6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minis ter of Defence whether the Prime Minister has yet received a reply to his communications to the Premiers of the States, in connexion with the proposal to give concessions to returned sick and wounded soldiers during incapacity while travelling on Government tramways and railways? and, if not, whether the Prime Minister will bring the matter before the Premiers’ Conference which is to assemble in Melbourne this month ?
– Up to yesterday, no replies had been received,but I have asked that further inquiries be made to see if any replies have been received since then, and, if so, I shall let the honorable senator know at a later hour of the day. If, however, no replies have been received, 1 shall bring under the notice of the Prime Minister his representation as to the submission of the matter to the Premiers’ Conference.
– Has the attention of the Minister of Defence been drawn to statements in the press, and utterances in another’ place yesterday, in connexion with the treatment of a wounded soldier named Perry, and, If so, can he inform the Senate whether any action is going to be taken in connexion with those allegations, and whether anything will be done to try to prevent such a state of affairs occurring in the future, if it exists at the present timet
– It is obvious that 1 cannot reply by way ofan answer to the question, and, therefore. I ask permission to make a statement.
– As regards the earlier stages of this matter, the facts are’ that this man first of all wrote to me alleging that he was being badly treated, and that Dr. Meade at the Base Hospital had accused him of being a malingerer, and made other abusive statements to him. I immediately made inquiries in regard to the statements, and I found that the man claimed that he was paralyzed in both legs, and unable to walk or use his legs in any way. Dr. Meade had been treating the man, and had come to the conclusion that he could use his legs, and expressed the opinion that he was malingering, so far as paralysis was concerned. He consulted another doctor whom he asked to inquire into the case. Dr. Steel examined Perry, and expressed the opinion that he could use his legs. Subsequently the electric battery was applied to the man’s legs, and Dr. Meade claimed that the response to the battery indicated that the man was not paralyzed in the legs. It was then Dr. Meade told the man that, in his opinion, he was malingering.
– Did he tell the man in a courteous way?
– The man says not. Dr. Meade says he did; he point blank denies that he used the abusive epithets which the man attributed to him. In his letter to me the man expressed appreciation of the treatment he had received in the hospital. That statement is on record in the Department. His only complaint was as regards Dr. Meade, and the charges he made in respect to him are those which I have mentioned. Later, Dr. Maloney wrote to me and drew my attention to the fact that the man had escaped from the hospital. The man who was paralyzed in both legs, and unable to move them, had escaped from the hospital !
– Did he not escape in a motor car?
– No motor car can get into the hospital without passing the guard, and without the authority of the doctor in charge, and nobody can go in or out of that gateway without the consent of the doctor in charge. Therefore, if anybody left without such consent, he could only leave over the fence, which is 7 feet high. In his letter to me, Dr. Maloney complained that the man had deserted from the hospital, and that the military authorities were about to arrest him. He represented to me in his letter, which is on record, that the man did not wish to remain in the hospital, and asked me to intervene and prevent his arrest. I, immediately, on the receipt of that letter, after going into the case again, gave instructions that the man was not to be arrested. Coming to the later stages of the case, I propose to take the statements, as epitomized in the press, made at a meeting in the Trades Hall, and elsewhere. Dr. Maloney’s statement, summarized, contains the following charges: -
Stripped of all the terms of abuse which are in the statements, those are the three definite charges made. In regard to the charge that I had promised Dr. Maloney that Perry would not be arrested after desertion, and that an attempt has been made since then to arrest him, I wish to say that, on the 14th June, Dr. Malonev wrote to me asking that “ no arrest be made of this poor, injured man for leaving; the hospital without leave.” On that representation, and after looking over the file, I gave instructions that Perry was not to be arrested; but as Perry had deserted, and wasnot arrested, he, therefore, by his own action, became automatically discharged.
– That is only fair.
– That was the reason why, on the man’s desertion, and my action in preventing his arrest, his pay automatically ceased.
– They even forfeit back pay when a man deserts.
