5th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– The only measures which the Government proposed to get through other than Supply we’re two measures in respect to which the concurrence of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Fisher, was sought. One was a Bill to confer some powers on Mr. Justice Street, who has been appointed a Commissioner to inquire into the Beef and other trusts. Another small measure is to extend the period, by I think one month, within which the payment of certain bounties could be continued. These are the only two measures which the Government contemplate asking the Parliament to deal with.
– Will the Leader of the Senate take into consideration, with his colleague, the desirability of proceeding with another absolutely noncontentious measure if it is sent to the other House from the Senate and receives the concurrence of the Leader of the Opposition there? I refer to the measure which I desire leave to bring in to enable a referendum of the people to be taken at the coming elections as to whether they will allow paragraph 23 of section 51 of the Constitution to be altered to empower this Parliament to provide pensions for widows with young children dependent upon them. I can give the Minister, I feel sure, an assurance that if this measure were passed through the Senate it would be accepted by the Leader of the Opposition and his party in another place, and therefore would be in the same category as the two non-contentious measures which the honorable senator has stated will be proceeded with.
– I have nothing to add to the statement already made in reply to Senator O’Loghlin.
– In continuation of the question which I attempted to address to the Vice-President of the Executive Council yesterday, and which I discovered was out of order, as to whether he is not of the opinion that nearly half the people on the present electoral rolls will probably call at a post office or other institution for the purpose of ascertaining their position, will he do anything to prevent these persons from being deceived by finding their names on the old roll when they are struck off the new roll, or the one that will be used in a couple of months? As this is a serious question, affecting nearly half the people of the Commonwealth, will he do anything in the matter 1
– I have nothing to add to the answer which I gave yesterday.
– I did not get a reply to this question yesterday, because it was ruled out of order.
– I gave an answer yesterday.
– Can the VicePresident of the Executive Council give an assurance to the Senate as to the length of time between the date when the newly-printed rolls will be exhibited in public places, and the date of the elections? Perhaps I may be allowed to explain why I ask the question. Yesterday the Leader of the Government in another place was asked whether it would be possible for these rolls to be hung up in public places for at least four weeks previous to the date of the dissolution so that persons whose names did not appear thereon could get their names put on the supplementary roll. I am not clear - and I do not think that any person can be clear - as to the meaning of the reply given to that question. Therefore, I desire to know whether the Vice-President of the Executive Council can assure the Senate that the newly-printed rolls will be exhibited in public places for three or four weeks before the last date on which names can be added to the supplementary roll ?
– We anticipate that the rolls will be printed and issued in about a month. We are not quite sure, but they may be out in one or two States earlier. As soon as any rolls are ready they will be exhibited at the usual public places where they are shown - that is, at railway stations, post-offices, and Electoral Registrars’ offices. I cannot state the time which will elapse from that event to the dissolution. We do not know yet what the date of the dissolution will be, or the date of the elections. But applicants for enrolment can obtain it at any time up to the issue of the writs.
– That is the date we want to know, not the date of the elections.
– I am unable to give the information.
– I took it for granted that the date of the dissolution and the date of the issue of the writs would be the same.
– I am unable to give information regarding that matter at the present time, but I assure the honorable senator that as soon as rolls are printed they will be exhibited, and that claimants can get enrolled up to the issue of the writs.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice - Whether the following suggestions made by the writer of the letter, headed “ Electoral Rolls,” in the Argus, of the 10th June, will be carried into effect : -
– It is the practice of the Department at the present time to exhibit the rolls at the places mentioned, but they are frequently carried away, and I am considering the introduction of some method of making them more secure than they have been in the past.
– As the VicePresident of the Executive Council has referred several times to the issue of writs and the date of dissolution, may I ask if he was referring to a dissolution of the other House and the issue of writs for its divisions ?
– I have not referred to the matter, except in answer to a question.
– I wanted to know what you meant.
– I have nothing further to say.
– I rise to ask the Leader of the Senate a question regarding the intentions of the Government about immigration. I have often suggested that the Commonwealth should take full charge of the immigration system. Senator Clemons, when I asked a question once, said that he would recommend to the Government that such should be done, and that an agreement should be entered into with the States. Is it the intention of the Government, as a result’ of the recent Premiers’ Conference, to take this matter in hand, with the view of seeing that the Commonwealth shall, fully control the immigration schemes of Australia ?
– The Commonwealth Government do control immigration, so far as the entrance of people into Australia is concerned.
– I mean the selection of immigrants.
– The other questions raised by the honorable member will be found answered in the report recently issued of the Conference of State Premiers and the agreement then arrived at with the Prime Minister of Australia.
Punishment of Cadet : Solitary Confinement
– I rise to ask the Minister of Defence, in no carping spirit, a question arising out of a letter I havereceived in connexion with the case of Cadet Roberts, which, I think, ought to be denied. The parents paid a visit to Queenscliff, and the letter reads as follows : -
For continuing in his refusal, the boy was placed in the cell next the guard-room on Thursday night, where he was confined until 11 a.m. Saturday morning, and then courtmartialled. The Military Court then ordered him.’ to be placed in a cell for seven days. He is locked in a cell 10 feet by 10 feet, built of wood, with an iron roof. lt lias no window, the light coming through a grating. He has a wooden stretcher; the mattress and blankets are taken away in the morning, and not brought back until dark. He has halfanhour’s exercise in the morning, and again in the afternoon; he is on half diet; has not been, allowed to read, nor to write to his parents.
We were quite unaware of this treatment of him until we visited Queenscliff on Monday,, when- we found him looking worse than whenseen five days previously. This we attributed to the mental strain of the solitary confinement, a recent illness of a month in bed, and. to the reduced diet. After, lunch time on Saturday he received only bread and water until breakfast time Sunday.
The boy endeavoured to cheer his mother by saying that he had only four days’ more solitary confinement to go through. However, this morning we waited on the Defence Department authorities, and were officially informed that if the boy continued in his refusal toforego his convictions he would be ordered a further period of solitary confinement.
The civil court ordered the boy into military custody, but surely it is going beyond the intentions of the citizen army for a court martial to be allowed to step in after a case has been dealt with by the civil court. Furthermore, solitary confinements should never be ordered. The question may well be asked, is this a citizen army controlled by the Military Board. A
Melbourne lawyer states that solitary confinement is considered inhuman, and only used in the case of refractory criminals of the worst type.
My wife and I earnestly appeal for your influence in this distressing matter, and hope you will, at least, write a letter to the Minister of Defence.
Seeing that the letter is not in confirmation of what the Minister of Defence told us yesterday-
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Is it a letter out of a newspaper ?
– No ; it is a letter which was sent to me from 125 Newstreet, Middle Brighton, and is signed by a person,’ on behalf of the parents. I do not question the statement of the Minister, but I wish to give him an opportunity to put the matter on a firm basis - in other words, to reaffirm the reply he gave yesterday.
– The statements contained in the letter, as far as they are definite, are entirely inaccurate, and were completely answered by me yesterday. I propose to repeat one or two of the answers now. I will take first the statement as to there being no window in the cell. I am told, in the official information given to me, that there are two windows, and that, in addition to that, the door was left open, as I mentioned yesterday, all day, being merely secured by a chain. As regards the statement that the boy is allowed out of the cell only half-an-hour a day, the official regulations provide for him to be out twice a day, one hour on each occasion. With reference to the statement that the boy is being practically starved, I read the dietary scale yesterday, and I venture to say that he is allowed an amount of sustenance which is a great deal more than is required to sustain an average individual in this community.
– Nobody believes that he gets it.
– That is tantamount to saying that the officers are engaged in a conspiracy.
– Which, I believe, many of them are.
– I cannot help honorable senators. If they want information, and I get it from the only source available to me, I am immediately told that tho officers are not only conspiring to deprive a boy of the food he is entitled to get, but also conspiring together to lie.
– We are not justified in making such statements about officers in the absence of proof.
– It is a very great disappointment and surprise to me to learn that public journals which find space for these unauthenticated statements, coming from other sources, find no space this morning for the official reply in contradiction of them which .1 offered to the Senate yesterday.
– Arising out of that reply, I wish to say that if one of the statements contained in this letter is proved to be inaccurate, we can pretty well definitely dismiss the other statements. Now the communication says that the parents visited the lad and found that there is no window in the room in which he was confined. Will the Minister make inquiry as to the truth or otherwise of this allegation, because, should its accuracy be disproved, we may then take it for granted that the parents are working on their imagination.
– I do not know how many times I am to wire to Queenscliff for an official statement in regard to these complaints. I have the signed statement of the officer there, and until somebody shows me that it is wrong I do not propose to insult him by again asking for the same information.
-Colonel O’loghlin. - In an important case like this, could not the Minister send a confidential officer down to Queenscliff to report to him direct.
– Of course I could send a dozen officers down, but I want some evidence other than that which comes from persons who are ill-informed on the matter.
– It comes from the parents.
– It comes from the parents, who say that- the boy is mostly fed on bread and water.
– The Minister is twisting their statement now.
