5th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
DEATH OF THE HON. E. A. ROBERTS.
The PRESIDENT. - I desire to announce to the Senate that I have received the following letter: -
South Australia, 8th December, 1913.
To the Honorable
The President, and Senators.
Please accept my heartfelt thanks for the kind expressions of sympathy, passed by your Honorable House, to any mother and sisters; for the loss we have sustained by the death of our dear father and husband.
Such action as yours will help us to bear up against that loss, and will ever be remembered with keenappreciation.
E. A. Roberts.
– With reference to the trouble at the Liverpool encampment, has the Minister of Defence received any information tending to show that the syllabus of training which the forces were supposed to undergo was departed from by ‘ the brigadier, and that the trouble that arose was largely due to the work required to be done in excess of that which should have been imposed under the regulations!
– I have no information on the point referred to, but that point, in connexion with other matters to which attention has been directed, I am having inquired into. I intend that the inquiry shall be a thorough one.
Case of Cadet Hodges
– I - I asked a question some days ago regarding the treatment meted out to Cadet Hodges, of Tasmania. Senator Clemons said that he would bring the question before the notice of the Minister of Defence, and I should like now to know whether the Minister has any information to give the Senate on the subject.
– I read the report of the question submitted by the honorable senator, but I am not quite clear as to what it is he complains of. From the history of- the case, there does not appear to have been any injustice or hardship inflicted. This cadet was non-efficient for the year 1912, that is to say, he did not put in the requisite number of drills. In the present year he was short twenty-four days out of twenty-five. Action was taken against him on the 1st December of this year, and the case was adjourned for six weeks to enable him to make up the deficiency. So far the cadet has not attended any parade since the Court proceedings, thus ignoring the opportunity afforded him by the magistrate to make good his default,
– Last week I asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs a question with respect to the regulation of labour in the pearling industry. Is he now able to answer my inquiry?
– A day or two ago the honorable senator asked me a. question, and I promised to obtain information at the earliest possible moment. I have received the following answer : -
The Minister for External Affairs has had this matter under consideration for some time, and efforts have been made in the direction suggested, which have met with the co-operation of the Western Australian Pearlers Association. Difficulties are experienced, however, in getting a greater proportion of Malays.
Statement by the Prime Minister.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Senate been drawn to a speech by the Prime Minister at Parramatta, in which he said a lot of things about the Senate which he had every right to say if he liked, but one thing he had no right to say?
– Order! The honorable senator is not entitled to argue the matter, but he is entitled to ask a question for the purpose of eliciting information.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Government here been drawn to this statement by the Prime Minister: -
I am sorry to say that the language that has emanated from it would not be heard in a pot-house.
Has the Prime Minister been correctly reported, and, if so, will the Leader of the Government here Bee that he is called upon to apologize, or be suspended for the rest of the session ?
– I have not seen the interesting newspaper report referred to, but if my honorable friend thinks it worth while to press the inquiry further, and will hand me the report, I will probably find time during the recess to study it.
– I wish to ask you, sir, a question arising out of the answer. Supposing that the Prime Minister has been correctly reported, and refuses to comply with the wish of
Senator McDougall, or with the desire of the Senate that he should withdraw such blackguardly words as are reported to have been used-
– That statement ought to be withdrawn.
– But they were blackguardly.
– Surely the Honorary Minister does not say that the words were anything else but blackguardly.
– I say that your statement ought to be withdrawn.
– The honorable senator should use only the language which is necessary to elicit information.
– I will put the question in as mild a form as possible. Supposing that the Prime Minister refuses to comply with the wish of Senator McDougall, or with the desire of the Senate, will it be competent, in order to get level with the Government, to suspend the three Ministers who have seats here?
– Ah ! that is better.
– They kept quiet. They knew they would get it.
– If the honour or the dignity of the Senate is unduly assailed by any person, either here or outside, there are ample means provided by the Constitution and our rules of procedure for the Senate to protect itself.
– It ought to protect itself from such proceedings as this one.
– Before asking the . Minister of Defence a question, I wish to read the exact words of the Prime Minister as reported in the press -
Mr. Cook dismissed the Senate with the parting shot, “ I am sorry to say that the language that has emanated from it would not be heard in a pot-house.”
Of course, the imputation is that the language was below that which would be used in a pot-house. Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate ask the Prime Minister to specify the language complained of by him, and also the instance in which it was used ?
– Is it not possible for you to do that directly?
– I ask the honorable senator, as Leader of the Government here, whether he will have it placed on record when and where language was used in the Senate which will fairly answer that description ?
– I have no objection to forward to the Prime Minister the request of the honorable senator.
– I wish to ask you, sir, whether the language used by the Prime Minister on that occasion was not a reflection on you as the presiding officer of the Senate, and, if so, whether the remark, emanating as it does from a highly responsible Minister of the Crown, should go unchallenged, or steps be taken to ascertain what, in his opinion, is pothouse language, and when it was used ?
– This is the first time that I have heard the statement attributed to the Prime Minister. It would appear to be a reflection on the conduct of the business of the Senate, of which, of course, I am in charge. Speaking from my own experience in the chair, and from what I have been able to ascertain as to the proceedings of the Senate at other times, there is absolutely no warrant or foundation in fact for the statement made by the Prime Minister. Further, I wish to say that I consider it highly undesirable and unworthy of the Prime Minister to make such comments on a branch of this Legislature coordinate with that of which he is himself a member.
– Some very unworthyremarks have been made here about the Prime Minister.
– Who made them ?
– I wish to -know from the Minister of Defence whether, if the report read by Senator McDougall be correct, the Minister indorses all that the Prime Minister is alleged to have said. That is a direct question, which I hope the honorable senator will answer.
– I decline to answer the question.
– I have asked a plain question whether, if the report of the alleged remarks of the Prime Minister is correct, the Minister of Defence endorses the statement of the Prime Minister that the language used in the Senate would not be heard in a pot-house? Does the honorable senator indorse that statement by his leader?
– I pointed out yesterday that while it is the right o£ every member of the Senate to ask a question affecting the business or the conduct of business in the Senate, or upon any matter of which the Senate can take cognisance, it is also within the right of the Minister or member of the Senate who is questioned to refuse to reply.
SenatorRAE. - Will you, sir, inform us as to whether, in the event of the Minister of Defence refusing to answer a question upon a matter in connexion with which the honour of the Senate is involved, it is competent for the Senate to deal with the Minister for his refractory conduct?
– Do it.
– I am quite prepared to do it.
– In reply to Senator Rae, let me say that I have pointed out before that the Senate has the conduct of its business in its own hands. It is for the Senate to take any action which it considers desirable or necessary to protect itself from unfair or undue criticism, or from any offence on the part of any of its members. It is not for me to dictate to members of the Senate what action should in such circumstances be taken.
– I have not heard yet whether the Minister of Defence has answered my question.
– T - The Minister said that he would decline to answer it.
– Then it would appear from his silence that the Minister of Defence is prepared to foul his own nest as a member of the Senate.
– Order! The honorable senator is not entitledto make statements of that kind in submitting a question. He is entitled to use only such language as may be necessary to elicit the information he desires.
– Will the Minister of Defence ascertain from the Prime Minister, first, what is a pot-house -
– He ought to know; he has been used to them.
– Second, the kind of language which is used in pothouses, and, third, whether the Prime Minister is in the habit of frequenting pot-houses ?
– Will the Minister of Defence, during the course of the day, consult with the Prime Minister and ascertain from that gentleman if the report read by Senator Rae of the statement he is alleged to have made is substantially correct?
– I have already, in reply to Senator Rae, intimated that I will place before the Prime Minister the questions which have been submitted here.
– Not for me as a private member. I do not want any favours.
– I did not suggest any favour. If I respond in the affirmative to a request, I am told that I do so as a favour, and if I decline to reply to honorable senators, another attitude is taken.
– The Minister should inquire, not for me, but on behalf of the Senate.
– I apologize for having said that I would inquire on behalf of Senator Rae.
– I should like to have some assurance from the Minister of Defence that he will ask the Prime Minister-
– I will give nothing more.
Honorable Senators. - Move the ad journment.
– I take the responsibility on myself of moving -
That the Senate do adjourn until 3 o’clock on Tuesday next.
– Under the Standing Orders the honorable senator can submit such a motion only to enable him to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, and that he might do so, he should have sent me written notice of his intention before the meeting of the Senate to-day. In the circumstances, I cannot accept the motion as now moved.
– I ask the concurrence of the Senate to move a motion without notice.
– The honorable senator will indicate what his motion is..
– I will. I wish to move -
That the Senate severely censures the Leader of the Government in this Chamber, Senator Millen, for refusing to vindicate the honour of the Senate from the charges levelled against it by the Prime Minister, of which he seems to approveby his silence.
– Is it the pleasure of the Senate that Senator Rae have leave to move the motion without notice?
– I object.
– There being an objection, the honorable senator cannot move the motion without notice.
– Then I more -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Rae moving a motion without notice.
– I understand that. Senator Rae’s object in submitting his motion is to do something which will signify the displeasure of the Senate at some statement which it is alleged the Prime Minister made at a particular meeting.
– No; the motion is a motion of censure on myself.
– For not backing up the Senate.
– As I understand the position, the Minister of Defence promised to ascertain from the Prime Minister whether the report quoted by Senator Rae is a correct one.
– He said that he would ascertain it during the recess.
– I stated in reply to Senator McDougall that 1 would study the report during the recess, but I told Senator Long that I would ascertain from the Prime Minister whether it was correct.
– I do not think that the Senate should take any action in this matter until we know whether the Prime Minister has been correctly reported.
– He has never repudiated the accuracy of the report.
– Let us give him a chance to do so. In any case, I am opposed to taking any notice of an utterance of this kind by the Prime Minister.
– But he is supposed to be a gentleman.
– I am not going to criticise his conduct. If he thinks fit to say at a public meeting that the language used in this Senate is fit only for a pot-house, it shows that he is in the habit of frequenting pot-houses, and if he has not heard there any worse language than has been used in this Chamber,’ the position is not so bad. In any case, I am opposed to elevating an utterance by the Prime Minister to a position of undeserved importance. I would treat it with the contempt that it merits. We should not take any action until the Prime Minister has been asked by the Minister of Defence whether or not he has been correctly reported. We ought not to condemn a man until he has had a fair trial.
.: - The position that has arisen might be easily overcome if the Minister of Defence would indicate his intention to ask the Prime Minister whether or not the latter has been correctly reported. In reply to the questions put by Senator Long, the Minister did not say that he would make representations in that connexion, and when Senator Long persisted, the Minister replied that he would give no further answer. That strikes me as being a very wrong attitude for the Leader of the Senate to adopt. Every honorable senator should be jealous of the reputation of the Senate.
– The honorable senator would not.. act as he is acting now if he were jealous of the reputation of this Chamber.
– What I am doing now is a reply to the challenge of the Leader of the Government here. I am attempting to defend the reputation of this Chamber, about which its Leader evidently does not care very much. This is not the first time that the Prime Minister has used language in which he has dubbed honorable senators men who are not fit to represent the people. On more than one occasion he has been reported to have made the same sort of statement. To-day the Leader of the Senate was asked several times if he would ascertain from the Prime Minister whether the report of his statements is correct, but he declined to do so. The position is a scandalous one. On this occasion we can well divest ourselves of all party feeling.
– Do not be humorous.
– The Minister of Defence is only aggravating his offence by sneering. I wish to assure him that I am not actuated in this matter by any consideration’s of party, but only by a desire to maintain the honour of the Senate and by the feelings of a man. When questions were put to the Minister of Defence courteously, would it not have been better for him to have said, “ I will see the Prime Minister to-day, and inform the Senate whether or not he has been correctly reported in saying that the Senate resembles a pot-house “1 I have no desire to hold up the public business, but I cannot ignore the fact that the
Prime Minister has made a statement which affects every member of this branch of the Legislature. Senator Millen can easily avoid any further delay in the conduct of public business by proving that he is jealous of the honour of this Chamber. Let him say whether the Senate is. a pot-house or not, and let him give us his assurance that he will see the Prime Minister and ascertain whether the statement which is credited to him is a correct report of his utterance. If he will do that, I will not consent to the suspension of the Standing Orders and the adjournment of the Senate.
Senator BLAKEY (Victoria) [11.28J. - As one of the young members of the Senate, I sincerely hope that no heat will be engendered over this matter. If we wish to maintain the dignity of the Chamber, we ought to treat the stateorient which is attributed to the Prime Minister with the contempt that it merits, and not act like a lot of school children. We ought to decline to notice statements made by certain gentlemen who are members of the present Government. We shall only belittle ourselves in the eyes of the public if we adjourn the Senate on every occasion that statements derogatory to it are made by the Prime Minister and some of his colleagues, and published in the newspapers. Regarding the censure which it is proposed to pass on the Minister of Defence, I think we should be guilty of puerile conduct if we agreed to it. In my opinion, that gentleman is not responsible for the utterances of members of the Government in another place.
– But he is responsible for maintaining the dignity of this Chamber.
– I know that he is. It appears to be the general practice 0/ Ministers, whenever they get upon the public platform, to make statements that are derogatory to the Senate. Senator McColl himself has offended in this direction.
– That is right. The “honorable senator must take notice of his boss.
– Order ! The honorable senator must confine himself to the matter before the Senate, namely, the proposal to suspend the Standing Orders for a specific purpose. He is entitled to show whether they should or should not be suspended, but he is not entitled to introduce extraneous matter.
– I am opposed to suspending the Standing Orders to allow notice to be taken of statements made by men who ought to have more manliness and good manners than to make them.
– - I hope that the Senate will not agree to the suspension of the Standing Orders, because to do so would be to elevate into prominence a matter which is only worthy of our contempt.
– It is the utterance of a responsible man.
– The The Prime Minister is hardly a responsible person, in the eyes of the majority of the people of this country. I make bold to say that his utterances of this kind have been so frequent, and so numerous, within the last few months, that the majority of the electors of Australia hardly regard him as responsible in matters of the kind. I am satisfied that the people merely regard these utterances as exhibitions of pure party spleen and bias on the part of the Prime Minister. This is not the only instance of the kind. The statement made by Mr. Cook is so utterly opposed to common sense, so absolutely contrary to the knowledge of the electors of Australia as to what the conduct of the Senate really is, so contemptible in itself, that it would be a pity, in my humble opinion, if the Senate were to take the course proposed. To do so would be to elevate the utterance of the Prime Minister into a position of importance that it does not deserve, because it was merely a contemptible and irresponsible utterance made for party purposes. Every time he makes a statement of this kind it must lose in weight, if it ever had any at the beginning. The more frequently he attacks the Senate in such language the better it will be, because the more he will be discredited.
– The other House did not take that view in regard to Mr. McGrath’s utterance.
– No; No; they did not take such a view of the utterance of a member of our party which was made outside; but, as I did not agree with the action taken in that respect, I cannot be expected to agree with what is now proposed to be done in the Senate. What is more, I do not think that the utterance of the Prime Minister is parallel with that of Mr. McGrath. In that case, there might have been some justification. In my opinion, there was. In this instance, there is no justification for the language used. My opinion is that the electors of Australia know that perfectly well, and that we can well afford to leave the utterances of the Prime Minister unnoticed. It will be better to’ do so than to give them a prominence which they certainly do not deserve. The best way in which we can show our contempt for Mr. Cook and those utterances of his, which are utterly devoid of truth, will be to treat them with the contempt which they merit, and not elevate them into a fictitious importance.
– It would appear from the argument of the last speaker that to every act of outrage that may be heaped upon us we should, like an old saint, turn the other cheek. Well, I am not an old saint, and I do not think that there are many old saints in this chamber.
– Many old sinners!
– The Senate is a co-ordinate branch of the Legislature.
– You do not take notice of every cur that barks at you.
– The Senate is equal in importance in every respect, save in regard to money Bills, with the other branch of the Legislature. It has been called by a man who occupies the highest office in Australia a place where language is used that is comparable to that used in a pot-house.
– M - Mr. Cook does not stand high in the respect of the people of Australia.
– I gave the representative of the Government here a chance to make clear his position. Senator Millen had an opportunity, in the event of his regarding the language as being true, of indorsing it, or, in the other event, of repudiating it. He chose to maintain silence. That silence clearly signified that he indorsed Mr. Cook’s language.
– A man should not give an answer in a hypothetical case.
– The Minister had the case put clearly before him. In my opinion, he should at once have said, “ If the report be correct, I deprecate the language used, and deplore its use.” But instead of doing that he said nothing. He neither challenged the correctness of the report nor admitted it. Therefore’ we are led to assume that he indorsed the language used by his colleague, the Prime Minister. I do not look upon this as a light matter. The Senate has its honour and dignity to preserve. If we do not ourselves see to the maintenance of our own dignity, there is very little chance of people outside doing so. If we do not ourselves set an example in protecting our honour, which has been assailed on the present occasion, we cannot blame others, if they show little respect for us. In this, instance, it is not the utterances of the man Cook that I. object to. I object to the Prime Minister of Australia, who stands in the premier position in this island continent, saying that language used in this branch of the Legislature is only worthy of a pot-house.
– D - Does the honorable senator really think that many people took notice of it?
– Such a statement cannot be ignored when it is made by a man in the Prime Minister’s position. It was Bacon who said that a man “ cannot contend coldly what he believes, earnestly”; and when a person’s honour is attacked it is not for him to sit still and turn the other cheek to the smiter. I think it is the duty of this Chamber to place on record in concrete form our condemnation, in the first place, of the Prime Minister, and, in the second place, of the Leader of the Senate, the former for impugning the honour and dignity, the good name and the reputation of the Senate, and the latter for not repudiating the utterance. I am heartily in favour of the course that has been proposed, and hope that the motion will be carried by an overwhelming majority.
– This is not a matter which has been sprung suddenly upon us. The utterances of the Prime Minister concerning the Senate have not cropped up for the first time this morning. Any one who has watched Mr. Cook’s public conduct, and has read his utterances at public meetings, must have observed many similar cases. He made an exceedingly strong statement about the Chinn Committee before a single word had been said by those who supported its appointment. It will be remembered that the motion for its appointment was passed in the Senate without any debate whatever. Yet Mr. Cook charged it with being a packed Committee. Practically, he charged it with corruption. He went on to criticise the Senate for appointing such a Committee. Since then Mr. Cook has been repeatedly following up that line of conduct. It cannot, therefore, be said that this is an isolated case. It is not the first instance in which he has deliberately insulted the members of this Chamber.
– The whole Senate.
– He has insulted the whole Senate. There is no getting away from the fact that in the past the Senate has been very jealous of its reputation and honour.
– I - If a street blackguard called the honorable senator names would he take notice of it?
– To apply the honorable senator’s illustration to’ the present instance, if a street blackguard deliberately Insulted him I do not think he would turn the other cheek and walk past.
– After all, there is no difference between a street blackguard and a Prime Minister blackguard, is there ?
– Here is a person occupying the highest position to which any member of this community can aspire. If Mr. Cook were not in that position I am satisfied that those who have taken exception to his remarks would have paid no attention to them whatever. It is simply because the person who has so grossly insulted the Senate occupies this high position that we take notice of his conduct. I can treat Mr. Cook, and every other mau of his type, with contempt just as well as anybody else, but this matter has gone beyond a stage when it can be passed by silently. We have had too much of this treatment. If we allow the present statement to pass after it has been brought under our notice, then during the recess we shall have such remarks continuously hurled at the Senate. Why is this course being pursued ?
– Y - You will have it in any case.
– We can show at the present stage that we resent the use of that sort of language, and what is proposed is, I hold, the only way in which it can be effectively resented. Had the Minister who is leading the Senate indicated that he did not approve of the use of language of this kind, had he shown any inclination to disapprove of the insult offered to the Senate, I am quite satisfied that the matter would have been allowed to rest. But his words and his demeanour gave me to understand that, in his opinion, Mr. Cook had done something which was quite right or proper, or, at all events, that he had done something which we had no right to criticise or find fault with. When an insult is hurled at us in that secondhand way, the Senate will do right in resenting it. Although Mr. Cook’s language gave rise to the initial stage of the motion, the present position has been brought about by the statement of Senator Millen. I do not know whether he so intended his remarks, but any one looking on could come to no other conclusion.
