5th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at : 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– On a question of privilege, sir, I desire to bring under your notice the following paragraph which appeared in the Daily Telegraph of Sydney, on Tuesday, the 25th November, 1913: -
Speaker’s and President’s.
Circumstances Alter Cases. (From our Special Representative.)
Melbourne, Monday. - As the Federal members are bitterly assailing Mr. W. E. Johnson, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, for voting in Committee with his party, and for having given his casting vote with his party in one or two divisions in the House, itis appropriate to know how Mr. Givens, the President of the Senate, acts when party questions come up in the Senate. The President and the Chairman take part in all divisions. Both are Labour members, and both always vote with the Labour party. In the various divisions giving effect to the strike mandate of the Caucus, Mr. Givens, though the President, voted in favour of the strike. As the question was strictlya party one, it was natural that he should.
But what is to be thought of the meanness of the Labour members who are declaiming about the country against Mr. Johnson for doing no more than Mr. Givens does? Mr. Johnson is . a Liberal, and it is ludicrous to suppose that be would vote in Committee - where he is not Speaker, but only a private member - with the party which he was elected to oppose. It ‘is quite as absurd to suppose that when he is called upon to give a casting vote, which, after all, is really as much a personal vote as Mr. Givens’, be should declare for his opponents. If the Labour denunciations are good for Mr. Johnson, they are good for Mr. Givens, but they are not directed at Mr. Givens. They are reserved for Mr. Johnson.
I wish to. know, sir, whether the statement that “ in the various divisions giving effect to the strike mandate of the Caucus, Mr. Givens, though the President, voted in favour of the strike “ is correct. I also want to know, sir, whether it is a fact that the President and the Chairman of Committees in the Senate take part in all divisions ?
– That is not a matter of privilege.
– Strictly speaking this is not a matter of privilege, because after raising a question of privilege the honorable senator would have to conclude with a motion. Personally, I do not desire that any motion of that kind should be submitted. The paragraph in question was brought under my notice yesterday by telegrams which I received from various parts of New South Wales, asking me whether it was true. I looked up the paragraph, and from the fact that telegrams had reached me from various parts of New South Wales, I naturally came to the conclusion that the statements it contained were being used for political purposes in that State. I think it is a matter for regret that a person occupying the position I do should be dragged into a discussion of that kind for purely political purposes. I take a very serious view of the paragraph, because it affects my honour as the President of the Senate. It accuses me of doing something which, under some circumstances, it might not be right for the presiding officer to do; but in any case there is not a single word of truth in the paragraph. It is recklessly inaccurate, because the writer could, with the slightest trouble, if he was not aware of the facts, have ascertained them from the officers of the Senate. As every honorable senator knows, and as the records of the Senate show, in all the proceedings in the Chamber last week, I never once voted for a suspension of the Standing Orders, or for the adjournment of the Senate. I think it is a matter for very serious regret that a great newspaper like the Sydney Daily Telegraph should make a grossly misleading statement of that kind.
– Bring the editor to the bar.
– Let the Minister act upon it.
– The newspapers have reached a position of great affluence, and I might say, also, of great eminence, in the public estimation as the purveyors of information, and the least that might be expected of them in return for the position which they have attained by the favour of the public is that the information they sell, and on which they build up their eminence and their fortune, especially with regard to such an important institution asParliament, should be at least accurate, and not fraudulent.
– The questions do not appear on the notice-paper, because that would be contrary to parliamentary practice. Honorable senators must be aware that, where our own Standing Orders are silent, or do not give a specific direction, we are guided by the practice of the House of Commons. On page 247 of the 11th edition of Sir Erskine May’s text-book on Parliamentary Practice, which is usually taken as our guide, this passage appears -
As regards questions addressed to the Speaker, no written or public notice of such a question is permissible ; nor can any appeal be made to the Chair by a question, save on points of order as they arise, or on a matter which urgently concerns the proceedings of the House.
As Senator O’Loghlin’s questions do concern the proceedings of the Senate, I have prepared answers to them. The questions of which I have a note are as follow: -
The answers to the questions are as follow : -
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Defence Act 1903-1912. - Regulations amended, &c.-
Statutory Rules 1913, No. 292.
Statutory Rules 1913, No. 293.
Statutory Rules1913, No. 294.
Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Act 1911- 1912 -
Schedule 1. - Rate for Wool from Euro Bluff to Port Augusta
Lands Acquisition Act 1906. - Land acquired under, at -
Burnie, Tasmania - For Defence purposes.
Drouin, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Hammond Island, Queensland - For Quarantine purposes.
Kalgoorlie, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Lithgow, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Pialligo, Canberra, and Goorooyarroo, Federal Territory, and New South Wales - For Federal Capital purposes.
Tailem Bend, South Australia - For Postal purposes.
Telegraphs and Telephones Special Works Account Act 1911 - Transfers, dated 12th November, 1 913.
Public Service Act 1902-1911. - Appointments and promotion -
Department of Home Affairs. - E. D. Gilchrist, to new position of Draughtsman, Class F, Lands and Survey Branch.
Department of the Treasury. - H. C. Burnet, to new position of Valuer, Class D, Land Tax Branch, South Australia.
Postmaster-General’s Department. - R. A. Shortland, as Supervisor, 3rd Class, Mail Branch, New South Wales.
– I ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, without notice, whether he will make a statement as to the policy of the Government regarding mail facilities for residents in out-back centres, and especially in respect to the following instance. Five or six thousand electors, with their families, in the north-east goldfields of Western Australia, have, for many years, had a daily mail service. I am informed that the Department now intends to reduce the service to one of three mails per week. Is such action in accordance with the policy of the Government?
– Senator Buzacott will understand that this matter is new to me; but with regard to his concluding sentence, may I say that, as the case is presented to me, such action is not in accordance with the policy of the present Government. Meanwhile, I will make inquiries with respect tothe particular case.
– Will the Minister obtain the information before the Supply Bill passes its final stages?
– I hesitate to give such an undertaking, as far as concerns the Supply Bill, which will be under consideration to-day; but I can assure the honorable senator that I will try to get the information while the Bill is before us. If I cannot do that, I will obtain it as soon as possible.
Mr. Swinburne’s Report: King Island
– I ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether Mr. Swinburne has completed his report on the Commonwealth wireless telegraphy system, and, if so, whether it is the intention of the Government to make the report public?
– The report to which Senator Findley refers has a very close bearing upon certain law proceedings, and consequently it would be quite contrary to public policy to divulge it at the present moment.
– The report does not wholly refer to the law proceedings?
– I am unable so to dismember the report as to enable us to put forth any portion of it now. The reasons I have given, and Senator Findley must appreciate them.
– I should like to express regret that the Honorary Minister, acting for Senator McColl, did not find it convenient to supply the Senate with some information in reply to a question I submitted some time ago, having reference to the isolated condition of the people of King Island and the possibility of securing for them early communication by wireless telegraphy.
– I am sorry I have no reply to that question yet.
– On behalf of Senator Maughan, I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs, without notice, a question in connexion with the large amount of sugar excise lost through the proclamation of the Sugar Excise Act. Is the Minister prepared to inform the Senate what proportion, if any, of that sum has been so far paid ?
– I regret that I must differ from the statement of Senator Mullan incorporated in his question. I cannot admit that any sum of money has been lost. With respect to the rest of the question, I will endeavour to obtain the information.
– Various questions have recently been asked in the Senate, chiefly of Senator McColl, to which replies have not, so far, been given. I wish to take advantage of this oppor tunity to give replies to those questions. One question asked referred to the matter dealt with in the question which Senator Mullan asked without notice to-day on behalf of Senator Maughan. The answer supplied to the question is as follows: -
The Excise Tariff 1913 is to come into operation on a date to be proclaimed. Before” the Act can be proclaimed the Comptroller-General must publish a notice in the Gazette certifying the quantity of cane sugar and the quantity of beet sugar on which duty is payable under the Act.
Action is now being taken with a view to the proclamation of the Act, and the publication of the Comptroller-General’s certificate at as early a date as possible.
The Department had paid no rates on its property, and deprived the council of a considerable sum. A system of drainage had been introduced from the head-quarters and parade ground which the council had condemned, and the recent heavy rains had had a result which showed how well founded the opposition was.
The Adelaide Advertiser reports Alderman Cooke as having entered an emphatic protest against the action of the Home Affairs Department. He said -
That Department had acquired for military purposes a considerable area of land within the city boundary, upon which the Federal Government paid no rates, and had thus deprived the council of considerable revenue. The Department had instituted a system of drainage which had been disapproved by the council, and despite the representations of the corporation officers had proceeded with the work. The recent rains had proved how inadequate was the drainage. The Department had diverted storm water into the street, which overtaxed the water tables and flooded the roadway, and still refused to do anything to assist the council to overcome the trouble.
I wish to ask whether the Minister will take the matter into consideration, and see whether damage has been caused by the works of the Federal Government; and, if so. whether the Government will bear their proper part of the expense incurred ?
– The matter referred to, although one with which the Defence Department is intimately concerned, is at this juncture more particularly under the control of the Home Affairs Department. If the honorable senator will hand to me the newspaper report,I will place it before the Minister of Home Affairs with a view of having the subject inquired into.
– I ask the Minister . representing the PostmasterGeneral whether his attention has been called to the fact that a very serious fire took place in Adelaide yesterday at timber mills adjoining the General Post Office ? The Superintendent of the Fire Brigade has made the following statement: -
It was really thebrick wall standing between the two sections which saved the situation. If the eastern block had caught, then I think the fire would - well, I don’t say it would have destroyed thepost-office, but I do say the heat was so intense that it would have upset and spoilt all the carefully and delicately balanced instruments in the Telegraph Department, and so on, and it would most probably have interfered with the working of the telephone exchange.
Will the Minister take steps to safeguard the interests of the Commonwealth as far as the Adelaide Post Office is concerned, by seeing that sufficient precautions are taken to prevent fires that might destroy or damage the building? Will he also take similar steps in regard to other postoffices ?
– If the honorable senator will hand to me the report which he has read, I will immediately bring it under the notice of the Postmaster- General.
– It is known to South Australia that there is a real need for the enlargement of the Adelaide Post Office. The fire to which Senator Newland has alluded occurred at a timber yard adjoining the Post Office. I bring under the Minister’s notice the desirableness of securing portion of the land for PostOffice purposes now that it is vacant.
– I will bring the matter under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral.
– Last week an honorable senator asked me if I would obtain a copy of the report of the Royal Commissioner who some time ago inquired into certain charges preferred against Mr. Henry Chinn. I now lay that report on the table.
– What is it proposed to do with it?
– It will pass automatically to the Printing Committee.
– There is no motion before the Senate.
– Then I move -
That the report be printed.
– I ask the Senate to pause before agreeing to this motion. We have already appointed a Printing Committee, the function of which is to determine whether or not it is desirable, in the public interest, to incur expenditure in the printing of documents which are laid on the table of this Chamber. The motion, therefore, cuts across the track which is marked out for that Committee.
– The Printing Committee is not higher than is the Senate itself.
– I am quite aware of that. My second reason for urging that we should not agree to themotion is that there will be only a limited demand for copies of this document. It has been printed elsewhere, and I believe that it will be possible to supply the wants of honorable senators without incurring the expense that would be involved in printing a document which runs into several pages.
– I know that the greatest difficultyhas been experienced in obtaining a single copy of it.
– I do not anticipate that there will be any difficulty in securing copies of the report which has already been printed. In these circumstances, the question may well be left to the Printing Committee to determine.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is -
Graham Stewart, engineer of the South Australian Government, and was again examined last year by Mr. Francis, Superintendent of Railways and Resident Engineer in the Northern Territory.
The country between Katherine and Oodnadatta and between Newcastle Waters and Camooweal has been recently examined by Messrs. Lawrence and Chambers, Railway Surveyors, whose report is now in preparation.
A trial survey of the country between Oodnadatta and Burt’s Plain was made by Mr. Graham Stewart in 1889, and reports and plans furnished.
– Arising out of that answer, I desire to ask the Honorary Minister if these reports are available to honorable senators?
-I will endeavour to have copies of them laid upon the table of the Senate.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
When will the Auditor-General’s annual report be submitted to Parliament?
– The answer is -
It is expected that the Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure during the year ended 30th June, 1913, accompanied by the Report of the Auditor-General, will shortly be laid on the table of the House.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are - 1 to 3. I am not aware of the terms upon which the members of the Select Committee gave their services. Mr. Starke’s brief was marked £25, with £12 12s. per day for subsequent attendances to coverall conferences. Mr. Dixon’s brief was marked £8 8s. and £3 3s. for subsequent attendances; he was employed only during the absence of Mr. Starke. Some£30 was also expended in furnishing copies of the numerous and voluminous documents upon a variety of subjects which were called for.
– Arising out of that question, I wish to ask the Honorary Minister whether there is any truth in the rumour that the members of the Select Committee in question received only £5 each per day?
– I do not think that I should be called upon to answer a question which is based upon mere rumour. Let me assure Senator Needham that I have heard no such rumour, and know nothing of it.
– I take it that Senator Needham’s question was intended to be sarcastic. As a matter of fact, the members of the Select Committee were not paid at all. The honorable senator’s question, however, implies that they were.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
The number of Chinese similarly employed on the same date at Sydney was 862.