– I am not. According to a morning newspaper the father stated that this boy was given one decent meal, and afterwards only bread and water. It is astonishing to me that people who talk about conscience have not enough conscience to verify statements1 before publishing them. I have taken every precaution that a Minister was called upon to take. I asked my responsible officers to report as to the facts. They have given me the desired information in a report, and I have given that report to the Senate.
-Colonel O’loghlin. - Send somebody from head-quarters to report upon the matter.
– If I do that I shall afterwards be asked to send another officer to verify the report received from head-quarters.
– When is the lad to be released 1
– He is coming out to-day.
– The letter which I have received states -
The boy endeavoured to cheer his mother by saying that he only had four days more solitary confinement to go through. However, this morning we waited ou the Defence Department authorities, and were officially informed that if the boy continued in his refusal to forego his convictions he would be ordered a further period of solitary confinement.
– If the Minister does not knock off this sort of business he ought to go into solitary confinement himself.
– The honorable senator cannot put me there.
– I asked the Minister whether it is a fact that the parents were officially informed that the boy, if he persisted in his refusal to drill, would have to undergo a further period of solitary confinement.
– They certainly have not been informed to that effect with my authority, nor do I believe that any responsible person connected with the Defence Department ever made the statement.
– I ask the Minister of Defence whether he has considered the question which I put to him yesterday, and whether he is prepared to recommend the framing of a regulation in his department depriving military officers of the power to fine or sentence trainees who have already been dealt with by a civil Court.
– I informed the Senate yesterday that this is one of the matters which I hope to take into consideration during the next two or three days - the question as to whether or not any further punishment should be awarded to any cadet unless the matter has first been officially referred to the authority of the Minister himself.
– I ask the Minister of Defence if he has yet succeeded in breaking the conspiracy of silence which existed in the case of some of the military officials in New South Wales regarding a matter in which he distinctly promised me some few weeks ago that he would furnish the fullest information when it came to hand, namely, the examination for official appointments in the Cadet Forces which waa conducted in the Sydney Grammar School. He informed me that the report which he had received upon this matter had been sent back to the proper quarter, as it was not particularly explicit.
– I am under the impression that later information was given to the honorable senator, to the effect that it had been found that the examination in question had been held without any authority, that it was irregular, and that steps were being taken to organize a proper and regular examination. I promised also to make inquiry as to the officer who was responsible for the irregularity, and that inquiry has gone on.
– On the 8th inst. I asked a question in respect of the quantity and quality of food supplied to the trainee recruits at the Perth encampment, Tasmania. The reply given was that no complaints had been received, and that statement was subsequently borne out by a report which was received by the Military Commandant, Tasmania. The Minister stated that he would be quite willing to investigate the matter if any specific complaint were made. I hold in my hand a Communication which is signed by six of the recruits who attended the camp, and which reads as follows : -
We, the undersigned trainees, residents of Beaconsfield, desire to thank you for the interest you have manifested on our behalf, and beg to state that we were in camp at Perth at Easter, and we can certify that the complaints that the quality and quantity of food supplied was totally inadequate is correct in every particular.
It has been alleged that two 4-lb. loaves of bread were supplied to eight recruits for a day, that 1 lb. of chops was given to them for breakfast, and that they were asked to wash themselves in the same vessel in which the soup and tea were served. I ask the Minister whether he will make more complete inquiries into the accuracy of these statements ?
– I have already informed the honorable senator that if he will give me any specific information to go upon I shall have the fullest inquiry made.
Appointment of Mr. King Salter
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence whether he can inform the Senate of the reasons for the delay which occurred in making the appointment of Mr. King Salter to the management of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, seeing that six months elapsed between the recommendation made by the Committee appointed to nominate a manager for that dockyard, and the date upon which the appointment was actually made? The recommendation was received late in May of last year.
– That is so, and I told the Senate exactly what was happening in December last when the Estimates were under consideration. A recommendation was received from the Committee which had been appointed for the purpose by my predecessor in office. I was not satisfied merely to receive a cable that a certain officer had been recommended - a cable which remained silent on other matters upon which I thought that inquiry was necessary. I was not prepared to take the risk of bringing a gentleman out here on a long appointment until I had made further inquiries - not as to his skill, upon which I thought the Committee’s recommendation was sufficient - but as to other matters into which I thought I was entitled to inquire before he was appointed to the management of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. I therefore delayed matters until I had had an opportunity of personally consulting the High Commissioner in regard to certain inquiries which he had conducted for me. Having had that consultation, an offer was cabled Home to Mr. King Salter.
– Is it not a fact that the Minister on assuming office found that a number of recommendations had been made by Mr. Cutler regarding the purchase of material and various alterations in the personnel and staff at the dockyard - recommendations which the Naval Board had advised should be held over until after the appointment of the new manager?
– There were quite a number of matters held over till after the appointment of the new manager, including the appointment of a permanent staff.
– Did the Minister deal with those matters prior to the appointment of the new manager?
– Speaking generally, and from memory, those matters were held over until after Mr. King Salter had been appointed.
– I ask the leave of the Senate to submit a motion in reference to the senators who were absent from the call of the Senate yesterday. It is a formal motion which has previously been held to be necessary in order to excuse those honorable senators who were unavoidably absent yesterday.
Motion (by Senator Millen) agreed to-
That in view of the fact that Senators Bakhap and demons, who were absent from the call of the Senate, had been granted leave by the Senate, and that explanations were made on behalf of Senators Barker and Lynch, who were also absent, the said senators be excused for failure to answer such call.
– Without in any way wishing to reflect on the Minister himself, I desire to know whether, in giving the Senate yesterday an explicit assurance with reference to any possible or contemplated alteration in the regulations concerning absent voting, the Minister of Defence spoke on behalf of the Government as a whole.
– I think that is a reflection. I gave the Senate an assurance as to what the intention of the Government was. Any responsible Minister speaking in that way has surely the right to ask the House to believe he is speaking with the authority of the Government of which he is a member.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to-
That the number of members necessary to form a quorum of the Select Committee on Mr. Teesdale Smith’s contract, Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, be reduced to three.
The order of the day for the resumption of the debate on the second reading of this Bill having been read,
– I desire to move the adjournment of the Senate until the ordinary time for resuming the sitting after lunch, as the Government do not propose to go on with any business other than the three measures indicated.
– It is necessary to dispose of the business before the Chair. Otherwise it will disappear from the notice-paper.
Debate (on motion by Senator Pearce) further adjourned.
.- It has been suggested to me by Senator Gould that I should move the suspension of the sitting until half-past two.
– Let Senator McGregor go on with his motion with regard to the double dissolution.
– Of course, the Senate is master of its own procedure, but as the Government propose to ask Parliament to deal only with three measures, it is not competent for me to invite the Senate to do any other business, nor can Senator McGregor reasonably expect me to assist him with regard to the motion to which reference has been made. I move -
That the sitting be suspended until 2.30 p.m. this day.
– I object to the suspension of the sitting.
– Vote against it.
– I am satisfied if the party are going to vote against it, and if I have an intimation to that effect from my leader I shall sit down.
– When Senator Mullan rose I was about to ask members of the Opposition to reject the motion with a view to going on with the business on the notice-paper.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority …. … 16
Question so resolved in thenegative.
Senator McGREGOR (South Australia [11.42]. - I move
That the full terms of the request for and reasons given for a simultaneous dissolution of the Senate and House of Representatives, presented to His Excellency the Governor-General by the Prime Minister,and His Excellency’s reply to the Prime Minister, be laid on the table of the Senate.
It has been stated in another place by what is supposed to be the highest legal authority in the Parliament that there is no precedent for my proposal. The Minister of Defence in this chamber, in making a similar statement, was cautious enough to say that there was no precedent for anything of the kind since the establishment of the Commonwealth. As a matter of fact, there has been no double dissolution or any dissolution other than an ordinary one since the establishment of Federation, but reference to the text books shows that there have been precedents in British Dominions at various times and of various characters for the very same thing. There have been numerous instances of the same position and of the papers and correspondence being laid on the table of the Houses in New Zealand and Canada. In Victoria not so long ago, when a dissolution took place in the State Parliament during the regime of the late Sir Thomas Bent the very same thing was done. That the Attorney-General should make such a statement in view of these facts is only another illustration of the character of the man and of the Government that would be led by the nose by such an individual. We in this chamber have no idea of endeavouring to humiliate either the GovernorGeneral or the Government, but we think that, in the interests of the Parliament and of the people, all communications passing in such circumstances should be made public, so that the electors may know whether any misrepresentations have been made. As the Opposition are always anxious to carry on the business of the country, I submit the motion, without further labouring the question.
– I wish to make a few remarks in seconding the motion. The statement made by the Leader of the Government has been effectively answered by what the Leader of the Opposition has said. This is the first time a dissolution has been granted in the history of the Commonwealth. If a dissolution had been granted when Mr. Watson, as Leader of a Labour Government, asked for it, the Opposition at that time would have desired to know the reasons given in support of the request. The reasons given on previous occasions, when a dissolution has been requested, were never asked for.