– I do not intend to be bullied, even if you are twenty-nine strong.
– I do not know that anybody intended to bully the honorable senator. A straightforward question was put.
– Straightforward ! No trickier or unfairer question was ever put to a Minister.
-Personally, I have no feeling in this matter, because I have got somewhat used to seeing statements of this kind. But I can assure the honorable senator that any one looking on this morning could have come to no other conclusion than that the Minister of Defence was quite indifferent to the insult thrown at the Senate by his chief. We on this side are consequently doing the only thing which lies in our power to show that we do not approve of such conduct.
– Pass the motion, and have done with it.
– The honorable senator is continuing the petulant conduct which started this discussion, and he is not making his position any better by saying, “ Pass the motion, and have done with it.” I know that he is anxious to adjourn the Senate, but when we are challenged in this manner, no other course is open to us than to resent the conduct of Mr. Cook and Senator Millen in reference to the dignity of the Senate.
– I do not wish to attempt either to advise members of the Opposition as to what they ought to do on this motion, or to lecture them for a moment. I hope that they will let me remind them - because as the debate goes on we are apt to forget what really happened - what it is that we are discussing, and why. First, this is a motion to suspend the Standing Orders to censure Senator Millen.
– I hope that the honorable senator will let me say a few words without interruption. This matter arose out of various questions by honorable senators, but I think it particularly arose out of a question by Senator Bae. I believe that every honorable senator has almost forgotten the answer given to that question. I am not defending Senator Millen, who, of course, is quite capable of doing that himself. This was his clear and distinct answer to Senator Bae, and no other answer, 1 submit, could reasonably have been expected from a Minister. If honorable senators could only refer to the Hansard report they would see that what I am about to say is accurate. Senator Millen said distinctly that he would bring the matter mentioned by Senator Rae under the notice of the Prime Minister.
– And we will adjourn the Senate to give him an opportunity to do so.
– I am not for one moment saying what Senator Gardiner, or any other senator, ought to do. I would not presume to do that. I am merely putting the fact before the Senate, and it is that Senator Millen said distinctly that he would bring the matter mentioned by Senator Rae under the Prime Minister’s notice.
– That is absolutely incorrect.
– What happened? Senator after senator rose to press, practically, the same question on Senator Millen. 1 think it was rather unfair to press Senator Millen to give his own opinion on what had happened.
– Is he not a member of the Senate?
– I venture to put it to any man’s sense of fair play, if I put it on no other ground, whether he could fairly ask Senator Millen to answer that question about somebody else, be he the Prime Minister or any other person. What he did, so far as courtesy to the Senate, and respect to his own position are concerned, was to give Senator Rae precisely the same answer as I or any other Minister would have given, and that is, that he would refer the question to the source from which information is expected.
– What answer did . he give to Senator McDougall, and to Senator Lynch?
– He gave an answer - I do not know whether it was to Senator McDougall or to Senator Lynch - that he had nothing further to say.
– He would not answer me at all.
– And he was perfectly right in saying so. Having given that answer to Senator Rae, I venture to submit that Senator Millen could have no answer to a dozen other interrogatories except that he had nothing further to say, and his answer to Senator Rae was final and complete. I hope that the Senate will now let the matter drop.
– What about his answer to Senator McDougall, who preceded me?
– I have no concern with other answers.
– That was the first one.
– Have you no apology to offer for that?
– Certainly I have no apology to offer.
– We could not expect one from you.
– I am not here to apologize for Senator Millen. I have not risen for that purpose.
– For what purpose?
– I have risen- to ask the Senate to go on with business.
– Do you associate yourself with the language of the -Prime Minister, if he is correctly reported?
– Is that the response I am to get from my appeal to the Senate? My answer to the honorable senator is that in everything that Senator Millen has said- and left unsaid, and done and left undone, I wholly cooperate with him.
– The motion is that the Standing Orders he suspended to permit something to be done, and the reason for this drastic motion is that the Senate has been grossly misrepresented by the Prime Minister, and that two Ministers have risen in their places here and, although they have not directly said so, have associated themselves with that libel on the Senate. If the Minister of Defence will, fail to lead the Senate, and uphold its dignity, it is. time that the business was taken out of the hands of such a leader. I hope that not only will this motion be carried, but that a motion will be carried, adjourning the Senate till such time as the language complained of is either explained as not being correctly reported or apologized for. I do not want to attempt to act in a drastic way on a newspaper report as was done elsewhere, but faced as we are with a gross libel on the Senate appearing in the press, the Minister leading, the Senate, without going back on his colleague, could have well upheld its dignity by dissociating himself from such language, by letting the public know that he does not approve of such statements, no matter from whom they emanate. Had he taken that course, no one at this stage of the session would have been anxious to interfere with the transaction of public business. Any one reading an account of what has happened here must realize that Senator Clemons and Senator Millen are upholding the gross libel on the Senate by the Prime Minister. We know that these gross libels are the stock-in-trade of his platform utterances. We know that he goes round to little places with his Telegraph and other reporters, spreading the most gross libels against the Senate, such as, to use his own language, “ one would not expect from a pot-house.” When we find two Ministers in the Senate associating themselves with language of that kind, and refusing to repudiate it, the Senate ought to take, not moderate, but drastic, action, and that is to adjourn, say to the 10th January, or until such time as an apology is made to the Senate for the gross libel placed on it by the Prime Minister, and supported, as it has been, by two colleagues here, because a failure to repudiate the language or ‘the libel associates them with it. The Senate will be lost to all sense of dignity and of public decency if it permits its business to be conducted for one hour by gentlemen who are not prepared to do what all leaders have done in the past. The seven .senators on the other side have been more than generously treated by an overwhelming majority, but what is the return that we get? We have suspended the Standing Orders at their wish, to enable them to get public business put through. We have taken every step to meet them in the transaction of public business. Even in regard to the very Bills that were sent up as an insult to the Senate, we ‘ have met the Government more than half-way. The Senate will fail in its duty if it does not take a drastic method of dealing with the Government, and that must be something more than censuring Ministers in the Senate, and then allowing them to go on with business. It must be a refusal to transact further Government business until such a time as an apology is offered, or a satisfactory explanation is made for the gross libel uttered against the Senate by the Prime Minister.
– I am very sorry to hear any discordant note raised in the Senate at this late stage of the session. It appears to me that it could have easily been avoided if the Minister of Defence had, when the matter was first brought before him, given a more discreet answer and a less aggressive reply to Senator McDougall. I also wish to point out to my honorable friends on this side that it is not reasonable to expect that a Minister here will back down on a Minister in another place, especially on the Prime Minister. Therefore, I do not think it would be wise to move a vote of censure on Senator Millen for doing what any Minister ought to do unless he is prepared to resign from the Cabinet. We must look at the matter in that light. When Senator McDougall raised the question, the Minister of Defence, in his usual sneering tone, intimated that some time during the recess he would inquire from the Prime Minister as to the truth of the statement.
– No, read the article.
– It means the same thing. It means that the honorable senator would give his attention to the -article at some time in the recess.
When he was pressed further he absolutely declined to give an answer on the same question.
– No, a different question.
– Ultimately, when the motion was moved by Senator Rae, the Minister of Defence did state that he would inquire of the Prime Minister as to the truth of the statement made in the newspaper; but all that was governed by his reply to Senator McDougall. There was no stipulation as to when it would be done. If the honorable senator, even at that late stage, had indicated that he would immediately do something of that description, I am sure that it would have satisfied Senator Rae and every other senator on this side. I have some feeling for Senator Millen in the position he is in, and, therefore, if the present motion is carried, I would like to amend the motion given notice of by Senator Rae so as to give the Minister an ample opportunity of carrying out what is really his duty to the Senate and to every member of it. He ought to be prepared at any time to at least inquire into allegations of this description made against the honour and credit of the Senate. In the circumstances, when the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders is carried, I shall move to amend Senator Rae’s motion. It is my intention to submit as an amendment that the Senate adjourn till to-morrow (morning at 11 o’clock. Then the Minister of Defence will have ample opportunity to make inquiries, and when the question is repeated to-morrow he will be in a position to give an answer more befitting the position he occupies, and more in keeping with the reply which ought to be given to any request from a branch of the Parliament so important as is the Senate.
– If the honorable senator desires to do what he has indicated, it will be necessary for him to amend the motion now before the Senate. The suspension of the Standing Orders has now been moved for the specific purpose of enabling Senator Rae to move a motion, the terms of which he has indicated. Senator McGregor wishes to substitute a different motion altogether. I point out to him that the motion now before the Senate for the suspension of the Standing Orders will not cover the amendment of Senator Rae’s motion which he has intimated that it is his intention to submit.
– I see the point the President has raised, and I am prepared, if it will satisfy honorable senators on this side, to move an amendment upon the motion before the Senate to provide that the Senate shall adjourn until 8 o’clock this evening. That will give the Minister of Defence time in which to be prepared to vindicate the honour of the Senate. I move -
That all the words after the word “ prevent “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ the moving of a motion for the suspension of the sitting until 8 p.m. this day.”
– As the originator of this little storm, I might be permitted to say a few words. The statement of the Prime Minister to which I have taken exception was made on the 22nd November. I was travelling to New South Wales in pursuance of my public duties, and it afforded me a great deal of pleasure to be able to refer to the statement in question. I found it very useful. I have waited all this time for a denial by the Prime Minister. I always stated in my speeches that I did not know whether he said these things, but 1 was prepared for his denial of the report. My remarks to this effect have been published in numerous newspapers in New South Wales, and yet, in the three weeks which have elapsed, the Prime Minister has not attempted to deny the report of his utterances. I have thought it my duty to bring the matter before the Senate to see whether honorable senators are prepared to vindicate their honour. The remarks of the Prime Minister hurt me very rauch, not so far as I am personally concerned, but fancy the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth accusing -my dear old friend Senator Sir Albert Gould of using bad language! That is what hurt me.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - My withers are unwrung
– Look at our old friend the Vice-President of the Executive Council. I am sure that if the honorable senator were to hit his finger with a hammer in driving a nail, he would not even say “Damn it.” Yet we have the Prime Minister going out of his way to accuse these gentlemen of using bad language in the Senate. I have been a member of the Senate for some little time now, and I have never heard any bad language used here. I felt that it was very wrong that the Prime Minister should go out of his way to make such statements, and have them reported throughout New South Wales at a critical moment, accusing these dear and honorable friends of mine opposite with having used language that would not be fit for a pot-house. I do not know what a pot-house is; The Prime Minister may have a personal knowledge of a pot-house, and the language used therein. I have not that knowledge. I am told that people stand three deep in the bars of pot-houses in London, and that any language is permissible since a policeman could not possibly get into them. That suggests the inference that the language used in a pothouse is the worst that could possibly be used. I have not yet got over the hurt I felt that the Prime Minister should go out of his way to accuse my dear old friend Senator Sir Albert Gould of using language like that.
-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [12.3]. - The statements alleged to have been made by the Prime Minister are of such a character as to require that some notice should be taken of them. The honorable gentleman is reported to have said that the language used in the Senate is not fit for a pothouse. That is a reflection upon you, sir, as the presiding officer of the Senate, and it is also a reflection upon honorable senators generally, no matter upon what side of this Chamber they sit. This is not a party matter, as our honorable friends opposite are as much involved in the statement made by the Prime Minister as are honorable senators on this side. As the debate has proceeded, we have found the Leader of the Senate tacitly indorsing the statement attributed to the Prime Minister, and the Honorary Minister openly stating that he indorses that statement.
– Openly stating that I indorsed what Senator Millen had done ?
– The Honorary Minister indorsed what Senator Millen had said, or left unsaid, and what he had done or left undone.
– I - I may not clearly have understood what the Honorary Minister said, but I thought that, in his concluding sentences, he indorsed the statement of the Prime Minister.
– I said that I supported Senator Millen in giving what I believe to be a proper answer.
-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.- If this statement as to the language used in the Senate came from an irresponsible person, we might overlook it. If it came from a member of the Senate, or a member in another place, or if it came from an ordinary Minister of the Crown, it might possibly be as well to let it pass. But coming from the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia, and reflecting upon every member of the Senate from the President downwards, it should not be passed over.
– Especially when the Prime Minister was so jealous of the dignity of another place as to expel a member for reflecting upon it.
– And to gag his expulsion through the House.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.That action was taken because a member in another place made certain references to the presiding officer of that House.
– In one case, the statements complained of were true, but in the other they are not true.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.That is so. I should like to know what Senator Gould, who presided over the Senate for many years, has to say on this matter. By the interjections which the honorable senator has made, and the desire he has exhibited to prevent the matter being discussed, it would appear that he is willing to pass over the slur upon the members of the Senate, contained in the statement attributed to the Prime Minister. We are in the position that we do not know whether the Prime Minister made the statements attributed to him or not. I agree with Senator Stewart that he ought to have an opportunity of saying whether the newspaper report, which has been quoted, is correct.
– He was given that opportunity several times.
– T - The Prime Minister has not been given that opportunity. We know that these reports of week-end meetings, when a speech of half-an-hour is condensed into a stick or two of printed matter, may not present the actual words used by the speaker. The course suggested by Senator McGregor, that we should suspend the sitting to enable the Leader of the Senate to consult with his chief so that we may know whether he made the statements complained of, and ii so, whether he has any explanation to offer with regard to them, is the best course to follow. But I do not think that it is necessary that we should suspend the sitting until 8 o’clock this evening. The exigencies of the case might be met by a shorter adjournment.
Still, I think that we cannot pass over this slur upon the Senate, and should take some action to vindicate our position in the matter.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [12.7].- I should like to preface what I intend to say by the statement that I deprecate remarks by members of any branch of the Legislature concerning the other branch, or the branch to which they themselves belong. It would be very much better if members of Parliament observed, as far as possible, the rule frequently laid down that there should be no reference made to another place which might have the effect of bringing about any acrimonious discussion. That is a good rule to apply in any statements we may think fit to make outside this chamber. The less we say about the House to which we do not belong the better tor all concerned. 1 wish honorable senators to realize that no matter what they may do in connexion with this business,- they will only be beating the air. What good can come of it? It has been alleged that certain statements were made by the Prime Minister. The Minister of Defence has been asked whether his attention has been drawn to them, and whether he will make inquiry on the subject, and he has said that he will make an inquiry.
– During the recess.
– No, that is not fair.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - The Minister of Defence has explained that the reference to the recess did not apply to the inquiry he proposed to make of the Prime Minister. He said that he would probably read the newspaper report during the recess, but when asked whether he would bring it under the notice of the Prime Minister, his answer to that question was “ Yes.” No Minister could be expected to say more. I say that it is in the highest degree unfair and unjust to attempt to force a colleague of the Prime Minister to condemn that honorable gentleman or any other of his colleagues for any statement he is alleged to have made. Senator O’Loghlin alluded to the fact that I presided over the deliberations of the Senate for some time. I should like to say that I also had the honour of filling the position of a Minister of the Crown for a number of years, and I am unable from my experience -to see how the Minister of Defence could give any reply other than that which he has given.
– That is, to say nothing.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - The Minister was asked whether he would make inquiries, and he said he would.
– He said he would do so during the recess.
– Senator Millen has denied that. He said he would read a certain newspaper report during the recess, but when asked whether he would bring it under the notice of his colleagues, he said he would.
– That is not what honorable senators opposite want.
– Perhaps not. I wish to say that I think the position taken up by the Minister of Defence is an absolutely fair one, and honorable senators are acting unfairly to the Leader of the Senate in trying to press him to offer any opinion upon the statement alleged to have been made by the Prime Minister.
– Acting on that doctrine, a Minister may say anything, and his fellow Ministers must back him up.
– Would Senator Lynch turn upon any one who was working with him?
– Decidedly I would, in the interests of fair play.
– I say that the honorable senator ought not to do so. There is some little difference of opinion as to the time when the Minister of Defence said he would bring this matter under the notice, of the Prime Minister, and an attempt has been made, I think by Senator Long, to get him to say that he will do so to-day. Honorable senators have no right to try to dragoon the Minister.
– That is not a fair way to put it. I asked the Minister the question in the most courteous way possible.
– The Minister has only three or four political followers in this Chamber. Is this ever done in regard to other matters 1 We are asked to suspend the Standing Orders. We are now at the close of the session, and we desire Parliament to be prorogued as soon as possible. I ask honorable senators whether an acrimonious discussion upon a matter of the kind is calculated to bring about harmonious relations between us? Assuming that we suspend the Standing Orders and pass a censure upon the Minister of Defence, shall we have vindicated our honour or brought the Prime Minister to book? Suppose that honorable senators opposite adjourn the Senate from time to time, what will happen ? By-and-by the Prime Minister will simply close Parliament, and it will go forth to the world that that action was rendered necessary because the Senate was not prepared to do what it ought to do. To my mind it is better that we should take no notice of statements made outside of this Chamber.
– T - The honorable senator’s party took notice of them to some tune.
– I am not discussing what has occurred in another place. I want honorable senators to recognise that language has been used in this Chamber which is not calculated to excite the pleasantest feelings in the breast of the Prime Minister. I have heard remarks made of that gentleman which he would naturally resent, and which might reasonably provoke him ‘into saying uncomplimentary things of the Senate. Take the debate which has occurred here this morning. Have not statements been made which any man would resent?
– Name one of them.
– I have heard the Prime Minister called an ‘”’ unspeakable liar ‘ ‘ in this Chamber.
– Only this morning I heard an honorable senator ask what is the difference between a blackguard in the street and a blackguard Prime Minister. Is such an inquiry calculated to promote peace and harmony ?
– B - But the remark was the outcome of a statement made by the Prime Minister.
D- - We should be best consulting our own dignity if we ignored statements made outside of this Chamber.
– If the remarks attributed to the Prime Minister are correctly reported, does the honorable senator approve or repudiate them ?
– I deprecate any remarks being made outside in regard to a branch of the Legislature in which the author of those remarks does not sit.
– If the Minister had said that, all this trouble would have been ended.
– I do not know about that. We have to recollect that the Minister cannot do much more than he has done. I am sure that he had no intention of insulting the Senate. He has his position to uphold, and I would think much less of a Minister who was not loyal to his colleagues-
– Hang loyalty when it is a question of right or wrong.
– I believe in loyalty to my comrades, but if I thought they were doing wrong I would separate myself from them . I do hope that honorable senators will allow their common sense to sway them in this matter. We must always recollect that no matter what action we may take in this Chamber we cannot do anything effective so far as controlling the utterances of honorable members in another place is concerned. In these circumstances, why should we continue to idly beat the air ?
– In this motion I think there are two questions involved. One is the action of the Leader of the Government, whose statement, as it is reported in the press, is undoubtedly a reflection on this Chamber. He is credited with saying that “ language has been used in the Senate which is only fit for a pot-house.” Now, Webster defines “pot-house” as meaning -
An alehouse ; an inferior or low tavern, or public house.
It is obvious that if the Prime Minister did make that statement he has reflected, not only upon the Senate, but upon its
President, because no honorable senator has been dealt with during the session for having used language of that character.’ Therefore, if the statement be true, the President cannot have given effect to the Standing Orders. The Minister of Defence was asked if he would ascertain from the Prime Minister whether he had been correctly reported. That was a perfectly fair question to put to him, and one which should have been answered in a calm way. The Minister should have promised to consult the Prime Minister instead of treating the question in a contemptuous fashion. The second question which is involved in this motion is - Is the Minister of Defence censurable because he will not dissociate himself from the words alleged to have been uttered by the Prime Minister? I do not think that he is. The Prime Minister is the head of the Government. He can dissolve the Government at any time by simply handing in his resignation. If the Minister finds that he cannot agree with the Prime Minister, there is only one course open to him, namely, to hand in his resignation.
– That applies only to matters of policy.
– It applies also to matters of administration. We do not regard the statement attributed to the Prime Minister as a trifling matter. If it is an important one, Senator Rae is justified in submitting the motion that we are now considering, and the Minister of Defence cannot be expected to dissociate himself from the public utterances of the Prime Minister.
– According to that doctrine, the Prime Minister may make any wild statement’ and practically commit his colleagues to it.