The Chief Inspector of Factories at Sydney states that only 12 of the 862 Chinese referred to above were shown as being under twenty-one years of age, the remainder being classed as adults.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– I am not aware of any such cases.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the statement of the Federal Treasurer, Sir John Forrest, as appearing in the West Australian, of 27th May, 1913, to the effect : “ The system they were following in finance wasdisastrous. £18,000,000 had gone into the Federal Treasury during the last two years, most of which should have gone into the State coffers . . . The Federal Government was not giving the money back to the States, but was throwing it away in all directions “ - Whether the Government proposes to repair the alleged injustice to the States, by increasing the annual allowance to them?
– The answer to this question is contained in the Budget speech.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
When will the evidence of the Royal Commission on the Fruit Industry be tabled in the Commonwealth Parliament?
– The answer is-
It is not proposed to lay the evidence on the table of the House, owing to the increase which would be made in the bulk of the sessional volumes. Copies of the evidence are, however, supplied to members as desired.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice. -
– The answers are -
– May I ask whether the proceedings of the Conference will be printed and distributed amongst members ?
– So far as I know, they will. Without binding myself in the matter, I shall see the Minister of Trade and Customs, in whose Department it is, and will endeavour to have a report of the proceedings of the Conference laid on the table of the Senate.
– Some time ago Senator Findley asked a question in reference to the new postage stamp. I have been supplied by the Post and Telegraph Department with the following answer to his question : -
With reference to your letter of the 3rd instant, relative to the inquiry made in the Senate by Senator Findley as to when the new postage stamp will be available, I am to inform you advice has been received from the Department of the Treasury to the effect that it is hoped by that Department to have the stamp printed in a few days’ time.
– I also asked whether it was likely to reduce the cost of living.
– I regret to say that in the report of the honorable senator’s question taken from Hansard the reference to the cost of living does not appear.
Flinders-street and Spencer-street Railway Stations.
- Senator Russell recently asked a question on the subject of providing additional public telephones at Flinders-street and Spencer-street railway stations, to which the following answer has been supplied: -
With reference to your letter of the 6th instant, relative to the representations recently made in the Senate by Senator Russell in favour of the provision of additional public telephones at the Flinders-street and Spencer-street Railway Stations, I beg to inform you that the Deputy Postmaster-General, Melbourne, reports that the question of installing extra, public telephones at Flinders-street Railway Station has already received full consideration, and the Railway Commissioners, who were communicated with on the subject, declined to allow any public telephone to be placed at the Elizabeth-street entrance, but consented to the erection of another telephone on the Swanston-street concourse, and that subsequently the Railway Department was approached and requested to furnish an estimate of the cost of the provision of a telephone cabinet by that Department ; a reply being now awaited.
The Deputy Postmaster-General adds that the erection of extra public telephones at the Spencer-street Railway Station was contemplated some time ago, but the Railway authorities slated no space was available, and that further inquiries are being made in the matter.
– Another matter upon which inquiry has been made several times in the Senate by Senator Bakhap has reference to telephonic communication with Port Davey. The answer to his question is as follows: -
With reference to the remarks made by Senator Bakhap in the Senate on the 28th August last, relative to the desired establishment of telephonic communication with Port Davey, Tasmania, I am to inform you that an understanding was arrived at in September, 191 1, by the Commonwealth and Tasmanian Governments, by which the former will erect and maintain a telephone line between Cape Sorell and Port Davey. and the latter will, prior to the construction of a line, cut, and thereafter maintain, a track along which a telephone line will be constructed, and will provide at Port Davey a depot and caretaker, and also the necessary attention for the telephone when established.
Several progress reports have since been submitted by the Deputy Postmaster-General, Hobart, the last of which is dated the 3rd instant, and is as follows : -
The Secretary for Mines advises that so far progress has been made at an average rate of2½ miles per month with the construction of the Port Davey track.
It is anticipated that the section of 35 miles, south of Point Hibbs, will be completed in about twelve months’ time. Point Collard, at Port Davey, which is to be the terminus of the track, is approximately 60 miles from Point Hibbs. but the lower section has not yet been surveyed, hence no estimate can be farmed of the approximate time likely to be required to complete the track.
Naval Board: Suspension of Captain Hughes Onslow.
Bill received from House of Representatives.
– I move -
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 am sorry that I have to move this motion. I expected to have the Supply Bill before the Senate in time to avoid the necessity for such a motion. However, circumstances have arisen, which have prevented this. Honorable senators are aware that November is a short month, and that pay-day really terminates to-day. I am, therefore, compelled to ask for the suspension of the Standing Orders.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Clemons) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a first time.
– I am very sorry that the Leader of the Government in the Senate has taken the business out of my hands today, and saved me the necessity of moving for a suspension of the Standing Orders. I also regret very much that the representative of the Treasurer has not done the Senate the courtesy of explaining what this Bill contains.
– I will do that on the second reading, if necessary.
– This is the stage at which the Minister should tell the Senate a little about a Supply Bill. According to the invariable practice here, the present Opposition have no intention of seriously opposing the granting of Supply. That has never been done here, and, as the Opposition are really sticklers for precedent and past practice, so far as the Senate is concerned, it will not be done on this occasion. Of course, the very smallness of the amount is an indication that the Government are not asking Parliament to give them more Supply than is really necessary for the month. But this is the fifth Supply Bill of the present session. A great deal of time might have been saved if the Government had only had the courage to ask for two or three months’ Supply from time to time, instead of wasting the time of the country by introducing a Supply Bill every month. I hope that the members of the Government, and their numerous supporters, will find that, as in the past, the Opposition will do all they possibly can to help them to get the necessary Supply for carrying on the affairs of the country.
– There is one question of administration which I think should, in justice to the country, be ventilated at this juncture ; but I do not propose to occupy more time than is unavoidable in order to enable the Government to get the Supply Bill put through to-day. What I refer to is the apparent chaos existing in the Naval administration under the Minister of Defence I say “ apparent,” because the newspapers, not only of Victoria, but of all the States, have been for the last three months publishing statements of a more or less alarming character, to which no rebuttal has appeared, nor has any reply or explanation been made. The Naval Board wau constituted by the Fisher Administration, and the only change was that Captain Chambers retired, and Captain Hughes Onslow took his place as second member. Up to our retirement, the Board had carried out its duties with, so far as I know, no friction that would lead to its being unworkable.
– You admit that, at the time, there was friction ?
– My next sentence was going to be a statement that friction did exist, and friction. 1 venture’ to say, exists on all boards where men of strong temperament come together. Up to the time of our retirement, no friction that would make the Naval Board unworkable had existed. No friction had existed to lead to a rupture of the relations of one member to another to such an extent that one would not speak to the other. There had been differences of opinion, and sometimes those differences had culminated in an appeal to myself fis the Minister of Defence; but, so far as I know, there was no question ‘ which had not been settled by appeal. I do not intend to refer solely to the case of Captain Hughes Onslow. 1 would refer the Minister and the Senate to the remarks, the statements, and the affirmations that Wave been appearing daily, and are still appearing, in the press of Australia in regard to other members of the Naval Board, and to which the Minister has vouchsafed to Parliament or the people of Australia no answer at all.
– Would you mind specifying the statements?
– I intend to do so. When the paragraphs first began to appear in the press, it was stated that the First Naval Member was of opinion that lie should retire and make way for a more energetic officer. That statement received no confirmation or contradiction from the Minister. Later it was stated that the Minister proposed to retire the First Naval Member, in order to bring in an Admiral from Great Britain, and that Admiral Creswell was to be appointed Director of Navigation. Next it was stated that not only was an Admiral to be brought in as First Naval Member, but that another British officer was to be brought in, and the Board was to be entirely reconstituted. Statements appeared that the combination of the positions of Finance Member and Secretary in the one officer was unsatisfactory, and that it would be necessary to reconstitute the Board, both as to their duties and as to their positions. So far as I have been able to learn from the press, the Minister has not thought fit to contradict or to affirm or to do anything in regard to those statements.
– He asked us here not to press him to make a statement.
– In regard to Captain Hughes Onslow I do say, without passing judgment upon the merits of his case, that a delay has occurred which seems to me to be inexcusable.
– Delay on the part of whom ?
– On the part of the Minister.
– In what way?
– The Minister has such an active mind that he runs ahead of me, and gets on to the next question before I have dealt with the previous one.
– I want to make the thing clear.
– I am sorry that I. am not doing so. I hope that the Minister will give me time. However imperfectly I am stating the position, I will do my best, and, as the honorable senator knows, angels can do no more. Regarding the case of Captain Hughes Onslow, various rumours and mutterings have appeared in the press. On the 1st October, the Minister took the drastic action of suspending the officer. That is an action which, of course, he was justified in taking if he had sufficient cause; but when a Minister has cause to suspend an officer, then justice should be prompt and speedy. In other words, no sooner is a suspension brought about than the Minister should at once proceed to decide what his next step should be, and to act. If he decides that the suspension is to be followed up by retirement, that step should follow speedily. It is unfair to the country, to the Parliament, and to the officer concerned that the suspension should be allowed to rest over his head for a considerable period. Captain Hughes Onslow was suspended on the 1st October, and, so far as any documents are concerned, he was informed, on the 12th November, as to the causes of his suspension, and his appointment was finally determined on the 19th November, that is, fifty days after he was suspended. If circumstances existed which convinced the Minister that he was right in suspending the officer, he should not need to wait for fifty days before he took the step of terminating the appointment.
– Unless something intervenes.
– If something does intervene, it should be dealt with properly, and if it justifies the reinstatement of the officer he should be reinstated. There are only three things to be done after suspension, namely, to reinstate the officer, to appoint him to a lesser position as a punishment, or to retire him altogether. Surely it ought not to take fifty days for a Minister to make up his mind as to which of the three courses he is going to take.
– Was any inquiry held during the time of the suspension?
– I am in the same position as other honorable senators are. All that I know of the case is gathered from what has appeared in the press. I am very careful about accepting any statements from that source, because I know that sometimes a Minister is. in such a position that he cannot make a rebuttal of a statement, and he may have to hold his hand. But it does seem to me that a sufficient length of time has elapsed since the 19th November for the Minister to explain the delay from the 1st October. He has made one or two statements in the press, but there is nothing in them to indicate why it took him from the 1st October to the 19th November to make up his mine- to retire this officer. I “could understand the position if the Minister of Defence had said, “ Although I have suspended the officer, I am going to have an inquiry made now to ascertain if I am justified in retiring him,” but there has been no inquiry made. By the way, Captain Hughes Onslow asked for an inquiry. I do not suggest that the Minister should have granted the request.
– Had he a right to an inquiry?
– The officer may not have had a right to an inquiry, but it does seem to me a peculiar position.
– What constitutes a right?
– The circumstances of the officer’s appointment or the causes of the suspension may justify an inquiry. It is within the Minister’s , power to order an inquiry if he thinks fit. Surely he must have known of the circumstances on the 1st October. He may have known sufficient, at any rate, to justify him in suspending Captain Hughes Onslow. If he considered, then, that there was anything doubtful about the matter, if there was anything that needed fifty days’ consideration, that in itself, I venture to say, would constitute a powerful argument on behalf of the officer that there should be an inquiry by somebody into the causes of his retirement.
– He was first suspended; not retired.
– If it took fifty days for the Minister to make up his mind, that, in itself, seems to indicate that he was not convinced that, whatever it was necessary to do, he was justified in retiring Captain Hughes Onslow. It seems to me that that is a strong ground that Captain Hughes Onslow has for asking for an inquiry. If, on the other hand, the Minister was absolutely convinced that he was justified in suspending this officer, and in refusing an inquiry, why did he take fifty days to give the final blow?
– And why suspend this officer only?
– That is for the Minister to say. I do not know why this particular officer should be suspended whilst others were not. There is a statement in the Age to-day, made by Captain Hughes Onslow, which seems to indicate that something occurred in that interregnum of which we have not yet been informed. Captain Hughes Onslow’s statement includes a document which is headed, “ Remarks by Second Naval Member on hospital treatment, &c.” In this document he says -
It was with extreme astonishment that I read your minute. In reply, I can only refer yon to my letter, dated nth August, 1913, and memorandum on victualling and messing attached, paragraph 1 (4), and the end of paragraph 5.
In the conversation on Thursday, 7th August, referred to therein, I informed you of the grave state of disorganization of the Navy Office, which amounted practically to a deadlock in regard to all important business, because members of the Board were not on speaking terms, and therefore it was impossible to hold Board meetings or conferences. In so doing I discharged my duty, pointing out ai the same time that the only means of remedy lay in your hands, as radical reorganization of the members of the Board was necessary. You entirely concurred in this at the time, but on I 2th August informed me, in writing, that you “ did not propose to take any action rn the lines suggested in our recent conversation.”
There is a statement that the Minister concurred in Captain Hughes Onslow’s view. I would like to ask him if that is correct? The statement proceeds -
As I did not desire to precipitate a crisis with far-reaching and most serious results, not only naval,, but probably, also, political, I replied, stating I hoped some working basis might be established. Since then you have ignored me and_ my representations, and the deadlock has continued, producing administrative paralysis which is most dangerous to the safe continuance of the Royal Australian Navy.
Then the officer goes on to say that he is most anxious to find out a modus vivendi,. That document is dated 16th September. It refers to the fact that the Second Naval Member brought under the notice of the Minister that in August the state of affairs on the Board was such that the members could not approach each other. There does seem to have been delay on the part of the Minister in dealing with a state of affairs which, if this statement be correct - I have no knowledge as to whether it is correct or not - required investigation.