– Because the then Opposition knew better than to ask for them.
– Nothing of the kind. In one case, the request was made by the Reid Government, of which Senator Millen himself was a member, and the party on this side at that time never asked for the reasons. The fact is that, on previous occasions, the dissolution asked for not being granted, it was immaterial what the reasons given in support of the request were, since the Governor-General did not take any notice of them. Every parliamentary authority teems with instances in which the reasons given in support of a request for a parliamentary dissolution have been given. It is especially important that the reasons given in this instance should be placed before Parliament and the people. The granting of the dissolution has a most important bearing on the Constitution. In the opinion of many of us, it has altered our Constitution. It has materially altered the position of the two Houses under the Constitution, and we want to know what reasons the Government gave for that alteration, and what reasons the Governor-General gave for acceding to the request of the Government. When speaking on the Address-in-Reply, I directed the attention of honorable senators to important references on this subject to be found at pages 766 and 767 of Todd’s Parliamentary Government in British Colonies.
– And Mr. Hughes destroyed the honorable senator’s argument.
SenatorPEARCE. - I am not concerned about that; but, as a matter of fact, I think that Mr. Hughes supplemented my argument. I believe that our arguments on the subject are reconcilable, and that they are very distasteful to honorable senators opposite. I should like to know what reply there is to those arguments. It may be that the reasons given by the Government in support of the request for a double dissolution contain some sort of reply; but, so far, we have heard none from the Government benches in either House. The publication of the reasons given by the Government may establish a peculiar parallel for the instances quoted by Todd. In dealing with a Canadian case, at pages 766 and 767 of his work, Todd quotes a memorandum from the Governor-General of Canada, which occupies some two pages, a memorandum by the Premier, and a subsequent memorandum by the Governor-General.
– What was the date of the memorandum ?
– There is a note to the Premier, Mr. Brown, dated 29th July, 1868.
– When was it published ?
– I find that it is stated that the demand for a dissolution -
Proved unsuccessful for reasons which will appear on the perusal of the following correspondence between Mr. Brown and the GovernorGeneral, which is taken from the newspapers of the period.
This shows that the reasons must have been published at the time. Todd took the correspondence from the newspapers of the period. One case, with which I wish particularly to deal, is that of the refusal of a dissolution in New Zealand. In that case, the situation was in some respects similar to that which we now have in Australia. In the New Zealand case, also, the question of the value of the casting vote of the Speaker came up. There is a memorandum from the then Governor of New Zealand, the Marquis of Normanby. This was in 1877, and is a much more recent case than the Canadian one. The Governor of New Zealand gave to the Premier as one of his reasons for refusing to grant a dissolution- 11
Because no great question was at issue upon which to appeal to the constituencies.
Could the Governor-General of the Commonwealth say to the present Government that there is a great question at issue upon which to appeal to the constituencies ? We know that he could not. The fourth reason given by the Marquis of Normanby was -
Because he had no assurance that a dissolution would produce a working majority in favour of Ministers.
Did the Ministers of the Commonwealth, in their memorandum to the GovernorGeneral, give him any assurance that the result of the double dissolution would be the return of a majority for them ? We know that they could not do so. The Marquis of Normanby, in refusing a dissolution in this case, further said -
The Speaker’s casting vote given to negative a vote of want of confidence can hardly be taken as an expression of confidence on the part of the House.
That was the opinion of the Marquis of Normanby, and it is of the more value when we find that the whole of the correspondence in this case was remitted to the Home Government, who, through the Colonial Office, expressed their approval of the action of the Governor of New Zealand in refusing the dissolution, having before them the reasons for which he refused it.
– Will the honorable senator say whether those papers were published before or after they were sent to the Colonial Office?
– I have not that information before me now, as I have been quoting from my previous remarks as reported in Hansard. In the Canadian case, the reasons must have been published before they were reported to the Colonial Office.
– Todd says that the correspondence was published in the newspapers at the time.
– In 1858; that might have been two months or three months after the correspondence took place.
– Does Senator Millen mean to say that, if the present Government get the consent of the Colonial Office, they will publish these papers 1
– Then what is the meaning of the honorable senator’s interjection ?
– That the circumstances are not parallel.
– The circumstances are parallel. What the Government are fighting for is delay. They do not wish the country to give these papers at any time, and certainly not now. That is one of the reasons why we want this memorandum. We should have it on record. In the New Zealand case, the Government, with the consent of the Colonial Office, and with their approval, refused to recognise the casting vote of the Speaker as indicating that the House had confidence in the Government. The Home authorities also approved of the refusal to grant the dissolution asked for, because there wasno question of importance at issue. But here we have the Governor-General, knowing that a measure was passed by the casting vote of the Speaker, knowing also that that measure is of no importance, dissolving, not one House but both Houses of the Parliament on the advice of his Ministers. If, in one case, the reasons given by Ministers and those given by the Governor for refusing the dissolution asked for could be given to the people, why cannot the present Commonwealth Government take the people of Australia into their confidence? Are they afraid of what the people will’ think of their reasons? They know that the party on this side are impotent to make any use of the reasons in this Parliament. The Government cannot be afraid of what we may do here, and it must be that they are afraid of what the people will have to say about their reasons.
– That is why we areso anxious to go before the people.
– If the Government are anxious to go before the people,. why are they anxious to keep their reasons from the people? If they are not afraid of letting the people know the reasons they gave the Governor-General, and His Excellency’s reply to those reasons, why do they not publish them? There is no escape from the position. Either they are afraid of the people knowing the reasons, and therefore refuse to let them have them, or they wish to keep them secret until the elections are over.
– Why not let the people know the reasons through the Parliament they have elected ?
– I do not care whether the Government let the people know through the Parliament, or let them know directly. I am asking for the reasons, not merely in the interests of the Parliament, but in the interests of the people. Todd’s work teems with instances in support of our contention that these papers should be published. So far as I know, there has never been an instance in the history of constitutional government where these reasons were asked for and refused. The refusal of the Government to publish these papers creates the suspicion that there is something at the back of them which they do not desire the people to know until after the elections. We represent the people here, and are within our rights in asking that in their interests the reasons, in full, given by the Government for their request for a double dissolution, and the reply, in full, of the GovernorGeneral should be placed before the country. We have had an admission from the Government that the statement they have made of the matter is not a full statement of the reasons they gave, or of the Governor-General’s reply. They say that the reasons are absolutely confidential. They affect a public question; they affect the Constitution of the two Houses, their relation one to the other; and, indirectly, the relation of the people as Federal electors to both Houses of this Parliament. If there is to be a change in the Constitution, and it is to be brought about by an Executive act, and not by an amendment of the Constitution, surely the people are entitled to know the reasons and the arguments put forward to induce the Governor-General to make this drastic change. We should know whether he attached any conditions, and, if so, what those conditions were.
Seeing that there is to be an election, the people should be placed in possession of the facts upon which they may make up their mind, and record their verdict. That is all that we are asking. If these papers are not put before the. people, I shall say from every platform on which I speak, that the Government were afraid to trust the people with their reasons, because, if they did so, they would be visited with condign punishment for having advised the Governor-General to take action on the reasons they submitted to him. I hope that the motion will be carried.
– I think that it is our plain duty to know exactly how the promised double dissolution has been brought about.
– It is only promised.
– That is so. The Senate was elected by the people of Australia on the broadest franchise of any House of Parliament in the world, and before it is dissolved, the people have a right to know the reasons why it is to be dissolved. These have not been reported to us, and, remembering that in the Senate there is a very large majority against the advisers of the Governor-General, we have a right to know the advice on which. His Excellency granted a double dissolution. We know the Government are quite capable of misleading the Governor-General, because we recognise that the present crisis has been brought about by a Bill which has been proven beyond any doubt to be a piece of political hypocrisy. It was brought forward, first of all, to effect a gerrymandered dead-lock, and, consequently, a double dissolution. It was not brought forward to meet any public necessity, because all that the Government proposed to do with the Bill they had already done by an administrative act. The Government were guilty of a most palpable trick in bringing forward the measure, and by passing it by a casting vote in another place they have been able to trick the Parliament up to a certain point ; consequently it is quite possible they tricked the Governor-General. As far as it lies in my power, I do not intend to allow any trickery to be practised on the Senate. This is the one Upper House in the world where the Democracy is powerful. There are Legislative Councils in Australia and Upper Houses in other countries, but in every, instance the Second Chamber is in the, -brands 0f ^ political opponents of the Labour party, or the People’s party. The Senate occupies a unique position. According to all I have read and heard in respect of either the present or any previous generation, the Senate is the one Upper House in the world in which the people have power, but we find .that by a trick its dissolution has been ordered. It is plain, I think, that it is part and parcel of a party conspiracy to destroy the majority which the Labour party have here. Before I assent to a proceeding of the kind I intend to secure the fullest information. I am not content with the published reasons of the Government for requesting a double -dissolution. I am not prepared to take their word alone. The statement which was read to the Senate is not sufficient to satisfy me.
– You would be foolish to take their statement of the reasons.