– The words of the Prime Minister are those of the Government. He speaks for the Government in a way that no other Minister does. We all have an opportunity of speaking upon this question, and I do not know that there is any necessity for us all to speak at once. I have a right to my own opinion, and I am simply stating it. At the same time, I do not see that there is any necessity for all these heated interjections. We are the guardians of the honour of the Senate, and if any person outside reflects upon this Chamber we are justified in taking any action that we may think fit. In the present instance, the statement to which exception is taken is alleged to be that of the head of the Government, and, therefore, it carriesweight.
– That is the marrow of the whole matter.
– Exactly. The question, therefore, arises, What is the right and dignified action for us to take? The position is thatall that we have before us is a newspaper report. Now, those of us who have been in political life very long would scarcely care to be judged upon newspaper reports.
– Mr. McGrath was expelled on a newspaper report.
– That does not justify us in acting upon such a report. Let us be as fair to our opponents as we would like them to be fair to us. All that we have before us this morning is a statement which is attributed to the Prime Minister, and which reflects on the Senate. The Minister of Defence might very well have assured us that he would bring that statement under the notice of the Prime Minister at the earliest possible moment, and ascertain whether or not that honorable gentleman had been correctly reported. That assurance, I understand, he has given in a somewhat defiant way. I was not present at the time ; but I aminformed that the manner in which he gave it indicated that he regarded the matter as of no moment.
– Then the honorable senator has been misinformed.
– While we have been sitting here, the Minister has sat silent.
– I have denied the statement so frequently that I am tired of doing so any more.
– Then, I take it that the Minister is prepared to bring the matter under the notice of the Prime Minister.
– Did Senator Pearce hear Senator Millen’s reply to Senator Rae?
– I did not.
– If he had heard it, I am sure he would have been satisfied.
– I was not.
– I heard the statement that he made in answer to the question whether he would read the newspaper report. He said that he would during the recess. That, in itself, indicates that he did not regard the matter as serious at all.
– It was adding insult to injury.
– The motion moved by Senator Rae would censure the Minister, and I cannot vote for it, because I think that the Minister could not remain in the Government and associate himself with a direct censure of his chief on a matter of this kind. What is more, we have before us only a newspaper report, and we do not know whether it is correct or not. It appears to me that the proposal submitted by the Leader of the Opposition affords the only way by which the Senate can - the subject having been brought under its notice - vindicate its honour, and show its resentment of terms of the character employed by the Prime Minister being applied to this Chamber. Therefore, I intend to vote for Senator McGregor’s proposal. I trust that it will be carried. What is more, I agree with Senator Gould that it would be well if these references to matters occurring outside were dropped.
– It is not so much what the Prime Minister isreported to have said to which I take exception as the attitude adopted by the Leader of the Senate. This is not the first occasion on which the Senate has been deliberately insulted by the same gentleman. I claim that it is the duty of the Leader of the Senate to protect its honour, and endeavour to maintain its dignity. To-day, when this matter was brought forward, had Senator Millen, in reply to the question concerning the utterance of his colleague, Mr. Cook, said, “ This is a newspaper report ; I do not believe it is true, but if it is true, I do not associate myself with it,” the Senate would have been satisfied. But what was the attitude of the Leader of the Senate? It was the attitude of a little cur barking at the heels-
– Order! The honorable senator must not use language of that kind. He must withdraw the statement.
– You are justifying all that the Prime Minister said.
– Order ! I have asked Senator Story to withdraw the remark to which I drew attention.
– I withdraw it. I was giving that as an example. I have no doubt that many members of the Senate, in walking along the streets, have sometimes seen a little dog barking at the heels of a big mastiff, and seeming to say, “ Bite me if you dare, but if you bite me you are a coward.” That little dog takes advantage of its weakness to defy the mastiff to resent its attitude. If I may be permitted to say so, that is practically the attitude which the Leader of the Senate has taken up in connexion with this matter. I feel that the Senate must, in some way, resent the insults that have been hurled at it by the Leader ofthe Government, Mr. Cook, especially when the Leader of the Senate himself practically indorses those words by refusing to dissociate himself from them.
– I should like to keep perfectly calm in the discussion of this matter. I think it desirable that it should be considered in a dispassionate way. There arises in mymind what I may, perhaps, call a hypothetical case. Suppose that a member of a House of Legislature publicly makes a statement that is considered to be disparaging to the House to which he belongs. Suppose that the Leader of that House comes forward, describes the statement as disparaging to the House, and that, on the strength of a newspaper paragraph, the member is expelled under circumstances that seem to some to indicate that the Chamber in question is violently indignant, and has risen in all its might to justify its honour. What is our position? We are to-day considering, on the kind of evidence that I have indicated, a charge infinitely more sweeping, and one which, if true, would disparage the members of the Senate to an infinitely deeper degree. Because I hold my honour as a man very dear. No man outside this Chamber has ever charged me with being a frequenter of pot-houses. No one has ever charged me with using language worthy of a pot-house. I have held that character unstained up to the present time. I say that my honour, as well as that of other members of the Senate, is impugned in those words of the Prime Minister.
– You did not become indignant when I was called” a little cur,” did you?
– The Minister of Defence is not entitled to refer to that incident now, or to revive it in any way. Senator Story withdrew the statement when I called upon him to do so. That ended the matter.
– But it will go into Hansard, and is still in my mind.
– Senator Millen resents a statement which has been made about him, but which has been withdrawn. Are we not justified, then, in resenting a statement made against us which has not been withdrawn ? If Senator Millen feels that his honour is sullied by such a charge, are we to sit down calmly and pay no attention when our ho nour is assailed in language that has not been withdrawn ?
– I insulted by Senator Story ? Certainly not. I was drawing attention to your not being indignant then, but your beingindignant about the other matter.
– I do not want the Minister to feel that I am discussing this question in a heated way.
– Nobody backed up Senator Story’s charge.
– No one backed him up. I was not called upon to raise my voice about that matter, and the President promptly protected Senator Millen in ordering the statement to be withdrawn. I say again that as a Senate we are justified in defending our honour. We are, therefore, justified in resenting what the Prime Minister said.
.- I will not keep the Senate very long, but there are some aspects of the matter to which I am entitled, even in this House, to direct attention. First, we have a motion brought forward by some honorable senators, who have lashed themselves into a frenzy of indignation because they allege that their honour has been assailed, though they have been mighty quiet about the stain upon their honour for the past three weeks, because this allegation, which has been brought forward here only to-day, first appeared in a newspaper three weeks ago, and, as shown by Senator McDougall’s own statement, he has been nursing it in the meantime.
– We were not here.
– Senator McDougall has been here during that period.
– The records of the Senate show that he has not been absent for three weeks.
– What has that got to do with the matter?
– I am showing what a hollow mockery and shamthis pretended indignation is, when this statement has been in print for three weeks, and was within the knowledge of the honorable senator who brought it forward today. He himself was well aware of it, but did not bring it forward before, although he now pretends to be lashed into a state of intense indignation about an assumed insult to his honour and that of the Senate.
– MayI ask whether the Minister is justified in charging this House with “ pretending “ to be indignant that its honour has been assailed ?
- Senator Millen should not have said that, and I hope he will withdraw it.
– We are all honorable men, I am sure ! I withdraw the remark. It remains true, however, that for three weeks this matter was allowed to remain in abeyance.
– I explained why that was so.
– I am going to give another explanation.
– The honorable senatorwas not herewhen I explained.
– I have not left the chamber since this matter Was first brought forward this morning.
– You had your back turned.
– That is good enough for the honorable senator.
– Shame !
– Let me say at once that, although honorable senators opposite may have a party which is twentynine strong to our seven,I am not going to be intimidated or browbeaten by their majority.
– No one wishes to intimidate the honorable senator.
– That is exactly what the honorable senator and those associated with him have been trying to do since they brought this matter forward. They have been seeking to involve me in an answer to a question which would have brought trouble no matter what replyI gave. No more unfair question was ever submitted to a Minister than that which was put to me this morning by Senator Lynch. I say that it was a designedly unfair question. No question ought to be put to any Minister to which he is not free to give an honest answer.
– Is the Minister in order in imputing to an honorable senator that he was designedly unfair in putting a question?
– If the honorable senator thinks that the term was offensive, I ask Senator Millen to withdraw it.
– Honorable senators, who think nothing of applying to me language that ought not to be heard iu any respectable chamber in the world, become mighty sensitive when I make a simple statement of that kind. Those who have not restrained themselves in making allegations against me are indulging in a continual process of baiting rae when I am replying, as if they were becoming apprehensive. But I shall, as long as I am allowed to speak, put my case in my own way. They can, with their majority, refuse to hear me if .they like.
– It is of no use pleading for the “gag”; you will not get that here.
– I am not asking for that or anything else. As far as I am concerned, the Senate can do just what it likes.
– Pretty cocky !
– There is an evidence of that exemplary conduct about which, no doubt, honorable senators will boast outside.
– You are trying to make them interrupt.
– I am trying to make my own statement in my own way.
– Order 1 Senator Millen has listened during the morning to other honorable senators without interrupting them. It is only fair that he should now be heard in silence. I ask honorable senators to refrain from interjections, which do not tend to shorten the debate in any way.
– The matter which has been brought up to-day seems to me to amount to this : First of all, let me recapitulate what the question put to me by Senator McDougall was. He asked me whether I had read a certain paragraph, and then went on to read a certain portion of it. I said in reply that I had not .read it, but that I would do so. I candidly admit that I thought it was brought forward for the purpose of indulging in a little heckling, and was not regarded as serious, because if it had been serious Senator McDougall could easily have handed the paragraph to me and let me have a look at it before I replied. But when Senator Rae followed it up, and it seemed to me that there was a desire to press the matter further-
– The Minister said he would read the newspaper report during the recess.
– Just so. I was asked if I had read the report, and I said that I had not. When Senator. Rae put a question to me later, I said that I would submit the matter raised here to the Prime Minister.
– Did I not put that question quite calmly and fairly?
– Yes, and I gave the honorable senator an answer which I thought he ought to have accepted, and which was the only answer that I could give. What followed ? Senator Lynch came along with a question to which I took the strongest possible exception - a question the effect of which .1 cannot believe was absent from his mind. I do not remember the exact words he used, but he wanted to know whether I would support or repudiate the language of the Prime Minister.
– Indorse it.
– It is the same thing. If honorable senators want to quibble, I do not. It was a question to which the answer, whatever it was, was going to bring me into conflict’ either with the Chamber or with mv chief. No one has a right to put a question to a man when he knows that he cannot answer it, or that the answer must involve him in trouble in some way or other.
– New political ethics.
– Ethics is a thing on which Senator Blakey and myself are not likely to agree. I am stating the matter, I think, fairly when I say that a question of that kind was one which ought not to have been submitted. The assumption is that when you put a question to a man, he is free to answer it. Supposing that I had indorsed the statement in the report, that I believed there was justification for it. Twenty-nine senators would have jumped up to move that I be suspended for contempt of the Chamber. This motion itself shows on what thin ice I am going every moment of my life when, because I will not repudiate my political chief, a motion is to be brought forward to censure me and to suspend business.
– You are not asked in the motion to repudiate the statement.
– The question was unfair in that sense. If I had repudiated the utterance of the Prime Minister; if I had ventured to censure him, it would have been an extraordinary action on my part to take. It is one which I am not prepared to take, and one which I will not take. On the other hand, supposing that, unfortunately, there was justification in Hansard for the statement which he made, and supposing that I, impelled by an almost irresistible attachment to truth, had said, “ I believe that he was justified in what he said,” what action would the Senate have taken? If there is any fairness in honorable senators, let them consider that question. They would have either suspended me or expelled me until. I apologized for having given an answer to a question which could have been answered in no other way.
– You have already told us.
– I have done nothing of the kind. I have given neither one answer nor the other. So much so far as the censure of the Chamber is concerned as it applies to myself. Let me now deal with another aspect of this case. I have already pointed out that this matter has been allowed to rest for three weeks. I cannot resist the opinion that it has been brought in here to-day, not for the purpose of vindicating or removing any imaginary insult thrown on the honour of the Senate, but, in some way or other, to occupy time which otherwise would have been available to public business. For three weeks honorable senators have slept on this matter, and now, when there is a Bill with which they cannot delay dealing with much longer - apparently, they are frightened to come to a decision because there is a division in their ranks - they introduce a foreign matter to occupy time which ought to be devoted to public business.
– It is very funny. I am prepared to vote against the Bill right away.
– It may be remarkably funny to the honorable senator, but it is, to my mind, serious. If honorable senators opposite think that, by devices of this kind, they are going to put off the time when public business will have to be dealt with, may I say at once that they are making a very serious mistake indeed. There is public business to do. . The Government have accepted the obligation, and »a responsibility rests upon them to see that the business is done. Therefore, while this motion may delay for a few days or for a few weeks the treatment of that public business, the Government will not waver, but will insist that an opportunity of dealing with the business be provided, if not before Christmas, then afterwards. I have dealt so far with the part which reflects upon myself, and, in conclusion, I do hope that nothing I have said will be accepted by way cif an apology at all. I have not offered these remarks in that light. I feel this morning that the Senate has treated me, probably because it did resent the language which caused the original discussion, with a want of that fairness which I have a right to expect as a member of the Chamber, and which I might state, further, I have a right to ask, with an additional emphasis, by reason of the fact that we on this side stand in such an overwhelming minority. I do ask honorable senators - If there is ever a time when a man may appeal for fair play, is it not when he is in a minority? I ask honorable senators to put themselves in my position, and say whether any one of them, unless he was an arrant coward, would have ventured to give any other answer to the question of Senator Lynch?
– I am rather surprised that Senator Lynch does not recognise the effect of his question, and see that, so far as he is concerned, I have at least offered an ample justification for the reply I gave.
– Could you not feel justified in giving a reply such as Senator Gould gave ?
– I do not know what reply the honorable senator refers to.
– Had you done so, there would have been no trouble this morning. Of course, he is jealous of the honour of the Chamber.
– I have no quarrel with any remarks Senator Gould made, but I must be allowed to shape my remarks to express my thoughts.
– That is saying nothing.
– I wish that occasionally I had the opportunity of congratulating my honorable friend on doing that. But in this case I have told honorable senators very frankly the unfair position in which they placed me by forcing that question. The only attitude I can take up is the one which’ I took up then, and it is that, in spite of anything that may follow, I decline to reply to the question submitted by Senator Lynch.
– The Minister of Defence need not think for a moment that because he belongs to a party in a very small minority there is any desire to refuse him fair play.
– I have seen no evidence of it.
– The honorable senator says he has seen no evidence of fair play. Because the majority do not choose to agree with the minority surely that is not evidence of unfair play. I intend to make a brief reply. It is true that it is some weeks since the reported statements were made by the Prime Minister. During the interval, so far as I am aware, neither myself nor any of my colleagues in the representation of New South Wales has been in the Chamber.
– But Senator McDougall admitted that he knew of the statements. He was here-
– I do not know that he did, but I do know that during the fortnight preceding this week neither I, nor any one of my colleagues, has been present in the Chamber. We were in New South Wales during the conduct of the State elections, and it was during that campaign that the Prime Minister made the speech of which complaint has been made.
– Was Senator McDougall here yesterday ?
– Do not quibble.
– I wish that the Minister of Defence would not quibble, because we had not that opportunity. When we arrived in Melbourne, we were not aware that the Senate was to meet as I have explained, at other than the usual hour. Therefore, we were unprepared when we came here, and, as soon as we learned that the Senate was to meet in the morning, we determined to bring the matter forward. We came to that understanding, not by preconceived arrangement, but as the result of a remark made by Senator McDougall to myself yesterday. The report in which the statement of the Prime Minister appears was published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, of 24th November, 1913. The meeting took place at Parramatta on the previous Saturday; and the report is headed in this way -
” LIKE WILD BLASTS.”
Pot-house Language. prime minister on opposition.
Obstruction of the Senate.
I do not intend to quote the whole of the report, but, speaking in support of the candidature of Mr. T. R. Moxham, the Prime Minister said, amongst other things -
In all my twenty-three years’ parliamentary experience I have never seen anything worse than the scenes that are taking place, and the language that is being used in the Parliament of Australia just now. The language has been very bad: indeed the National Parliament is becoming degraded in consequence, and men have been behaving more like wild beasts than human beings.
There is a good deal more of a similar kind. We are accused of hitting below the belt, and a number of other things. Further on he says -
Unfortunately, the Senate was holding up the public works, and a serious state of affairs was imminent. The Socialists had the country by the throat, and unless the grip was relaxed, the consequences would be direful. But what did the Opposition care? In the Senate it was happy enough - it was on strike on full pay. (Laughter.) A pity it was that the Senate could not be brought before the people. The Opposition would be cleaned right out, and that immediately.
Of course, the result of the State elections have not made the Prime Minister liable to repeat the statements about cleaning us out so fast -
Mr. Cook dismissed the Senate with the parting shot : “ I am sorry to say that the language that has emanated from it would not be heard in a pot-house.”
Nearly a column of this abusive language is applied partly to the House of Representatives and partly to the Senate. When the Minister of Defence was questioned to-day, undoubtedly by his reply to Senator McDougall that he would look the matter up in the recess, he conveyed the idea that he was treating it flippantly.
– And what answer did I give to the second question?
– The Minister knew what the language used was, because Senator McDougall quoted it. He said he would look it up or read it during the recess. I put a perfectly calm question, and a fairly worded one, I think, with no catchiness in it, as to whether he would ascertain if the report was correctly stated. The question I asked was meant to ‘apply to the whole of the Senate, and the Minister gave me an individual answer.
Sitting suspended from 12.56 to 8.16 p.m.
– Standing order
No. 123 provides that -
If all motions, excepting motions for adjournment under standing order No. 63, shall not have been disposed of two hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the Senate, the debate thereon shall be interrupted, unless the Senate otherwise orders, and the Orders of the Day shall be taken in rotation.
As two hours have elapsed since the meeting of the .Senate, unless the Senate otherwise orders, the Orders of the Day will automatically come on for consideration.
Motion (by Senator McGREGOR) agreed to-
That the Orders of the Day be postponed until the motion now under the consideration of the Senate has been finally dealt with.
– I do not intend to labour the question, and, if I am not interrupted, will say what I have still to say in a very few moments. The statement made by Senator Millen that there has been a deliberate attempt to delay business in bringing this matter forward is unworthy of the honorable senator. As a matter of fact, there was no understanding about it, and no talk over it between any members of the Senate. The action taken was entirely spontaneous.
– We did not know that Senator McDougall was going to ask his question.
– That is so. I wrote out my motion in pencil in a very hurried manner, and not in the terms which 1 might have used if I had had more time. But I felt convinced, from the attitude adopted by the Minister of Defence, and the replies he gave, that it was his invention to ignore the whole affair, and to take no further action. Tt is true, as the honorable senator has claimed, that his promise to consider the matter in the recess’ was only made in reply to the question put to him by Senator McDougall. In reply to my question, he said that he would inquire about the matter in some way or another; I forget the exact words used. What I object to particularly was the suggestion that, in order to pacify me, the Minister intended to ask the Prime Minister whether the statement attributed to him was correct; but when he would have acquainted me with the result, the honorable senator did not indicate, lt is not an individual member of the Senate who is concerned, but the Senate as a whole, if this kind of abuse from outside is to be permitted to continue. I freely admit that I have not been a model of good behaviour myself, and have not been “very particular concerning what I said about any one, and especially about the Prime Minister. I have no doubt that exception might be taken to many things I have said, but 1 do not know that any member of the Senate has gone outside and spoken in an abusive and disrespectful manner of the House of Representatives. It is the attitude which the Prime Minister adopted towards the Senate as such, including you, sir, as the officer appointed to see that no “pot-house” language is used here, that made me follow up the question by the action I have taken. I quite realize the force of what Senator McGregor and other honorable senators have stated, and that it might be advisable to, first of all, show the newspaper report complained of to the Prime Minister, in order that we might know whether he repudiates it or Says that it should be modified in. any way. If he does not do either, I think it will be right for the Senate to take further action. I must altogether dissent from the views put forward by Ministers and by some exMinisters on this side. I think that Senator Pearce went altogether too far when he made out that, because of the loyalty which is expected from one member of the Cabinet to the others, he should be prepared to indorse all that his colleagues may do. There is much difference between indorsing what a man’s colleagues may do and say, and going out of one’s way to condemn them. I never expected for a moment that Senator Millen would show any disloyalty to his colleague. The honorable senator has said that he is going to do things in his own way, and not as some one else wishes; but he formerly stated that he could not do otherwise than he had done, and that he must prove disloyal to his colleagues, or take the action he did. I think that the honorable senator might very well have made a general statement regretting that, in the heat of party conflict, statements should be made reflecting on either House of this Parliament. He could have done that without compromising his colleague, or his own dignity. The attitude the honorable senator took up was that because he was in a minority, jit showed great courage on his part to defy everybody and everything, including the rules of common courtesy. He would have been well advised if he had promised to consult the Prime Minister, and had then, in a genera] way, expressed regret that a member of either House should use such language as that complained of.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. Senator Rae charged me with saying in connexion with the loyalty of a member of the Cabinet to the Prime Minister that he should indorse any statements made by him. What I said was that the Minister of Defence could not be expected to disown or dissociate himself from statements made by the Prime Minister.