– I heard no more of this case until Friday, the 3rd September, and I remind honorable senators that on that date I was attending the ceremony of interring the body of the late General Bridges at Canberra. On that day, Dr. Maloney wrote to me pointing out that Mrs. Perry “ is getting desperate, with her injured husband and no allowance whatever,” and “ that it would be a charity if something definite is decided, for if this poor fellow is to get nothing I must start a public subscription.” I may add that his letter concludes with this paragraph, “With all greetings re yourplucky act, and good luck.” I returned to Melbourne on Saturday afternoon, and immediately after going into the Barracks on the Monday and getting that letter, I gave instructions that a Medical Board was to at once assemble to investigate the case - that is the condition of the man - with the view to help the poor man, and to report as soon as possible what further action should be taken. That was on Monday, the 6th September, as the records will show. On the 7th, the Board assembled, and consisted of -
In the first letter written by Perry it will be seen that he speaks in the highest terms of Dr. Bird. The report of the Medical Board, dated 7th September, 1915, four days after Dr. Maloney’s letter was written, is as follows: -
We cannot find any evidence of definite organic nerve disease in this man. We are of opinion that the whole disability is hysterical, and that he requires and should have treatment in a suitable hospital under medical supervision.
Acting on that recommendation, the Com. mandant, on the 8th instant, sent an ambulance to bring Perry to the hospital. On arrival at his house the ambulance waited for twenty minutes, and those accompanying it were told by a lady that he was not there. The bald facts of the case are that this man broke hospital. He was not arrested, as I had issued definite instructions that this was not to be done. The Board sat on his case, and returned a finding that he should have further treatment, and those sent in an ambulance to his house to bring him were told that he was not there. When I was informed that Mrs. Perry wished to see me, I at once saw her.
– No; I saw her at once, and took down a statement of her case, which is in the Department now, in my own handwriting. I gave instructions that inquiries were to be made at once as to what money was due to her, and that any money that was due to ‘her was to be paid. The Finance Member informs me this morning that, acting on those instructions, the Department ascertained what money was due to Mrs. Perry, and he reports that all arrears have now been paid.
– Will the Minister say when the money was paid ?
– I believe that the money was paid yesterday, but my minute was made on the day when Mrs. Perry called to see me, and was sent on to the Victorian District Pay Office for action. It will be understood that this was not a matter for the central office, but a matter of district administration. By his own action in deserting, and his non-arrest at the request of Dr. Maloney, Perry ceased to have any claim on the Department, as obviously the Department cannot be responsible for a man who has passed beyond its control by his own act. It will therefore be seen that on the three charges made the statements made by Dr. Maloney have not been sustained. Amongst the statements which have been made is one to the effect that an ambulance was sent to arrest Perry, and was accompanied by an armed guard. We frequently hear statements to the effect that military officers are always careful to cover up their tracks, and, in order that that statement might not be made in connexion with this matter, I sent for the man who drove the ambulance. I had him in my office this morning, and took down a statement from him, to which he attachedhis signature. I propose to read that statement -
As instructed, with Driver Byers, I went to the house of Gunner Perry, in Walsh-street,. West Melbourne, on the evening of the 5th inst., to convey patient to the Base Hospital. On inquiry at the house for Gunner Perry, the lady who answered said she would see. After waiting some time, about half-an-hour, she returned to the door, said he was not in, and that he may have gone to a friend’s place at St. Kilda.
– This was the paralyzed man?
– Yes; this was the man who is said to be paralyzed in both legs. The statement continues -
I asked for the friend’s address, and she said she had no idea where it was. I went to the nearest station, and rang up the hospital for further instructions, and was instructed tocome back. There were only the two of us on. the ambulance. We were unarmed. 10th September, 1915.
That was taken down in my presence, and the District Commandant attaches to it. the following: -
Herewith statement of Driver Alfred Edward Skinner, ambulance, re call to take Gunner Perry to Base Hospital.
Before that statement was written out I had personally interrogated this man and obtained the gist of the written statement from him. I have now given the facts of this case, and I ask honorable senators to set them alongside the fancies that appear in the newspapers to-day.
– That statement came under my notice for the first time to-day, and I at once called for a report upon it. The statements appearing on the file, and showing that there was an application of the electric battery to Perry, make no reference to its having been applied to his tongue. I am having that statement inquired into.
– I wish to ask whether it is known to the Leader of the Senate, or to you, sir, that a number of wounded soldiers arrived in Melbourne from the front this morning, that a procession of them has passed through the streets, and that, to mark its sense of the importance of the occasion, the Melbourne community has been flying bunting from private buildings, business establishments, and Government offices, both State and Federal? If that, is known, will honorable senators be informed why, on this occasion, this building has been singled out as an exception ? When I arrived here, the flagpoles of Parliament House, which are frequently seen adorned with flags, were quite bare.
– As Senator Keating has said, it is usual on occasions of the kind to which he has referred to have flags flying on Parliament House. If that course has not been followed this morning, it is an oversight, due possibly to the fact that the Senate sat so late, and the officers could not attend to the matter. I shall see that the oversight is remedied.