– I understand the Government with whom I am dealing. I know how they have tricked a Select Committee of the Senate. I remember how, when information was asked for by that Committee, they were side-tracked, humbugged, and bull-dozed in one way after another. Knowing the Government as I do, and having been taught a lesson by them, I am not likely to be so foolish as to fall into a trap a second time. There is an old saying that any man may be fooled once by a party, hut if he is fooled the second time by the same party he deserves what he gets. I, for one, will take advantage of the rules of the Senate, and of every constitutional method, to prevent a dissolution being brought about until we get the full information which we are entitled to have. We have in office, but not in power, a Government who, no doubt, recognise that their position is untenable. When we compare the numbers of the two parties we can understand at a glance that, with the Government, it is not a question of a double dissolution, but only a question of how long they can hang on to office in the present circumstances. They took office knowing full well that in the Senate they would be in a hopeless minority, and could not possibly get any party measure put through. The Liberal party, all told, number only forty-five, and sitting in Opposition to them is a party comprising sixty-six members. A party with twenty-one members less than the Opposition had the audacity to ask the Governor-General for a double dissolution within twelve months of the people’s decision. The theory of representative government is that the majority -should prevail in Parliament, and, consequently, rule the country. Surely we have a perfect right to know the grounds on which the request was based. I am quite satisfied that His Excellency was a sufficiently experienced man, not only in party warfare, but in constitutional practices, to insist upon good and sufficient reasons being shown before he gave the promise which we are told he made. We desire to know the conditions on which the promise was given. We want to see the conditions, and to judge whether the Senate should comply with them, because I hold that, unless we do so, the Government cannot comply with the conditions. I am very strongly of the belief that one condition is that the Government must secure sufficient money to carry on the Departments. The Senate has a very important voice in deciding whether Supply shall be granted. If Supply is sought for the purpose of enabling the Government to obtain a double dissolution, and there are not sufficient reasons for having a double dissolution, the Senate can refuse Supply for that purpose. Consequently, the conditions laid down by the Governor-General may not be complied with, and, therefore, there may be no double dissolution. In view of the fact that here a party of twentynine members confronts a paltry party of seven members on the so-called Government side, is the Senate going to commit hari-kari to suit their political opponents? I can scarcely think the Senate will do anything of the kind. I can scarcely think that such a state of affairs will be brought about by the voluntary action of the Opposition in a Chamber constituted as the Senate is.
– There is not much chance of that.
– I can scarcely think that we have gone mad, and that our sense of proportion has entirely gone. In a Parliament where there are only two parties, and no go-betweens or Independents as’ in past Parliaments; in a two-party Parliament, with an Opposition well organized and every member of it adhering to the policy and principles of the party, and with a Government organized on somewhat similar lines, it would be ridiculous for the Governor-General to give a double dissolution, and to be in any doubt as to the true position of the parties. I feel quite satisfied that His Excellency knows well that there are only two parties in this Parliament, and the numbers indicate at a glance how the parties stand. No doubt His Excellency would ask himself, if he did not mention it to the Prime Minister, “ Have we exhausted all the means of doing public business? Have we got to the end of our tether? Can we not ask if the Opposition are able to carry on the business of the country?” Probably all these questions were asked by His Excellency before he gave an answer to the Prime Minster, who, as I have already pointed out, is at the head of a minority Government. That fact, of course, would make His Excellency all the more careful as to what he was doing in this matter. The Senate has a duty to perform to its constituents. It owes a duty to the Governor-General, to see that he has not been misled. It owes a duty to its members, to see that they are not sent to the country before their term has expired. It also owes a duty to itself, to see that it does not lose its prestige and power by establishing a precedent which, undoubtedly, would rob it of a great deal of it’s authority in the future. One false step made at the present juncture would put the Senate in a position which it might never get out of. If we agree to a double dissolution being inflicted on flimsy grounds, we shall establish a precedent for all time.
-I am afraid that the honorable senator is travelling beyond theterms ofthe motion.
– I have no wish to do that, sir, if you will indicate how I am transgressing.
– The honorable senator is entitled to give all the reasons which occur to him as to why the papers specified in the motion should be produced, but he is not entitled to discuss generally the consequences to the Senate, in so far as those consequences may not be affected by the reasoning. I assume that the honorable senator was arguing that the Senate should not assent to any thing apart from what the papers may contain, whether tabled or not. If he will connect his argument with the subjectmatter of the motion he will be in order; but on the lines on which he was going he was not quite in order.
– I do not wish to go beyond the scope of proper discussion, but to keep within the rules of debate. There are many good reasons which may be urged in favour of the production of these papers. Seeing that we are on the brink of a most important step, I submit that we have a right to the fullest possible information on the subject, and that I am entitled to point out these important considerations before that step is taken. I am quite prepared, however, sir, to accept your direction, and to refrain. The Senate should not be content totake any statement which is offered by the Government. We want proof ; we want facts placed before us, so that we can judge for ourselves the true position. At the present stage, however, we know very little. We have merely had a memorandum read to us which seemed to be-
– Skilfully phrased.
– Skilfully phrased, as the honorable senator puts it. The memorandum may be true, or only half true. We do ‘not want any halftruths in a discussion of this kind. Before we can agree, we must see the documents for ourselves. We cannot bring a dispassionate judgment to bear in the absence of all the facts. We have a perfect right to demand the production of these papers. I understand that a money Bill will shortly be engaging our attention, and, before that measure reaches us, we should have the fullest information in respect of the subject-matter of this motion. The Government have shown today that they have no business with which this Chamber can proceed, and, as plenty of time is available, the full facts should be placed before honorable senators. Later on, when an important step has been taken, it is just possible that we may not be able to retrace our steps. I maintain that we have a right to be placed in possession of the whole of the facts of the case presented to the GovernorGeneral in support of the request for a double dissolution, and also of the literal text of his reply. We have been “ bull-dozed “ intotaking certain action. We have seen how the Government have managed to retain office, notwithstanding that they have no policy. If they can secure a double dissolution as the result of misrepresentations made to the Governor-General, and if they are thus able to use the machinery of government during the forthcoming elections, they will undoubtedly wield a power which they are not entitled to exercise. In the Senate, we know that Ministers have no power. The Opposition can do practically what it chooses. At a time like the present, every step taken by the Senate should be taken only after due deliberation. Otherwise, I can see a danger of the whole thing being rushed through before we have time to properly consider it.
– Who will rush it through 1
– The honorable senator’s party may rush it through the other House, but his party here may not rush it through.
– I do not think that Senator de Largie can seriously accuse the Senate of “ rushing.”
– I have always looked upon Senator Millen as a man whom nobody could accuse of laziness, but his attitude to-day left him open to that suspicion. He wanted to get away from his duties, but we would not allow him to do so. Evidently the weight of years is beginning to tell upon him.
-Colonel O’loghlin. - The sins of the Ministry !
– If Senator Millen has to carry that load, I am not surprised that he is tired, and that he desires a rest. However, there is no escape from this position: We have reached a stage in the history of the Senate when it behoves us to take every step deliberately, so that we may know exactly what that step will mean in the future. If we proceed, blindfold in the present crisis, we shall advertise ourselves to the electors of Australia as being quite unfitted for the positions that we hold. I have been a member of the Senate ever since its inception, and I have seen important crises arise from time to time.
– But none of them has troubled the honorable senator as much as does this one.
– This one does not trouble me at all, because there is no State in the Commonwealth which is more solid against the present Government than is Western Australia.
– And Queensland.
– Queensland occupies a similar position. As both those States have returned all Labour senators, the Minister’s statement will not hold water.
– There is something more important than our own positions to be considered.
– Exactly. The day will come when there will be none of us here, and when history comes to be written it may happen that the attitude taken up by the Millens and the de Largies will be the subject of criticism. I have no desire that the historian of the future should be able to point out to his readers that I made a mistake by accepting the invitation of Senator Millen to walk into his parlour, just as the spider invited the fly to do. This Senate, I submit, is the most representative Upper House of Parliament in the world. There is no other Upper House elected on such a broad franchise as the Senate of the Commonwealth.
– Then why does the honorable senator fear an appeal to the people ?
- Senator Oakes has a great deal more to fear than I have.
– The honorable senator is arguing against going to the country.
– No. I am arguing against the Senate being tricked, and as a result of that trick, the establishment of a precedent that will weaken the Senate for all time’. We know how the Democracy of the world has been humbugged in the past. We know that the constitutions of the great Republic of America, and of the first Republic of Prance, breathed of the very broadest Democracy. But we also know that the operation of those constitutions has been of the most disappointing character. We do not desire a repetition of that sort of thing in Australia. Under our Constitution the Senate possesses co-ordinate powers with the other branch of the Legislature, except in regard to the initiation of money Bills. That being so we would be acting foolishly if we took any step during the present crisis without having first given it the very fullest consideration. Consequently, I invite the Government to put all their cards upon the table. We desire to know exactly what arguments they used with the Governor-General when they requested him to grant them a double dissolution, and also the exact text of His Excellency’s reply. Until we are put in possession of the full facts of the case I hope that the Senate will not take a jump in the dark.