– I found it out soon after I went to the Department.-
– It is obvious that the work of the Naval Board could not be done unless the members of it would confer together; because, whilst each officer has his own duties allotted to him, matters of business arise which must be dealt with by the Board as a whole. If they cannot approach each other, that is certainly a serious state of affairs. Drastic action was necessary to deal with it. The Minister was informed, according to this statement, in August, that that state of affairs existed. I do say that if it existed then, Captain Hughes Onslow was simply doing his duty in bringing it under the notice of the Minister. Whether he or some one else was responsible for the state of affairs does not affect the question. It was certainly the duty of the members of the Board, if they found that they were prevented from doing their duty by the fact that they could not approach each other, to bring the facts under the notice of the Minister. I may say here that no such state of affairs was ever brought under my attention while I was Minister of Defence. I had absolutely no knowledge, during the period of my administration, that, at any time, the members of the Naval Board were not discharging their duties properly. No complaint was ever made to me that they could not approach each other and confer together. If any such state of affairs existed at the time, no news of it ever came to my knowledge. I think that the Minister ought to tell Parliament when this subject was brought under his notice. Was he aware that the state of affairs described existed in August? If so, why did he take no action until 1st October, when he suspended Captain Hughes Onslow? The suspension of Captain Hughes Onslow proves that, in the Minister’s opinion, he is the officer who was responsible for the deadlock on the Board. It must be so. I should like to ask the Minister this: Has he obtained the opinion of each of the members of the Naval Board as to whether Captain Hughes Onslow was the officer who was responsible? Has each member of the Naval Board been asked in regard to that ? Because it is only just to Captain Hughes Onslow that that should be known. Obviously he grasped the nettle. Obviously, as far as we know - as far as the public know - he was the only officer who brought the state of affairs before the Minister. The Minister must know more than we do. Other members of the Board may have informed him. The public do not know that. I do not know, and Parliament does not know. The reason why I am speaking now is to invite the Minister to tell, us whether the state of affairs described was brought under his notice by any other officer than Captain Hughes Onslow?
– Certainly it was.
– We shall be glad to know when the matter was brought under the Minister’s notice, and under what circumstances. I trust that the Minister, in replying - if he intends to reply - will not lose sight of the fact that I am not taking up the cudgels on behalf of Captain Hughes Onslow at the present time. I do not know whether he is in the right or in the wrong; and I am not going to take up the case for any officer until I know whether he is in the right or in the wrong. I simply express the opinion that Parliament is entitled to be told what is behind this trouble. I would ask the Minister - and I think that Parliament has a right to know - whether it is proposed to retire the First Naval Member of the Board also? Is it proposed to bring in two British naval officers to* take the place of the First and Second Naval Members? We are in this unfortunate position: Owing to the way in which the Navy in Australia in the past was deliberately starved, we have very few Australian naval officers. “Dp to 1909-10 we had scarcely any. It is very essential that for, some positions we should at present bring in officers from abroad. But the reason which actuated the Fisher Government in appointing the First Naval Member, Admiral Creswell, and the Third Naval Member, Captain Clarkson, to the Board, was that we recognised that it was an administrative Board which had to deal with Australians, and that its members should have some knowledge of Australian conditions. It might have been argued that it was necessary to obtain the services of officers who were thoroughly up-to-date from a combatant point of view, and that therefore we should have been justified in bringing in officers from abroad for the whole Board. But the reason why we put these two officers there was that we believed that as administrative officers, owing to their long residence in Australia, their knowledge of Australian conditions, and their sympathy with the Australian sentiment, they would be better able to render the service that was necessary. Their local knowledge would be of value to them. The Minister has now allowed the rumor to go forth, the statement to be made, that the First Naval Member is also to be retired, and that some further drastic changes are ‘contemplated. I desire to point out that if the First Naval Member does go out, and we are to have two British officers brought in, the Naval Board will then only have one Australian officer upon it - that is. assuming that Captain Clarkson is retained.
– The honorable senator is assuming something more than that.
– “Unless some other officer is to be retired also. If the Minister says that I am assuming everything, I ask him what I can do but assume things. I have no knowledge. I have asked questions time after time. I have deferred asking some other questions which I might have put, because I knew the trouble that the Minister would have when he went to this Department. As the Minister himself knows, I hesitated to ask questions, and did not ask them, because I was aware of the difficulties of administration which faced him. I knew that it takes a new man a considerable time to find his footing in the Defence Department, and I thought it was only fair that he should have an opportunity to do that. What is more, I did not desire to ask any question which might appear to have a party aspect in regard to defence. But week after week, month after month, has gone past, and I think it is time that the Minister should make a statement informing Parliament as to what is to he done. We ought to be told whether additional British officers are to be brought into this Board of administration. I am of opinion, further, that the Minister was sailing pretty close to the wind in regard to the statement he made as to the training of the Fleet. I am not satisfied with the way in which he brushed the Naval Board aside in that matter. It is a very important principle. He told us that the Admiral is to be in sole charge of the drilling of the Fleet. The Minister has since softened down his original statements; but still he has not quite explained away the doubt that arose in my mind that he had in this matter brushed the Naval Board aside. We have to remember that if we are going to bring in officers from Great Britain to the Naval Board, those officers will dominate the Board, and the Naval Board of Australia will become nothing more or less than a sub-committee of the Admiralty. That is one thing that we have to guard against. Although our naval officers may not have had the experience at sea that British officers have had, we have to remember that, in administration, combatant experience is not so much required as administrative experience. The few officers, and I admit that they are few, that we have, whilst they have not had the opportunity of acquiring combative experience - experience in the management of warships - have had a fairly good training on the administrative side. They have the additional advantage that they know Australia and Australian conditions, and that they are in sympathy with Australian sentiment. I am not prepared to say that the British officer who may be brought here may not -be just as much sympathetic towards Australian sentiment, but I do believe that Australian officers are more likely to bo sympathetic than officers who come here from abroad, knowing nothing of our conditions, our past, and our ideals. My reason for speaking to-day on this question is simply this:
I think that the time is. more than ripefor the Minister to take Parliament and the country into his confidence in thismatter, and for him to tell us what is behind all the trouble that has occurred, and what he proposes to do. What has led him to suspend Captain Hughes Onslow; what was the reason why the long delay took place in dealing with the case; does he think that any inquiry is justified; and does he contemplate further changesin the constitution of the Naval Board? If so, what is their nature?
– I have nopossible objection to the action of Senator Pearce in bringing under review the very important matter to which he has referred. Indeed, I can only express my regret that I had not some little notice of his intention, in order that I might have been in a position to supply more detailsin respect to it. However, I rather appreciate the opportunity which he liasafforded me, more particularly because, whilst I recognise that the matter is oner of first class public importance, there are certain aspects of it with which it appears to me to be desirable that I should deal. I, therefore, take advantage of the opportunity to amplify the statement which I made in the Senate ten days ago. I do not know whether Senator Pearce has perused’ that statement.
– In making it. ^ had this thought very prominently in my mind : It seemed to me to be very necessary to make a statement disclosing to Parliament, and to the country, what it had been necessary, in my judgment, to do in regard to the Naval Board. The statement, therefore, gave the Senate and the country an explanation of the state of affairs which existed on the Naval Board. With that object in view, I endeavoured to make my statement as moderate in its terms as I could. Senator Pearce will see that in it I did anticipate a great many of the questions to which he has referred. In the first place, he raised the point - and some other honorable senator reaffirmed it by interjection - as to whether Captain Onslow was solely responsible for the trouble, and, if not, why other retirements had not taken place. I ask permission to> quote the following paragraph from the- statement which I read to the Senate only a few days ago -
Captain Hughes Onslow’s attitude regarding the Board, his method of expressing himself towards certain of his colleagues, and my personal observation of his demeanour, gradually compelled me to the conclusion that he was primarily responsible for the unfortunate state of affairs to which I have already referred.
That, I think, was a plain indication that perhaps the whole of the blame for this trouble does not rest on Captain Onslow. When four gentlemen are gathered round a Board table, and friction arises between them - and I would remind Senator Pearce that he himself had knowledge that friction existed before he quitted office - and that friction increases to such an extent that they are not on speaking terms with one another, it is impossible to say that one or the other of them has not at some time done something which has added fuel to the fire. It seemed to me inevitable either that that friction would gradually evaporate, or that it would gradually become intensified’. It was impossible that its members could go on maintaining that ill-feeling at an even flow. The friction became rapidly intensified, and I was therefore compelled to endeavour to discover who, in my opinion, was the chief offender. It would be impossible to say that never at any time did any one of the members of the Board, except Captain Onslow, use an indiscreet word. I would not say that at all. But my very close observation, aud my reading of the minutes which were put before me, brought home to 7ne the conviction that whatever indiscretion other members of the Board may have been guilty of, Captain Onslow was the main cause of the trouble.
– When did the Board meet?
– I cannot give tha dates now.
– Mr. Manisty has told us in evidence that it never meets.
– I hesitate to believe that, because the letter which Senator Pearce has read contains a reference to a Board meeting, at which Mr. Manisty and myself were present. I wish to say, however, that the meetings of the Board are nob as frequent as they ought to be, and I came to the conclusion, towards the finish of the trouble, that those meetings were a mere waste of time, because the Board table only afforded a field for the ventilation of these personal irritations.
– Can the Minister explain why he took fifty days to determine the matter?
– Let me first como to the period which intervenes between the time when Captain Onslow wrote the letter in which he pointed out that the Board had been reduced to a state of paralysis, and the 1st October, when action was taken. Here, again, I intend to quote from the statement which I made to the Senate recently. When I discovered this unfortunate state of affairs, I candidly admit that I was extremely anxious to smooth it over. I had no desire to bring about a crisis or a rupture. -Accordingly, I spoke to Captain Onslow, to the First Naval Member of the Board, Rear-Admiral Creswell, and to Mr. Manisty. I am under the impression that I also discussed the matter with Mr. Clarkson. I certainly asked the three gentlemen whose names I have mentioned to recognise that the condition of affairs which existed1 was absolutely fatal to the efficient administration of the Department. They all agreed with me. I pointed out that it would be disastrous to the future of the Navy if it were known outside that it was not possible to create a Board which would put the interests of the Navy above all personal feeling All these gentlemen cordially promised to assist me in my endeavour to restore amicable relations amongst the members of the Board, and none more so than Captain Onslow. Senator Pearce has asked whether other members of the Board had brought before me the true position of affairs. J.» reply, I may say that the first member to do so upon paper was the First Naval Member, who some time prior to Captain Onslow’s letter in August - in July, as a matter of fact - brought before me in a minute certain proceedings - I call them a “scene” - which had occurred at a Board meeting at which I was not pre.sent. It was consequent upon that minute that I approached the- membersof the Board separately, and requested them to assist me in my effort to patch up these grievances. Seeing that therehad been a sharp altercation at a Board meeting, I thought it extremely desirable* to allow a day or two to pass before taking action. I am a great believer in the healing influence of time. We all know perfectly well that if we were to ask two men who have just been pulled apart from a wrangle to shake hands immediately they would probably refuse to do so. But if we allowed a few days to elapse during which they might think the matter over, they would probably recognise the wisdom of the suggestion to let the dead past bury its dead.
– Had the wrangle gone that f ar ?
– I am giving the Senate the reasons which actuated me in the action 1 took. Having resolved to bring about more pleasant relations, I was waiting ‘for a few days to pass, when I received another minute from Captain Onslow - who had previously assured me of his strong desire to assist me - which made it absolutely clear to me that it was useless to spend any time in endeavouring to induce him to come, not half-way, but even a little way towards meeting the other members of the Board. That was the first cause of some of the delay which occurred before action was taken. Senator Pearce has referred to a minute by Captain Onslow, in which he states -
You entirely concurred in this at the time, but on the 1 2th August you informed me, in writing, that you did not propose to take any action on the lines suggested in our recent conversation.
Captain Onslow has evidently assumed that that letter had reference to his conversation with me regarding the future of the Board. I wish to say emphatically that that letter was written when I received the minute to which I have just referred, and which proved to me that it was impossible to hope for his co-operation in bringing about more harmonious relations. I wish to make that position perfectly clear. First of all, there was the conversation I had with him in which he agreed to aid my efforts to bring peace to the Board. Then followed his minute, which proved to me that I could not look for his cooperation unless he had all his own way.
– The Minister might read the minute in question.
– It is too long. Indeed, I never met a more voluminous minute writer than is Captain Onslow. Having received that minute, I then wrote a note - which, till he disclosed it, I thought was a private one - in which I stated that I did not propose to take any action on the lines of our previous conversation, which meant that I did not intend to try and bring the members of the Board together.
– The Minister means that he did not propose to reinstate Captain Onslow.
– He was not then suspended. After a private interview which I had with Captain Onslow, I decided that at the next meeting of the Board I would ask everybody to let the past alone. But before I had time to take that action, Captain Onslow made it clear to me that his feelings towards his fellow members were so strong that I could not expect him to unbend. It was then that I wrote to him saying that I did not intend to go any further “in my efforts to bring peace to the Board. I recognised that it was_ absolutely necessary for the proper discharge of the duties of that body that harmonious relations between its members should be established. Another portion of my statement which I wish to quote reads -
Although I had by this time quite made up my mind that certain changes on the Board were necessary, in view of the great magnitude and importance of the work to be accomplished, I still thought it desirable to bring about these changes in a less drastic method than that which circumstances have compelled. It did not appear to me to be in the public interest that publicity should, at this juncture, be given to the very unfortunate state of affairs that existed on the Board. Admiral Patey was shortly to arrive, and for the first time the vessels of the Fleet Unit were to assemble. I was extremely anxious, therefore, that what can only be described as a truly historical event should pass off without the disturbing factor referred to obtruding itself.