– I accept the explanation.
.- Mr. President-
– I cannot hear the honorable senator now. The discussion is closed, Senator Rae having replied.
– Can. I not speak to the amendment?
– The honorable senator has lost his opportunity to speak to the amendment, because Senator Rae has replied . Although I did not take a note, if I remember rightly, the honorable senator has already addressed himself to the motion.
– I did not speak to the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Question - That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the moving of a motion for the suspension of the sitting until 8 p.m. this day - put. The Senate divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the sitting of the Senate be suspended until 8 p.m.
– Of course, every honorable senator present knows perfectly well that this motion is submitted as a protest against some remarks which are alleged to have been made by the Prime Minister regarding the Senate at a public meeting in New South Wales.
– They do not know that. They know that it is a protest against something which is alleged to have been done by the Minister of Defence, and that is what the motion means.
Honorable Senators. - No. No!
– I feel just as strongly on this matter as does any other honorable senator; but I take leave to doubt whether we are adopting the proper course. In the first place, I would point out that if the Prime Minister did make the remark which has been attributed to him, he made a most serious reflection, not only upon the Senate, but upon you, sir, as its President. In your hands, under the Standing Orders, is placed the control of this Chamber, and if any honorable senator had used language of the character described by the Prime Minister, I feel certain that you, sir, would have called him to order. Therefore, the charge, in the first place, is a most serious reflection upon you, and it is also a reflection on the Senate. The Prime Minister is alleged to have said that language had been used in this chamber which would degrade a pot-house. I have been looking up the dictionary, and I find that a pot-house is “an ale-house,” “ a low tavern,” and if one cares to go into the ancient history of England, when pot-houses were very common, he” will find that they were the resort of all the low, degraded, wicked, and thievish characters in the neighbourhood. He will discover that the language used there was the worst of Billingsgate, that obscenity was rampant, and that the people who gathered there used words which, if uttered in a public street either then or to-day, would assuredly land them in prison. That is the kind of language which the Prime Minister alleges has been used in the Senate. I say that this Chamber should have some respect for its own reputation, and also for your reputation as its President. But in this, as in everything else, we ought to begin at the beginning. At one time or another we have all been subjected to misrepresentation in the press. I have seen printed reports of speeches which I have made - reports which contained statements that were never uttered by me. Time and again that has been my experience, and 1 am sure that every honorable senator occupies exactly the same position. So much has that been my experience, that I never accept a newspaper report as an absolutely correct statement of what has occurred at a public meeting. Therefore, I say that the Prime Minister, like every other culprit, is entitled to the benefit of the doubt, and that the first step which the Senate ought to take, through you, sir, as its presiding officer, is to ascertain from the Prime Minister himself whether the report which has been read in this chamber is a correct record of his statement at that public meeting.
– The Leader of the Senate ought to do that.
– But he has refused to do it, and I am not very sure whether it is the dufy of the Leader of the Senate. The honour of this Chamber is in the custody of its presiding officer. He is the one who should take the matter in hand if anything has been done to lower or degrade the reputation of the Senate, because he is the person who is primarily attacked. He is responsible for the maintenance of order, of decency, of good behaviour, of fair and reasonable debate, and for the observance of the amenities of debate. If any person in the position of the Prime Minister levels an accusation against the Senate, it is the President who ought to be intrusted with the duty of ascertaining whether he accepts the report as a correct one or not. If he does accept it as a correct record of his statement, it will then be for the Senate to decide what course it ought to adopt. In. the meantime, we are judging him on the most slender of evidence - evidence which none of us would accept as conclusive in regard to himself.
– He has had three weeks in which to repudiate it.
– Senator Rae says that the Prime Minister has had three weeks in which to repudiate it. It is quite within the bounds of possibility that the Prime Minister has never seen the report. In any case, it is our manifest duty to ascertain, ‘before we do anything else, whether the Prime Minister accepts the report which has been read as a correct one or not. If we do not do that, . we shall be adopting a system of justice which was very prevalent at one time in a part of Scotland - what is known as Jedburgh justice. There they hanged a man first, and tried him afterwards. We want to give every man fair play. Justice is the rock upon which the Labour movement is built.
– That is why we asked Senator Millen to ascertain from the Prime Minister whether the report of his utterances is a correct one. He has refused to do that.
– If the Minister of Defence will not ascertain whether the report is correct, why should we not ask the President to do it? If we are animated solely by justice-
– The Minister of Defence will have plenty of time to ascertain whether the report is a correct one if the information is not forthcoming by 8 o’clock.
– We ought not to condemn a man without giving him a chance.
– We are not condemning him. We are giving him till 8 o’clock to reply.
– Get Mr. Cook here. I will not be the honorable senator’s tool, anyhow.
– Is any direct request to be made to the Prime Minister? The Minister of Defence says that he will not make any such request, and I say that it is not his duty to do so. It is the duty of the President. A charge has been levelled by the Prime Minister against the President, who is not only the custodian of his own honour, but of the honour of the Senate: To him ought to be relegated the duty of ascertaining from the Prime Minister whether the latter did say what is attributed to him.
– Is the honorable senator so innocent as to believe that Senator Millen has not already consulted the Prime Minister about the matter?
– I know nothing whatever about any consultation. If honorable senators wish to put themselves in the wrong from the start, they will adopt the course which they are now adopting. They are assuming the position of a Judge who condemns a man without hearing any evidence.
– We are all out of step but the honorable senator.
– That is nothing, to me. I did not get here by keeping step with other people, and I will not remain here by keeping step with them. If a wrong has been committed, I am going to stand up and say something on behalf of the person who is being wronged. I feel as strongly on this matter as does any honorable senator.
– What does the honorable senator propose ?
– I have been telling the honorable senator all the time. What is the good of talking to a man who will not listen ? The honorable senator has been looking at me and listening to me, and yet he cannot tell the proposal which I have made. May I repeat it ? I say that the Senate ought to get the President to ascertain from the Prime Minister whether the press report of his statement at a public meeting in New South Wales is a correct one.
– The honorable senator is the most awkward shuffler I have ever met. This is a mere shuffle.
– Order ! Senator de Largie must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– I have been guilty of many things in my life, but I have never been guilty of shuffling. I move, as an amendment -
That the President be empowered by the Senate to ascertain from the Prime Minister whether the report of his utterances at a certain public meeting in New South Wales which has been under discussion here to-day is correct or incorrect.
– The honorable senator cannot move that motion. He must know that the Standing Orders were suspended for the purpose of allowing a specific motion to be moved. No other motion can be submitted now, because the Standing Orders have not been suspended for that purpose. Consequently, I must rule his amendment out of order.
– This appears to me to be a very simple case. It arose out of a newspaper report which was read by Senator McDougall, and which purported to reproduce the language used by the Prime Minister in reference to this Chamber at a public meeting. I do not wish to traverse what has been said. Senator Rae proposed to censure the Leader of the Senate for his apparent indorsement of the Prime Minister’s utterance. That motion has now been withdrawn, and in its stead a proposal has been submitted for the adjournment of the Senate as a protest against the language used by the Prime Minister, and its apparent indorsement by the Leader of this Chamber. We all know that the Minister of, Defence has been in close conversation in our presence with the very gentleman who is alleged to have used this offensive language, and he can ease the position by rising in his place and telling us whether or not the Prime Minister was faithfully reported. In the absence of that explanation - knowing as we do that the Prime Minister and Senator Millen have been in consultation together - the responsibility for the adjournment of the Senate will rest upon the Leader of this Chamber. He could have got up and said that the Prime Minister never used those words, or that he himself did not indorse them. But in the absence of any information from the Leader of the Senate, I shall vote for the adjournment. I wish to give one other chance for the Leader of the Senate to say whether the Prime Minister was rightly or wrongly reported, and whether, if he was rightly reported, he himself indorses the utterance of which complaint has been made.
– I should like to clear up the position, and to have a plain understanding as to what we are voting upon. First of all, the motion is that the Senate adjourn until 8 o’clock to-night. That is an unusual course. Eight o’clock is an hour to which we do not usually adjourn when we are going on with ordinary business. What does it mean? As far as I can understand, it implies a protest.
SenatorRae. - It is to give the Government time to ask the Prime Minister whether he was correctly reported.
– I am glad to receive interjections, because I want every one to understand why we are adjourning. I have suggested that we are adjourning as a protest.
– I dissent from that.
– I shall be glad if Senator McGregor will tell me if there is any other reason why this motion should be carried.
– It is to give Senator Millen time to carry out the promise ho made to Senator Rae, and which Senator Clemons confirmed when speaking this morning, that he would consult the Prime Minister.
– I am indeed glad to have that answer. As far as the debate has proceeded, the chief argument used by the other side, if I can understand English, and if my ears did not deceive me, was that such a promise had not been made by Senator Millen.
– You said it yourself.
– The promise given to Senator Rae was that Senator Millen would bring the circumstances narrated in Senator Rae’s question under the notice of the Prime Minister.
– That he would bring the whole matter before the Prime Minister.
– Then we are to come back at 8 o’clock to get that information. Are we to understand that this question is to be treated in a way that no other question has ever been treated since the initiation of the Federal Parliament? I may remind Senator McGregor that hehas sat here, as Senator Millen and myself have done, since this Parliament was first opened, and that there never has been a question which has been treated in this manner.
– The Senate was never called a pot-house before.
– The Ministerial party never even gave Mr. McGrath a chance.
– I will not be led into a discussion of the merits or demerits of this question.
– The honorable member asked a question, and ought to accept the answer.
– I am quite glad to have the answer. I am told, then, that this question is so regarded by members of the Opposition that a different course is to be adopted towards it than has been adopted in regard to any other question.
– Why not?
– The next point is - What is the question which is to be answered ? To that question there can be but one or two replies. Are we to adjourn because of the offence given to honorable senators opposite by what the Prime Minister is alleged to have said, or because of their dissatisfaction with the reply which Senator Millen gave?
– I will tell you when I speak in reply.
– I shall be glad if the honorable senator will tell me now, is it the first or the second alternative that we are to accept? Are we to adjourn because of the alleged remark of the Prime Minister?
– We will give the Leader of the Senate till 8 o’clock to carry out the promise he made to Senator Rae.
– Then it is proposed now that we shall adjourn because of the answer Senator Millen gave to-day to various questions asked in the Senate?
– That is not correct.
– That is the only inference I can make from Senator McGregor’s answer to me. There can be no other alternative. We are adopting a most extraordinary, unusual course, because of one of two things, and no other - either because of some statement which it is alleged the Prime Minister made, or because honorable senators opposite are not satisfied with the reply of Senator Millen. Of those two alternatives honorable senators must choose one.
– Then there is the practical indorsement of the statement of Mr. Cook by Senator Millen.
– I think that is a very unfair statement.
– It is very typical of Senator Rae.
– Senator Clemons is spoiling a good reputation.
– I am not concerned for my reputation whatever it may be, good or bad. But I am concerned with the position which the Senate itself is in. I am seriously concerned with that. I think we shall be making a great mistake in adopting this procedure. If, however, nothing that I can say will have the slightest weight with honorable senators opposite, I do not wish to say anything more. It is certainly not a pleasant task to be discussing the question at all. I am only speaking because I thought that, after we had carried our procedure to this extent, and had debated the matter for ‘ nearly two hours - that after we had suspended the Standing Orders - honorable senators opposite would think that they had given to the matter, however important it may seem to them to be, every consideration that it deserves. They have succeeded in directing a great deal of attention to it, and I thought that they would be content with having arrived at the point which we have reached. I hoped that anything which I have said, or which I left unsaid, would have resulted in clearing up the difficulty. But if honorable senators opposite are determined to carry the adjournment till 8 o’clock, I have nothing more to say, except that I should like to have a clear understanding as to why we are taking this course.
– Cannot Senator Millen bring this matter before the Prime Minister, and get a statement from him as to what he said?
– I cannot think that Senator Lynch would seriously put such a reason as that before the Senate in connexion with such a matter as this which we have been debating for several hours.
– If the Minister wants to prevent an adjournment it can be done.
– I do not want anything except to have a clear understanding as to why we are adjourning. I shall be abundantly satisfied with having risen to speak on a very painful matter if Senator McGregor, who is the Leader of the Opposition, will; in clear and unmistakable words, let the Senate know - for he is the man who ought to do it - why this motion is to be either carried or rejected.
– Has the honorable senator any doubt about the matter?
– I am in doubt. Senator de Largie may know, but I do not. But whether I am in doubt or whether Senator de Largie knows, I sincerely think that, in the interests of the Senate, we ought to have a division on a clear-cut issue. In the interests of the Senate itself, we should know why we are adjourning. I ask Senator McGregor to make a statement on that point, clearly and precisely, so that there may be no ambiguity.
– A few minutes ago Senator Millen said that it was typical of me to make the interjection I made in regard to himself. I said that Senator Millen has practically indorsed the statement of the Prime Minister. I called attention to his utterance. After stating his own case, Senator Millen made the statement - alluding to the alleged statements of Mr. Cook - that, probably urged by an irresistible desire for the truth, he had said so-and-so. These words “ urged by an irresistible desire to express the truth “ were substantially what he said.
– Order ! The honorable senator is not in order in saying that. It would be a reflection on me if I allowed Senator Millen to reflect upon the Senate. Whilst Senator Rae’s statement is close to what Senator Millen said, it is not quite correct; and when the statement was made I at once called Senator Millen to order.
– Is it any reflection on you, sir, to repeat what Senator Millen said 1
– No, but it would be a reflection on me if I had allowed Senator Millen to say that he agreed with what the Prime Minister had said, because that would have been a reflection on the Senate.
– The remark to which I was alluding may have escaped your notice.
– No, it did not.
– I heard him say that Mr. Cook’s statement was prompted by an irresistible desire for the truth.
– Perhaps Senator Millen was sailing rather close to the limits of order, but, at the same time, he did not evade my ruling.
– I am not inferring that he disobeyed your ruling. Indeed, I do not remember that you ‘interrupted him to give any ruling on the matter. But whatever he may have done in relation to the rules of the Senate, it does not follow that he did not imply meanings which honorable senators would have a perfect right to interpret as a reflection on the Senate. I contend that I have as much right to my opinion as to the meaning of the words he used as to you, Mr. President; and I certainly understood that what he said was an underhand - and Senator Millen is a master at making statements which contain under - hand inferences - indorsement of what Mr. Cook said, even though he may have escaped conflict with the rules. . We all know that Senator Millen has an ingenious way of saying things to convey implications which, if plainly stated, would be in conflict with the rules of the Senate.
– A remark of that kind does not make for peace.
– I do not say that it does. I am not looking for either peace or war, but for the truth. If Senator Millen had given any indication that he would make inquiries promptly, we should have been glad to accept that assurance, and go on with business. But the reply which he made to me was a kind of insincere temporizing reply. If it had been accepted, we should never have had any real answer to my question.
– I feel that I am entitled to ask for some clear statement as to why the Senate is being asked to take this unusual action?
– Senator Millenin interrupting is delaying the opportunity of hearing a statement.
– It is a curious useof words to call it an interruption when I take advantage of the opportunity of speaking, seeing that I am not only Ministerially, but personally, involved in this matter. It is strange, under the circumstances, to say that- 1 am “ interrupting “ the proper course of debate in venturing to put my own view. I say again that I do think that I am entitled to ask the Senate to tell me clearly what this motion is intended to mean. Honorable members opposite started out with a motion of censure on myself. It was a motion aimed at a condemnation of something that I have done, or failed to do.
– That motion was defeated.
– But what is the purpose of this motion? Is it to be a motion of censure upon me, or is it intended to be a ‘motion of censure upon the Prime Minister?
– I am told that the sole purpose is to enable some information to be obtained. Is that a justification for stopping public business?
– -Cannot the honorable senator give the information now?
– Hundreds of times in the history of the Senate information of a most important character has been asked for, but there has never been a case where the Senate has stopped public business until the information waa given.
– The Senate was never called a pot-house before.
– Yes, it was, and that by Mr. Hughes himself, the AttorneyGeneral of the late Government. I will show that when the proper time comes. What I am trying to elicit from Senator McGregor, however, is a clear statement as to why the Senate is asked to take this course of action. If it is merely for the purpose of ascertaining the truth or otherwise of this alleged state-, ment of the Prime Minister, then there is no justification for stopping the public business, for the transaction of which this Senate exists. I could quite understand that if honorable senators took a certain view, they were justified in expressing their condemnation of the utterance of the Prime Minister. I could even understand it when they further proceeded to the great and extreme length of proposing a motion condemning myself. But I fail absolutely to find any justification for stopping public business while certain steps, which the Senate wants to have taken, are taken. This morning, sir, you informed the Senate that it was vested with ample power to protect its own dignity and honour. It does not require to stop public business while that is -being done. There are matters of privilege which can be raised in a proper and regular way. Just what the powers of the Senate are I do not know, sir, but I am quite satisfied with your affirmation that it is vested with ample power to look after itself.
– H - Have you not been enlightened as to the powers of the Senate in the last few hours 1
– I have known all along the powers which a reckless Opposition here can exercise when they are in a majority. Nothing that I can say or do will satisfy Senator Bae or those who think with him. I gave the honorable senator a clear, definite statement as to what I would do. He was not prepared, and his colleagues were not prepared,, to take that assurance. There can be no disputing the fact that the assurance was a definite one, because Senator McGregor now says that the object of adjourning the Senate is to enable me to redeem it. Here is a clear admission that, early this morning, I gave a distinct assurance that I would do all that it was in my power to do, all that I am prepared to do, all that I am competent to do, and that is to bring the matter under the notice of the Prime Minister. It was disputed at that time that I had given that assurance. It is no longer competent’ to honorable senators to dispute it.
– No;. but you said something else before that.
– Senator McGregor now makes that a reason for the action for which he is responsible. He says, “Senator Millen gave a promise this morning.”
– As an afterthought.
– It was given in reply to the second question put to me. I am not in the habit of taking very much time either to let my thoughts work or to find words in which to express them.
It was charged against me this morning that I had not given that definite assurance. Senator McGregor now says that he. has moved the adjournment of the Senate because that assurance was given .
– How very ingenious !
– It is a simple statement of fact, and that being so, Senator McGregor now has shown his faith in that promise, because he wants to give me an opportunity to redeem it. There ‘is no justification for stopping public business, then. Never before has a Minister from this bench given his assurance to make certain inquiries but the Senate has proceeded with business.
– Why cannot you give an explanation ‘!
– Why, on this occasion, should the Senate take the extraordinary course of absolutely bringing public business to a stand-still?
– Give an explanation, and finish with it.
– Neither Senator Lynch nor any other honorable senator is going to make of me a football to kick round the chamber.
– You and the Prime Minister were almost kissing each other during the course of the debate.
– This morning I gave the Senate a frank assurance as tq what I would do under the conditions which existed then. What will happen now, I am not prepared to say. The Senate refused to take that assurance, and I want to intimate now that I am not held bound by that promise. The Senate is now taking the business out of the hands of the Government; it is taking its own course, and I will not make an effort to obtain the information for which it pretends to be seeking.
– We do not believe that you ever intended to.
– When I say that that is language suitable to a “ pothouse,” I am only stating the truth.
– I rise to order. Senator Millen has just applied a very offensive expression to a statement of Senator Rae, and I desire to know whether it is in order ?
– No language is in order which can be reasonably said by an honorable senator to be offensive to him. If Senator Rae regards the expression as offensive to him,Icall upon Senator Millen to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it.