– I must express my disappointment that the Government have not seen fit to offer the fullest information on this subject. Though I have had many opportunities of criticising the action of the GovernorGeneral since a double dissolution was granted, I have refrained from doing so because I felt that I was not in possession of the full facts. If those facts were disclosed to us it is possible that we might entertain a very different idea of the position. It has been said that we are not entitled to the information which we seek because it is private and confidential, and because in a matter of this kind the Government and the Governor-General are practically one. If I am told that in future the Governor-General is to be allowed to exercise no discretion in his interpretation of the Constitution, but that on all occasions he must accept the advice of the Government of the day, I shall be quite content. I merely desire to know exactly where I am. If the GovernorGeneral is bound on all occasions to accept the advice of his responsible Ministers, I am perfectly satisfied, because I have always believed that that is a sound principle.
– Then the word in the Constitution should be “ shall” and not “ may.”
– I believe that this is the first time in the history of the Commonwealth that our Constitution has been plainly read without any limitation or modification. It has always been understood in British communities, and particularly in connexion with the construction of our own Constitution, that certain well-established precedents must be taken into consideration. Up to date, I believe that section 57 of our Constitution is the only section which has been read literally.. Why should not the papers which form the subject-matter of this motion be laid upon the table of the Senate? We know that many decisions have been given by the High Court regarding the interpretation of our Con stitution, and that quite a number of judgments have also been delivered by the Privy Council on appeal. All these judgments have been printed in order that we might consider them. I ask the Minister of Defence whether any judgment so far delivered in regard to the interpretation of our Constitution is of onehalf the importance of the judgment which has recently been given by the Governor-General ? The decision of the Governor-General is far more important than the amending or repealing of a section in the Constitution, or even the putting of a new clause into the Constitution, because it is a complete revolution of the purpose of the whole instrument. Federation was based on compromise between the States, but if this decision is Carried out in the mandatory form favoured by the Government we shall be living under a unitary Constitution. I do not complain so much of this, because I have always said that -there is not enough unification in the Constitution, but it does not come well from a Government who have always claimed to be a Staterights Government, to rob the States deliberately, and almost with malice aforethought, of the powers which the Constitution gave them. The only question on which the Government have asked for a double dissolution is that of preference to unionists. They claim that they had a mandate from the people to go on or get out. To go on was to introduce the measure prohibiting preference in Government employment. We in this Chamber had an overwhelming mandate from the people in favour of preference, because the question was made a burning one - in this State, at any rate - and I believe it was the one cry that Senator McColl carried around. Yet the Government have the audacity to tell us that we had no mandate to reject their Bill. We certainly should see the papers in this case, because after a dissolution was granted in Victoria, at the request of the then Premier, the late Sir Thomas Bent, it was found that he had deliberately deceived the Government on such an important point as that of Supply. He was Mr. Irvine’s successor, and had been practically trained in constitutional questions under that gentleman. Mr. Irvine is advising the Government in this case, and if he and his associates on one occasion were capable of deliberately deceiving the
State Governor, why should we believe that he and his present associates will not deceive the Governor-General. To put it very moderately, I believe, in the absence of the papers, that the Government have overstated their case to the Governor-General, but I don’t want to pass judgment on them without the facts before me. Looking at the matter in one- way, I would say to Senator Millen and Senator McColl. “ I hope you will persist in your refusal to give Parliament and the people the information we desire.” It may be urged that there are precedents against the disclosure of the papers in this case, but a double dissolution is quite unprecedented in this country, and before we can pass judgment one way or the other, the papers should be in our hands. The people have not yet full power and control of the destinies of Australia. They create a Parliament to express their views, and all of a sudden the Governor-General is put in the position of a modern Oliver Cromwell, who comes and turns the lot of us out without giving us a single reason. The people twelve months ago sent me here to do their work. If they ask me why I have been dismissed I must say, “I do not know.” If they ask me why I do not know, I can only say, “ Simply because the Government won’t let me know, as they regard certain things as private.” The people will interpret this as meaning that the Government practically entered into a conspiracy to bring about the destruction of this Chamber.
– Do you think that all the correspondence with a Governor or Governor-General, in the case of a dissolution, ought to be tabled?
– Yes. I have a responsibility in this Chamber as a public man, and the people will expect* me to explain to them why a dissolution was granted, and what is likely to be its effect. I cannot do so unless I know all that took place.
– The Prime Minister made a very comprehensive statement in another place as to what took place.
– That statement was probably drawn up by Mr. Irvine.
– The Government are responsible for it.
– They may be, but Governments have previously deceived Governors. The Bent Government deliberately deceived the Governor of Vic toria as to the amount of Supply they had in hand. If I were to put the morality of the present Government on any higher basis, I should be doing an injustice to the dead, which I do not want to do. In the circumstances, if the Government persist in their refusal to disclose the facts, we shall be justified in saying to them, ‘ We shall use all our powers to put you before the public in the worst possible light.”
– The smaller States look to the Constitution as it stands to protect them, and as a representative of one of them, the duty devolves upon me, quite apart from personal considerations, to demand, and if possible enforce my demand, that the reasons which brought about the double dissolution shall be made public. We are entitled to be suspicious as to the nature of the reasons advanced by Mr. Irvine. Only recently he has expressed most peculiar opinions about what the Senate is, and ought to be. We believe that he drew up a written memorandum to present to the Governor-General in favour of a double dissolution, and we are entitled to know what that document contains, seeing the remarkable opinions that its author holds about the rights and powers of the Senate. In one of his recent speeches he said, “It is one of the most sinister aspects of Australian politics at the present time that a body, in no sense representative of the Australian people, should hold supremacy in the political arena.” A gentleman holding that opinion might very well advance to the Governor-General reasons entirely opposed to the spirit of the Constitution. It would be interesting to know whether he holds the same views about the Legislative Council of Victoria as he holds about the Senate. I venture to say that he does not. In another speech he asked if any one believed in a system under which one man in Tasmania had seven times the voting strength of a man in Victoria. He is entitled to his opinion on that question, but I am entitled to the opposite opinion, because what he complains about is provided for by the Constitution itself. Any man holding the position of responsible legal adviser to the Government may naturally be expected to put to the Governor-General reasons in accordance with the opinions he has expressed - reasons which will not hold water, if we read the Constitution aright. The representatives of the smaller States in particular should demand the fullest information on this matter, both as to the Attorney-General’s advice and the Governor-General’s reply. It is not a question of party. Something higher than party is involved in the present crisis, because the rights of the Senate are imperilled. It is a coordinate branch of the Legislature, and was intended to be such when the ten wise men from each State framed the Constitution at the Convention. It was meant to be co-equal in every respect with another place, except in regard to the initiation of money Bills. With that slight difference, it has co-equal powers, even in money matters, because where we cannot amend money Bills we have the right to make requests. If I know the meaning of the English language, the right to request is absolutely equal to the right to amend.
– Not absolutely.
– It is, in effect, when we know that if our requests are not agreed to by another place, and we insist upon them, all the work of the other chamber may be rendered null and void. I say that there is no real difference between the powers of the two Houses of this Parliament, even with regard to money Bills, other than the difference that such Bills must be initiated in another place. In respect to every subject on which this Parliament may legislate, under section 51 of the Constitution the Senate has co-equal powers with another place. Mr. Irvine may honestly believe that the Senate has not these powers, but I propose to quote an authority whose views are of greater value than are those of Mr. Irvine.
– I hope the honorable senator will connect this quotation with the motion before the Senate.
– I recognise that I may appear to be travelling somewhat beyond the scope of the question.
– I do not wish to confine honorable senators too closely to the question, or to unduly restrict their remarks, so long as they can be reasonably connected with the subject of debate.
– I am quite satisfied, sir, that yon never restrict debate. I think that I can connect what I wish to say with the motion. Mr. Irvine gave certain reasons why the Governor-General should grant a double dissolution. We are asking that those reasons should be made known to the Senate, which has certain powers still in reserve. We want to know what those reasons were, because we have a right to be suspicious of the views which Mr. Irvine expressed, and we require to know whether he adopted a correct reading of the Constitution in the reasons he submitted to the Governor-General in support of the request of the Government. I hope I shall be allowed, in the circumstances, to quote a more eminent authority side by side with Mr. Irvine. I have quoted the views expressed by Mr. Irvine, and I wish to quote side by side with them the opinions of the late Mr. Justice R. E. O’Connor, a gentleman who was not only a member of the Convention that met to frame our Constitution, but was one of the Drafting Committee of the Convention. The opinion of the late Mr. Justice O’Connor as to the privileges of this chamber will be considered by every fairminded elector as of greater value than that of Mr. Irvine, who was not a member of the Federal Convention, did not help to draft the Constitution, and has come into this controversy at a very much later date. I think it is important to quote the opinions of the late Mr. Justice O’Connor as to the powers of the Senate, because I cannot but feel that at the present time the Constitution is on its trial, and that if the double dissolution takes place, the Senate, as the safeguard of the interests of the smaller States, will be swept out of existence. As a representative of one of the smaller States, I am not prepared to allow that to be done if by any vote of mine I can prevent it. I had the honour of hearing what the late Mr. Justice O’Connor said on this question when I occupied the seat which is now graced by Senator Maughan. At page 118 of Hansard for 1901-2, I find the late Mr. Justice O’Connor, who was then Senator O’Connor, in discussing the question of the privileges of the two Houses, and of a conflict between them,, said -
The only difference that has been made in the powers of the two Houses is the difference which is absolutely essential to the carrying on of responsible government. Inasmuch as the essence of responsible government is the power of the purse, the initiation of expenditure, it is in the House of Representatives that that power has been placed; it is in the House of Representatives that taxation is initiated, and can be amended in that House. In those respects the power of this House is curtailed; but in every other respect it is coequal, and I hope it will always assert itself to be co-equal with the representative House.