It may have been wrong for me to have been influenced by considerations of that kind. But, if so, I submit for the consideration of honorable senators whether it was not a very human wrong? We were confronted with this big and truly national event, and I was extremely desirous that it should pass off without it becoming known that the principal administrative authority in regard to naval matters in this country had been reduced, owing to the inability of its members to work together, almost to a state of impotence. That was the second reason why there was delay Up to that point.
– Apparently that did not deter the Minister from suspending Captain Onslow on the arrival of the Fleet.
– I have already said that I was desirous of bringing about a change in a less drastic method than that which circumstances compelled me to adopt. Senator Pearce has asked for an explanation of the delay which occurred between August and October. My answer is of a two-fold character. In the first place, I endeavoured to patch up the trouble. Secondly, I thought it better to allow the matter to stand over until after the Fleet had arrived. Captain Onslow, however, rendered the adoption of that course impossible. I was endeavouring to go along in the way I have indicated when, with alarming rapidity, minutes came pouring in on me. As a matter of fact, if I had been endowed with the capacity of a dozen men, it would have taken me all my time to adjudicate upon these conflicting minutes. I have other things to do, but whether that be right, or wrong, I decline to spend all my time in an effort to pacify quarrelling members of any Board. It seemed to me that I exercised the greatest tolerance, and took the most lenient view possible of the condition of affairs, in justice to the important responsibilites imposed upon me, and it was only as a last resort I took action, when Captain Hughes Onslow wrote certain minutes which were offensive, not to me, but to his colleagues on the Naval Board. I never had an angry word with Captain Onslow at the Board room, and it is only since I was compelled to take certain action that he appears to be disposed to turn his guns upon me, and not upon those with whom he originally quarrelled. I wish it to be understood distinctly that I did not suspend Captain Onslow because of any quarrel which he had with me. I did not wish to disclose any of these matters. I thought it better iu the interests of Captain Onslow himself that they should not be disclosed. But as he is disposed to court publicity, and as the matter has been brought forward here in a public way, Captain Onslow cannot complain if I now, in justification of the action I have taken, give the Senate some idea of the temperament of a man who could write such minutes as were submitted by Captain Onslow.
– Hear, hear! That is what we want.
– I do not know what Senator Long wants. He seems today to be disposed to quarrel with me, because I was concerned in the suspension of one member of the Naval Board, and only the other day he wanted to know why I did not sack the lot.
– Hear, hear ! That was my complaint.
– It would appear that whatever happens I am to be blamed, and no matter how clearly I may put the matter before the Senate, I shall stand condemned by certain honorable senators.
– I shall tell the honorable senator why later on. Not a member of the Board who was examined by the Select Committee dealing with the Fitzroy Dock attributed any of the disturbances on the Board to Captain Onslow.
– May I ask what members of the Board the Select Committee had before them ?
– Captain Clarkson and Mr. Manisty.
– Were the members of the Select Commitee inquiring into the disturbances at Board meetings?
– By what power?
– Under the authority conferred by the Senate.
– Captain Onslow is simply being made the scapegoat.
– There is absolutely no justification for such a statement as that. I do think that in dealing with so important a matter such statements should not be made, especially when honorable senators have admitted their ignorance of the facts which I am putting before them. I repeat that there is no justification whatever for the statement that Captain Onslow is being made a scapegoat. The position on the Board was that, apart from the Minister, there were four members, two of whom were working together in one way, and two were working together in another way. Although I am told that no member of the Board under examination by the Select Committee inquiring into the Fitzroy Dock question blamed Captain Onslow, I should like any member of the Committee to stand up here and say whether the members of the Board mentioned did put the blame upon anybody else. They- probably were not asked the question.
– The honorable senator will see tho evidence directly.
– They did put the blame on some one else, and I shall tell the honorable senator who it was directly.
– I said that I would read one or two quotations from minutes submitted by Captain Hughes Onslow, to give some idea of the temperament of an official who could write such minutes. First of all, I should say that honorable senators will agree that language, the use of which might be regarded as, perhaps, not entirely outrageous in the heat of a parliamentary debate, should not find a place in an official minute. In such a document we might properly expect language of a somewhat different character. Words which may be passed here as-
– Almost as “ classic,’’ when used in communications passing from one to another, between members of a Board, must be viewed in the light of the circumstances in which they are used. Here is one statement made by Captain Hughes Onslow in traversing a minute by Admiral Creswell, the First Naval Member -
This statement is a gross and wilful perversion of the true facts.
I have before now heard a man called a liar in much fewer words, but never more emphatically. When you get a statement of that kind made, not across a table in the heat of debate, but put down deliberately in black and white, as in this case, it is, I submit, an indication of the temperamental disability which is responsible for the trouble that occurred on the Board.
– Did the Minister inquire whether that very extreme statement was justified or not?
– It does not appear to me to matter whether the statement was correct or not. How can we expect the members of a Board, whose duty it is to administer this most important Department, to carry out their work properly under such conditions? Even if Captain Onslow thought that the First Naval Member was hopelessly wrong, I still contend that a sentence such as I have quoted is intolerable in an official minute.
– It was too long. The writer should have used the short word of four letters.
– Senator de Largie sees the point at once, and I repeat my statement that, though I have before heard a man called a liar in fewer words, I have never heard a man so described more emphatically. Naturally, upon that minute, I might expect that the First Naval Member would send me another minute, and he did. They had ceased personal relations “before this, but in his minute upon the minute by Captain Onslow from which I have quoted, the First Naval Member asked to be relieved of even official relations with Captain Onslow. This disclosed a position that was intolerable , and, in view of what I have stated, I defy any one to say that the Board should have been allowed to continue in that condition indefinitely.
– What brought that state of affairs about?
– We have not heard that yet.
– Does it matter what brought it about, when members of a Board are reduced to such a condition that they can write minutes like that?
– There must have been something behind that?
– There were a dozen things behind it. There was hardly a big subject approached upon which there were not sharp and conflicting minutes between the members of the Board. I came to the conclusion that the trouble was not in their capacity, but one of temperamental inability to work together. I, therefore, looked around to see which member of the Board, in my judgment, was the primary cause of the trouble, and I have told honorable senators the conclusion which I came to.
I am looking over some extracts I have here, and, although this is a little out of place, one supplies an answer to a question raised by Senator Pearce as to whether any one else referred to the condition of affairs on the Board. There is a minute signed by Captain Clarkson, in which he refers to the “ present state of muddle inefficiency, and delay.” Captain Onslow’s minute has already been quoted by Senator Pearce, and I read another on the subject from the First Naval Member. So that three members on the Board pointed to the unsatisfactory state of affairs existing at the time. I shall read another quotation from a minute by Captain Onslow, with a view to justify my statements as to his inability to express himself moderately, or in the ordinary terms of courteous intercourse, which I say is responsible for the trouble that occurred on the Board.
– Could you expect an “old salt” to do anything else?
– That is an admission by Senator McGregor that what has occurred is just what he would have expected from Captain Onslow. He was a stranger to me when I went there. This is the second quotation I make -
On the whim of the Finance Member the present system of victualling and messing was introduced into the Royal Australian Navy.
I ask honorable senators again to remember that we are not dealing with a political discussion, or a debate from a public platform, but with minutes from one member to another of a Board, the members of which must necessarily work with some degree of harmony if they are to get along at all.
– Was not thevictualling a whim?
– Suppose it was. Is it not a very serious accusation to make to charge a fellow-member of the Board with having, merely because of a whim, done something that should not have been done. That, in itself, is an offence, and an insult.
– Surely “insult” is too strong a word to apply to it.
– It is an insult when you tell a man that he has brought about a change merely because of a whim ; when you’ charge him with gross neglect of duty in allowing a mere fancy to impel him to do something which should not have been done.
– Probably it was done without consulting others.
– It should not be done without consulting some one else. My speech is being broken up by the interjections which are made, butI cannot resist saying that I made a rather strange discovery when I took office, assuming, from my knowledge of Boards generally, that they acted after some consultation, I found in connexion with the Naval Board how little there was to determine; that a matter which was dealt with by two members of the Board, whose province it was to deal with it, was afterwards considered as a decision of the Board as a whole. The practice seemed to have arisen there, at any rate in connexion with some matters, that one member would write a recommendation or a minute, would then obtain the concurrence of another member, and the recommendation would then become the decision of the Board.
– That was where they dealt with matters within their particular departments.
– That may beso, but it seemed to me absolutely misleading to say that, under these circumstances, the Board decided anything.
– From the evidence given before the Select Committee on the Fitzroy Dock the administration of the Naval Board was a disgrace to Australia.
– There was no business in it.
– I am pleased to see that Senator Guthrie has recognised a very important point. I do not hesitate to say that sometimes a decision given led at a later period to conflict. Two members of the Board agreed upon a recommendation without reference to the others, and the other two, setting out upon a line of action later on, by some development cut across the decision of the first two. I am aware that there were certain matters which affected particular spheres of operation and matters of routine which might be dealt with by individual members, but I say it was impossible for the Board to work in entire harmony in such circumstances when conflict might arise as to when a matter so dealt with ceased to be a matter of ordinary routine, and became a matter of more importance, which should be considered by the Board as a whole.
– All Boards are humbugs.
– Senator Guthrie will see that when I took office I found the Board already in existence. Unfortunately for me, a condition of affairs existed which I was called upon to remedy.
– They blame the honorable senator for a lot of the delay.
– Senator Pearce has blamed me for some delay, or has asked me for an explanation of it. I have given an explanation which I hope will be regarded as satisfactory with regard to the delay which took place between the 7th August and the time when Captain Onslow was relieved of his duties.
– But not of the delay from the 1st October.
– I shall deal with that later. In another minute, as I have said, there is an insulting reference by Captain Onslow. I shall make another quotation from language which is not quite as strong as that which I have already quoted, but which tends still further to prove the unhappy manner in which he expressed himself regarding his colleagues on the Board. He wrote -
On the whim of the Finance Member the present system of victualling and messing was introduced into the Royal Australian Navy, but Mr.- would have none of it, as he saw its manifest defects. Protests put forward by him from time to time were neglected, find when this precious child of the Naval Secretary got into trouble on board the Encounter, in charge of his friend- , instead of seeking to uproot the evil by reform or change of system, recourse was had to increase of allowance from1s. 2d. to1s. 4d.,-
Senator Pearce will recognise that all this happened before I went there.
– The minute continues - which I hold was totally unwarranted by the facts of the case. I submit, in the circumstances, it was insulting to totally neglect the Director of Victualling, and it was only done because the Finance Member knew he would not be a party to bolstering up a rotten system of victualling and messing, and feared an adverse minute, the effect of which would be to open the eyes of the first and second (acting) naval members, put them on their guard, and then prevent him getting Board concurrence, and being able to telegraph to the Minister, then away electioneering, for approval.
I can only interpret that minute as an accusation that certain things had been done by means of which the Finance Member, Mr. Manisty,hadbeen able, by the suppression of certain facts, to secure from the Minister a concurrence which otherwise he would not have got. If Captain Onslow thought that, there was a proper way for him to express his thoughts without making these insinuations and accusations, and that was to bring the facts by minute under the notice of my predecessor with the view of asking that the matter should be re-opened and reconsidered. But there, I repeat, is a deliberate accusation against a brother member of the Board that, by the suppression of certain things, by proceeding in a roundabout way, he had put himself in a position to obtain by telegram from the Minister a decision which otherwise he could not have obtained. We cannot have members working on a Board with any hope of harmony if they allow their feelings to so override their judgment as to permit them, at any time, to launch accusations of that kind - accusations for which, I venture to say, in this particular case, there was no warrant. Here is a repetition of the same thing in fewer words -
I say that it was a scandalous thing not to refer this matter to the Director of Victualling for his remarks, and the whole manipulation of the case was entirely characteristic of the usual procedure of the Finance Member to gain his ends and to bolster up any system or decision that has emanated from him.
I am not putting forward this minute or the other one as in itself the sole reason why it seemed to me that the Board would be better forthe absence of Captain Onslow.I am putting the minute forward as typical of the kind of minutes he was in the habit of writing.
– What was the opinion of the other two members of the Board on the same incident?
– There is no other member of the Board down there, or anywhere else, I venture to say, who would support language and accusations of that kind. Whether the system itself was right or wrong is one thing, but the language employed in the minutes, and the accusations made against another member of the Board, is another thing. I amnot prepared to-day to say which is the best system of victualling, nor is the Board in a position toadvise me. I am bringing forward this minute not as evidence that, in his views, Captain Onslow was right or wrong, but that his language, and the temperament which allowed the use of the language, were the things that were wrong.
– There is nothing very strong in that correspondence.
– Perhaps not, in the judgment of politicians who are in the habit of saying things here; but I again ask honorable senators whether they think that we can have a Naval Board when one member deliberately accuses another member of obtaining from the Minister by roundabout ways a decision which he could not have obtained honestly ?
– The Minister ought to know.
– I believe that the Minister acting in that case was quite right. But whether it was right or wrong is not the point. The question is whether Captain Onslow had any right to charge a colleague with obtaining from the Minister by surreptitious means a decision of that kind.
