been so much attention paid, through the press and in certain ways, to the action of the Committee before the whole investigation is finished, when it will be time to criticise any individual as severely as we see fit. So much for the Chinn inquiry. Let me now say a few words in regard to complaints made about the Government not producing business for the Senate to deal with. It occurs to me that Ministers, if they were to submit matters of policy in the Senate, where they know there is a majority of four to one against them, would be rather foolish. The other House is the place for the Ministry to submit all broad matters of policy. While I did hear an interjection that Labour had won all along the line because it is in a majority here, at the same time, I realize that, in the other House, no less than five seats were gained by the Liberal party from the Labour party, and that by that means a majority was obtained there. Mr. Fisher, the Leader of the Labour party, and the responsible Minister of the Crown, told the GovernorGeneral plainly that he was unable to carry on the business of the country, and therefore advised that Mr. Cook should be sent for.
– Can Mr. Cook carry on?
– That remains to be seen. I do not suppose that any Government, confronted with a vigorous and determined Opposition, has much chance of putting any important legislation through with a majority of only one.
– Why do they not “ chuck” it up?.
– Who is to take the control if they do?
– That is for the country to say.
– I am quite agreeable that the country should have an opportunity to express its wish. I am also willing to go to the country with my honorable friend, and give our constituents an opportunity either to send us back again or to put somebody in our places.
– What have we to do with that anyhow ? It is not our quarrel.
– It is not our trouble.
– I think it may be my honorable friend’s trouble by-and-by.
– No fear I
– At any rate my honorable friends do not desire it. I wish to bring before the Government a matter which is of considerable importance to New South Wales, and that is the quarantining of Sydney. I recognise that the quarantine area was proclaimed in the early stages of what might have become a very dangerous disease to the people of the Commonwealth. One could not complain about the steps which were taken then to protect the public health and public safety as far as possible, but the quarantine has existed for a considerable time, and it has been shown that this is not what might be termed a virulent disease. There have been no deaths in connexion with the disease. There certainly has been a number of cases in which persons have been attacked, but, fortunately, they have all recovered. It has been shown that it is not a disease of a virulent type, in fact, it is no worse than measles, scarlet fever, diphtheria, and many other diseases which attack people from time to time. In the interests of, not New South Wales alone, but the whole of Australia, it would be well, I think, if the Government could see their way to remove the quarantine.
– They say it is not small-pox, but “ fusionitis.”
– I do not know what is said, but I understand that medical men say that it is a very mild type of small-pox. On the Health Board of New South Wales there are medical men of considerable knowledge and skill in this disease, who have made a very strong recommendation to the State Government, and, I believe, to the Commonwealth Government also, that the quarantine should be lifted. I put it to the Government that it is time that they should give full consideration to this matter with the view of doing what I think would be in the best interests of the country.
– I feel grieved that there should be members of this Senate so discourteous as to adopt methods that are entirely foreign to what may be called gentlemanly conduct. I am not surprised at statements that have been made by Mr. Watt, the Premier of Victoria, because he is one of those bursting bombshells of whom one need not take much notice. But Senator Gould is supposed to have a judicial mind. He has occupied high and honorable positions in this House and in the country. Yet he has stooped to anticipate the judgment of men who, I can assure him, are as honest and as capable of coming to a sound conclusion in respect to any matter with which they have to deal as he is. I feel that he has entirely departed from the line of action which a thorough gentleman ought to adopt. Indeed, he has stooped as low as the man whose utterances are reported in this morning’s newspapers concerning the Chinn Committee. The position of the Chinn Committee has been referred to as being polluted. The only pollution connected with it, in my opinion, is the source from which this criticism came. As far as the Committee is concerned, I, as a member of it, am not prepared to say whether Mr. Chinn has, or has not, received the just reward of his conduct. But I do say that our every effort has been to find out whether he has been persecuted or not. Senator Gould deliberately accuses me, as a member of that Committee, of being a dishonest man. I hurl the accusation back into his teeth.
– I did not accuse anybody.
– The honorable gentleman did.
– I assure the honorable senator that I had no intention of charging any one with being dishonest.
– I accept the disclaimer. As long as I remain a member of this Senate, and am intrusted with any kind of responsibility as a member of a Committee, I shall always endeavour faithfully to execute the duties attaching to it .to the best of the judgment which I can bring to bear upon the evidence. In this matter I am a thoroughly unbiased man. I hold no brief either for Mr. Chinn or Mr. Deane. But I want to see every man get a fair and honest deal. I say unhesitatingly that the present Government have played the part of absolute dogs in regard to the Chinn Committee. They have done whatever lay in their power to prevent a just investigation. I am speaking from my knowledge of what we have endeavoured to do, and what we have been prevented from doing. I assert that the Government have, done everything to prevent a fair investigation from being made. Nevertheless, they have not altered my opinion in any way. Whatever the truth may be, my desire is to get at it. When I have arrived at what I believe to be the truth, whether it be in favour of Mr. Chinn or against him, I am prepared as an honest man to give an unbiased verdict, regardless of the consequences.
– There are one or two questions about which I would like to say a word. One is the matter of the discovery of oil deposits in Papua. There have been indications that a valuable supply of petroleum exists in that Dependency of the Commonwealth. When our fleet unit is in being we shall require 14,000 tons of oil annually for naval purposes. I think it is practically demonstrated that oil is to be found there, and I urge that the. supplies should be kept in the possession of the Commonwealth. We all know what has happened in regard to the Standard Oil Company in America, and throughout the world. I should like to have an assurance from the Government that they propose to keep these natural supplies as the property of the people of Australia, and to develop them for Commonwealth purposes. I also desire to urge that the Commonwealth will have the courage - because I know it requires some courage - to back down from their present untenable position in regard to the outbreak of small-pox in Sydney. In Western Australia, in 1895 or 1896, we had a virulent outbreak of small-pox. It was dealt with, not by quarantine, but by isolation. By that means it was thoroughly stamped out, although the health authorities at Western Australia were at the time badly organized. The methods adopted by the Government in Sydney have not prevented the spread of the disease. I trust that they will resolve to adopt the modern method of isolation in preference to the method which they have hitherto pursued. I say this without any desire to make party capital out of what has occurred. I quite understand the difficulty with which the Government have had to cope. But it is not a party question, and I think they will be wise in altering their tactics in Sydney. .