– Whoever asserted anything else?
– It is because we have asserted our power to be co-equal with that of another place that we are to be scattered to the four winds of Heaven by the dissolution of the Senate.
– Every one admits that, with the exception stated, the two Houses are co-equal.
– No. The point of my argument is that Mr. Irvine does not admit that the Senate has co-equal powers with the House of Representatives, and it is possible that if the reasons he submitted to the Governor-General are placed before the Senate, it will be seen that they are based upon an assumption that our powers are not coequal with those of the House of Representatives.
– Where is the equality when twenty-nine votes in this chamber are not considered equal to one vote in another place?
– I am speaking of the constitutional aspect of the matter, and not of the condition created by the electors of Australia. Senator O’Connor went on to say -
Holding that view, it is the intention of the Government to introduce as many measures as possible into this House, in order to have the principles discussed, the details settled, and to have a great deal of the useful work of legislation done in this House while Bills are being similarly treated in the House of Representatives. We hope in that way that not only will the Senate find abundant and useful occupation, but that time will be saved by work being carried on simultaneously in both Houses. I have no fear on the score of there being any difficulty in carrying out this policy, as suggested by Senator Neild. I am well aware that the provision with regard to dead-locks applies only to legislation which is initiated in the other House. The limitation was expressly placed there for the reason that the dead-lock provision was inserted only for the purpose of preventing the continuation of disputes which would stop the moving of the machinery of government-
– Hear, hear !
– Let the honorable senator wait a moment. The quotation continues - and inasmuch as those disputes can only arise wheremoney is involved-
Does Senator Millen say “Hear, hear! “ also to that? Senator Neild objected to that, and Senator O’Connor went on to say-
I think the honorable member will see that what I am saying is perfectly correct, if he will wait for one moment. Inasmuch as those disputes are only likely to be of such a nature as to stop the work of the machinery of the Commonwealth in cases where money is involved, it was thought that it was only in those kinds of cases that it was necessary to have this mechanical provision, if I may so call it, for bringing dead-locks to an end.
– It was thought that the Senate would never take up the attitude it has taken up.
– That is beside the question.
– On the occasion on which Senator O’Connor spoke, Senator Millen had himself moved an amendment on the Address-in-Reply, and took up the same attitude with regard to legislation brought forward by the Government.
– That is so. And when the other day the Senate followed the same course, and carried an amendment to the Address-in-Reply, the honorable senator, like a school boy who had been whipped, refused to present the Address to the Governor-General.
– That is outside the scope of the question.
– It is outside the realms of truth, also.
– I feel that I am entitled to place on record the opinion of a great constitutional authority side by side with that expressed by Mr. Irvine.
– The opinion the honorable senator is quoting is against his view on the referenda questions, even though it be in his favour on the other question.
– I shall deal with one question at a time. By our referenda proposals we seek to ask the people to amend the Constitution in a constitutional and straightforward way, and not by a side wind, as the Government are doing now.
– We are using the Constitution, not amending it.
- Mr. Irvine, perhaps honestly, holds a wrong view of the privileges of this branch of the Legislature, and so may give a misleading interpretation of the Constitution. The opinion he has expressed is certainly opposed to the views of the constitutional authorities of the smaller States. I am safe in saying that the delegates sent to the Federal Convention by the smaller States would not have been sent there, and the people of those States would have prevented their Parliaments from making them parties to the Federal compact, if they had dreamed at the time that such a use would have been made of the Federal Constitution. We should know exactly where we stand, and we cannot do so until the reasons submitted by the Government in support of their request for a double dissolution are laid before the Senate. I find from last Monday’s Tasmanian newspapers that, twenty-four hours before the announcement was made that the Governor-General had agreed to grant a double dissolution, the Hon. A. E. Solomon, recently Premier of Tasmania, and a member of the Liberal party, expressed the opinion that it was impossible that a double dissolution should be granted on the plea put forward by Mr. Irvine.
– In what newspaper did the honorable senator see that?
– In one of the Tasmanian newspapers. The statement was made that when Mr. Solomon was informed, on Saturday, that a double dissolution had been granted, he said, “ Well, I am a very bad prophet, because I said only yesterday that I did not think it possible that a dissolution would be granted on that particular measure.” Mr. Solomon is no mean constitutional authority, and he expressed that opinion as a leading parliamentary representative of one of the smaller States. Constitutional authorities in the smaller States hold that the Senate has certain powers, and we certainly should not abrogate them, or yield them up, without knowing the reasons for which we are asked to do so. If the double dissolution takes place, a confidence trick will have been played by the present Government upon the smaller States. They have made His Excellency the GovernorGeneral the unwitting instrument to give effect to their desire. In saying this I intend no disrespect to the GovernorGeneral. I believe he has been made the unwitting instrument of the Government, because I think that he has been misled. That is why honorable senators are right in demanding that the reasons submitted by the Government shall be laid before the Senate.
– If the Government had any decency, they would relieve His Excellency the Governor-General of any such suspicion.
– Yes. His Excellency has been misled in being told that the rejection of the Government Preference Prohibition Bill was a sufficient reason for the granting of a double dissolution.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 -p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended for lunch I had adduced a number of reasons why, in my opinion, the Senate should press for the production of these papers. I may mention, as a further reason in favour of the motion, that this documentary evidence is an Imperial record of a Vice-Regal act. Surely it ought to be made the property of electors of Australia ! I am very properly asked by Senator Pearce how will constitutional authorities be able to deal with this crisis if the reasons for granting a double dissolution are not published. There will be no record, and in the future a Governor-General who may be called upon to exercise the same discretion will be without the reasons for this precedent, because we all recognise that it is establishing a precedent of a very grave and far-reaching character. The consequences of the decision of His Excellency are so far-reaching that nobody can say where they are likely to stop in connexion with the future government of Australia by this Parliament. I do not desire to detain the Senate, as I understand that a number of honorable senators wish to speak to this motion. But it may be interesting to them to learn that a large number of persons outside the Senate who hold very strong views on this question think that all the reasons adduced for a double dissolution ought to be made known. Perhaps I may be allowed to read a quotation from a news paper, which gives certainly the opinion of only its editor, but he is a journalist who possesses a good deal of constitutional knowledge as regards politics in the ©Id ‘Country and in Australia. “His view is expressed in these words -
So far as we can see, there would be nothing to prevent the Prime Minister from introducing a Bill declaring that senators should wear dog chains. If they refuse to pass it, apparently all the Governor-General has to do is to turn up section 07 of the Constitution, and regard the rejection of the dog chain as a dead-lock.
That is a very clear parallel. The writer thinks that a measure asking us to wear a dog chain would he about just as important as the measure the rejection of which has brought about a so-called crisis, and, as Senator de Largie interjects, just as ridiculous. Another very fair authority may be quoted. The Sydney “Bulletin of 11th June contains a very brief but very powerful article, headed “ The Double Trick Dissolution.” The writer says -
Technically, if no more, the GovernorGeneral was utterly wrong in granting a double dissolution. It is true that Cook was unable to induce the Senate to pass two Bills which he sent up to it. But those two Bills were deliberately designed to insure their rejection. So far, then, as there is any known dead-lock between the two Houses, it is a carefully manufactured dead-lock. On a hundred matters there is no more violent disagreement between these two Chambers than there is between any other two. It certainly is not proved that the two cannot work together at all. It is not even proved that they disagree over big matters of national policy. The two trick Bills specially designed to create a deaddock involved nothing momentous.
I do not wish to quote further from the article, ‘but I may mention thai it contains a number Of very powerful reasons why the test Bills were absurd, and should not have been held as of sufficient importance to create a dead-lock. I now desire to call the attention of honorable senators to a very powerfully written article which appeared in the Melbourne Age of “Wednesday week. The Age ‘is not a Labour organ, and therefore cannot be said to be ‘prejudiced on the side of ‘the Labour party and the views it holds as . to the privileges and powers of its ‘majority in “the ‘Senate. This article is very ‘powerfully written, indeed, from beginning to end. It points out the absurdity of the so-called measures which were sent up here for the sole purpose of creating a dead-lock. It goes so far as to say in effect that if His Excellency
Were to grant a double dissolution on these measures he would be taking a very foolish step. The concluding portion of the article contains this passage -
A political crisis impends, and the fate df the Government hangs on two Bills which havenot a shred of rational justification for their existence. The crisis, however, is real, and it cannot be averted. How will it be solved t We have shown that a double dissolution is impracticable without a violent straining of the terms and the spirit of the Constitution - and that is an outcome not to be thought of.