The following paper was presented: -
Defence: Return showing militia officers holding paid positions who have not volunteered for the front.
– Will the Minister of Defence, during the coming recess, give some consideration to the idea of breeding horses for military purposes in the Northern Territory? If the honorable senator is himself too busy to look into the matter, will he consider the desirability of referring it to the War Committee for inquiry and report?
– I am quite willing to give consideration to the proposal during the expected adjournment. The honorable senator will perhaps admit that this will be about the first time during the last twelve months that. I shall be free to give consideration to any matter of the kind.
North-South Transcontinental Line
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the” Minister of Home Affairs a question concerning the control of Federal railways, based upon a paragraph which appeared in the Argus of yesterday. The part of the paragraph to which I wish specially to refer reads - A permanent survey is now completed from KatherineRiver to Bitter Springs, a distance of 65 miles, and a trial survey is now being made as far as Daly Waters, 367 miles from Darwin.
– I have repeatedly ruled that honorable senators, in framing questions, must not read long paragraphs from the newspapers. Our Standing Orders lay it down that a question must contain no statement of fact, no argument, and no comments, but must be asked solely for the purpose of eliciting information. It is obvious that if honorable senators are permitted to read paragraphs from newspapers, we shall be conceding to the newspapers a right to make statements, to offer comments, and to adduce arguments in this House which honorable senators themselves do not possess. I must, therefore, ask the honorable senator to confine himself to the asking of his question.
– I have no desire to transgress our Standing Orders. The newspaper extract to which I had intended to direct attention, refers to the trial survey which is now being made to Daly Waters. I wish to ask the Assistant Minister whether it is the policy of the Government to begin the construction of the northsouth transcontinental line from the north end as indicated by the survey which I understand is in progress?
– The survey in question is being carried out because there is a small survey party on the spot. As the line will have to be surveyed sooner or later, the Government are of opinion that it will be cheaper to have the survey undertaken now than it will be to bring the party back and to have it carried out later on. The extension of the north-south line; however, will most certainly not be undertaken without the authority of Parliament.
– What I desire to ascertain is whether the Government intend to proceed with the construction of the line from south to north or from north to south ?
– The Government are not in a position to reply to that question at the present juncture.
The PRESIDENT announced the receipt of a message from the House of
Representatives, intimating that it had agreed to the amendments of the Senate in this Bill.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives, without amendment.
Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway : Charges by Mr. Gilchrist.
– I have received an intimation from Senator de Largie that he desires to movethe adjournment of the Senate, to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely: “ A matter arising out of charges contained in a statutory declaration made by Sergeant D. L. Gilchrist, lately a clerk in the Transcontinental Railway Office.”
Four honorable senators having risen in theirplaces,
.- I move-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till to-morrow at 10 a.m.
It is well known to honorable senators that specific charges have recently been made in a statutory declaration against certain officers engaged on the transcontinental line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta. The merits or demerits of those charges I do not intend to discuss, because I consider that they are sub judice, inasmuch as an inquiry into them is now pending. But I wish to draw attention to the treatment that has been meted out to the author of those charges - Sergeant Gilchrist - who is now a soldier in training in one of the Melbourne Military Camps, but who was some time ago a clerk in the Construction Branch of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, a position which he had held from the inception of that undertaking. He had previously been employed in the Victorian Railway Service, but had been requested by Mr. Deane, the then EngineeriuChief of the Commonwealth Railways, to relinquish his position in order that he might join the Commonwealth service. Sergeant Gilchrist has made a statutory declaration, which was, in due course, placed before the Minister of Home Affairs, who referred it to Mr. Bell for report. At the time it was put before Mr. Bell, Gilchrist was in camp. Notwithstanding this, he was ordered by
Mr. Sims, the Chief Clerk of the Department, to attend at the Central Railway Office, Melbourne. The letter ordering him to do this was written on the 2nd September, and he was commanded to attend at the office on the following morning at 10 o’clock. As he was in camp, and the letter was addressed to his home in Glenf errie, he did not receive it until the afternoon of that day, when it was taken out to him by a relative. He could not, therefore, obey the instruction contained in that missive, in addition to which, as he is a military officer, he would require to obtain permission to leave the camp. Accordingly, he wrote explaining the cause of his absence. A little later, he received a peremptory letter calling upon him to at once report himself at the office of the Engineer-in-Chief . That was rather a strange procedure, seeing that the man is a soldier, and could be charged with desertion if he left the camp without permission. However, upon subsequently receiving a telegram from Colonel Hawker he reported himself at the Victoria Barracks, where he saw Mr. Newman, late of the Department of Home Affairs. Mr. Newman ordered him to at once proceed to Mr. Bell’s office, telling him that he would not stand any nonsense, and if he was not there in twenty minutes, “You may look out.” Sergeant Gilchrist thereupon proceeded to the office, where he saw Mr. Bell. When he entered, Mr. Bell called in the Chief Clerk, Mr. Sims, and also Mr. Poynton, the head of the Traffic Branch of the transcontinental line. In the midst of these three officials, he was subjected to a severe cross-examination .