– Was not something very offensive said regarding Senator Millen?
– I did not hear it.
– I did, sir, and I leave it to Senator Rae to say whether he did not interject that, when I made that promise, “ none of us,” referring to his party, believed that I intended to keep it.
– I said “ We did not believe that you would keep it.” Of course I did not mean every member of the party, but the bulk of us did not believe that you would keep the promise. I certainly did not.
– If that statement is regarded as offensive by Senator Millen, undoubtedly Senator Rae will have to withdraw it.
– I would regard the statement as offensive coming from an ordinary individual, but not from Senator Rae.
– That statement is distinctly offensive to another senator. I ask Senator Millen not to accentuate the feeling which is evident in the Chamber by making a statement of that kind, and to withdraw.it.
– I withdraw the statement, sir, in accordance with your ruling and the forms of the Senate; but I think that one is entitled to be indignant when, on the floor of the chamber, he is virtually termed a liar.
– I am sure that I never called the honorable senator a liar.
– When I made the statement that I would do a certain thing, and Senator Rae–
– I rise to order. The Minister says that I called him a liar. I certainly did nothing of the kind, and I ask him to withdraw the statement.
– I did not hear Senator Millen say that. I ask him to withdraw the statement.
– I will withdraw anything, sir. When Senator Rae tells me that I made a statement to-day which he and others did not believe, it was tantamount to saying that I was telling something which was not true. If you, sir, object to me saying that that is telling a man that he is a liar, I withdraw the statement; but I leave it to the common sense of honorable senators to point out where the difference is. I think that, in this matter I can complain that the Senate has treated me in a grossly unfair fashion. A question was submitted to me, and I gave an answer which I have given in hundreds of cases where information has been sought. It is not in my power to compel an answer to my inquiry, but I did promise the Senate to make inquiries, and intended to do so.
– During the recess?
– No; Senator Millen did not say that.
– He said it in reply to Senator McDougall.
– It is all very well for honorable senators who want to fool themselves to trifle in that way. Senator Rae has admitted, and Senator McGregor has re-affirmed, that I promised to make inquiries.
– I did not mean to imply that you would not carry out your promise to make inquiries, but I thought that we would never get an answer.
– I intended to give the Senate the result of the inquiries I proposed to make, but it was not possible for me to do anything more. I am not armed with authority to arrest persons and drag answers out of them. In all sincerity, I undertook to make certain inquiries, but honorable senators have treated me in a most unusual and unfair fashion, and, having declined to follow the usual procedure, I am unable, therefore, to regard this motion as anything more than a make-believe, an effort to block public business for some motive of which I am not disposed to speak.
– Is that in order, sir ?
– The honorable senator is not in order in attributing motives.
– I will agree, then, that honorable senators opposite have submitted the motion without a motive, but, obviously, the effect of it will be to postpone public business which is on the paper, and which is of some importance.
– Only for two hours.
– We will see for how long. I hope that it will be only for two hours. I do submit that, if the Senate merely wanted to vindicate itself, it could have succeeded in that object by placing on record a motion expressive of its disapprobation, either of the Prime Minister, or, if it pleased, of myself, or it could have proceeded, by way of privilege, under the powers which you, sir, say it possesses, and taken such action as might have seemed fit to it. But, after Senator Rae questioned me, the effort clearly was to use me by some means in a quarrel which the Senate is disposed to take with the Prime Minister, to use me as the instrument in forcing that quarrel home. That is a monstrously unfair position to put me in. No answer that I might have given to the question of Senator Lynch could have avoided putting me in trouble.
– And on your shoulders rests the responsibility.
– I am not going to allow Senator Lynch, or .any other man, to place me in such a false position as that. That is final and definite.
– Do you not think that your position here as a Minister is altogether false?
– Hear, hear ! We should expel the lot of them.
– That is what my honorable friends are trying to do. In the meanwhile, I happen to be here.
– That is no reason why you should not treat the Senate with reasonable courtesy.
– I want to know where is the courtesy which it extended to me when I gave a definite promise as to what I would do ? I have been told by one honorable senator to whom it was given that he and others did not believe that I would.
– That we would not hear any more about it.
– That is the courtesy to which I have been subjected at the hands of those who now ask that I should treat them with courtesy. I do not pass for a saint, and have never pretended to be one. I extend to honorable senators just that measure of courtesy which they are disposed to extend to me, but I am not going to allow myself to be kicked round the chamber to suit the whims of honorable senators, or permit them to use me as an instrument in a quarrel they are disposed to pick with the Prime Minister or other colleague.
– - I do not feel disposed to allow the motion to go to a vote without saying a few words.
– Let it go to a vote.
– A - As a senator, I have always prided myself upon being able to give fair play to any member of the Senate, and not to act with want of courtesy even if opposed to me in politics. Senator Millen has said that he has been treated in a distinctly unfair manner. I repudiate that statement. The whole of this turmoil could have been avoided if he, at the right time, had treated the Senate with that ordinary courtesy which it, as a body, might expect to get from the Leader of the Government here. I think that the position, instead of being as Senator Millen put it, is absolutely reversed. Two wrongs do not make a right, and if, on any other occasion, any honorable senators have not treated him with courtesy, that does not relieve him of the obligation to treat the Senate as* a body with courtesy.
– Wherein was I discourteous when I gave that promise ?
– My My quarrel with the honorable senator is that when the question was asked by Senator McDougall he did not treat that honorable senator, or senators generally, with courtesy when he said that he would look into the matter during the recess.
– That is covered by the subsequent promise.
– The There could be only one obvious meaning in that reply, and it was that Senator Millen did not accept the question as a serious one, or if Senator McDougall thought it was a serious question, he was treating it with contempt. At least, that was the feeling which his reply created in my mind, and I may add, in the mind of every honorable senator. That was the reason for the whole of the trouble which has occurred. I am very sorry that it has developed to this stage. I intend to vote with the leader of my party on the motion. Still I say that the whole matter, going back to the first cause, has-been lifted into a prominence which it never deserved. As I said before, the Prime Minister, for months past, has been so much in the habit of making wild, unfounded statements about, his political opponents, that the public are beginning to attach no importance to them, and the additional statement of the kind he has made takes away any weight which they might have had. It is because I think that we are elevating the whole question into a position of importance it does not deserve, and giving to the Prime Minister a position of importance he .does not deserve, that it seems to me rather a pity that the question has advanced to this stage. While holding that view, I intend to vote for the motion to give Senator Millen an opportunity, if he feels inclined, to consult the Prime Minister, and then we shall see what the outcome is.
– Does any honorable senator here imagine for a moment that Senator Millen does not understand the position thoroughly? ‘ This action of the Senate is being taken as a protest against doing any . business under the representatives of a Government whose head has spoken in such disparaging terms of the Senate, until that leader has had an opportunity of explaining his position.
– What do you mean by *’ that leader “ ?
– That leader, of course, is the Prime Minister.
– I thought that you were referring to Senator Millen.
– If the Honorary Minister would restrain his youthful impetuosity, I would explain to him in a few words, but he is only prolonging the agony. Every honorable senator knows that when this matter was first brought before the Senate by Senator McDougall, Senator Millen, in the most indifferent and flippant manner, said he would read the “newspaper report during the recess. Senator Clemons knows that, and Senator Millen knows it. Later, when the members of the Senate had been aggravated by the conduct of the representatives of the Government here, and Senator Rae put a question, Senator Millen did say that he would bring the matter before the Prime Minister. But there was nothing definite in that, and the Senate required something more definite. If Senator Millen had given that reply to Senator McDougall’s question, the whole matter would have ended there. Senators Millen, Clemons, and McColl have had ample opportunity to interview the Prime Minister and the Attorney-Gene ral, because they were both here consulting with them after the discussion had started. But they never made any attempt to indorse, repudiate, or explain the conduct or words of the Prime Minister. I think that Senators Clemons and Millen ought to be very thankful to the members of this party, and particularly to myself, because the motion that was moved by Senator Rae was a direct censure upon Senator Millen. Probably, the honorable senator would have liked that motion to be carried, because the matter would have ended there. But I think the sense of fair play amongst honorable senators led them to consider that Senator Millen, to a certain extent, was not responsible for his action. He was conducting himself like a little boy who, having been chastized, became petulant. The Senate has its own dignity and reputation to maintain. Ministers have directed attention to your statement that we have ample opportunity of dealing with these things, but I remind them that the Senate is dealing with this matter in the way it thinks best. The intention is to give Senator Millen, or any other member of the Ministry, an opportunity, before 8 o’clock this evening, the time suggested for the resumption of the sitting, to bring the matter before the Prime Minister, and when the Senate resumes, the representatives of the Government in this Chamber will be in a position to explain whether the Prime Minister was correctly reported or not. If he was correctly reported, and still maintains the same attitude towards the Senate, it is my intention, with the consent of the Opposition, to move that you, sir, on behalf of the Senate, interview the Prime Minister, and endeavour to get a proper understanding between that gentleman and the Senate. The Government profess to be very anxious that business should be proceeded with. Where is the business that we could not finish in halfanhour if we were really in earnest? The anxiety of honorable senators opposite should be transferred to another place, in order that we may be put in a position to carry on the business. The Senate has assisted the Government on every occasion to do the business of the country, and I am sure that it is prepared to continue to do so when; there. is business here to be done.
– It is on the businesspaper now.
– I hope that when the Senate resumes some statement or explanation in connexion with the critical position that has arisen will be forthcoming, and that business will go on as usual.
Question- That the sitting of the Senate be suspended until 8 p.m. this day - put. The Senate divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from4.27 to 8 p.m.
– Before the Orders of the Day are called on, I should like to ask the Minister of Defence whether he has any statement to make with respect to the words said to have been uttered by the Prime Minister?
– I propose to make a statement, with the concurrence of the Senate.
– Early in the proceedings this morning, I gave the assurance to the Senate that I would inform the Prime Minister of what had been stated here, and ask him whether he was disposed to make a reply to the question submitted by Senator Rae. Later in the day the Senate, or a section of it, having expressed a doubt as to whether I would carry out that promise, I stated that I felt absolved from it. However, with a view of removing any possible obstacle to the transaction of public business, I decided to carry out the promise which I originally gave, and from which I had not at that time any intention to depart. In pursuance of that promise, I addressed a letter to the Prime ‘Minister, and have received a reply. I deemed it advisable to address the Prime Minister in this way rather than verbally, in order that the Senate might be fully and exactly informed of the case that I placed before him. The letter, of course, is of to-day’s date, and reads as follows: -
Melbourne,11th December, 1913.
My dear Prime Minister,
A newspaper report of a speech you are alleged to have made at Parramatta (reported in the Daily Telegraph of 24th November, 1913), was read in the Senate this morning, and exception taken to the same, particularly to the statement “ I am sorry to say that the language that has emanated from it (the Senate) would not be heard in a pot-house.”
I shall be glad to know if you are disposed to place me in a position to make a statement on the subject.
Honorable Joseph Cook, M.P.,
Prime Minister, Melbourne.
I have received from the Prime Minister the following answer: -
House of Representatives,
Melbourne,11th December, 1913.
My dear Minister of Defence.
In reply to your letter just received, I have to say that I do not recognise the right of the Senate, of which I am not a member, to catechise me concerning statements made outside other than such as relate to public policy. Having said this, I respond willingly to yourrequest to explain the reference in my speech at Parramatta. In delivering the speech referred to I was reviewing recent occurrences in Parliament, and had in mind the language used recently in my own Chamber, in addition to some expressions also used in the Senate, in reference to myself, of which the following are a sample : -
Mr. Hughes (referring to the Prime Minister, said). The honorable member is an infamous liar. He is a political assassin. Judas Iscariot revived. The honorable member would cut the words of the Redeemer Himself in half.
Mr. Higgs. They (the Ministry) are miserable sycophants, crawling to people in high places. They are insincere, lying hypocrites. We did not believe you were such liars over there.
Mr. Poynton. Honorable members opposite are the biggest set of liars who were ever in this House.
Mr. Anstey. The Prime Minister tramps round the country uttering a series of odious lies.
Mr. West. The Minister is an insulting brute.
– There never was in Australian politics any one who so disgraced his office as has this renegadePrime Minister, who is the most splendid liar in Australia, to-day.
Mr. Fenton. It is a deliberate lie.
Mr. Fisher. Oh, you bounders! (referring to Government members). It is a dirty, mean, contemptible trick. There is not a spark of manhood in them.
Mr. McGrath. They are a gang of swindlers.
Mr. Mathews. It is a despicable thing. They are public executioners (referring to Government members). He is a bruiser. He is a damned scoundrel. He is a cur (referring to Colonel Rvrie). Cowards (referring to Government members).
Mr. McDonald. That is a deliberate untruth. Wicked and deliberate falsehood.
Mr. Hughes (referring to a statement made by Mr. Fleming that Mr. Hughes had threatened him with prosecution). It is not fit for a pothouse or a brothel. He (Mr. Fleming) is. a liar. (These two statements above do not appear in Hansard. They were excised, with Mr. Fleming’s consent, but they do appear in the Argus of2 1 st August, 1913.)
My comment was that this language which had emanated from Parliament, would not be tolerated in a pot-house.
– By leave of the Senate,I desire, after Senator Millen ‘s explanation, to move -
That the Seriate places on record its protest against the offensive statement made by the Honorable Joseph Cook, Prime Minister, as reported in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 24th November, viz. : - . . . “I am sorry to say that the language which has emanated from it (the Senate) would not be heard in a pot-house. . . “
– Is it the pleasure of the Senate that Senator McGregor have leave to move, without notice, the motion which he has indicated?
– As I think that sufficient time has already been wasted on this question, I desire to submit, without further comment, the motion which I have read.
– In seconding the motion, I should like to say that the statement read out by the Leader of the Government, Senator Millen, contains only one refers ence to an expression used in the Senate. I venture to say that, even that, although it may be strong, does not justify the offensive terms in which the Prime Minister alluded to this Chamber.
.- I am not going to question the statements which appear in the apology made by the Prime Minister for the language he used concerning the Senate, but I think that, in justice to those members of Parliament whose names are mentioned, the least the Minister of Defence could have done was to indicate the pages of Hansard where those statements are alleged to appear. Personally, I am perfectly satisfied with the apology the Prime Minister has tendered to the Senate, and with the statement he has presented, which indicates that, after thecareful search of to-day - a search of six hours - they can only discover one reference made by one senator, namely, Senator Rae, to which Mr. Cook has been able to take exception. Surely that expression would not be termed anything in the nature of a grossly offensive statement. It was, of course, used in the heat of debate. It did refer to the Prime Minister in strong language - in such terms, indeed, as would justify the Prime Minister in asking Senator Rae to “ call him that again.” However, I feel sure that we are complimented by the explanation and apology made by the Prime Minister..
– I desire to say that I am very pleased, indeed, that Senator Millen has redeemed the promise which he gave to bring this subject before the Prime Minister, and that he has seen fit to make a reply. Any reflection that I may have cast upon Senator Millen, as far as relates to the imputation that he did not intend to bring the subject before the Prime Minister, I must honestly withdraw under the circumstances, and I do so fully and freely. At the same time, may I make these two remarks in regard to the letter which we have heard read? Without questioning the correctness of the statement said to have been made by honorable members in another place, I point out that we have not had quotations of the violent language used by honorable members on the other side of that House.
– The Prime Minister called them “dirty rats.”
– I have not read Hansard through very carefully, but I have, in occasional readings, seen very objectionable statements that were made by members of the Ministerial party. I have also seen in the press, which I have read more than Hansard, other statements of a similar kind, and which, if they were put side by side with those attributed to members of my party, probably would not leave much to choose between them.
– The honours would be with us.
– Honours wouldbe easy. Though, in the heat of debate, these things may be said, it would, I am sure, be the height of hypocrisy for any one to attempt to maintain that they all came from one side.
– From whatever side they emanate, are they creditable to Parliament ?
– I do not for a moment say that they are. But, even then, the term “pot-house language,” which would really mean obscene, profane, filthy language, does not apply even to the most offensive terms used, which, however strong as expressions, are, as individual words, decent. As far as relates to anything which I may have said, the broad distinction which I wish to make is this–
– If the honorable senator has said anything he is sorry for, he is very glad of it.
– No, I do not desire to say anything of a flippant character on this subject. But there is a broad distinction between statements, however offensive, which may be made against an individual member of Parliament, and general statements which reflect upon a whole House of Legislature. That is a broad distinction which ought to be made. The statements of the Prime Minister contained a reflection, not only on individual members, who may have been deserving of strong reproof, but on the whole Senate; and they reflect upon the President of the Senate, who, if he permitted that sort of language to be used, would be much more blameworthy than honorable senators themselves. I, therefore, contend that we have a very good reason for reprimanding the offence committed by such a responsible man as the Prime Minister, which referred to the whole Senate in connexion with what were no more than individual expressions of opinion.
SenatorGARDINER (New South Wales) [8.15]. - The most extraordinary part of the letter from the Prime Minister is that it does not contain one word to justify the language which he used and applied to the Senate. To show how little there was to base his wicked statement on he actually fell back on all the strong language which was used in the House of which he is Leader, and used, too, in the heat of strong party debate.
– And probably he was to a great extent the cause of the strong language being used.
– He used a good deal of it himself, but it is not quoted.
– That such a collection of epithets should be brought here by the Minister of Defence in the way it has been, is, I think, typical of the manner in which Ministers are trying to degrade, not only the Senate, but the whole Parliament of this country. When the Senate asks whether a certain statement of the Prime
Minister published in the press - a statement which no honorable senator, no matter where he sits, can for a moment justify, because it does not bear the semblance of truth - was true, what answer did the Minister of Defence bring back? It is that the Prime Minister delivered a speech at Parramatta, and had in his mind at the time an enormous number of strong expressions used against himself personally in the other branch of the Legislature. But, so far as the Senate is concerned - and. I have no doubt that Hansard has been searched for strong expressions - only one instance has been cited. I suppose that if 1 were to attempt to adopt the language of Senator Millen I should try to excuse the letter from the Prime Minister by saying that it was “ an irresistible desire to tell the truth “ which caused him to use language of that kind. But I do not want to enter into a contest as to which side can best abuse the other, and gain a little advantage in the use of strong terms. What good is to be gained by the Leader of the Senate trying to excuse or bolster up the unpardonable conduct of the Leader of the Government in attacking the Senate? What good purpose is to be served by the Leader of the Senate recording in Hansard a collection of strong statements used in another branch of the Legislature? We have nothing to do with those statements. I do not think that in his letter the Minister of Defence asked the Prime Minister to recapitulate all the harsh things said in the other Chamber. Owing to the fact that the Prime Minister has not denied the statement, we must discuss it from the stand-point that, at a public meeting to serve his own party purposes, he deliberately slandered the Senate, and that when faced with the slander he is unable to prove it, but neither he nor Senator Millen, so far as I can gather, has had the manliness to apologize. When a wrong has been done there is only one manly course to take. If a man cannot prove his statements he ought to have the manhood to apologize to the person whom he has slandered by making a false statement. According to the letter read by the Minister of Defence, the Prime Minister has wilfully slandered the Senate, but has not had the manhood to apologize to it for having done so, or to withdraw his statement. The statement that it was the language of the
Senate is outrageous. Had he said the language of the Parliament, and mixed up with it the language he himself had used-
– Which is exactly what he did in the letter I read.
– He did not quote his own expressions in the other House.
– If that is exactly what the Prime Minister has done, and if the Minister of Defence wishes us to gather from the letter that his chief was not referring to the Senate, but to both Houses, when he said that it was the language of the pot-house, then much of what I have said goes bv the board. I would like the Minister of Defence to make it clear that what the Prime Minister now says in excuse of the statement attributed to him in the Sydney Daily Telegraph is that he was not blaming the Senate, and that language worthy of a ot-house did not emanate from the enate only, but came from the other House as Well. That, to some extent, mitigates perhaps the stronger things I have been saying about the Prime Minister.
– That is what I claim constitutes an apology to the Senate.
– He specially mentions the Senate.