There is the view held by another constitutional authority. It would be interesting to us to know what were the powerful reasons advanced by the AttorneyGeneral and the Prime Minister, who persuaded His Excellency to grant a double dissolution in the face of the views and opinions held by so many constitutional authorities as I have quoted. In conclusion, I desire to read a few pertinent quotations from ParliamentaryGovernment in the British Colonies, by Mr. Alpheus Todd. On page 774 of this work will be found cited a precedent which has not been followed by the GovernorGeneral. In May, 1872, Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, Premier of Victoria, asked Lord Canterbury, the Governor, for a dissolution of the Legislative Assembly because he had been defeated’, and the request was refused. I shall not weary the Senate by quoting the reasons stated by the Governor for his refusal, but the comment made on- those reasons by this acknowledged constitutional authority is expressed in these terms -
It is not a legitimate use of the prerogative of dissolution to resort to it when there is no important political question upon which contending parties are directly at issue, and merely in order to maintain in power the particular Ministers who are in office at the time.
That comment absolutely fits the present case.
– In what way does that affect the question of the production of .the papers ?
– There was too great question at issue .between the two parties on which a double dissolution was sought or brought about, but it was a so-called dead-lock, engineered for one purpose, and that is “ merely in order to maintain in power the particular Ministers who are m office at the time.” Some wonderful reason, I repeat, must have been given by the Attorney-General to influence the Governor-General in giving the decision he did. On page 776 of the same book I find a reference to a request for a dissolution made by Sir George Grey, Premier of New Zealand, to the Marquis of Normanby, who was then Governor of that Colony -
In the same Colony, in November, 1877, the Premier, Sir George Grey, requested the Governor, the Marquis of Normanby, to dissolve the House of Representatives, on account of the evenly-balanced state of parties therein. The Grey Administration had taken office on October 13 previous, on the defeat of their predecessors upon a vote of want of confidence. On October 24, before the new Ministers had announced their intended policy, a vote of want of confidence was submitted against them. This was negatived on November 6 by the casting vote of the Speaker. Shortly after a similar motion was proposed, during the debate upon which Ministers asked for a dissolution of Parliament.
They based their claim to a dissolution upon the fact that at the last general election the ex-Ministry were in power, and upon their conviction that the new elections would give them a large majority of supporters.
In reply, the Governor expressed his opinion that a dissolution was, at present, undesirable : principally because (1) he believed that the existing difficulties might be disposed of without recourse to such an act;
Will any one dare to say that the difficulty between the two Houses of this Parliament could not have been disposed of without such an act? If the Parliament was unworkable,, it was the action of the Government which made it unworkable. Had the Government shown a desire at any time to make the Parliament workable, it could have been made workable.
Havethe Government any assurance that a double dissolution will produce a working majority in favour of Ministers? and (5) because no Supply had yet been granted ; and unless the House shouldfirst vote Supplies for at least three months the Governor could not undertake to consider the question of a dissolution.
Apparently a similar condition has been attached by the Governor-General to the granting of a double dissolution; but we want to be absolutely clear on the point. We desire to know the reasons of the Governmentfor making the request, and the exact conditions laid downby His Excellency in his reply. We want to know whether a condition was attached to the promise of a double dissolution thatthe Parliament should grant three months’ Supply ? Concerning the New Zealand case, in November, 1877, Todd continues -
Furthermore, it did not appear that from the outset this Administration had been able to command a majority of the House.
The present Government of the Commonwealth have not been able to command a majority of the House except by the Speaker’s vote.
The Speaker’s vote, which alone had. saved them from defeat, is, according to Parliamentary usage, always given with a view not to preclude the House from reconsidering a question so decided upon. A Speaker’s casting vote, given to negative a vote of want of confidence, can hardly be taken as an expression of confidence on the part of the House.
The present Government of the Commonwealth, on at least more than one occasion - once this session - have only been saved on the Speaker’s casting vote, so that the circumstances in New Zealand are an absolute parallel to some of the circumstances surrounding the present crisis. On page 788, Todd states that, in 1877, Sir Hercules Robinson, Governor of New South Wales, was asked to dissolve the Legislative Assembly, and supplies some of the reasons given by His Excellency for refusing the request. These are the comments upon it -
Anxious to secure for the colony the benefit of English constitutional practice in such cases, Governor Robinson determined to withhold his consent to any application by Ministers for authority to dissolve Parliament until adequate provision had been made to defray the indispensable requirements of the Public Service in the interval which must elapse before the new Parliament could meet; or, at any rate, until every effort to obtain Supply had been first exhausted.
Accordingly, on two occasions of the occurrence of Ministerial crises, in the months of March and August in 1877, His Excellency approved of the advice of his Ministers to dissolve Parliament, but reserved to himself the Tight of reconsidering his decision inthe event of their appeal to the House for the grant of Supply preliminary to a dissolution being refused.
There are quite a number of other authorities which may be cited in this connexion.Amongst them is the following:
Itis theduty of a Governor to consider the questionofdissolution of the Parliament or Legislature solely in reference to the general interests of the people, and not from a partystand-point. He is under no obligation to sustainthe party in power if he believes that the accession to office of their opponents would be more beneficial to the public interest. He is, therefore, justified in withholding a dissolution requested by his Ministers when he is of opinion that it is asked for merely to strengthen a particular party.
Again, we are told -
When Ministers advise a dissolution on the ground of disputes between the two Houses of Parliament, it behoves a Governor to be cautious in acceding to such a request. It is not the duty of the Governor to take sides with one branch of the Legislature against the other, or to criticise the action of either House in party conflicts.
Finally, if an existing Administration be not prepared to accept the Governor’s decision in regard to a proposed dissolution, and to assume responsibility for the same, they are bound to resign office and give place to other Ministers who are willing to facilitate and become responsible to Parliament and to the country for the intended exercise of the Royal prerogative.
I hope that the Senate will continue to demand these reasons until it gets them. Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Millen) agreed to-
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
In submitting this measure, I do not anticipate that I shall need to detain honorable senators more than a few minutes. They are aware that the Government have appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court of New South- Wales a Commissioner for the purpose of prosecuting certain inquiries into the existence of an alleged Meat Trust. In view of the decision of the Privy Council in the appeal case of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, it is necessary to pass a Bill to vest the Judge with the necessary powers to prosecute his inquiry. The Bill seeks to do that. The powers which will be created under it, and with which the Commissioner will be invested-
– It is a mere piece of fudge and electioneering.
– The honorable senator may hold that view, but I do not know that it alters very much what I am saying. The Government are presenting this Bill, and if an election is ahead of us, that is a matter for which the honorable senator must accept his share of responsibility. The powers which are sought to be conveyed By this Bill are those which were previously embodied in a law which was made the subject of a Privy Council appeal. The difficulty in connexion with that measure, as was pointed out by the Privy Council, was that it was of general application. It was therefore held to be ultra vires of the Constitution. It was held that it was outside the powers of this Parliament to pass such a measure. The Bill which is now before us will overcome that difficulty. It has been shaped in accordance with the direction given by the Privy Council, and as it meets the objection which proved fatal to the earlier measure, it is presented as the proper constitutional means by which this Parliament can endow the Judge with the powers necessary to prosecute the inquiry for which he has been appointed. I anticipate the hearty cooperation of the Senate in speedily placing this short measure upon the statute-book.
– I do not wish to say very much in connexion with this Bill. There is no doubt that recently the price of meat has been going up in Australia. Probably that has been caused to a certain extent by the operations of some trust or combine. But I think that there are other causes which may have operated in the same direction - causes to which I shall not be permitted to refer on the present occasion. The one point to which I desire to direct the attention of the Senate is that this Bill is intended to facilitate the proceedings of the Commissioner appointed to hold an inquiry respecting the operations of any person, combination, or trust, tending to create any restraint of trade or monopoly in connexion with the, export of meat from Australia.
– Will this Bill give him any more power than he now possesses ?
– I do not know.
– The honorable senator read the judgment which was circulated the other day ?
– Yes. The point which I desire to emphasize is that this Bill deals solely with the export of meat from Australia. Now, we may have a ring, combine, or trust, influencing the price of meat sold in Australia. It may be, as some honorable senators affirm, that this measure will not give the Commissioner any more power than he already possesses. But why should the inquiry be confined to the export of meat? Why not institute an inquiry as to whether there is a combination or trust tending to create any restraint of trade or monopoly in connexion with the sale of meat in Australia?
– In connexion with the sale or export of meat?
– In connexion with the internal traffic in meat or with the export of that commodity. I think that the measure ought to be widened so as to deal with both aspects of this question. If that be done, the Bill will have my support.