– The “ third degree “ was put upon him.
– He was subjected to what is known as ‘ ‘ the third degree.” Mr. Gilchrist stated that, as Mr. Bell was in possession of his statutory declaration, he felt that he would be doing wrong if he said anything until the inquiry was held into the charges which he had formulated. He, therefore, refused to answer any questions. Mr. Bell then threatened him. He said, “ Gilchrist, I am going tofight this thing to the bitter end, and you will be severely punished.” That, I think, was a very wrong thing for the Engineer-in-Chief to do to a man who, until recently, had occupied a subordinate posi- tion in the Department. He should have remembered that this man had rights as well as himself, and that he had no title to threaten him. If Mr. Bell was obliged to furnish a report to the Minister, he had the statutory declaration of Gilchrist upon which to base his report. I have seen that declaration, and I say that every charge in it is so definite that it cannot be misunderstood. Why Mr. Bell should require further information before he was in a position to make his report I cannot understand. He was surrounded by his officers, who had all the means of securing the necessary data, and I fail to see any necessity for sending for Sergeant Gilchrist at all. The Minister for Home Affairs has also acted in this matter in a manner scarcely becoming his position. In the
House of Representatives, he said-
– Order ! The honorable senator is not entitled to refer to anything that has taken place in the other Chamber.
– Then I will say that a statement was made in another place to the effect that Sergeant Gilchrist should have been dismissed the service Ions ago. It is rather strange that it was only after this officer had made a statutory declaration, in which he had formulated certain charges, that it was suddenly discovered that his service had been unsatisfactory. It is very significant that he came to Melbourne on leave, and that when his leave had expired he was asked to return to Kalgoorlie and resume his official duties. Instead, however, he elected to join our Expeditionary Forces. I mention these facts to show that an undignified and unfair attempt has been made to discredit this man. If Sergeant Gilchrist had not taken the straightforward course of putting his charges in black and white, I could understand further information being sought in respect of them. But every one of those charges has been made in such plain language that it cannot be misunderstood. It is scarcely fair of Mr. Bell to subject this officer to such treatment. It seems to me that his action was in the nature of intimidation, with a view to securing a backdown, or the withdrawal of the charges which he had made. It was most unfair to treat a man as Mr. Gilchrist was treated in this case.
– Were they military officers ?
– They were officers in connexion with the Home Affairs Department.
– Then they were not his officers.
– They held that they were. Mr. Bell said that Gilchrist was still an officer of the Home Affairs Department, and, in a sense, he is, because if he returns from the front he will have the right to resume his duties in that Department in accordance with a promise made to all civil servants.
– He could hardly serve two masters - the Home Affairs Department and the Defence Department.
– I think it would be hard to serve even one master under these conditions. Mr. Bell put certain questions to him, and Mr. Poynton put another. It. is high time that a protest was made against this sort of thing. If the charges are untrue, the Department should disprove them. If Gilchrist has done wrong it will then be time enough, when he is proved to be in the wrong, to consider what should be done with him. No officer has any right to summon a man in the King’s uniform into his office as Sergeant Gilchrist was summoned, especially as the charges are to be submitted to an independent inquiry. I have always considered Mr. Newman to be a courteous official, and cannot understand why he should have peremptorily ordered Sergeant Gilchrist to attend at Mr. Bell’s office, and have threatened him that Mr. Bell would stand no nonsense, unless he were there in thirty minutes.
– Do not forget this is an ex parte statement.