– Order 1
– The letter, I take it, if it means anything, means that the Prime Minister, brought by the action of the Senate face to face with the fact that he made a gross and wicked charge against the Senate, is unable from the records of Parliament to show that, as regards the Senate, there is even the flimsiest foundation on which to build such a charge. I regret that the honorable gentleman has not in a straightforward and manly way admitted that, and explained that, at the time, he was suffering, shall I say mentally, from the abusive language heaped upon him, elsewhere. Honorable senators must know that, in the other House, he also can use strong language. If I may be permitted to recall an incident which occurred when I was sitting in the gallery there, he was compelled to withdraw a statement, and to apologize, because he had referred to two honorable members on the other side as “ a pair of dirty rats.” It is on record that he had to withdraw the expression, and to apologize.
– That is not in the list, though.
– No; hut it is indicative of the tone in which debate is conducted in another ‘place. What we are up against here is that this day has been spent by the Senate, and I say well spent-
– Senator McGregor said it lias been wasted.
– If ever the time of the. Senate is always put to the good use of vindicating its honour and character, whether it takes, not days, but weeks, I shall never consider that the time is wasted. When we started out this morning, we had placed before the Senate a charge by the Prime Minister, which, owing to the important position he occupies, will not only find its way into the press of Sydney, but into the press of the world. It will be_used by the press of the world as a ‘ criterion by which to measure the character, the capacity, and the ability of those who represent the Australian people here, and indirectly it will be used to measure the intelligence of the Australian people themselves. If the Senate has done nothing further than to vindicate its honour, I shall be satisfied, because, in the long list of strong language that is cited in the letter from the Prime Minister - evidently a carefully prepared letter - there is just one harsh statement, with nothing of a pothouse character about it, from my honorable friend’s old colleague in the Labour movement, which, perhaps, goes beyond the bounds of ordinary debate.
– Is that not an unkind thing to say about Senator Rae?
– Not at all, because Senator Rae has some very kindly memories of the earlier days of the Labour party, when Senator Millen was such a stalwart.
– When you refused to sign the pledge with Senator Rae.
– The Minister * is making a tricky statement. Side by side we signed the same pledge, on which we were elected to Parliament.
That is my answer to the interjection. Not only did we sign the same pledge, but I was again elected as a Labour member in 1894 on the same pledge as I signed in 1891. I sat in the New South Wales Parliament in 1891.
– Order ! The honorable senator is getting away from the question before the Senate.
– As the statement of Senator Millen conveys the false impression that I refused to sign the pledge of the Labour party, I desire, m personal explanation, to say that in 1891 I went to the State Parliament a pledged Labour man, and that in 1894 I was selected by the same Labour league, and sent back as a pledged Labour man. I was in the State Parliament until 1895. In justice to my own reputation, I am making this statement. Prom 1894 to 1895 I was a pledged Labour man, and I never attended one party meeting of the party with which Senator Millen was connected. I do not wish to get off on a side issue. Personal issues are nothing in a discussion of this kind. Here is a case in which the Senate has been grossly attacked by a gentleman who, when he is faced with the true facts, can produce only one instance of a senator having said something personal about himself, as a justification for having libelled the Senate in the eyes of Australia and the world, as being a place where the language used is below the level of a “ pot-house.” I feel that a good deal of time has been taken up over this matter, but not wasted, because the very letter from the Prime Minister proves that his statement published in the Daily Telegraph regarding the Senate is not in accordance “with facts, is not a truthful utterance, is not the utterance that a man holding a responsible position should have used in that relation. I hope that the ‘ Minister who conveyed so generously the request to the Prime Minister for a statement will let him understand that, having admitted by not denying it that he was guilty of uttering a most wicked and slanderous statement - calculated to take from the Senate its reputation - we loo’k to him, from his place in the other House, to go one step further. Now that he has not produced one proof to substantiate the statement he made at Parramatta, we’ look to him to do the manly thing, and that is to apologize to the Senate for the gross outrage he committed in stating that the language emanating from it would disgrace a “ pot-house.” I only wish to place on record the fact that this letter, which tries to bolster up an impossible position, proves that the Prime Minister was guilty, at a public meeting in New South Wales, of uttering a deliberate, and, I venture to say, a premeditated untruth, and that when Hansard is examined by himself he can find no ground to substantiate it, but he has not had the manliness to come forward with a full apology for the wicked, malicious slander he uttered.
.- I feel almost called upon to apologize for the effort I shall make to prick the bubble of assumed indignation which Senator Gardiner has just blown. In the course of his remarks, he admitted that if the statement I interjected was correct, then his remarks largely went by the board. His contention was that the Prime Minister stood by the published report of his speech, although only able to find one quotation from the records of the Senate in justification of it. I just want to draw the attention of the Senate to the exact words which were used in the letter I read. And may I say that, in seeking a reply from the Prime Minister, I assumed that the Senate wanted to know, first of all, how far it was an accurate report of his speech. The reply to that is what he said -
In delivering the speech referred to, I was reviewing recent occurrences in Parliament, and had in mind the language used recently in my own chamber, ‘in addition to some expressions also used in the Senate.
– Why did he not say one?
– Because, if you want more, I can find more.
– Let us have them.
– It will be seen at once that the statement had reference, not merely to the Senate, but to Parliament, when I quote the concluding words of the reply -
My comment was that this language which had emanated from Parliament, would not be tolerated in a pot-house.
– As the person who is, to a very large extent, the custodian of the honour and credit of the Senate for the time being, I desire to make one remark before putting the motion. That remark is that, while the statement read by the Minister of Defence may be a sufficient justification for the charge reported to have been made by
Mr. Cook, the Prime Minister, if that charge were levelled at the House of Representatives, it is manifestly clear, on the face of it, that it is no justification at all for any such charge against the Senate.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative. australian notes bill.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Clemons) read a first time. pine creek to katherine river railway BILL.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Clemons) read a first time.
Tasmania grant bill.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Clemons) read a first time. post AND telegraph bill.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator McColl) read a first time. commonwealth inscribed stock bill.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, arid (on motion by Senator Clemons) read a first time.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
– Arising out of the answer to my question, I ask whether the Minister of Defence is aware that on the occasion of the last Federal elections, when his own party was successful, the Leader of the State Liberal party in New South Wales urged that as a strong reason why the Holman Government should resign ? Further, that being the case, I ask the Minister why he was so annoyed when I took up the same line, asked the same question for the same reason, and followed the same practice as that followed by the Leader of the Liberals in New South Wales?
– Will the honorable senator give notice, please?
Motion (by Senator McDougall) agreed to -
That the report of the Select Committee of the Senate appointed to inquire into the partial closing down of Fitzroy Dock, brought up on 20th November, 19,13, be adopted.
Debate resumed from 10th December, 1913 (vide page 4050), on motion by Senator Clemons -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– At this late hour of the session many of us doubtless feel inclined to treat this leaflet legislation with contempt. But we cannot forget that this Bill was bludgeoned through another place, and that the representatives of the people there were denied an opportunity of expressing their opinions upon it, and of putting before Parliament the views of the electors whom they represent. Therefore, it is only natural that every honorable senator should desire to express his opinion upon it. In the first place I ask, “ Why has this measure been introduced?” To that a reply was given by the Leader of the Opposition in this Chamber, when he said that it constitutes a deliberate attack on unionism. The desire of the present Government is to wipe unionism out of existence, because they realize its power in Australia to-day. We know perfectly well that there would not be one member of the Labour party either in the Commonwealth or the State Parliaments if it had not been for trade unions. The occupants of the Treasury bench also recognise that, and they desire to put back the hands of the clock - to stop the progress of unionism, and at the same time to stop the progress of this country. We are not at all surprised to find them bringing forward legislation of this character, when we reflect that they have been sent here to represent the interests of a class. Not only are they sent here to represent the interests of a class, but the so-called Liberal party have paid organizers travelling throughout every part of the Commonwealth - Liberal agitators they are generally called - who are endeavouring to the best of their ability to stir up class disputes, and, if possible, to breed class prejudices. We all know what unionism has accomplished in different industries. Previous speakers have referred to the improvements which have taken place during recent years in industrial conditions. To realize -this we have only to visit the cemetery at Broken Hill and look at the thousands of graves’ there - graves containing some of the finest men in Australia^ who were absolutely murdered by the industrial conditions which existed twenty and twenty-five years ago. We know that the conditions which obtain there to-day will bear no’ comparison with those which, existed at the period of which I speak. That improvement has been brought about by trade unionists, by the enthusiasm of those who for twenty-five years have made self-denying efforts to better the condition of their fellow workers, and to make things better for their children.
Let me point to the great pastoral industry as an illustration. Unionism has been the means of bringing about industrial peace in that industry, where there previously existed industrial war. Surely honorable members upon the opposite side of the chamber will admit that the pastoralists have gained more on account of the industrial peace which has been brought about in that industry than have the workers ? At the same time, the condition of the worker in the pastoral industry still stands in need of a good deal of improvement. I intend to quote the remarks of a representative of the workers who was engaged in one of the sheds in New South Wales during the recent shearing season. The extract which I propose to read has a distinct bearing upon this Bill. In referring to Toogimbie Station, near Hay, he says -
The sleeping quarters, apart from the fact that it is utterly inadequate as regards space and bunks, is built in a swamp, and although we were fortunate enough to experience fine weather, there were several cases of sickness. The cook’s quarters are also situated in low ground, and all through the shearing there was a pool of stagnant water lying at one corner of the hut. The oven in which most of the food was cooked was a crumbling mass of mortar and bricks, consequently one had to separate this from the dishes. The meat house is composed of scrap-iron and bagging, principally bagging, and is a miniature reservoir when it rains. The floor, being composed of ashes, is renewed every time there is a shower. The sanitary conveniences are disgraceful. This is absolutely the worst place I have ever been at; but one cannot wonder, seeing that it belongs to one of the family of land monopolists of this district, to wit, R. “Falkiner, brother of the present member for Riverina.
– What newspaper is tEat quotation taken from ?
– From the Sydney Worker of 17th September, 1913. Can Senator Gould contradict the accuracy of those statements? When I find that the Pastoralists Union have direct representatives in this Parliament who are endeavouring to retain for themselves the opportunity to treat their men in that manner, I am not surprised that the present Government should introduce legislation of this character for the purpose of crushing unionism. Unfortunately, there are not many men in the Liberal party to-day who take the same liberal view of unionism as does the present Postmaster-General. . I find that he is prepared to admit that there is good in trade unions. Every thoughtful man will recognise that in any industry it is better to deal with one representative of the employes than it is to deal with every employe individually. In speaking at the opening of the Conference of the Postal Electricians Union yesterday, the Postmaster-General said -
He found it much better to come into direct, touch with the men, as by this means he could find out the root of their troubles. He preferred to get the employes’ grievances at first hand, as they always suffered in coming through the Department. He was anxious to do the right thing in every case, and would assist the union in every legitimate way.
If he is prepared to support the union in every legitimate way, the best way in which he can do it is by extending to its members that preference to which he admits they are entitled. The men, by their self-denying efforts, have built up that union, which is of great assistance to the Department. Surely, after the statement of the Postmaster-General he will recognise that we will be doing our duty, not only to the trade unionists outside, but to the people of Australia, if we reject this Bill. I wonder at the change of front that has taken place amongst members of the so-called Liberal party. Only a few years ago some of them were advocating preference to unionists. They declared, not only that a preference should be- granted if a majority of the workers in any particular industry were unionists, but that it should be granted if a minority of unionists were employed in that industry. For instance, on page 7655 of Hansard for 30th November, 1904, I find that Mr. Fowler, the present Chairman of Committees in another place, said -
If a preference were extended to a very considerable number, some of the non-unionists might very well object that it would seriously interfere with their prospects of employment; but where the organization making application comprised only a minority of those engaged in the occupation which it represented, I, as a nonunionist, should regard that rather as an advantage than a disadvantage. Tt should be shown, at all events, in a way that has not yet been attempted that the granting of preference is bound up in the giving of it to a majority of those engaged in the industry affected. It ought to be shown that the granting of a preference to a minority would be something in the nature of an injustice ; but no honorable member opposite has yet attempted to prove anything of the kind.
Yet we find the Government declaring that preference shall not be granted to unionists, even if almost every person employed upon a work be a unionist. Take the case of the transcontinental railway an example. The men employed upon that work are . undoubtedly members of unions. I do not think it would be possible, at either end of the line, to find a non-unionist to-day. The Government intend to let a great part of that work on contract. The result will be that the contractor may be compelled under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to grant preference to unionists, whilst persons employed upon that work who are in Government employ will be denied that preference. Those of us who believe that better and cheaper work can be accomplished under the day-labour system than under the contract system decidedly object to that position. We do so for the reason that if a contractor is obliged to extend a preference to unionists whilst the Government are not obliged to do so, the contractor will secure all the good men. The Government will get only the “ riff-raff,” because all the good men are to be found in the unions. We all know that at the present time there is a union in Melbourne- some persons refer to its members as the ‘ ‘ Packerites ‘ ‘ - which is a “scab” union, a union that is subsidized and paid by the Employers Federation to destroy and break down genuine trade unionism. Many members of the Liberal party attend meetings of this bogus union, and deliver addresses to its members. The object of this Bill is to get the “ Packerites “ into the employ of the Government, and to squeeze out the unionists who are there at present. I know what has been the policy of the so-called Liberal party ever since the inception of responsible government in this country. It has not been one of preference to unionists, but of preference to non-unionists, and if I thought that this Bill would achieve its professed object it would, I say, be a good measure. But what will be its effect if it be placed upon the statute-book? Will not a preference be granted to non-unionists? I do not for a moment believe that a member of a union will have an opportunity of getting employment under the Government whilst a Fusion Government remains in power. The Bill will be only so much waste paper. The non-unionist will come along, and the head of the Department will know whether he is a unionist or not. After all, what is to be the penalty if a Minister is found to be granting a preference to non-unionists or to unionists ? What is to be the penalty if the head of a Department is found granting a prefer- ence to non-unionists or to unionists? Is there any penalty provided in this Bill ? If a Labour Government were in power, and an Act like this stood upon the statute-book, it would, of course, be carried out to the letter. But there is no occasion for the Bill. Our object is, frankly, to give preference to those who have done so much to improve the industrial conditions of all classes in Australia. It is not only the workers who have benefited from the labours of the unions. Every business man, every shopkeeper has benefited as largely as the workers themselves. I hope that the Government will persist in endeavouring to obtain a double dissolution bv means of this Bill. I am satisfied that it was never intended that the machinery of the Constitution should be used to bring about a double dissolution purely for party purposes. Indeed, I doubt whether the Government are so anxious for a double dissolution as they profess to be?. A week or so ago I spent a fortnight in New South Wales. During that time I explained this Bill to the audiences whom I addressed. People said, “ Is that how the Government are carrying out their promises to remove the burdens of taxation from my shoulders? Is ‘that the measure with which they -are going to bring down the cost of living?” The people are anxious for an opportunity of dealing with those who have- so betrayed the trust reposed in them on the 31st May last. But 1 am convinced that the Government are not anxious for the dissolution. They will not go to the country till they get a mandate from their masters - till the Beef Trust and the Sugar Trust are satisfied that there is a prospect of their winning. The order will then be given to Mr. Cook and his party to go to the country. The trusts will refuse to find the money till the time is opportune. The Government will have to obey the mandate given by the trusts whom thev so faithfully represent in this Parliament. Mr. Cook, at Albury, admitted that the Beef Trust and the Timber Trust are carrying on operations in Australia.
– I doubt whether this is in order.
– My attention is called to the fact that these extended references to various trusts are not relevant to this Bill. I think the honorable senator’s remarks were rather wide of the question.
– I was merely mentioning a question which was put to me during the last few weeks, as to whether this Bill would do anything to regulate the trusts.
– As far as I know, the Bill would not touch them.
– The only trust that it affects is the trust that the Government have that the Bill will lead to a double dissolution.’
– I subscribe to that trust. If this Bill leads to a double dissolution, I am satisfied as to what the verdict will be. The appeal will be made to a thoughtful and intelligent people, who have watched the growth of the Labour party for the last twenty-five years, and are aware of the improvements made in the condition of every section ot the community. The people will say, as they said in 1910, “ We are satisfied that they took up a proper stand .when they said that they refused to put upon the statute-book of the Commonwealth an insult, not only to the trade unionists of Australia, but to every thinking man and woman.”
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [9.8].- It is time that some one said a word or two on the other side. A great deal of mist has been thrown over this Bill in the speeches delivered by honorable senators opposite. I will not say that there has been wilful misrepresentation, but I do say that honorable senators are absolutely mistaken in regard to the main object of the measure. The Bill is intended to do an act of justice to the people of this country, and not to penalize trade unionists. We know perfectly well, notwithstanding what honorable senators opposite have said about our desire to put down trades unionism and all the rest of it, that nothing of the kind is intended. We recognise the value of trades unionism when conducted on fair and legitimate lines. But we do not sympathize with the unionism that would not permit men to express or to hold their own political views without having a hand thrust at their throats, and being told that unless they are prepared to swallow the opinions dictated to them they are not worthy of being regarded as unionists. In other words, we believe in trade unions as honestly conducted, but not in political unions. I strongly believe in combinations of workmen for the purpose of securing benefits for themselves in their own trade. Men have a right to combine. But when they go a step further, and insist that a man shall not hold his own political views, they are going beyond the line which marks what is fair and righteous. This Bill simply states that, as far as Government employment is concerned, no preference shall be given to any one. In other words, whether a man is a unionist or not, if he seeks employment under the Government, and his services are required, he shall, if the best-qualified applicant, be employed. That is the only fair Way of giving employment. The Government are trustees for the public. The expenses of government are shared by every person in the community, whether unionist or nonunionist. If the Government had put a Bill before Parliament to provide that only non-unionists should be employed, honorable senators would be perfectly justified in scouting it. But the object is to do a simple act of justice, and to undo an act of gross injustice in the form of the Executive act, which laid it down that no man should be employed in the service of the country unless he belonged to a union. Many men, perhaps mistakenly, do not believe- in joining unions. If they choose to assume that attitude no authority has any right to say to them that they shall not receive employment. How was preference in Government employ introduced in the first instance 1 It was not introduced in the open light of day,- but by a subterfuge. It was introduced underhand by Executive act. We are aware that that act has been set aside by the present Government. But when they go out of office a Labour Government may come in and reverse that decision. Here, however, is a Bill laying it down that preference shall ‘ be illegal. If it becomes an Act, and it is desired to make a change, that will have to be done in the open light of day by means of a further Act. Honorable senators opposite started the debate on this measure yesterday morning. They have since been very much concerned to point out that the Bill is a miserable little bantling, which ought to be laughed out. They say that it does not matter whether it is passed or not. Yet they have been opposing it most earnestly and consistently. If they had seen fit to take a division as soon as the second reading had been moved, and the Leader of the Opposition had replied, they could have ‘defeated the Bill hands down. Why have they been opposing it so energetically, and yet pretending that it is of no use? There must be some object. I do not believe that they have been speaking merely for the pleasure of hearing their own voices. But they think that this gives them an opportunity of placarding before the people what good unionists they are, and how they stood up for a principle which has not been attacked by a single honorable senator.
– Would the honorable senator say that there is a principle behind this Bill?
– I say that there is an honest desire to do justice to every man in the community, irrespective of his political views. It is important that the people of Australia should realize the fact that, no matter what Government is in power, this Bill will make it illegal to refuse to give fair consideration to every individual who is an applicant for employment. We are told that by means of this Bill it is intended to bring about a double dissolution. If that be so, let honorable senators vote against it; let them knock it out. Do not let them try to save their face by putting in some petty amendment which will enable them to say, “ We did not knock it out; we put in a’n amendment to explain more clearly what we wanted.” I should not be in order if I alluded to another Bill which they treated in that way. But let honorable senators come out in the open, whether the Bill leads to a double dissolution or not. Let them vote against it. There is a fair number of honorable senators who, if they exercise their own independent judgment, would knock it out at once. I say, as one of those who is going to support the Bill, “ Let them do so if they wish.” If my honorable friends are prepared on each measure to bring the two Houses before the people, well and good.
– We have fully halfadozen measures on which we shall differ from you.
– We know perfectly well that this matter was made a great deal of by many honorable senators.
– Why this “ stone wall “ when we are going to help you to carry the second reading?