– I have no desire to delay the passing of this Bill, because, to my mind, it is like other measures which have been supported by the Labour party in previous Parliaments, when Liberal Governments were in office, although those Governments differed from the present Ministry, who describe themselves by the same title. The Labour party have always supported any legislation which was in the interests of the people, or which even appeared to be in the interests of the people. When the Australian Industries Preservation Act was passed, and when the Commerce Act was passed, we supported them because they appeared to be in the interests of the people. But we always emphatically declared that they were of absolutely no value. Honorable senators will recollect that perfectly well. We are in exactly the same position to-day. We are prepared to support this Bill because it looks as if it will accomplish some good, but we still maintain that there is nothing in it. The Government have appointed a Commission to inquire into the existence of a ring, or combination, or trust, in connexion with the export of meat. After that inquiry has been held, what are the Government going to do? Every member of the Ministry, and particularly the Attorney-General, knows very well that if the Commissioner is successful in securing information which is detrimental to the existence of a trust, or combination, the Commonwealth Parliament has no power to deal with it effectively. We have always declared that. Six Bills have been sent from the Senate to another place, which, if they became the law of the land, would endow this Parliament with that power, and yet the Government are not prepared to assist in their submission to the people. It is only to give expression to this opinion that I have presumed on a measure of this kind to detain honorable senators for a minute or two. The thing is humbug from beginning to end, just as has been every other measure which the present Government have attempted to pass.
– It would be a pity to allow such a transparent piece of humbug as this Bill to pass the Senate without saying a word or two upon it. It is quite evident that the measure is nothing more or less than a drop of political chloroform, which is intended to be used on the eve of a general election.
– It is political bird-lime.
– It is birdlime which will not catch on. It would be a very simple bird indeed that would be caught by any such transparent device. The Bill is only brought forward as a piece of make-believe. It will not accomplish anything in the way of gaining fresh information in connexion with the export of meat. Let us take the position of the meat trade in Western Australia. We know that that trade has been in the hands of a ring ever since the gold boom on the West Coast. The Bill will have no effect on the meat trade of Western Australia, because it is a well-known fact that practically all the meat raised in the West is consumed within the State. It will in no way remove the ring that has been in existence in Western Australia for so long, and that is likely to continue in the years to come. Of what interest then is this measure to the people of Western Australia ? The Meat Ring does not go in for meat exportation, and until recently we could not get meat nearly as cheaply as the people in the east could. It is only since the Western. Australian Government stepped in that prices have come down, and the Meat Ring knows that we have a Government there prepared to fight it in the interests of the public. The people cannot take measures of this kind seriously, because they know well that the Ministerial party have for years blocked all our efforts to secure for this Parliament powers which would enable us to legislate effectively on the subject. Yet they bring in this miserable, futile Bill, and expect the people to believe that they are in earnest. The measure is not worth a decent burial. It is so transparent a piece of electioneering that it is not worth the paper it is printed on. The electors will see through this election dodge.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 -
This Act may be cited as the Meat Export Trade Commission Act 1914.
– I move -
That the word “ Export “ be left out.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - That is beyond the scope of the Bill.
– If necessary, we can alter the preamble.
– I appeal to Senator Stewart not to propose any amendment of the Bill. If we do so we shall attach to it an importance it does not deserve. In view of the judgment of the Privy Council the Bill is practically not worth the paper it is printed on. The Government, who see that an election is approaching, say that it is, but we know that without an amendment of the Constitution it cannot lead to the taking of evidence of any value on the question of trusts. The Government believe that it may enable the Commission to deal with the export trade, although I should say that is doubtful, but it can have no effect on internal trade or on the trade outside Australia. It would be ridiculous to try to amend the Bill to make it mean any more than it does, and it means little enough now.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2, preamble, and title, agreed to.
– What a farce!
– Why not vote against it?
– I did.
Bill reported without amendment.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
– There is, perhaps, no special reason why the report should not be adopted, except to emphasize the fact that we all believe the Bill to be a pure piece of humbug. To show the utter insincerity of the statement that the Senate is an unworkable body, we are allowing this legislation to go through at a speed which the most optimistic Minister could never have hoped for.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Electoral Rolls : Objections - Statement by Senator McColl.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate dp now adjourn.
.- I wish to bring under the notice of Senator McColl a complaint that I have received from Mr. James Patterson, of Penshurst, in the Wannon division. He has received from the Divisional Returning Officer for Wannon an objection to enrolment, on the ground that he does not live in the division, and has not so lived for at least one month. I think I know Mr. Patterson, and I know Penshurst, which is near the town I have lived in all my life. He has lived in Penshurst continuously for thirty years, and for twenty-one years in the one street.
– What are his politics ?
– I do not know, but the fact that he shortly intends to go away to New South Wales shearing may possibly have led to objection being made to his name in the hope that he might not receive the notice. In the interests of both parties, I urge the Minister to find out who is responsible for these indiscriminate objections. This is the second case of the kind that I have cited. There should be some system by which people who lodge flimsy objections of this kind should pay some penalty. I do not blame the Electoral Registrar of Penshurst or the Divisional Returning Officer for Wannon. Under the lax system that has been allowed to grow up they are only doing their duty in accepting objections brought under their notice by people who do not pay the 5s. deposit, simply saying, “ I want to object to so-and-so, because I have reason to believe that he is not living in the division.” Many people when they get a printed document of this kind put it aside to be attended to later on, and the twenty days allowed to answer the objection lapse before they know where they are, and their names are taken off the roll. We want a clean roll, and not an inflated roll, but I hope that no member of this Chamber desires to see people disfranchised who arehonestly entitled to vote. I ask the Minister to take drastic steps to prevent the lodging of these frivolous objections. The other day I asked the Minister whether he had stated in an interview in the daily press that the number of electors on the rolls in Victoria at the forthcoming elections would be considerably less than the number on the rolls on 31st May, 1913. The Minister said he did not remember making that statement, and I found on looking the interview up that I was in error in attributing it to him. I spoke from memory when I asked the question. I find that what he said was, “ The rolls would not be by any means the same as at the last election.” I make that correction, because I do not desire to do the honorable senator an injustice.
SenatorRAE (New South Wales) [3.15]. - I believe that Senator Blakey’s appeal, while perfectly justifiable, is bound to be useless. My honest and deliberate opinion is that the Government are at present endeavouring, by every agency within their power, to so manipulate the coming elections as to secure an unfair advantage at the ballot-box when the appeal to the people is made. I believe that all the forces of “ boodle “ and iniquity are behind them in this attempt to rob the people of their rightful power at the ballot-box. I, for one, will make absolutely no appeal to them, because I am of opinion that they have entered into one of the foulest conspiracies that has ever sullied the fair name of this Commonwealth.
.- I thank Senator Blakey for his kind retraction of remarks which he attributed to me the other day, and which I do not remember having uttered. I shall have the case which he has brought forward inquired into. With regard to the remarks of SenatorRae, which are merely slanderous in character-
– But true!
– They would not be slanderous, if true; and as they are slanderous, they are not true.
– I point out that the matter of revising the rolls is entirely in the hands of the Chief Electoral Officer and his subordinates. Ho member of the Government has interfered in any way with it. As I say, it is entirely within the province of the electoral officials. The Act which Senator Rae and other honorable senators on the other side assisted to pass is responsible for the present system. The Government are not responsible for it, and have had no opportunity to remedy it.
– Does the honorable senator not administer it?
– I administer the provisions of the Act which are left to my administration.
– The whole of the administration of the Act is in the honorable senator’s hands.
– Senator Guthrie is saying what is absolutely incorrect. He knows that it is incorrect, and he makes the statement only in order to create a bad impression of the Government throughout the country. If he does not know that his statement is incorrect, then he speaks upon a subject of which he is ignorant. The Act places the administration of certain of its sections in the hands of the Minister, and the administration of other sections entirely in the hands of the Chief Electoral Officer. The revision of the rolls that is going on now is being carried out in the ordinary way.; and for any mistakes that may be made, no member of the present Government is in any way responsible. I have never interfered in the matter in any way. The Government are as desirous of having clean rolls as is any member of the Senate. They desire that every man and woman entitled to a vote should have his or her name on an electoral roll, and that names that ought not to be upon the rolls should be struck off. Where such mistakes as have been referred to are occurring - and they have occurred in the case of a number of friends of my own - I believe they are the result of carelessness. I shall request the Chief Electoral Officer - I cannot order him to do so, and cannot compel him - to direct his subordinates to see that, in carrying out the instructions he gives them, they shall take care that no injustice is done to any one; and that where an elector leaves his home to seek employment his name shall not be struck off the roll. I shall get the Chief Electoral Officer to intimate to his subordinates in the most pointed manner that these mistakes should not occur. I do not wish them to occur. I challenge any one to mention any case in which, since I have been in charge of the Electoral Branch of the Homo Affairs Department, I have written or done anything from a party point of view. I am charged to-day with being a party to a conspiracy to wrong a section of the electors of the Commonwealth. The statement made is far from the truth, and is not creditable to those who make it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.22 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 June 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1914/19140612_senate_5_74/>.