– What was the tone of the minutes of the other members of the Board?
– I can assure the Senate quite confidently that there are no minutes of the other members of the Board - many of them were sharp, I admit - which I could put in the same class as those from which I have quoted here.
– Have you read any minutes by Captain Clarkson to Mr. Manisty ?
– I do not know that they came up at all. I am pleased to say that Captain Clarkson, although he held very strong views, and expressed them strongly, did not appear’ to me at any time to be obtruding himself so prominently into this quarrel.
– Can he not use pretty strong language?
– He expresses a view strongly; but I am not aware that anything he has said could be taken as insulting to his colleagues.
– No classical language, so to speak?
– His minutes are blunt and direct, but there is a big difference between them and those I have read. A little later Captain Onslow, who had accepted an appointment to go on a Board with the functions of which, I presume, he was familiar before he came to a decision, put in a minute -
The whole system of Board control is hatred to me.
– Hear, hear !
– The view mightbe right; but I do not know if I can answer the cheer better than by quoting the minute from the First Naval Member immediately following -
I cannot see how, under such conditions, the work of the Naval Board can be efficiently carried on. Nor can I see how any officer holding such opinions can justify his acceptance of an appointment at the Naval Board as Second Naval Member, to take part in a system of administration that he considers should be shattered.
The minute of the First Naval Member supplied the answer to the approving “Hear, hear!” of Senator Guthrie.
– I quite agree with hi in.
– I do not wish to make my statement unduly long.
– You have not dealt with the delay yet.
– I will come to that. So far, to recapitulate, I have endeavoured to do two things. First, I have tried to show that - and it did not need showing, I think - there was in the Board a state of affairs almost approaching chaos. ‘ I have dealt with the delay which occurred between my discovery of that fact and the 1st October. The other thing I have done has been to quote certain minutes, with the view of showing that the trouble down there was largely owing to the temperamental characteristics of Captain Onslow, which, apparently, rendered it- impossible for him to express himself or bear himself towards his colleagues according to the ordinary rules of courtesy. I come now to the question of the delay which took place between the 1st October and the . 19th November. Here, again, I would remind Senator Pearce of a statement I made during his absence - and I almost apologize for his absence. I gave some indication as to the reason of that delay. I said -
Matters connected with the arrival of the Fleet took me to, and detained me, at Sydney for some little time. .
Speaking from memory, I was there for nearly a fortnight -
Shortly after my return, communications were addressed to me which suggested the possibility of Captain Hughes Onslow returning to the Board under conditions, holding out reasonable promise of its future smooth and efficient working.
There were two tilings which had stood’ out as the major difficulty in the way. One was, I repeat, Captain Onslow’s attitude towards his colleagues, and the other was his expression of belief as to the Board.
– And. his temperament, you said just now.
– I said just now “his attitude towards his colleagues,” and that, of course, was governed by his temperament. Representations were made to me. I would not have referred to the negotiations, seeing that they did not prove successful, except that the matter has been brought up first by Captain Onslow and now by Senator Pearce, whoasked me the reason for the delay. But I wish it to be understood that I have no personal objection to refer to the negotiations, if I may use that term, which took place between my return from Sydney and the early part of November. I have, however, always been led to believe that when unofficial negotiations by friends are inaugurated with the view of smoothing over a difficulty, they are entirely private, and certainly should be regarded as private if they fail in their purpose. Therefore, I made no further reference to them than to state that certain representations were made to me, and I consider that nothing more should have been said; but Captain Onslow, in one of his letters, did raise the very question which Senator Pearce has brought up, and, as a result of that, I now feel that I ought to tell the Senate what I told that officer in reply. I returned from Sydney about the 12th or 13th October. A few days afterwards representations were made to me by gentlemen whom I know personally, and who, I understand, were friends of Captain Onslow, and these tooka little time. The end of the matter was that I saw Captain Onslow, either the day before or the day after the first Tuesday in November - a day which, I believe, is sacred to the Melbourne Cup. That is how I can fix the date without referring to my notes. I remember the date well, because I was one of the absentees from the Flemington course. Captain Onslow saw me, and I thought that there was promise of a successful issue. I was hopeful that he would see that minutes such as he had been in the habit of writing must cease; that some altered conduct must be assured before anything further could be done.When he saw me, and discussed the matter, he repeated that it was impossible for him to go back on the Board as it was then constituted. I said in reply,”Well, Captain Onslow, I have to thank you for your candour, because it would be a disastrous thing if you returned to the Board only to find the old conditions continuing.” I then asked for a day or two to think the matter over, and I would like to know if any honorable senator would have been perpared to give an offhand decision on the matter. That occurred on the 1st or 3rd November. It will be seen that on the 6th November Captain Onslow received a letter from me.
– On the 12th November, according to statements in the press.
– Letters intervened. I wrote to Captain Onslow on the 5th November as follows : -
After fully and seriously considering the matters under discussion at our recent interview, I see no other course than to suggest that you place me in a position to accept your resignation.
That letter was followed by letters dated the 6th, the 12th, and the 14th November. That brought us down to the time of the preparation of the minute and its presentation, first to the Cabinet and then to the Executive, and it was finally published on the 19 th. I do not know whether it is still thought that there was unnecessary delay.
– I cannot understand why you thought that any conduct should change a man’s temperament.
– I have to admit that there is every justification for that statement, but I still say that I was anxious, from beginning to end, to avoid taking the last extreme step. For some time, probably for a few years, we shall be, as the honorable senator has admitted, under the necessity of obtaining the assistance of Admiralty officers in one branch or the other of the Department, more particularly in the combatant branch. And it did seem to me extremely undesirable that any action should be taken which might be misunderstood amongst naval officers, and render them disinclined to place their services at the disposal of the Commonwealth. Therefore, if it seemed possible to allow Captain Onslow to complete his term - which had about eleven months to run - with any chance of getting the Board into a working condition, I thought it was desirable to make an effort. Having regard to the difficulty which had arisen, I still thought that, after what had transpired, he might see the necessity of moderating his attitude towards his colleagues. If he was in a position to give an assurance that altered conduct on his part would be forthcoming; if he felt disposed to express himself, as I thought he ought to do, about the minutes which I could only regard as offensive, and if, in addition to that, he was prepared to work harmoniously with his colleagues, instead of going there with the belief that the Board ought to be smashed, as he had said; if he was prepared to go back aud loyally work with his colleagues, aud in the spirit in which the Board was created, it did seem to me that it would be an advantage to the service to have that brought about. That is the only explanation I can offer.
– He would not go back under those conditions.
– He would not go back, nor would he resign. I know northing that illustrates his temperament better than that does. On two occasions it was suggested to him, in writing, that, in the circumstances, the only thing for him to do was to resign. He would not resign, and he would not go back on thu Board.
– That is a very good recommendation to me of- a man of that character.
– He sticks to his guns.
– Which guns? He declared that he would not go back on the Board unless we altered its constitution to suit him.
– Is it not fair to say that he submitted to the Minister sound reasons why the Board should be altered ?
– No; Captain Hughes Onslow had put forward nothing at all to justify the minute which I will now read. The other thing essential to his return to the Board was an affirma”tion by him of his willingness to go back and work on the Board as it was. Some time before this, Captain Hughes Onslow had put into ray hands the minute which I will now read. He said -
I now have the honour to formulate the basis upon which I am prepared to carry out my duties as Second Naval Member.
I pause here to say that he was at that time in receipt of the emoluments belonging to his position, and was supposed to be carrying out his duties. Yet he wrote to me as Minister informing me that he was willing to return to his duties upon terms which he proceeded to formulate.
– Was he not submitting matters for the Minister’s consideration ?
– If Captain Hughes Onslow had said, “ I feel it to be my duty, in order to secure the smooth working of the Board, to bring before you the following views as to its reconstruction, and, in my judgment, the Board ought to be reconstructed as follows,” well and good.
– That was implied.
– No ; he set out the conditions upon which he was prepared to continue his duties.
– He had no right to do that.
– I am glad to hear my honorable friend say that. The extraordinary character of Captain Hughes Onslow’s demands will become more apparent when I read the terms which he formulated.
Separation of office of Finance Member from
Naval Secretary, Mr.- to be appointed at once as Naval Secretary, but not upon the Board.
Mr. Manisty to continue till the end of his appointment as Finance Member on the Board ; to be relieved by a member of Parliament, as suggested by Admiral Henderson, or by a British Naval Executive Officer, not an officer of the Accountant Branch. The immediate and proper construction of my branch with a proper staff to work it.
That meant that the Government of this country was not to be at liberty to employ Mr. Manisty again. That is the only meaning to be attached to the words. Captain Hughes Onslow’s position, when he wrote that, was just as it was before I took office. So that, whatever cause of complaint he had then existed before my advent to the Department.
Mr.- to be turned over to me to carry on all duties -and work of appointments, &c, &c, under my direction. Finance Member to retain the services of one clerk, the others to be turned over to the new Naval Secretary. Failing the acceptance of this basis, I request that an inquiry may be held into the truth of my allegations.
– He afterwards withdrew that, did he not?
– No, but I notice that in a recent communication to the press Captain Hughes Onslow says that, under the influence of pin-pricks, he had written a hasty minute. I take it he referred to this one.
– For his own sake, I hope so.
– Whether it was a hasty minute or not, I point out that he repeated the statement at an interview with me on either the 1st or the 3rd November; I am in doubt as to which date. He said then he would not go back on the Board unless his views were given effect to. It could not have been a hasty view, because there was a period of some weeks - I am inclined to think months - during whichhe held the same attitude. He went on to say -
I have been subjected to intolerable treatment ever since I took up my present appointment.
That does not apply only to the period when I was at the Department, because as a matter of fact the trouble had arisen before my appearance down there. Here is his statement -
I have been subjected to intolerable treatment ever since I took up my present appointment, which is totally inconsistent with my personal honour and official status, and therefore quite impossible I should any longer submit to.
– Does he point out in what particular directions?
– I do not know. On several occasions he gave voice to some complaint or other. His chief complaint was, as I said here in my statement, which I made in fairness to Captain Hughes Onslow -
That the duties of both Finance Member on the Board and of Naval Member are discharged by one officer.
The view he took was-
That this places undue power in that officer’s hands, who, first as Finance Member, shares in the deliberations of the Board, and then later on, as Secretary, places the Board’s recommendations before the Minister.
I followed that up by this statement -
It is only right, however, to say on behalf of Mr. Manisty, who at present is Finance Member and Naval Secretary, that I have never known him to express an opinion upon a Board recommendation until I asked him to do so ; and, further, in presenting a recommendation from which he disagreed, he invariably placed before me any minutes or other documents supporting the view from which he differed. It appeared to me, indeed, that he was punctilious in this regard.
That was Captain Hughes Onslow’s chief grievance. But I submit to the Senate whether any officer, no matter how high his position may be, has a right to turn round and dictate to theGovernment whom it shall employ and whom it shall not?
– Certainly not.
– Here he stipulates that this officer shall not hold these two positions. He further stipulates who is to be put in the position of Secretary. I venture to say that no member of Parliament would tolerate for a moment that any officer should assume that attitude.
-Colonel O’Loghlin. - Is not that rather a recommendation by Captain Hughes Onslow than dictation as to who should or who should not be employed ?
– He says -
Mr. Manisty to be continued until the end of his appointment as Finance Member on the Board,and then to be relieved.
There was to be no reappointment of Mr. Manisty.
– Does the Minister think he wants it himself?
– That has nothing to do with the matter.
– Was it not understood in Parliament that the two positions were not to be occupied by one man ?
– I say that no officer has any right to tell the Government of this country whom it shall employ and whom it shall dismiss from its employment.
– Cannot an officer make a recommendation ?
– This is not a recommendation. Really, I am forced to the conclusion that some honorable senators do not want to get at the merits of this case. It was not a recommendation at all. Captain Hughes Onslow says in his minute that these are the terms upon which he is prepared to continue the discharge of his duties.
– Was that a condition that the Finance Member should be relieved altogether, or that the duties should be separated ?
– In this ultimatum, as I call it, he calls for the separation of the two offices of Finance Member and Naval Secretary. He wrote -
Mr.- to be appointed at once as Naval Secretary. . . . Mr. Manisty to continue till the end of his appointment as Finance Member on the Board.
– Was that minute written before or after his suspension ?
– Before his suspension. The date of it is 28th July.
– So that the honorable senator knew of that minute when he was still undecided as to what he should do with Captain Hughes Onslow.
– I knew of the trouble that existed, but for the reasons that I have given I did my level best to pacify these warring elements. I tried if it were not possible to get the ship upon an even keel. When I went to the Defence Department, I knew nothing about the trouble. When I found it out, I did not know whom to hold responsible for it. I did not know who had caused the friction. Consequently, I tried to bring about a working understanding. If I am to blame for doing that, I am to blame. At any rate, I soon saw that the Board, as a working body, had broken down.
– Is it not usual for heads of Departments to make recommendations to Ministers ?
– What is that but a recommendation ?
– I am not here to labour the point; but Senator Pearce, who is entitled to be regarded as the keenest possible critic of anything that takes place in the Defence Department, by reason of his long term of office as Minister, has, by interjection just now, put what I take to be the right view in saying that Captain Hughes Onslow had no right to put in that statement.
– Will the Minister tell the Senate what attitude he proposes to take up with respect to Captain Hughes Onslow’s demand for an inquiry ?