– Perhaps if I read the statement supplied by Sergeant Gilchrist honorable senators will have a clearer idea as to what took place. Sergeant Gilchrist stated -
At 4.15 p.m. on 6th September, 1015, Adjutant Anderson, of B Company, 1st Battalion, Military Camp, Royal Park, showed me an urgent telegram, instructing me to report to Mr. Newman, Victoria Barracks, that afternoon. I immediately came into town and rang up Colonel Hawker, who signed the wire. I was informed that Colonel Hawker had gone to Queenscliff, and I was referred to Lieutenant Hutchins, who told me to report at Victoria Barracks to-day at 2.45 p.m. I did so, and was referred to Mr. Newman. He rang up Mr. Bell, in my presence, and said he would send me to him at once. Mr. Newman then said to mc that he would stand no beating about the bush, and I had to go straight away and report to Mr. Bell. He added, “It is now 3.10, and I will ring Mr. Boll up at 3.30 p.m., to inquire if you have arrived. If not, look out.” In compliance with instructions, I saw Mr. Bell at 3.30 p.m., and he called in Mr. Poynton, also his Chief Clerk, Mr. Sims, to take down shorthand notes of the interview, and Mr. Bell repeatedly asked me several questions concerning my sworn declaration, and I replied by saying that I absolutely refused to discuss one word of it until the inquiry took place. He explained that he had been requested by the Minister to make a full report on the matter, and could not do so unless I supplied him with certain particulars. I again emphasized the fact that I declined to say “ Yes “ or “ No “ to any question put to me. He then told me that I was very foolish, as lie intended to fight the matter to the bitter end. He at this stage threatened that it would not pass without my being severely punished. I simply retorted that time would tell. When bc could see that I was determined not to divulge anything, ho turned to Mr. Poynton, and said, “ Well, this is just what I expected.” He then said to me, “That will do, Gilchrist”: and I left the room. I might add that ho tried hard indeed to impress upon mc that I was still a Commonwealth railway officer, and therefore under his jurisdiction, and by not complying with his instructions, by refusing to answer questions he asked me, I was committing insubordination.
That is the position as it presented itself to me. Honorable senators will notice that for very obvious reasons I have refrained from discussing the charges contained in the statutory declaration. These charges, I suppose, will in due time be inquired into, and it will then be time enough to make any comment upon them.
– Did Mr. Bell get a copy of those charges?
– Yes, and so did Mr. Archibald. As far as Gilchrist is concerned, he has been candid and open in everything he has done in connexion with this matter. When he wrote to me first I told him that they were serious charges, and that I would require something more than a mere letter. He therefore volunteered, on his own account, to detail the charges and put them in. the form of a statutory declaration, which he did. I received the declaration, which I placed in the hands of the Minister of Home Affairs, and Mr. Archibald read it through. .Since then Mr. Archibald has received a copy of the declaration, and, I understand, has given it to Mr. Bell. There was no necessity whatever for Mr. Bell to send for Gilchrist, because he had the whole of the facts of the case before him, and he need not have subjected Gilchrist to any crossexamination, because, as I have already said, the charges are clear and definite, and they could have been contradicted, if the facts were not as stated, without Mr. Gilchrist’s attendance at Mr. Bell’s office. This kind of treatment requires a protest from the Senate, because if subordinate officers are to be treated in this manner when they take any action to remedy what they believe to be a wrong, it will be very hard indeed for daylight to get into some departmental transactions. We ought to commend an officer who has the courage and the pluck to come forward and expose what he thinks is mismanagement in connexion with a public Department. But if we allow any coercion or intimidation to take place, we shall commit a very grave mistake indeed. We, on this side, know what it is to be victims in connexion with trade unionism. We know how many trade unionists have suffered for exposing things, or taking independent action. Therefore, it would illbecome a Government which is called a Labour Government, and a Senate which is dominated by Labour members, to permit this state of affairs to pass without entering a protest. I take this opportunity to bring the matter before the Senate, and to let the public know the true position, for it is only by a public exposure of such things that we can hope to prevent them from occurring in the future. If we burke them, or allow them to pass without a protest, we encourage this kind of victimization. It is our duty in public affairs to have the most candid and open investigation, and to prevent anything savouring of persecution in the Public Service. If we neglect that duty we shall permit the heads of Departments to do whatever they like with those who are under them, a thing which we, as trade unionists and labour men, have protested against, and fought against, too. Consequently it would be wrong on our part to allow an occurrence of this kind to go without the protest I am making here this morning.
– I congratulate Senator de Largie on having brought this matter forward this morning, for I think it is only in the interests of evenhanded justice that the Senate, and the people of Australia, should be made aware of this action which has been taken by the Engineer-in-Chief for Railways, that is, so far as the declaration of Mr. Gilchrist is concerned. I was very glad, indeed, that the honorable senator did not touch on the main charges by Mr. Gilchrist against the construction of the transcontinental railway. It is true that the matter issub jttdice ; but I fail to understand why, if the statements of Mr. Gilchrist are true - I am assured that he has borne them out by a sworn declaration - any officer of a public Department should stoop so far as to attempt to put a man on the rack in the way Mr. Gilchrist has been.