– There it is; the honorable senator is going to vote for the second reading, and then his party propose to put in an amendment to destroy the value of the Bill. That is political tactics. A brave party of twenty-nine men want to save their faces, and that is the courage they are going to display. If honorable senators wish to have a fair fight over the Bill, let them do the straightforward thins; - vote against the second reading - and they will then have an opportunity to fight.
– Why “ stone- wall “ your own Bill?
– I have never met such strange men as the members of unions. I do not happen to belong to a union, and they object to my saying a few words on this subject, although they have monopolized twelve or fifteen hours, lt is time that my honorable friends made up their minds. If they do not like the Bill, let them vote against its second reading, and not try to whittle it down and say, “ We want to save our faces. Please, Mr. Cook, do not pull us before the electors. We do not want to go there.” Nor do they say, “ We are ready at any moment to go, but we will take precious good care to give you no chance to take us.”
– I suppose that all of us have watched the course of a stream flowing, to an ocean. We have seen how a little headland, jutting out, will cause a whirlpool, and perhaps in a little while divert the course of the stream. In human affairs there is a stream of human evolution from the savage to the civilized man. There have been little diversions in that course of evolution. In the state of industrial evolution we find the same thing. Events have happened which for a while have apparently set back the clock of time, but gradually the broad stream has overcome the obstacle, and flowed on stronger than ever. This little obstacle in the stream of evolution is to be compared to the dropping of a mosquito into the Amazon. It will have no more effect. Is it not singular that society emerged from barbarism in regard to some things hundreds, of years before it did in other things? It emerged from barbarism in respect to property long before it did in respect to human rights. Looking back over the history of civilization, we find that, in respect of property, at one time the rule of force was in existence. We find that the man who was strongest could take the property of another by the use of the club; might was right.
– “ That they should take who have the power.”
– Yes. “ And they should keep who can.” But a time came when the property owner began to find that that was an expensive process,, and he did not believe it to be a just one. So society said, “Let us do away with the reign of force, and have the reign of law; let us reason together, and if property has to be taken by one from another, let that one establish his claim to it before a judge.” In that way, civil disputes emerged from the barbaric reign of force into the reign of law, and to-day the man who tries to take away my property by force will find himself in a criminal dock. Yet it, is singular that, in respect of human rights, the doctrine of force still obtains. We have the history of industrial evolution, which is simply the same story of the evolution of the reign of force to the reign of law, repeating itself in the industrial evolution of the race; because, if you starve a man, you are compelling him to do something by force just as truly as if you compel him to do it with a club.
– Do you mean if you are compelling men to go into a union f
– I shall come to that stage presently. Because, even under the reign of law it is necessary to have compulsion behind the law to make it effective. In our law we have to take away from the freedom of the individual in order to obtain freedom for society. In most civilized societies today we see the greatest amount of law, and the greatest amount of interference by the law- with individual freedom; and yet the apparent contradiction is that in those very societies we have the highest freedom and the greatest liberty. My point is that, under the existing economic system, we have the employer and the employe. They are producing the wealth. And the industrial unrest throughout the world exists because of the disputes between those two classes as to the division of that wealth. That struggle has been going on ever since society evolved from barbaric times. It is intensifying as society becomes more and more interwoven under the methods of production. We have reached a stage to-day where that problem is becoming more and more complex. As soon as society began to reach that stage, those who had only their labour to sell found that by individual bargaining they were unable to stand up against the force of those who were buying ^ their labour, because the buyer of labour could bargain individually with those who had their labour to sell, and the person who was nearest to starvation lines fixed the rate of pay for the labour, not only for himself, but for all those who were in the labour market. So we had the struggle between Labour on the one hand and Capital on the other; Capital always fighting for individual bargaining, and Labour, as it became conscious of its power, always fighting for collective bargaining. The barbaric weapon of force was used. The capitalist usurped and held to himself the right to say, “ If you will not work for me for the wages I fix, for the hours I name, and under the conditions I lay down, then I will lock the door of my factory. I will send you off my farm, and you must go elsewhere to work. I will ‘not give you work. I will not give you wages.” The employe, using the same method, said, “ If you will not give me the wages I want, the hours I desire, and the conditions I prefer, I will refuse to work for you.” Learning the secret of combination - that in combination there was strength - the workmen came together, and formed trade unions. In those days, when the Parliaments were composed of capitalists, when the workers had no vote or voice in the making of the laws, what did the capitalist do? He made laws to prevent a combination of the workers, because he recognised that by collective bargaining the worker was placed in a better position to get from him a fair deal and a just wage. The Old Land has numberless Statutes, passed under the reign of the capitalist class, to restrict the right of the worker to combine. The capitalists recognised that so long as they could prevent collective bargaining, the power to fix the wage was theirs. They recognised that so long as they held that power the worker was in their hands, that each could fix his conditions absolutely, that an overstocked labour market placed the worker helpless in the hands of those who wished to buy his labour. In this land we realized that there were two methods by which the principle of collective bargaining could be utilized, namely, one through the industrial organization, and the other by political action through the industrial organization, because the worker saw that, whilst industrially he might be strong, and whilst through the industrial organization he might be able to get conditions that were good, wages that were fair, and hours that were reasonable, if he allowed the political machine to remain in the hands of the class that was exploiting him, politicians could take from him, through the laws, every advantage that he gained through industrial action. So, from 1891 onwards, the workers of Australia decided that not only would they work collectively and take collective action to protect their interests through the industrial organization, but that they would also combine that with political action through the industrial organization. We have reached this stage, that Australia and New Zealand are the first two countries to do in the industrial arena what every civilized country in the world has done long ago in the civil arena. They have decided that labour disputes shall no longer be settled by force, but that these, too, shall be relegated to a Court of law, and that a Judge shall decide which of the two disputants has right and justice on his side. That has found expression in the Arbitration laws of New Zealand, New South Wales, and Western Australia, in the Wages Board law in Other States, and, lastly, in the Common: wealth Arbitration . Act. That simply brings the worker and the employer under industrialism to the same stage of civilization that we have reached in civil disputes. It has simply said to the worker and “the capitalist, “ If you dispute over the sharing of the wealth you have produced, you shall not settle that dispute by means of the lock-out and the strike; you shall go before a Court relating to industrial matters, and the Court shall settle that dispute for you.” I can understand those who, recognising that that is against their class interests, are opposed to these industrial tribunals altogether. There are people, as there have been all along, who have fought strenuously against the passing of these measures, but the onward march of political thought has swamped them, and they have to recognise that now society will not allow barbarism to continue any longer in industrialism, that it has come to realize that law must obtain there just as it obtained in every other sphere of human activity. Having reached that stage, we find that those who, up to this time, have opposed the passing of such legislation, finding themselves defeated, have concentrated their efforts in two directions. One course they adopt is to mangle this legislation, to make it ineffective, and by hindering its free operation to make it, if possible, unpalatable to both worker and employer. Let us consider this question of arbitration. First of all, an arbitration law presupposes collective bargaining.
– Does this Bill deal with that?
– It does deal with it.
– The honorable senator is taking a long time to get round to the Bill.
– In this Bill the whole question of preference to unionists, unionism, and the methods of unionism, is, I think, involved. In my opinion, the question arises under it whether the members of unions shall be recognised and given preference. I am unable to see how I could restrict the debate so as to exclude almost any reference that might be made to the methods and the benefits to the community of unions.
– I propose to show that this Bill is a blow at the- principle of unionism, and a blow at the principle of arbitration. I have said that an arbitration law is impossible without unions. There must be some ohe who can be brought before the Court. We cannot deal with hundreds of thousands of individuals. We must bring them before the Court in their collective capacity. Therefore, the operation of an arbitration law is impossible without the existence of unions. If society decides that arbitration is preferable to the strike and lock-out, then society says that we must have- unions. Here is the employers union on the one hand, and the employes union on the other. The employes union desires better wages, shorter hours, and better labour conditions. To attain that desire they must, under our arbitration law, approach the Court, file their claim, and submit their evidence. They must put into the box their witnesses, who must be employes of the employers, who are the defendants in the case if it be one cited by a workers union. We must remember that the employers have a right to withhold employment from the men who go into the witness-box to establish the case for those who are asking for higher wages, shorter hours, and better conditions. They have the power, if they are not prevented from exercising it, of absolutely starving those men, and of compelling them to leave the country.
– And they have often done it.
– I have myself been the recipient of that treatment. Before the Arbitration Act came into force in Western Australia I was victimized and refused employment, not because I was an inefficient workman, since I was always able to get mort* than the average wage which other workmen in the same employment were receiving, not because there was anything against my character, but simply because I, as a trade unionist’, had voiced publicly the feeling of those who worked in the trade with which I was associated.
– T - The honorable senator’s experience is a common one.
– It. is a common experience of unionists. I have established the fact that if we are to have arbitration we must have unions. If the employers wish to prevent a case coming before the Arbitration Court, there is only one thing which they need do, and that is to prevent the establishment of a union. If they can prevent the establishment of a union, a case against them can never come before the Court, and they can fix for themselves the wages and conditions of labour. How can they prevent the establishment of a union? A union is a corporate body. It must have a president, a secretary, and ‘other officers. It must hold meetings, and must express itself in the form of resolutions which must go forward in the name of its officers. If the employers can say, “ We shall not employ any man who is, to our knowledge, a member of a union or an official of a union,” they can not only prevent the formation of a union, “but destroy a union after it has been formed.
If they can do that, they are placed in a position to defeat the intention of Parliament when it placed the Arbitration Act upon the statute-book. That being so, we have to ask ourselves the question : Is society in favour of arbitration, or is it not? Does it wish to go back to barbarism and the force of the strike and lock-out? If it does, wipe the Arbitration Act off our statute-book. That is the invitation I give to my honorable friends opposite.
-Is it? To have strikes it is not necessary to do that.
– We have a law against burglary, but burglaries are still committed. There is not a law on our statute-book that is not broken by somebody, and let me say that very many of the breaches of the Arbitration Act have been brought about by the Conservatives represented by our honorable friends opposite, who have designedly introduced provisions into the Act to make it unworkable. I have shown the way in which employers may prevent arbitration, although Parliament has said there shall be arbitration. I can go further, and say that they have done it, not once, but a hundred times. Within the last two years we have had that proved by sworn evidence given in the Arbitration Court, established by Parliament, in the gas-workers’ case, the boot industry case, and more recently in the Brisbane tramway case, beyond all possibility of doubt. We have had it established tha/t, designedly and for the purpose of preventing the establishment of a union in order that a case might be brought before the Arbitration Court, employers have discharged the officers of a union as fast as they were elected, and their men, as soon as it was ascertained that they were members of a union. Now as to the application of what I have said to this Bill. In the last Parliament, we decided that the employes of the Government should have, the same rights as the employes of any private firm to bring the Government of the country - their employer - before the Arbitration Court, and to ask the Court to decide whether the claim they put forward regarding their wages, hours, and conditions of labour is fair or not. We must remember that the Government, as an employer, are to-day launching out into services which are beyond the ordinary services conducted by a Government.
They are launching out into industries, and are, in many cases, taking the place formerly occupied by private employers. If the Government are to have a privilege which we deny to the private employer, and are to be permitted to do what we refuse to allow the private employer to do, I say that, to be honest, we should put the private employer in exactly the same position as the Government, or we should put the Government in the same position as the private employer. If we compel the private employer, as we do, to give preference to the members of a union, we should put the Government in exactly the same position. I have always contended that “ preference to unionists “ is a term designedly applied to describe the position by the enemies of arbitration. It is really a misnomer, and what is intended is the protection of unionism. It means, not only the protection of existing conditions under which labour is carried on, but for the labourer, unionist and nonunionist alike, every advantage that may be gained by the unions.
– The last Government had three years of office, and why did they not alter it?
– There was no necessity to alter it; it was there. The employers were given the right of access to the Court, and under the general Arbitration Act they could be awarded preference to unionists.
– Why did not the Government to which the honorable senator belonged call it “ protection to unionists “ when they had three years in office?
– If the honorable senator wishes to split straws on that, I shall not follow him.
– It was the honorable senator himself who split the straws.
– We adopted the term of the enemies of arbitration, and in that, I think, we made a mistake. However, that is only a question of nomenclature, and is of little importance, whilst the principle at stake is of very great importance. The present Government have not the courage to go before society and say, “ We are against the rule of law for the settlement of industrial disputes. We believe in barbarism and the reign of force. We desire to put back the clock of time’. We want to refuse to the workers the rights given to every individual in civil disputes.” They have not the courage to do that, but they say, “ We want to put the employer in a position in which he will have an advantage over the employe.” They wish to give him the opportunity of individual bargaining. They wish to make collective bargaining impossible, either by direct action or by legal action through the Arbitration Court, because if they can destroy the union they can, not only prevent it bringing a case before the Arbitration Court, but can prevent the workers from doing anything collectively in connexion with industry. The attitude of the Government in this matter is a mere hypocritical pretence. The Government are opposed to arbitration, and are ,in favour of freedom of contract. They wish to give the employer in this country, whether the Government or a private employer, the right to go to the man who is nearest to the starvation line and let him -fix the wages for the class to which he belongs. They wish to do that, but they have not the courage to come out and openly say so. They are proposing to sap the ramparts which society has built up between the employer and the employe, and upon which they can fight out before a Court of justice their respective claims. How do the Government commence their operations? First of all, by bringing forward a specious piece of sophistry. They say, “ Here is a certain amount of money contributed by all the taxpayers of .the country.” Then they say that when that money is expended in the carrying out of public works, since it has been contributed by the whole of society, the whole of the workers in the community, nonunion and union alike, should be allowed to share in its distribution. That is a beautiful piece of sophistry.
– It is honesty.
– This money is to be shared by the workers who carry out the work. The same thing is done by the private employer, who gives a certain amount of employment for which he pays the money he has accumulated as the result of the labour of those who have worked for him, or of those from whom he obtained it. The same argument might apply there. The men who are working for the private employer may not have contributed any of the money which he pays for the work done for him. It may have been obtained from quite other sources. The man who works for the Government is not treated as a taxpayer, but has precisely the same relation to the Government as the man working for a private employer has with that private employer. What does it matter to me, as a worker, whether I am starved by the Government or by a private employer? It is no consolation to me to know, if I am sweated, and the wages paid me are insufficient, if I am married, to enable me to bring up a family and educate and clothe my children properly, that that condition of affairs is imposed upon me by a Government. In my capacity as a worker, I should look upon the Government merely as an employer, and I should have the right to adopt exactly the same attitude towards them as I should be entitled to adopt towards a private employer.
– This Bill does not touch wages.
– I do not know so much about that. We have a Government in the State of Victoria who are employing men in the railway service of the State at 6s. per day. I defy any man to marry, and rear a family decently - to live as a human being ought to live - with the present price of commodities in Melbourne, on 6s. a day. In the relationship between the worker and the employer, the Government stand in exactly the same position as does the private employer. The reason why we are opposed to this Bill is that, as the Government Service extends, the unions will have to speak, and will have to present their case against the Government before the Arbitration Courts exactly as they present it against the private employer. I venture to say that, generally speaking, Governments will give their employes a better deal than will private employers. But, if they should not deal justly with them, what are we going to have? Are we going to have the employes of the Government striking, or are we going to say to them, “ You must bring your dispute before the Arbitration Court “ ? If we say that, in order that they may be encouraged to comply with the law and to form a union, we must give protection to those who take upon themselves the responsibilities of office in that union, and who speak for its members. Otherwise, we shall have it said, “ Oh, So- and-so is an agitator ; he is always advocating an increase of pay ‘ ‘ ; and the head of the Department may say, “ Get rid of him.” But it may be that that man, in making the representations that he does make, is acting only on the authority of the workers who have elected him to a position in his union. In principle, unionists say, “ You shall not get rid of that man, because he is merely voicing the collective opinion of those whom he represents.” When employment is offering, we have on the one hand the man who has sacrificed his time and his money to build up a union which will enable our arbitration machinery to work satisfactorily, and which will prevent strikes and industrial disputes by availing itself of the legislation which Parliament has enacted for that purpose. On the other hand, we have the non-unionist, of equal ability as a workman, but one who has done nothing to provide machinery to make our arbitration legislation work satisfactorily. In all justice, which of these two should be granted a preference by the Commonwealth ? Surely it is the man who, recognising the law that the Commonwealth has enacted, spends his time, his money, and his energy, to provide the machinery which will enable that law to work rather than the individual who, by the fact that he is a non-unionist, would make that law absolutely useless and unworkable. To my mind, that is the sole reason why the Labour party must fight such principles as this whenever they are presented. As society is recognising that we have emerged from barbarism, even in industrial evolution, the day will come when people will look back on these debates and wonder that educated men, with the history of events behind them, could ever be found to stand up and practically advocate reverting to that barbarism which has long ago been dissipated in civil disputes, and in every other walk of life.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- This Bill, which has been in circulation for some time, is a very simple one, and one that does not affect the Senate. It is a measure relating to the appointment of a Committee of Public Accounts, and applies only to the other branch of the Legislature. As honorable senators know, each House, at the beginning of every session, appoints Select Committees with certain functions that are usually described by the titles of those Committees, just as the Committee proposed to be constituted under this Bill will deal with the public accounts: But there are differences between them. As honorable senators are aware, the Committees that we appoint last only for a session. In this Bill, it is proposed that the Committee of Public Accounts shall last for the life of the Parliament.
– Why confine representation on it to one branch of the Legislature ?
– The answer to that question can be anticipated by even the most ardent senator. This Committee will deal with matters which are purely financial ; and, while I am not in the least desirous of minimizing the powers of that branch of the Legislature of which I am a member, I recognise that our Constitution gives the power to initiate money Bills to the other Chamber. We have to recognise that the custodian of the public purse is the House of Representatives, and that the Senate is not the custodian pf it to an equal extent.
– - Does not the Honorary Minister recognise that our power of request is practically equal to the power of amendment?
– I hope that I shall never be found ignoring the powers of the Senate, but the control of the public accounts, we all know, is largely in the hands of the other branch of the Legislature, and money Bills are initiated there. This measure is one of three clauses.
– Every money Bill originates in the other House.
– I do not wish to occupy the time of the Senate by amplifying what I have already said in that connexion. Senator Rae is aware of the constitutional position as well as I am. The House of Representatives, I believe, with the concurrence of both parties, desires to have the power of appointing this Committee. But, inasmuch as its tenure of office will be different from that of an ordinary Committee, the introduction of this Bill has become necessary. I do not wish to quote precedents with a view to binding any honorable senator. But for this Bill precedents are to be found in Victoria, New South Wales, and in the House of Commons. In the Legislative Assemblies of New South Wales and Victoria there are Committees of practically an identical character. In the House of Commons there has been such a body in existence for some considerable time. In New South Wales and Victoria it has been found, even by members of the Legislative Council, that the existence of a Committee of Public Accounts is a necessity, and many tributes have been paid to a similar Committee in the House of Commons. I offer these as precedents which should guide us in deciding this question. I do not think I need occupy more time in dwelling upon the Bill or its provisions. There is one power that it is necessary to give such a Committee, namely, the power to take evidence upon oath. I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– This is one of those insignificant, uncontenious, and altogether frivolous propositions that are introduced by the Government for the purpose of reducing the cost of living, the amount of rent, and various other oppressive burdens that are afflicting the population of Australia.
– The honorable senator has forgotten the postage stamp.
– I cannot remember all the efforts that are being made by this Government to fulfil the very extensive promises they made to the electors during the last campaign. I should like to have heard the Honorary Minister speaking in opposition to the measure. I am sure that he would have clearly pointed out that it is absolutely unnecessary, because this Parliament has provided for an Audit Commissioner, who has a very extensive staff for the purpose of looking after the accounts of the Commonwealth. I am not going to oppose the Bill, however. It is of so little consequence that it does not matter whether it is placed upon the statute-book or not. But I differ entirely from Senator Clemons when he says that the Bill only concerns another place. In the Commonwealth, we are entirely different from the three great countries to which he referred -Victoria, New South Wales, and Great Britain - probably the three greatest countries on earth, with one exception; and, of course, Senator Guthrie knows what the exception is. The Second Chambers in New South Wales, Victoria; and Great Britain differ entirely from the Senate of the Commonwealth. The financial Bills that come before us may be classified under three heads. First, there are measures such as the Appropriation Bill and the Supply Bills, which relate to the ordinary annual services of the Commonwealth. We do not need a Public Accounts Committee to deal with them. The Senate cannot make amendments in Bills affecting the ordinary annual services, though it may make suggestions. . Secondly, there are the Bills granting Supply for works and buildings. The Senate has exactly the same power of amendment in connexion with Bills of that class as the House of Representatives has. There is a third and distinct class of measures, such as Loan Bills, as to which the Senate has precisely the same powers as the House of Representatives has.