– Captain Hughes Onslow has no right to demand an inquiry.
– Surely it is the right of every public official.
– What does Captain Hughes Onslow want to have inquired into i
– The whole case, I should think.
– What case?
– The case surrounding his dismissal.
– This demand for an inquiry comes from people who, if they had their way, would sweep the whole Naval Board away a£ once, if I may judge from their interjections. First of all, I want to know what Captain Hughes Onslow has a right to have inquired into.
– Any officer in the Public Service has a right to an inquiry.
– If Captain Hughes Onslow has a right to an inquiry, let him show me’ where that right exists
– The Public Service Act provides for that.
– The Public Service Act provides for no inquiry under such circumstances as these. There is only one inquiry to which he would have been entitled, and that was if anything had been done to disturb his commission as a captain; but that, of course, was not done. He had accepted a responsible position as an administrative officer, simply as Mr. Onslow. In determining whether the duties for which he was employed were being properly carried out, I came to the conclusion that they were not. Unless Captain Hughes Onslow was prepared to alter his general attitude, the tendency of which was to drag the whole thing on to the rocks, I considered that it was necessary to tike the action that I did. Personally, I had no feeling in the- matter. The question was put here to-day, whether other members of the Naval Board were asked certain questions. I point out to honorable senators that, when I became Minister of Defence - and I am not speaking egotistically - I was unacquainted with the members of the Naval Board, and I knew nothing of these allegations. When I became aware of the friction that existed, it was only reasonable to ask what the cause of the trouble was. Now, to have asked any member of the Naval Board for his views regarding the others when endeavouring to ascertain the source of the trouble would have been ridiculous. My endeavour was to get to the bottom of it, and, with that end, I questioned, not one member only, but all the members of the Board. I see, by the way, in statements in the press, that adjectives are commencing to fly around again in regard to my attitude. I wish the Senate to be in a position to judge as to the motives for the- course- which I hive followed. The members of the Board were all combatants; they were parties to this matter. I was not, and I had not any reason to entertain the slightest personal feeling in regard to it. Having looked into the question carefully, I came to the conclusion that it was necessary that Captain Onslow should go.
– Is it not possible that the other members of the Board could afford to be moderate in their language, seeing that they were getting all their own way?
– I do not know that they were getting all their own way. If the honorable senator is referring to their action in asking the Minister to protect them from insulting minutes written by a colleague, they were entitled to have their own way. Senator Pearce has referred to the fact that all sorts of statements have appeared in the public press, to which he thinks I ought to have replied. I know it is a very common practice, the moment a newspaper makes any statement, for men in the public life of Australia to deem it their duty to contradict it. But when newspapers are obviously flying kites, one may, by so acting, embark upon an endless job. On a previousoccasion I said -
In connexion with this matter, as was quite naturally to be expected, considerable press comment has appeared, and some speculation has been indulged in as to the future of the Board, with pointed references to individual members. While the rapid expansion of itsresponsibilities requires that the future of the Board and the duties intrusted to its members should be brought under early review, it is neither fair nor right to regard suchreview as being consequent upon, or connected with, the events previously referred to.
Two matters are there referred to. One is that of these press utterances. It would have been impossible for me to have answered many of them while this matter in regard to Captain Onslow was undecided without giving some indication of what was going on.
– But it is possible to do so now.
– I said that the growing responsibilities of the Board require that its future, and the duties intrusted to its members, shall be brought under early review. I did not think it necessary to explain what that meant. I thought it was a clear intimation that the future of the Board was being considered.
– It is a very general statement.
– Certainly it is, but it is plain enough to those who choose to look at its words.
– It appears to give force to the statements which have been made in the press.
– I have refrained from replying to many press statements out of regard for the names that were being knocked about there. Statements have been made in the press with a boldness which would stagger us if we did not know the characteristics of modern journalism. To have replied to them at one stage would have been to disclose what was going on. I do not know that there are any other points upon which Senator Pearce desires me to reply.
– Is it the Minister’s intention to retire other members of the
Board, and to appoint new men in their place?
– The whole future of the Board is under review. Until I have put myself in a position to make a definite recommendation to the Government, it would be idle for me to say more than that. If I had made up my mind on the matter, I would tell the Senate and the country at once. But there are many questions which have to be considered, and at the earliest opportunity I shall take the Senate and the country into my confidence.
– The Minister had plenty of leisure last week.
– But my honorable friends did not give me an opportunity of talking to them then. In conclusion, I have only one other thing to say. I have to-day amplified the statement which I made a little while ago. In suppressing details on the earlier occasion I did so, not because I had anything to gain by such suppression, but because it was my desire to publish as little as possible regarding Captain Onslow. It was out of regard for him that I suppressed some of these minutes, and because I thought there was a sort of tradition that officers of the Army and Navy are debarred from ventilating their grievances in the columns of the press. It seemed, therefore, that in justice to Captain Onslow I should merely give in outline the reasons which had prompted my action. In putting forward a general, rather than a detailed, statement of the case, I thought that I would be acting fairer to that gentleman, who, I imagined, was under a disability in regard to making his case public. That disability, I find, does not exist, and consequently I have to-day elaborated my previous statement. If honorable members regard matters of defence as outside of party politics, they can come to no other conclusion than that the only course left open to me by Captain Onslow himself was that which I was finally compelled to adopt.
.- For some little time I have recognised the necessity for holding a searching inquiry into the suspension and dismissal of Captain Onslow, and also into the working of the Naval Board. That belief has been more than strengthened by the lengthy and careful statement which the
Minister of Defence has made this afternoon. I am not in the least concerned about Captain Onslow, or about the other members of the Board as individuals. But I am concerned about the usefulness of an institution which is charged with the administration of the naval affairs of the Commonwealth. When I read in the press statements emanating from Captain Onslow, I cannot help thinking, from the knowledge which I gained as a member of the Select Committee which inquired into the closing down of the Fitzroy Dock, that there is a good deal behind those statements. It is the duty of this Senate, at the earliest possible moment, to institute an inquiry, not only into the dismissal of Captain Onslow, but into tho way in which the members of the Naval Board discharge their duties. I say, without any hesitation, that tho way in which the business of that body has been conducted is discreditable to it, and if allowed to continue it must prove disastrous to Australia. The Minister himself has admitted that for the discord on the Board Captain Onslow is not solely responsible. From that statement, does it not appear that the Minister has not gone far enough ? Having dealt with one refractory member of the Board, it was his plain duty to go further, and to deal with the other refractory members of it. He complains that I and other honorable senators do not appear to be satisfied because the whole of the members of the Board have not been dismissed. I am not satisfied, because the matter has not been thoroughly investigated, and because an injustice appears to have been done to Captain “Onslow. That friction exists amongst the members of the Board is not based upon mere hearsay. We. have the statement in evidence before the Select Committee appointed by this Chamber to inquire into the closing down of the Fitzroy Dock. I propose to read some extracts from that evidence in order that honorable senators may get an idea of how often the Board meets, and of the conditions under which it meets. Mr. Manisty, the Secretary of the Board, was examined as follows: -
How often does the Naval Board meet? - Very seldom, as a Board.
What do you mean by “very seldom”? - We have no regular day of meeting. We meet only on special occasions.
How many meetings have you had since the new year? - I cannot say.
Do you keep minutes of these meetings? - No. When we got the report from Mr. Julius the Minister summoned a meeting, and we went down to his room to discuss the matter.
And no minutes would be kept ? - We keep the minutes of the decisions.
By Senator Long. - Can you tell us, approximately, how many meetings you have had since the new year? - I should not like fo say. Sometimes we meet two or three times a day. i should say that we have met, on an average, twice a month; but not more frequently than that.
Nor less than that? - i do not think so.
By Senator Guthrie. - How are the meetings summoned? - They are called through me. The Minister, as a rule, lets me know when he desires a meeting.
Then the Minister is the convener of the meetings? - Any member can ask for a meeting to be convened.
Can you tell us how many meetings have been summoned this year ? - The ex-Minister was away, except for short intervals, from February till June, and since the present Minister came into office i do not think there have been more than seven or eight meetings.
How many questions have arisen on which you have found it necessary as a member of the Naval Board to convene a meeting during the present year? - There are several oases awaiting a decision of a meeting for which i have asked.
How many have you summoned on your own initiative? - Papers are sometimes held over for the next Board meeting. I might call a meeting and some other member might have a paper to be dealt with at that meeting.
Have 3’ou an agenda paper? - No.
Your business is brought up in a haphazard fashion, without any previous consideration? - No. A paper is sent round, and a member of the Board, perhaps, says, “ i should like this matter deferred until the next Board meeting.” If he does, that is done.
And other, members of the Board do not know that it has come along ? - There is no agenda paper.
Then matters are dealt with in a haphazard way, without previous consideration? - I should not like to say that they are dealt wilh without previous consideration. At a meeting of the Board every member of the Board has an opportunity to see the papers, and most of the papers have been seen by them beforehand.
But they are not aware that certain matters are not to be brought up for discussion ? - No agenda paper is circulated in advance
How many instructions have been issued by the first member of the Board for a meeting to be called during the present year? - I do not think I can tell you.
Would not your records show the number? - Individual papers would show where a request had been made.
Can you supply us with the number? - It would be a little difficult. It would mean going through a lot of papers.
Have you been a happy family at the Board meetings? - Not lately.
Why? - I prefer not to reply, as the Minister has taken action in relation to the matter.
We are here to investigate the subject of the stoppage of work at the dock, and I fear that it has been due to the want of happiness in the “ family “ ? - I do not think that that has had anything to do with the stoppage of work.
Can you give us any reason for this unhappiness? - My opinion would be a rather biased one.
– The Committee had no authority to proceed on that line of inquiry at all.
– The Minister of Defence is quite mistaken. We had ample authority to go into that matter, in so far as it had relation to the closing down of the Fitzroy Dock. It was held by some members of the Naval Board that the disorganization existing at the time was, in some measure, responsible for a good deal of the difficulty at the Fitzroy Dock. That amply justified us in making inquiry on those lines. I quote this evidence, which was given before the Select Committee in answer to questions by Senator Guthrie -
We are here to find out, in the interests of the country, whether the Board is working harmoniously ? - One member has been suspended.
For what reason? - I do not think I am at liberty to state the reason. The Minister has not yet made his statement.
It was not on the recommendation of the Board that he was suspended? - No. It was the action of the Minister himself.
Are other members of the Board working harmoniously together? - I should say not.
Will you give us the cause? - I should not care to state the cause.
We are here to find out these things?- There are big differences of opinion between Captain Clarkson and myself, but mostly differences of opinion on methods of procedure.
Have the differences of opinion anything to do with engineering? - No, I have no engineering knowledge.
I would point out that, here we have the Secretary to the Board, Mr. Manisty, making a definite statement that there are differences of opinion between him and another member of the Board.
– On methods of procedure.
– No matter what the difference arises from, it must lead to misunderstanding, and to a -good deal of discontent and friction on the Board.
– Surely differences can be expressed courteously and decently ?
– There is no reason why they should not; but the point I want to make is that we have it in evidence from Mr. Manisty that, quite apart from Captain Onslow, there has been a good deal of discontent and difference of opinion on the Board. That evidence in itself should be sufficient to compel an inquiry into the working of the Board as a whole. It may be that Captain Onslow’s constant statements to the Minister of Defence that the Board should be re-organized on certain definite lines, which I understand he laid down, have led to these misunderstandings. But I cannot conceive of an officer occupying such a position presenting the case more fully or more lucidly than he did in the minute to the Minister, on the 11th September last. The whole of that memorandum appears to me to be permeated with a desire to place the Board on such a footing that it might do good work on behalf of Australia. I cannot, for the life of- me, understand why Captain Onslow’s representations in that memorandum were ignored by the Minister of Defence, as they evidently have been. Senator Pearce read the memorandum; but I do not think that honorable senators paid a great deal of attention to it at the time, and I feel justified in directing their attention once more to some paragraphs contained in it. Referring to a conversation between himself and the Minister, Captain Onslow, in the second paragraph of the memorandum in question, said -
In the conversation on Thursday, the 7th August, referred to herein, I informed you of the grave state of disorganization at the Navy Office, which amounted practically to a deadlock in regard to all important business, because the members of the Board were not on speaking terms, and therefore it is impossible to hold Board meetings or confer.
In that paragraph alone there is surely sufficient evidence for the Minister that the Board was in a disorganized condition.
– I did not need that statement to inform me of that fact. I knew it.
– May I suggest that it would appear from the Minister’s action and his statement this afternoon that he did not take the trouble he might have taken, or which he usually takes in matters of importance, to deal with the question, and has not remedied it at all by dismissing Captain Onslow.
– I have gone a long way towards it.
– I am not denying that for a moment, but I submit that the Minister must go still further if the Board is to be placed upon an effective and working footing. In another paragraph of his memorandum Captain Onslow states - .
In so doing I discharged my duty, pointing out at the same time that the only means of remedy lay in your hands as radical reorganization of the duties of members of the Board was necessary. You entirely concurred in this at the time, but on the 12th August informed me, in writing, that you “ did not propose to take any action on the lines suggested in our recent conversation.”
– After my statement as to what that refers to, I am surprised that the honorable senator should quote that passage again.
– It is public property. T listened to the Minister attentively throughout his statement, but I did not hear him refute in any particular the statements contained in this memorandum.