– Even at the eleventh hour I desire to appeal to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to afford the Senate and the other House an opportunity of discussing the proposed agreement which, I understand, is to be entered into between the Commonwealth and the Union Steam-ship Company and Huddart, Parker and Company in reference to the carriage of Tasmanian mails. It is stated that the agreement is to operate for five years. I think it would be only fair, not only to Tasmania, which is vitally interested, but also to the Commonwealth generally, that we should have an opportunity of insuring that reasonable freights and passenger fares are provided for. We ought not to place ourselves in such a position that within a few years it will be shown that the freights and fares are absolutely out of all proportion to the cost of maintaining the service. The Government should not depart from the usual practice of affording Parliament an opportunity of discussing contracts of this kind. The matter is one that is of interest to the whole Commonwealth, and I feel strongly that we should have an opportunity of considering the agreement before it is ratified.
– I must risk any accusation of discourtesy that may be brought against me for not replying upon this debate. There is really no time for a reply, and I must therefore ask honorable senators to judge of my refusal in the light of that circumstance. I will, however, give this assurance, that I shall be only too glad to avail myself of the forms of the Senate to reply in detail to any question upon which information is required at the earliest opportunity.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee -
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 postponed.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
– I should like formally to say that the fact that I do not bring forward any requests at this stage does not indicate that I have not quite a number to make. I shall have much pleasure in complying with the Minister’s suggestion to bring them forward next week.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister in charge of the Bill a matter connected with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. It has reference to the proposed importation of mechanics, on which I spoke a week or two ago. I was assured that new applications would be called for.
– They have been called for.
– I admit that; but I am in receipt of information from Western Australia, from which it would appear that an attempt is being made to evade the award recently given by Mr. Justice Higgins, in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, in connexion with the employment of electricians. During September a number of applications were made in Western Australia for these positions, and the mechanician stated that the applicants were competent workmen. A member of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers went to see the Deputy Postmaster-General of Western Australia about the applications, and was referred by him to the Chief Electrical Engineer. He was informed that ten men would be required for installing the new automatic telephone system in Perth, that only those who had experience of common and magnetic batteries would be required, and that there were not more than six men. in Western Australia who had that experience, as there was only a common battery in Fremantle. He was further told that men were to be drafted from all parts of the Commonwealth to gain experience of the new automatic system, and, further, that it was intended to pay them the minimum rate of £144, payable according to the award to junior mechanics, instead of £168, the rate for mechanics. I wish to direct the attention of the Minister to the award itself. I find that, in section 1, the Judge said -
The minimum wage to be paid per annum to employés of the mechanical sections of the telegraph and telephone branches of the Post Office Department, if they are members of the claimant organization, shall be as follows : -
Mechanics, telegraph or telephone, £168.
Junior mechanics, 21 to 22 years of age, £144.
Looking for a definition of the word ‘ ‘ mechanic,” I find it stated in the award in this way - “Mechanic “ means an employé who -
I point out to the Minister that an evident attempt is being made to evade the award of the Judge of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court.
– I promise the honorable senator to make a full inquiry into the matter personally.
– I am glad to have the Minister’s assurance; but it would have been too late to leave this matter over until next Wednesday. There is a man in the Service in Western Australia at the present time as a junior mechanic, and described as such . by the Chief Electrical Engineer, who is sixty years of age. When the Minister is making inquiries-
– I arn thinking of the convenience of members of another place, who, perhaps, may be compelled to miss their trains.
– Whilst I have every respect for the convenience of other members of this Parliament, I also have respect for the interests of men who are amongst my constituents, and for the officers of the Department, who may unconsciously be doing something wrong. There is attached to the award from which I have quoted a memorandum by the Public Service Commissioner, practically warning the Government of the increased .cost that will be entailed if the award is observed. Mr. McLachlan tells the Government plainly that the award will entail an additional expenditure of something like £30,000 a year, and says that the maximum, and not the minimum, might be observed. Hitherto the minimum award has often been made the maximum, and, in the expectation that something better will follow Mr. Justice Higgins’ award in this case, the Public Service Commissioner sounds a warning note. I thank the Minister for his assurance that an investigation will be made into this matter. If he will instruct the Chief Electrical Engineer in Western Australia to pay the minimum awarded by the Conciliation and Arbitration Court to competent men engaged as telephone mechanics in Western Australia, and if he will consult the union affected, he will find that there will be any number of competent men offering in that State. I give that assurance, and I pledge the unions to assist the Minister and the Chief Electrical Engineer in getting competent men, able to pass the necessary examination, provided Mr. Justice Higgins’ award is observed. I hope the Minister will give the matter attention during the next day or two.
Schedule, postponed clause, preamble and title agreed to, and Bill passed through its remaining stages.
Senator CLEMONS laid on the table the following papers: -
Pearling Industry, Broome, Western Australia : Return showing number of indented seamen engaged, &c.
Public Service Act 1902-1911. - Appointment of H. McConaghy to new position of Senior Clerk, 2nd Class, Clerical Division, Inter-State Commission, Department of Trade and Customs.
Senate adjourned at 4.7 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 September 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1913/19130926_senate_5_71/>.