– Not quite.
– We can amend . those Bills.
– We cannot orginate them.
– The only difference is that we do not originate them. But Senator Clemons knows that we have the power of amendment.
– I do; and I am glad that we have that power.
– He knows that the Public Accounts Committee would be of no use in relation to the ordinary annual services. Seeing that it could only deal with works and buildings, and with Loan Bills, and seeing that the Senate can make amendments in those measures, if any honorable senator moves an amendment giving the Senate representation on the Public Accounts Committee, I shall support him. The Minister set a very good example, and I shall not delay business by speaking at greater length. I trust that this, and other small Bills which will come along, will be dealt with as speedily as possible.
– I can welcome this Bill, although to a large extent it duplicates machinery already existing. We have appointed an Auditor-General, whose duty it is to scrutinize public accounts, and he provides a fairly good means of ascertaining how the money voted by Parliament is expended. But still I welcome the measure as an additional effort supplementing that watchfulness which the AuditorGeneral is exercising over the expenditure of the money of the taxpayers. While I agree that a Public Accounts Committee ought to be constituted, and therefore receive this Bill as a move in the right direction, I find myself at variance with the proposal of the Government in so far as it proposes that’ only one branch of the Legislature shall have a voice in the composition of the Committee. I cannot understand why the Senate, which is co-equal with the other branch, even in respect of money Bills, should be excluded. We have dealt with many taxation measures in the past, and by the exercise of the power of request which the Constitution gives to us we have made our voice very effective indeed. Though nominally we cannot amend money Bills, nevertheless we have a very effective way of securing amendments by insistence on our requests. Having that power, which has been recognised in the past by the other Chamber, how are we to regard this Bill, which proposes to strip the Senate entirely of all voice in and connexion with the scrutiny which the Public Accounts Committee is to exercise? This Bill seems tc me to have some curious indefinable connexion with what has been said so often by some of those who are standing behind the present Government concerning the Senate. The Treasurer, for instance, has said on more than one occasion that the Senate is useless ; that it is failing to fulfil its functions, and that it is not carrying out the responsibility cast upon it by ‘the Constitution. Sir John Forrest on several occasions, in Western Australia, cast a deliberate slight upon this Chamber, and sought to reduce it in the eyes of the electors in importance and status. Having those declarations from members of the present Government, I feel that I am doing nothing more than exercising my right in drawing attention to the fact that this Bill appears to have a close connexion with the antipathies that have been manifested by Ministerialist’s towards the Senate as a co-ordinate branch of the Legislature. The Minister has given us parallel cases from New South Wales, Victoria, and other countries.
– I was careful to say that those precedents do nob bind them.
– Quite so. The Minister, relying on that stock of knowledge to which we must always bow when he expresses opinions on such a subject, omitted to refer to the Senate of the United States of America, existing under a Constitution which was, to a large extent, a pattern from which our Constitution was copied. In the United States of America the Senate is a much stronger branch of Congress than is the other Chamber. The Minister might have referred -to that body in telling us what is intended to be done under this Bill. There the Senate, as Senator Clemons knows, has powers such as are not exercisable by this Chamber. It has the exclusive power of ratifying treaties which the House of Representatives does not enjoy. It has the exclusive right of indorsing the appointment of ambassadors and other high officials. It has the power of ratifying the appointment of other officials, even down to country postmasters.
– It can impeach offenders.
– Yes. Those powers are far in excess of those which this Senate possesses. But while that is true, it affords no warrant for curtailing the powers which the Senate does enjoy, as this Bill proposes to do. I have foreshadowed an amendment, the object of which is to give the Senate representation on the Public Accounts Committee. As the Constitution does not forbid the exercise of such powers, I maintain that we ought to push our rights to the full. We ought not to yield an inch to the controlling authority which this Chamber possesses. The Bill is, to my mind, a clear and deliberate attempt to bring about the surrender of powers which the Senate now enjoys. I do not like to base my assumptions on mere surmise. But I must call attention to the fact that the latest development in the politics of this country is that members behind this Government repeatedly speak slightingly of the Senate, referring to it as a Chamber that has failed to fulfil the expectations of its founders. I think that there must be some connexion between the feelings expressed in the past and this measure, which places a slight on the Senate.
– That has not reached me.
– I hope not. I think it is time that we lived down this surviving relic of constitutional practice, that one Chamber can exercise an exclusive supervision over the taxpayers’ money. It originated in the days when the House of Commons was alone the sole mouthpiece by which the people could express their wishes. The House df Lords never sprang from the people - never was representative of them - and that is why the House of Commons always enjoyed an exclusive control over the public purse. The off-shoots in the British Dominions have followed slavishly the standard set up in the Old Country.
– That was quite right with Legislative Councils.
– It was quite right and justifiable in the Old Land, but circumstances here are entirely altered. The causes which justified one Chamber having exclusive control over the public purse no longer obtain in Australia. The Senate is based on the broadest foundation on which a representative institution ever existed. It only exists by reason of the fact that the adult men and women throughout Australia, without disqualifications, have expressed the desire that we should be here, and by no other means. Enjoying such a representative capacity and character as we do, I entreat the Minister not to push this Bill in its present form through the Chamber.
– You do not want to entreat me much, I can tell you.
– I hope that the Minister will lend a sympathetic ear to my appeal to him to see that the Senate is represented on the Committee in the proportion I have suggested in my amendment. My proposal is that the Senate shall be represented by three members, and the other Chamber by four members, each complement of representatives to be selected and appointed by their Chamber, and each Chamber to have control of its own component part. I accept the principle of the Bill. I believe it is a good one, although it may be a bit superfluous in a sense. At the same time, I insist that the Senate should not suffer the slight which the Bill will unmistakably cast upon it if it is passed in its present form. I hope that my amendment will be taken into sympathetic consideration by honorable senators.
Senator RAE (New South Wales) t 10.20]. - I agree with all that Senator Lynch has said, and I think that the Committee will probably do some good if its functions are properly carried out. One good thing that it will do will be to secure to its members a more intimate knowledge of matters involving public expenditure, and the business training which will come to them will be very valuable in discussing finance. No member of the Senate should be deprived of the opportunity to acquire that experience and intimate knowledge of the public accounts which will be gained from membership of the Committee. It is, to my mind, most peculiar that in a purely non-party measure any question of casting a slight on the Senate should have ever entered the heads of those who framed and introduced the Bill in another place.
– T do not believe that it did.
– It is a strange oversight. I am given to understand that some honorable members urged the right of the Senate to be represented on the Committee, but that the Government would not listen to them. I trust that they will be more amenable to reason here, and will consent to some alteration on the lines suggested by Senator Lynch, for I, personally, would be very glad to get the business training and knowledge which must come from membership of such a body.
– I wish to know whether the Government intend to give favorable consideration to the amendment foreshadowed by Senator Lynch, because on their reply to that inquiry may depend, perhaps, the duration of the few remarks I have to make.
– If I say “Yes,” will the remarks be few?
– My remarks will be much shorter.
– Then I say “ Yes.”
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee: ]
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 - £very Committee of Public Accounts appointed by the House of Representatives shall hold office as such Committee, and may exercise all the powers conferred upon it by any standing orders or Act, for the term of the Parliament during which it is appointed.
If any member of such Committee should for any cause cease to be a member of the Committee the House of Representatives may appoint another member in his place.
– I find that in the amendment I have circulated I have done a slight injustice, though quite unwittingly, to the Senate, because I have placed it behind the House of Representatives. I, therefore, move the amendment in this form -
That the words “ appointed by the House of Representatives shall hold office as such Committee” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ shall consist of seven members, three to be appointed by the Senate and four by the House of Representatives.”
– Will the Minister state how it is proposed to appoint the members of the Committee?
– Senator Lynch, I am certain, will not mind me calling him a practical man. I said just now that I would give ^favorable consideration to his amendment, and I am going to do so. If he wants his amendment to be carried, I suggest to him that he should have regard to the numbers in the other House and in the Senate. He may not like it, and I do not necessarily say that I do, but I am putting before him a practicable proposition. If “ he were to propose that the Committee should consist of five members from the other House and two from the Senate, he would, whether we like it or not, be carrying out as nearly as possible the proportion that obtains between the two Chambers.
– The proportion of three to four is on the high side, I admit, but that of two to five will be on the low side.
– I make the suggestion to the honorable senator in the full belief that he wants to see his amendment carried”. I think that the other House is more likely to accept the amendment if he makes the proportion two to five.
– I accept the suggestion.
– Good. There is also a little difficulty which can be got over, but it has to be got over. The powers to be conferred on the Committee are, as the Bill stands, tobe defined by the other House by Standing Orders. That answers the inquiry of Senator Rae, too. If the Committee is to be composed of members of both Houses, there will hare to be some alteration made in that regard, because we cannot permit the House of Representatives, by its Standing Orders alone, to define the powers which the Committee will exercise. The Senate must have some say in the definition and the allotment of the powers. There are two ways of carrying out that idea. One way, of course, will be to incorporate a provision in the Bill. But I am not prepared at this moment to draft a provision, and I am not sure that it is the most desirable course to adopt. There is another way, and sometimes I think we find it a very convenient way, and that is to act by regulation. I cannot at the moment suggest anything better.
– I ask leave to amend my amendment “by substituting “two” for “three,” and “five” for “four.”
Amendment amended accordingly.
– I ask the Honorary Minister to state by what method it is proposed to appoint the Committee?
– According to the Bill as it stands, by the House itself.
– Does the Minister mean to say that this Committee will be appointed in the same way as the Library Committee or the Refreshment Committee?’
– That is the proposition in the Bill as it stands.
– It would be very much better, I think, to elect the members of the Committee by the simple process of handing round a list, and allowing honorable senators to select the members.
– Even if the members of this Committee are nominated as the members of the ordinary Committees are nominated, you can alter the names if you see fit.
– I admit that; but it is looked upon as a slight to object to any person who has been nominated. It is rather an invidious thing to do.
– Under our present procedure, if there is an objection made, a ballot can be demanded.
– It has always seemed to me a wrong way for a Minister to make a choice, and cast upon an individual member the invidious duty of objecting to some member or other.
– I think it is a good check on the action of the Minister.
– Yes, but I think it would be better to have the members of the Committee elected.
– Let one man from each side of the chamber be appointed.
-I am quite agreeable to that, but I think there should be a fair division.
– Surely you would allow one member to be chosen from this side?
– I do not see how we could give our opponents less than one member, if we give them any. I think they should be elected rather than appointed.
– I wish to say a few words in reply to what Senator Clemons put forward when inducing Senator Lynch to accept the principle of a smaller number for the Senate than for the House of Representatives. I think the honorable senator is proceeding upon very unsafe ground. He might not be so well satisfied if later, in connexion with some matter of a party character, the same principle of representation were followed. I think it is a mistake to lay down a rule that, because there are seventy-five members in the House of Representatives, that House should have five representatives on the proposed Committee, and because there are only thirty-six members in the Senate, the Senate should be represented by two. On the same line of reasoning, we might later on, when dealing with other matters, think it necessary to object to the constitution of a Committee in that way.
– We shall warn this off as not to be considered a precedent.
– As Senator Lynch is satisfied with the arrangement, and he has taken the chief interest in the matter, I shall not detain the Committee further.
– I wish to move that the amendment be amended by substituting the word “ elected “ for the word “ appointed.”
– I ask Senator Rae not to press that amendment. It seems to me that, in connexion with a Committee of this kind, which will have to inquire into a subject of interest to both sides, it is eminently desirable that, so far as this Chamber is concerned, there should be one member representative of each of the two parties composing the Senate.
– Is there any guarantee that the present Government will treat the members of another place in the same way ?
– I cannot say what will happen in another place. In the constitution of Committees of this kind it is the invariable practice to give representation to the separate parties in a House. That can best be done by the Government submitting nominations. If it is left to a ballot, unless there be very close supervision beforehand, it might happen that the selection of the two Senate representatives would be from one side. It should be remembered that if the method of nomination is adopted, the Senate will have control of the matter, will be able to relent an objectionable nomination, and make a fresh nomination. I submit, in the circumstances, that appointment by nomination is the better plan to adopt. As an argument which I am sure will appeal particularly to honorable senators on the other side, if the system of election by ballot were adopted, a Government having a majority might exercise their brutal strength in order to secure that all the members appointed should be from their own side.
– At this somewhat late hour, I shall not argue the matter at length. I am sorry that I do not get more credit for my complacency, softness, and disposition to give in when I am asked to do so. I do not consider that Senator Millen’s argument is conclusive. We are being asked to agree that of the two members of the Committee to be appointed from the Senate one is to represent the sacred seven, and only one the twentynine honorable senators on this side. I think that the principle of election should be adopted in these matters, and I am not satisfied that considerations as to the side from which the members should be appointed should prevent the adoption of that principle.
– In order to bring the matter to a head, I make the suggestion that since, if. Senator Lynch’s amendment be accepted, certain drafting alterations will be necessary in the Bill, we might accept that amendment, and then report progress in order that the necessary consequential amendments may be drafted. It is clear that if the amendment be agreed to, it will be necessary to eliminate the words which refer to the Standing Orders, since the Standing Orders of another place could not govern us.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
– As I think it is possible to deal with the matter at once, I think we might as well finish with the clause. I propose to move that the words “any standing orders or Act” be left out, with a view to insert the words “ this Act, and the regulations made thereunder, or any other Act.”
– Does the Honorary Minister think it is necessary to insert the words “or any other Act.” ? There is no other Act dealing with this subject, and the only regulations made will be those made under this Act.
.- There is at present no other measure dealing with this subject, nor do I think the words are absolutely necessary, but I suggested their insertion as precautionary. Another Act may be passed dealing with this matter, and it is necessary to safeguard it. Perhaps, as if another measure is passed to deal with the matter, we can consider its provision so far as it affects this measure, we may, in this matter, leave the future to look after itself. I move -
That the words “ any standing orders or Act “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ this Act and the regulations made thereunder.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
In Committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ message) :
Clause 3 -
Section seventy-one of the principal Act is amended by inserting in sub-section (1) thereof, after paragraph (e), the following paragraph : - “ and (f) regulating the purchase, custody, control, and issue of public stores.”
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out clause. House of Representative’s Message. - Amendment disagreed to.
– It is not necessary for me to remind honorable senators of this particular clause. I admit that it was debated here at some length, and that on the motion for the third reading of the Bill I endeavoured to induce my honorable friends opposite to restore it to the measure. I failed in my efforts, but I do not fail to hope that, after the consideration which this measure has received in another place, they will recognise the advisableness of adopting the course which I suggest. I still think that it is an appropriate clause to put in this Bill, and that its insertion will prove of benefit to the Commonwealth, so far as all those finances are concerned which are employed in the purchase of stores.
– I suppose that the honorable senator could make out a good case on the other side.
– I can assure Senator Mullan that I could not do so, even if I paid any regard to a political conscience. There are many members on both sides of the House of Representatives who think that it is a good clause. The Bill has been returned to us from that Chamber without any division, and I would urge Senator McGregor to withdraw some of the harsh criticisms that he offered when the provision was previously discussed here, and to overlook its defects in view of the fact that he himself recognises that it possesses many merits. He stated that it was a good provision, but that it was in the wrong place. Practically, that was the whole objection urged by the Opposition to it.
– Does not the HonoraryMinister recognise that the best definition that has been given of “ dirt “ is, is thatit is “ matter in the wrong place “ ?
– Unfortunately,. I remembered that when I was using the phrase. Many honorable senators opposite think that the provision which we eliminated is a good one, but that this Bill is the wrong place for it. Is it not worth our while to have it, even if it be in the wrong measure ? I would urge my honorable friends to give us this Bill before we go into recess. The very part of it which will beuseful to the public has been excised in this Chamber on the ground that it is not appropriate to it. I move -
That the Committee does not insist on its amendment disagreed to by the House of Representatives.
– I am pleased to hear all the nice things which the Honorary Minister, has said about this amendment. I agree that nearly all the members of the Opposition have admitted that it would not be a bad thing to establish a Supply and Tender Board. But we do not want to create such a Board under a Bill of this kind, which does not specify its functions, its composition, or its control by Parliament. When dealing with a Supply and Tender Board we require to have before us a Bill setting out these particulars. I am quite sure that ifthat were done the Government would receive the support of many members of the Opposition. I would further point out that the reasons given by another place for asking us not to insist upon our amendment are not correct reasons. It is stated that there are Supplyand Tender Boards in existence in Victoria and New South Wales, and an endeavour is made to induce us to believe that those Boards were constituted under the Audit Acts of those States. When the measure was previously under review in this Chamber, it was pointed out that that was not so. They were constituted under the Public
Service Acts of those States. For the Government to attempt to mislead the Senate in that way is scarcely calculated to induce us to rely upon their statements. I ask honorable senators upon this side of the chamber to insist upon the amendment.
.- I had the opportunity of hearing the Attorney-General put his views upon this question before another place, and I came away more convinced than ever that in rejecting the clause the Senate had done the right thing. The need for a Supply and Tender ‘Board is very great, but it must be constituted in such a way as to command the approval of the whole Senate. I hope that we shall take a division on this question, and that it will be dealt with in the same prompt way that it was dealt with on a previous occasion. No argument has been adduced to alter the attitude which I then took up. My complaint on that occasion was that we were passing a measure of such far-reaching importance that it should receive full consideration at the hands of the Senate. What was the position? The clause affirmed that the Auditor-General should have the control of the purchase and supply of goods. To my mind, his functions should be restricted to seeing that all moneys expended have been properly expended. He should not have any voice in the purchase of goods. His duty is to Bee that the purchases made are properly accounted for, and that no money has been spent for any purpose other than that for which it was voted. I am of opinion, particularly on questions of finance, in which the Auditor-General is concerned, that we cannot be too careful to avoid complicating his functions. It is upon that officer that we have to depend for the correct auditing of all the accounts of the great Departments of the Commonwealth, whose expenditure is annually growing, and will continue to grow. We know very well that, without being required to undertake the purchase of materials, the Auditor-General’s time is fully occupied. That is abundantly proved by the fact that his report was presented to Parliament, only about three days ago.
– That is not worse than the position has been in previous years.
– I quite realize that. No less an authority than the Minister of Defence pointed out recently, at Grenfell, what an iniquitous position that was. He blamed the late Government for the fact that the Auditor-General’s report had not been presented to the last Parliament until the closing hours of the session. The fact that that officer’s report was presented to this Parliament only a few days ago convinces me that he already has ample work to engage his attention and that of his staff. If we associate him with a Supply and Tender Board, I fear that we shall not get a report from him at all. There will be no occasion for it. The whole business of Parliament will be conducted under regulations, which will empower him to have a voice in the purchase of stores and supplies, in addition to requiring him to audit the public accounts. I have no intention of “stone-walling” this measure, but I do hope that those who rejected the clause on a previous occasion will repeat their action now.
Amendment insisted on.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Defence a question. If he is not able to answer it to-night, perhaps he will obtain the information later. Can he tell me who is supposed to be in charge of those employed on the Jervis Bay Naval College works? Is it the gentleman known as the Supervising Engineer, and, if so, is the timekeeper associated with him in the management of the labour conditions? My reason for asking the question is that I am given to understand by some dissatisfied workmen that the timekeeper, Mr. J. C. Wilson, exercises considerable influence in all matters brought before the Supervising Engineer. He puts in his appearance, and interferes in such a way as practically to “ boss the situation,” to put it in the vernacular. Is that done with the concurrence of the Department, or is the Supervising Engineer supposed to be in Bole control?
– 1 know nothing of the details to which the honorable senator refers. The work is being done under the control of the Home Affairs Department. If the honorable senator, when he receives the proof of his question to-morrow morning, will hand it to me, I will endeavour to get some information before the Senate rises tomorrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 December 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1913/19131211_SENATE_5_72/>.