– I stated three or four times, in reply to interjections, that that letter was an intimation to Captain Onslow that I was not going to continue my efforts to bring about peace, and it had no reference to his representations about Board reconstruction.
– Then the Minister was quite content to allow this unsatisfactory condition of things to exist on the Board without putting forth any effort to remedy it. I do not wish to take up the time of the Senate further, as there is other important business needing immediate attention. But I wish to say that, so far as I am able to judge, there is ample need for an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Captain Onslow’s dismissal.
– And into the whole working of the Department.
– I was going to add, and into the whole working of the Naval Board. As to the demand of Captain Onslow for an inquiry, surely no reasonable man will deny him that. He lias stated in most emphatic terms through the press of Australia that he has been unfairly treated, has been to some extent made a scapegoat by other members of the Board, that he is prepared to justify the stand he has taken that the Board is not properly constituted, and I say that I cannot for the life of me see how his claim for an inquiry - I will not call it a demand - can be refused.
– He wishes to remove the stigma from himself and from the Board as a whole.
– Surely the Minister of Defence and the other members of the Naval Board should, in their own interests, agree that the fullest possible publicity should be given concerning the work of the Board during Captain Onslow’s connexion with it. I say that in any future construction of the Board I sincerely hope that an effort will be made to find in Australia an ^Australian officer having the necessary qualifications to occupy a position on the Naval Board, for reasons which have been fully and ably stated by Senator Pearce. I hope that the Minister of Defence and the Government will not deny Captain Onslow bare justice by refusing him what he claims in the most public manner possible, aud that is a Committee of Inquiry appointed by the Senate or another place, in order that he may be given an opportunity to justify the position he has all along taken up upon the Board, and his statement that a condition of administrative paralysis exists in this important institution.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [5.36].- I wish to say one or two words in connexion with the action taken by the Minister of Defence.
– Is the honorable senator “stone-walling” the Supply Bill?
– I think I have a right to say a few words. Honorable senators have had an opportunity this afternoon of hearing the reasons given by the Minister of Defence for his action, particularly with regard to Captain Onslow. Before any consideration is given to a suggestion that there should be such an inquiry, as was indicated by Senator Long, honorable senators should satisfy themselves that the explanation given by the Minister is not an explanation which should commend itself to reasonable people. Senator Millen has read extracts from minutes written by Captain Onslow, and has given us statements made by that gentleman confirmatory of the minutes he has written. I ask whether these quotations do not point out clearly that Captain Onslow was impossible on the Naval Board ?
– What about the minutes that have not been read ?
– Captain Onslow was appointed twelve or thirteen months ago under certain conditions, which he knew; but, in spite of that, during the time he occupied his office, he claimed to specify the conditions on which he was prepared to continue to fill the position. He says that. Boards are hateful to him; -but all the difficulties he raises should have been considered by him before he accepted the position. If he thought the conditions laid down were unworkable, it was his duty to have declined to come out here unless his position was placed upon a basis which he would regard as reasonable and would enable him to c’arry out the work of his office. He did not do that. He came to Australia, remained here for some time, and then we find that there was friction going on between himself and other members of the Board. He wrote minutes which are really outrageous in their references to his colleagues on the Board. They show that it was clearly impossible for the members of the Board to work together amicably in the best interests of the community.
– What about the minutes of the other members of the Board, which have not been read ?
– We have only one case to deal with just now. If there are minutes by other members of the Board which give any justification for Captain Onslow taking the line of action he did, it is only right that we should know what they are. 1 have no doubt that the Minister of Defence would be prepared to supply anything of the kind. Whatever they may have been, it is perfectly evident that it was quite impossible for Captain Onslow to have remained a member of the Board. If we consider only the last minute he wrote to the Minister, in which he says in effect, “ I beg to intimate to you that the conditions upon which I am prepared to resume and continue my duties on the Board are so-and-so,” we shall find that he lays down the conditions of. his employment for the Minister. Will any honorable senator say that that could be tolerated ? No officer, however highly placed in the Public Service, should dictate to the Minister in charge of his Department the conditions under which he is prepared to carry on .the work which he is employed to perform, or to propose an alteration of the conditions which he accepted upon his engagement. We could understand an officer pointing out to his Minister that it would, in his opinion, be desirable to make certain alterations in methods in order that the work of a Department might be carried out more satisfactorily. But until Captain Onslow had done that, I say that the minute he submitted to his Minister was intolerable. After all, the Minister of Defence is responsible to Parliament, and is entitled to the loyal support of all persons employed in his Department. If he is not prepared to stand by his position, he is useless. He should have a mind of his own, and be able to pass judgment upon matters brought forward from time to time. If we are going to lay it down that because a member of the Public Service is dissatisfied with the conditions of employment which he accepted, that gives him a right to an inquiry into his case, we shall do away with all Ministerial responsibility. Good-bye then to the efficient management and control of oar officers. Because, if a man is in a position to say, “I do not believe in what the Minister is doing or saying, and I am going to ask for an inquiry from either House of the Parliament,” the position will become intolerable for a Minister, and he will never be able to manage and control his Department When, however, it is shown prima facie that a Minister has acted unfairly or unjustly, then it is the duty of one House or the other to cause an inquiry to be made into the matter. But until that is clearly shown it would be a serious mistake, I suggest to honorable senators, to talk about making further inquiries.
– We cannot get the evidence.
– The Minister of Defence feels that it is necessary that the constitution of the Naval Board should be reconsidered, and that question is engaging bis close attention. Of course, he cannot indicate the direction of the change until lie has come to a conclusion. Wilh that assurance from the Minister, surely honorable senators will recognise the desirability of leaving the matter in abeyance, and not attempt to raise trouble at this moment, and certainly not give credence to an idea which may exist in the minds of some officers that all they need to do is to show that they are dissatisfied with their treatment to insure an inquiry being held. I do deprecate the introduction of such a feeling into the service, and, of course, I concur in what the present Minister and the ex-Minister have said. Hitherto we have managed to keep the administration of the Defence Forces quite free from the play of party influence. I think it is in the best interests of the Defence Forces that that policy should he observed in the strictest possible manner.
– Were you not in favour of an inquiry being held into the case of Major Carroll?
– His case was by no means on parallel lines with the present case.
– What is “ sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”
– I have yet to learn that, because in one case I thought there was reasonable ground for making an inquiry, it devolves upon me to approve of an inquiry in every case which is raised.
– Might not other persons think the same now as you did then?
– Other persons form their own judgment. The honorable senator must not think that because I adopted a line of action in an entirely different case I am precluded from considering a matter in another way when other conditions arise. I do not intend to labour this question, because time is very short, and I shall have an opportunity of speaking later, possibly when the Minister suggests a reconstruction of the Board. I trust that honorable senators will give fair and impartial consideration to his explanation, and then ask themselves whether they would have acted differently had they been placed in his position.
– Sack the whole lot of them; they are a bad lot.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– In moving
That this Bill be now (read a second time.
I would like to reply to some observations that Senator McGregor made a little while ago. I am always willing to learn from the honorable senator, but, at the same time, I do not think he should expect me to be a slavish follower of himself in every matter of precedent. He referred to the fact that in moving the first reading I did not say very much about the Bill. Seeing that we all know what the motion for the first reading of such a Bill means to the Senate, I did not think it was a suitable time to make any observations about the contents of this measure. As soon as that question is stated from the Chair, honorable senators travel far away from anything relating to a Supply Bill, and that is one of the chief reasons for. the latitude of debate which is allowed on the first reading of a Bill which the Senate cannot amend. However, I will consider the suggestion of the honorable senator. With regard to the other matter he raised, I wish to speak a little more seriously. He said - and I hope that he was serious at the time - that the Government ought to have introduced a Supply Bill every three months, and that such action would have met with his support.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– The honorable senator made that statement, not only this afternoon, but on a previous Supply Bill.
– I did not say that it would meet with my support. I said you should have done it.
– I cannot quibble to that extent.
– I did not say whether I would support it or otherwise.
– I am a simpleminded man, and when the honorable senator made that statement I thought he meant it as an indication, from the point of view of the Opposition, that a Supply Bill ought to be introduced every three months. The Government, I might mention, did think that the Opposition would like to have a Supply Bill sent up every month, because it does give to honorable senators an ample opportunity to discuss various matters. As regards the contents of this Bill, I am sure that honorable senators will take my assurance that it contains nothing which is of a party character, or outside the scope of an ordinary Supply Bill. It is strictly limited to provision for the ordinary services, and does not even contain a Treasurer’s Advance.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 postponed.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Land Tax : Maps - Sir George Reid - Citizen Forces : Uniforms - Fruit Commission’s Report - Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway: Contract Labour - King Island : Postal and Telegraphic Facilities - Sugar Excise - Advertising the Commonwealth: Land Settlement.
– On the vote for the Treasury, I wish to ask whether the Government contemplates having maps of the various districts prepared, to assist in imposing and collecting the land tax throughout Australia ? It is exceedingly difficult to find out whether all the land and owners who ought to be subject to the land tax are really paying it. I think that, if maps were prepared, that would be facilitated to a very great extent. Honorable senators would know various parts of the country, and would be, perhaps, in a position to say whether the land in a place was overvalued or under- valued. I have a very strong suspicion that the lands throughout Australia are largely under- valued. That, I think, could be substantiated by facts with regard to the sale of them. I know of cases where the land is valued at something like £2 per acre, and yet the selling value is £9 per acre. Of course, I do not say that the difference between the improved value find the unimproved value is £7 an acre, but there is a very substantial difference. The selling value of land is, in almost every case, very much higher than the valuation adopted by either the local council or by the Commonwealth Land Tax Office. I would like to know whether the Government contemplates doing something of the kind I have suggested.I think it would assist honorable senators in investigating the effect of the land tax, and would also help the Government and the Land Tax Office in carrying out the work in connexion with the land tax.
– I am rather appalled when I consider what Senator Stewart’s suggestion means in the way of money. It seems to me that, if we were to have maps of the whole of Australia, so far as it could possibly come under the operation of the land tax, it would constitute a considerable sum.
– But, look at the money you would get out of the land tax!
– Until I know something of the probable cost, I am not prepared to say whether such a step would be deemed by the Government advisable.
– There are maps in existence.
– Yes; but Senator Stewart wants maps specially prepared, I understand.
– That is a question of expense, and, at the moment, I would not commit myself to the desirability of adopting the suggestion. With regard to the question of valuation, let me assure Senator Stewart that it is only quite recently that the Federal Commissioner closely compared the valuations made for the Federal authorities with the valuations of the same lands made for State purposes, with the result that he reported to us that, if there was any difference at all, it was in favour of the point of view taken by the honorable senator - the taxation point of view. The land was more highly valued by Federal officers than by the State officers.
– On the vote for the Department of External Affairs, may I ask whether it is contemplated by the Government to re-appoint Sir George Reid to the position of High Commissioner, and also to increase his salary and his allowance ? I would like to ask, too, whether the Government thinks that Sir George Reid is worth the money.
– He is worth twice the money.
– I question that very much. I do not wish to say anything personally hostile to Sir George Reid. I know that he caught on very well when he went Home first. He can speak humorously at public meetings, and is largely reported by the press. But that is not the kind of High Commissioner we want. We want to have a thorough business man in Great Britain. I do not think that Sir George Reid’s best friends would say that he has qualifications of that character.
– The honorable senator never had a deal with him.
Seantor STEWART. - He may be all right in a small way, but with regard to big national business, I do not think that he has had any particular training. Take the High Commissioner for Canada, Lord Strathcona. There is a business man for you. That is the kind of man we want as High Commissioner in London, if we have any one at all.
– We cannot afford to have a Lord.
– Lord Strathcona was plain Mr. Smith when he started. Smith is a very common name. I do not think that he is any less efficient now that he is. a lord. He was a good mau before he received a title. Lord Strathcona, in my opinion, is eminently a business man. He has been trained to business all his life, and he has made a most excellent representative of Canada in Great Britain. That is the kind of man we ought to go in for. Not a man who is able to get up and amuse people when he speaks, but unable to tackle big business problems properly.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania- Honorary Minister) [5.57J. - As far as Sir George Reid’s re-appointment is concerned, it is quite previous to ask a question at the present. time. His appointment is not more than half-way through, I believe.
– More than that, I think.
– At any rate, the time is not ripe for reconsidering it now. If my personal opinion is asked for as to Sir George Reid, I do not hesitate to say that I think that he is one of Australia’s finest assets. It would be very difficult indeed to measure his value to this country. I do not think that Senator Stewartexpects me to answer him fully. I can quits understand that a Scotchman fails to appreciate one of Sir George Reid’s highest qualifications. We all know that he is specially gifted with the saving grace of humour. Personally I think that that is an enormous asset. Senator Stewart may not quite approve of it.
– I do not disapprove of humour.
– I believe that Senator Stewart and Sir George Reid had the same birthplace, and he should be glad to know that there are qualities in a fellow Scotchman which many of us admire and appreciate.
.- As we are now on the vote for the Defence Department, may I say that I have heard complaints made by some of the lads who are undergoing training that the canvas straps supplied with their uniforms are very irritating to their shoulders. They cut through the thin shirts. They are in no way pliable, and, with the heavy weight the cadets have to carry, chafe the shoulders badly. Perhaps the Minister of Defence, after inquiry, might see his way to remedy the trouble. A pad under the strap might alleviate it.
– I have wondered whether it would not be possible for the Defence Department to adopt a lighter kind of uniform for weaving in the summer time than that which is used in the winter. The present uniforms are, I understand, uncomfortable to .wear in Queensland and Western Australia in the summer. Could not a lighter texture of cloth be adopted ?
– It would mean double the expense.
– A cheaper material might be used.
– A lighter uniform is being used for the warmer districts.
– I am particularly apprehensive about the boys who are being trained in the hotter parts of Australia.
– The question raised by Senator Barker is one of a «lass such as are continually being brought forward. I can assure him that the officers are constantly looking for complaints and defects in regard to equipment. Those who look after the boys in camp make it their business to study the equipment, with a view of effecting improvements, and supply reports to the central authorities. I will make inquiries into the matter, but it is likely that by this time attempts have been made to find a remedy for the defect which he has instanced. So far, I have heard nothing of it. As to Senator Needham’s suggestion, if he means that we should have two sets of uniforms, one for winter and one for summer, I point out that that would add materially to the cost. The decision arrived at at present is to adopt a medium texture with lighter material for the hotter districts. That, I think, is about as near to what is desired as it is possible for us to go.
– I wish to know whether the Government have arrived at a decision in regard to laying the evidence taken by the Fruit Commission before Parliament? It has been the practice in the past for the evidence taken by every Commission that is reported to Parliament to be printed and circulated. Since I have been a member of the Senate I have received the evidence taken by several Commissions. The evidence of the Postal Commission, for instance, was very bulky. It may be necessary for honorable senators to have the evidence taken by the Fruit Commission available for easy reference. It should be bound up with the parliamentary papers, so that it may be always on our shelves. Why have the Government decided upon an unusual course with respect to this Commission ?
– I can add very little to the answer which I gave to Senator Ready earlier in the day. That answer was that copies of the evidence would be supplied to all those members of Parliament who wanted them. It was also pointed out, and I think rightly, that if this voluminous evidence were incorporated with the ordinary printed papers, and sent out amongst them, it would make the volume very bulky. In my opinion it is very much more convenient to have the evidence bound up with the report than to have it picked out and issued as a huge book amongst a lot of other things. It is purely a matter of convenience. Personally, I think that the convenience of honorable senators would be met by the course proposed to be followed.
– In regard to the construction of the transcontinental railway from the Kalgoorlie end, I have it on reliable authority that the Government are agreeing to let out work by contract. In many instances, I am informed, tenders have been called for. When contracts are let they will be sub-let. Indeed, that is already occurring. Men are working all hours; even on Sundays. I am particularly referring to a contract for clearing in advance of the construction of the line. On the last Supply Bill I asked the Government whether it was intended to get away altogether from the principle of the Labour party of the departmental construction of public works, and whether they were going to resort to the contract system. I was informed that the Government were going to follow out the day-labour principle on works that had been started by their predecessors. In the construction of the transcontinental railway they have departed from that assurance, because not only has this clearing work been let on contract, but the individual who obtained the contract has sub-let it, with the result that men are working under all sorts of conditions. I ask the Honorary Minister whether he approves of that system ? I have been informed that the authorities in the office in Kalgoorlie agree that the conditions of affairs which I have described actually exists. What steps does the Minister intend to take to put an end to this condition of things ? It is a matter of great importance, and I therefore bring it under his notice.
– I have taken a note of the statements made by Senator Needham. I do not know the details, but the matter interests me just as it interests any other member of this Chamber. I can assure the honorable senator that I will have inquiries made into it. But until I have ascertained what are the facts, I cannot say what my opinion will be. I will, however, ascertain what is going on.
– I think it is the duty of the Minister in charge of this Bill to be in a position to give information to honorable senators.
– Could I anticipate this question ?
– I saw officers from the Commonwealth Railway Department in attendance upon Ministers here this afternoon. For weeks past questions have been asked regarding this very matter, and surely, when a Supply Bill is before us, it is only reasonable that the desired information should be forthcoming. The Honorary Minister says that he will make inquiries into the matter, but I say that he should have had the information ready. 1 protest against honorable senators being treated in this way. We have a right to know how this great work is proceeding. Ever since the present Government took office we have been absolutely unable to get information in regard to the transcontinental railway. I understand that there has not been a single mile of construction undertaken during their tenure of office. In fairness to honorable senators - and particularly to those who represent Western Australia - we should be told how the work is progressing.
– I hope that Senator de Largie can justify to himself his criticism. So far as I am concerned, no question has been addressed to me to which I have not given my personal attention. The question which Senator Needham asked was chiefly as to fact. He said that certain things are going on. It is my duty to make an inquiry, and to ascertain whether that is so. But it is not my duty to stand up here . and say that I know those things are going on.
– Surely the Minister should have an officer in attendance to advise him?
– The honorable senator is not justified in telling me what I ought to do. I think I answer many questions impromptu, and if I cannot reply to them off-hand, I make the necessary inquiries, and then give honorable senators the fullest information. I shall do so in this case. The Government have never concealed their views in regard to the contract system as applied to public works, and I do not think that Senator de Largie requires further information upon that point.
– I crave the indulgence of the Committee while I make a few remarks in regard to the Postmaster-General’s Department? I wish to refer particularly to a matter which has been brought under the notice of ,the Honorary Minister by Senator Long, who dealt with the urgent necessity which exists for providing the residents of King Island with better communication with the mainland. I indorse to the full his action in that connexion. It is absolutely essential that something should be done to remove the isolation - other than the geographical isolation - to which the inhabitants of this island are at present subjected. Tasmania, as a
State, is a microcosm of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth -has island dependencies, and Tasmania has island dependencies. At the western end of Bass Strait is King Island, and at the eastern end is the Flinders group. A good deal of settlement, which is likely to prove of a permanent character, is now going on at Flinders Island. It is in the best interests of the Commonwealth that the settlers there should be provided with the best postal and telegraphic facilities. These two islands are situated in the temperate belt of the Commonwealth. Their population, in all probability, exceeds that of the white population of the Northern Territory. It is more vital that we should facilitate the settlement of the pioneers in these islands than that we should spend millions of pounds in endeavouring to attract a white population to territories of the Commonwealth to which people seem indisposed to go. To give a concrete illustration of the disabilities under which the residents of King Island labour, I may mention that some time ago a man whose wife was in New Zealand received a message which had to be sent to him by boat, informing him that she was very ill. It was reported to him that she was already m extremis. When he received th» message he embarked upon a vessel for New Zealand. Practically a fortnight elapsed betwen the despatch of the wire and the date of his sailing, so that on his arrival in the Dominion it is quite possible that he may have found his wife dead and buried. One of the first duties of a progressive Administration is to remove the disabilities under which these people labour, because they are settling at the end of the great maritime highway of Bass Strait in increasing numbers. If the temperate territories of the Commonwalth are to be devoloped, the Government must remove at the same time .the isolation from which their residents undoubtedly suffer.
.- I am very thankful indeed to Senator Bakhap for his assistance in this matter. It is scarcely necessary for me to remind him that the subject has been brought prominently before the Senate for the past three years, but with very little success. The needs of the people of King Island are just as great to-day as they were when representations were made on their behalf years ago. There is no reason why they should be kept any longer in a state of isolation. There is a wireless station of more than the necessary power, and it would only cost the Commonwealth a couple of thousand pounds to acquire it, and thus remove the isolation of which I complain. Senator Clemons has given some belated replies to questions asked today, but this matter of wireless communication with King Island is evidently not of sufficient importance to warrant any reference being made to it.
– It is. I shall tell the honorable senator all about it when he resumes his seat.
– If the Honorary Minister can tell us that the Government intend to afford this much needed relief to the inhabitants of King Island, I shall be exceedingly gratified. I appeal to him to take prompt action to put an end to the disabilities under which they labour at present. Flinders Island is a newlysettled island, and it has a wireless station. Similar consideration should be extended to the inhabitants of King Island.
– The cause of the trouble at King” Island is very simple. There is a wireless telegraph station there which the Government desire to take over and use; but, as Senators Long and Bakhap are aware, certain legal proceedings are going on at the present time, and, anxious as the Government are to have the matter settled, it has not been possible, up to the present, to acquire the wireless station at King Island. Negotiations are going on, and I can assure honorable senators that the Government desire to be able to bring the wireless station at King Island into use as soon as possible. The reasons for the delay are reasons connected with the legal proceedings referred to; and, as soon as they can be got over, the station will be used.
– In connexion with the item “ Refunds of Revenue,” I should like to inquire whether the amount includes any of the Excise revenue about which I asked a question to-day?
Schedule agreed to.
Postponed clause 2, preamble, and title agreed to.
Bill reported without request; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Clemons) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Stewart) proposed -
That the Rill be recommitted tor the purpose of reconsidering Division 39, item 3 of the Schedule.
– May I point out to Senator Stewart that it is unnecessary to recommit the Bill, since any question with which he desires to deal may be dealt with on the motion for the third reading. If the matter is in the Bill, the honorable senator may deal with it now.
– I ask the leave of the Senate to withdraw my motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
– What I wish particularly to refer to is the vote of £5,000 for advertising the resources of the Commonwealth. This has become an annual payment, and no citizen of the Commonwealth would be likely to cavil at expenditure of this kind if, in addition to the resources of the Commonwealth being properly advertised in Europe, they were made available to people from Europe and elsewhere when they came here. We are advertising resources, which undoubtedly exist, but which are not available for the people who already live in Australia, or the immigrants who are brought here under the impression that they will be able, without any difficulty, to get land upon which to settle. I read in the newspapers a few days ago a statement to the effect that, during the past year, 14,000 people have been brought out to Victoria. A large proportion-, and, in fact, the overwhelming majority of them, came here under the impression that they would be able to get cheap land on which they could settle and make a living for themselves. As a matter of fact, only 200 of the 14,000 have settled upon the land in this State. Honorable senators may have seen a statement which appeared in the newspapers recently to the effect that, in New South Wales, forty-three areas of land were recently thrown open to the people, and that for those areas there were no fewer than 3,000 applications. That is ample evidence of land hunger and land scarcity. People are anxious to get land; they are aching to get at the resources of Australia, but those resources are not made available to them. It seems to me to be foolish to be spending money in adver- tising our resources at the other end of the earth, when they are not available to people when they come here. I want to know what the Government intend to do about it. Are they going to take a hand in opening up those resources for the people of Australia, or are they going to drift on in the old do-nothing fashion? We want people here. The continual cry is that there are too few people in Australia. Wo cannot defend ourselves; we cannot develop our resources ; and can do nothing, in fact, until we have a larger number of people in Australia. If that be the case, we should hold out inducements to people to come here by making lands available to them. Let us give them opportunities of making a living for themselves upon the soil of the country. Over 50 per cent. of our population at the present time is living in cities. That kind of thing cannot go on indefinitely. It is bad for Australia as a nation, bad for the people themselves, and it will ultimately bring about nothing but disaster.I consider that the resources of Australia are probably superior to those of any other country, but, unfortunately, this country is under the heel of the monopolist, and of the land monopolist especially, to a much greater extent than any other country I know of. Let us take the country with which Australia may be most fairly compared. I refer to Canada, and in that countrysuch a thing as land monopoly is absolutely unknown.
– What about the railway companies?
– Let me tell the honorable senator that the railway companies of Canada-
– The honorable senator will not be in order in discussing that matter on the motion before the Senate.
– May I be permitter to answer the question put by Senator O’Loghlin? Let me point out, sir, with all deference to you, that we are dealing with money which is to be expended to advertise the resources of Australia. I submit that, when speaking about the lands of Australia, I am speaking of the resources of Australia. If I cannot discuss a matter of this kind under the vote for advertising our resources, I should like to know when it can be discussed?
– Order! The honorable senator is not entitled to argue a matter with the Chair in that way. Ample opportunities were afforded for discussing that and every other item in the Bill, if the honorable senator had taken the precaution to initiate the discussion at the proper time. It is quite unusual to discuss the items of a schedule to a Bill on either the first, second, or third reading. I would not have permitted this discussion on the item to which the honorable senator has referred, to take place on the third reading, seeing that he was afforded an ample opportunity in Committee to discuss the matter, were it not for the fact that I understood that he desired merely to obtain some information which the Honorary Minister in charge of the Bill had intimated his willingness to give him onthe third reading. A general discussion of the question which the honorable senator has raised will not be in order on the motion for the third reading.
– If I am not. in order in entering upon a general discussion of the question, I must enter my protest against the way in which our Bills are passed through Committee. I shall take good care after this that the schedule to a Supply Bill will not be put through in Departments, and hurriedly, as was the case this afternoon, but item by item, so that every member of the Senate, if he thinks it necessary, may have an opportunity to discuss each item as it arises. I regret very much that I cannot have an opportunity to speak upon what I conceive to be the most important subject that could be brought before the Parliament of the Commonwealth at the present time.
– There is, indeed, very little that I can say on the item to which Senator Stewart has referred. It represents the practice which has been followed in connexion with Supply Bills for the last three and a half years. I might point out to Senator Stewart that the expenditure of the £5,000 referred to, and similar sums, is in the hands of two very capable men.
– If I had known this, I would have taken a vote on the recommittal.
– This money will be expended under the direction of two very good men in the persons of the present Minister of External Affairs and the Commonwealth High Commissioner.
– What is the good of advertising a thing which does not exist?
– I think we may assume that both these gentlemen, in their respective spheres, will look after the interests of the Commonwealth fairly well.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Senate adjourned at 6.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 November 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1913/19131127_senate_5_72/>.