– As he says he has been treated.
– I am not saying, of course, that the statement is true, but the allegation has been made by Mr. Gilchrist that he was placed on the rack, or, in other words, that the third degree was applied to him.
– What is the third degree, anyway?
– It is an inquisitorial method. A man is called into a room, where he is defenceless, and statements are taken down from him under pressure. If the statement, which has been made by Mr. Gilchrist, is true-
– If it is true!
– I think it is quite right that the Government should put an end to any such practice. The officers of the Railway Department, from Mr. Bell downwards, would have every opportunity at a departmental or parliamentary inquiry to prove whether or not the statements made by Mr. Gilchrist, in the first place, were correct. To send for that man, as he says they did, and take him into a room in the presence of his head employer, Mr. Bell, supported by another chief officer-
– Did he say who the officers were?
– The officers, I understand, were Mr. Bell, the EngineerinChief, Mr. Poynton, the Chief Transport Officer, and Mr. Sims, the Chief Clerk, together with a shorthand writer.
– No; Mr. Sims was there to do the shorthand writing.
– At any rate, the statement expected to be made by Mr. Gilchrist was to be taken down. That is, I think, a very serious charge against Mr. Bell.
– To get the man to make a statement?
– To get the man to make a statement under those conditions. Apart from the officers, there was no man present but himself. He had no one to defend him. He was before his employer. He was summarily summoned to a conference, as it were, and questioned as to the statements he had made in connexion with the construction of the western end of the transcontinental railway. Those statements have been made public. Senator de Largie referred them to the Minister controlling the Railway Department, and, in turn, we presume they were sent on to the EngineerinChief. What step did Mr. Bell take according to the statement of Mr. Gilchrist? This man, who is at the present time wearing the King’s uniform, was summarily ordered to go to the office of Mr. Bell, where he was questioned.
– What is wrong with that? If the man’s statements are correct, what has he to be afraid of ?
– The man has nothing to be afraid of.
– What is the trouble ?
– The trouble is that the man, having made those statements, and the Minister and the Government having been informed that they had been made, an inquiry should have taken place, and Gilchrist should have been brought there as a witness to prove his statements, so that he would have a chance to get fair play, instead of being subjected, as it were, to an inquisitorial method; that is, summoned to the Railway Department from the Defence Department with no one present to assist him, and in the presence of a man taking notes of what he said.
– Did he say that he did not get fair play and fair treatment there ?
– I am not going to argue the point.
– Was Mr. Gilchrist under the impression that he was still in the service of the Government, or had he left the service?
– Mr.Gilchrist got leave of absence from the Department once he joined the colours, and if he returns from the front, I presume that his position as clerk on the western end of the transcontinental railway will be open to him. In his capacity as an officer of the Railway Department he made certain statements.
– Very serious statements.
– There is another way to prove whether the statements are true or not. Mr. Gilchrist is still in this country - he is at one of the military camps - and if the EngineerinChief or the Minister of Home Affairs desired to test the accuracy or otherwise of his original statements, the method of procedure was not to take him into Mr. Bell’s office as he says he was taken. The public want to know, and we here want to know, whether or not the statements Mr. Gilchrist made are true. I am not saying they are true, but I submit that when a public officer feels that it is a duty incumbent upon him to make certain statements, the proper way to carry the thing to its logical end is to hold an inquiry publicly, and not privately.
– What is the departmental attitude in regard to the matter?
– I do not know what it is.
– Has not the Minister made a statement impugning the credibility of Gilchrist?
– That statement was published, but that does not end the matter. It does not prove either whether the statements of Gilchrist are correct or not. We have a statement made on one side, and a statement made on the other.
– I know that the Minister said things in the other House. Either he did not understand what he was saying–
– Order ! The honorable senator is not entitled to speak of what has taken place in the other branch of the Legislature.
– He said things which were not true, anyhow.
– I am not here to say that Mr. Gilchrist’s charges in the first instance are correct.
– Are they going to be inquired into ? That is the point.
– That is for the Government, and not for me to say. If they ave inquired into, as I think they ought to be, and Mr. Gilchrist’s later statement is found correct, the EngineerinChief went out of his way, and did a wrong thing, in summoning the man before him without having an open inquiry, where he would have a full chance to prove or disprove the charges.
– He was still in the Department.
– Technically he is still an officer of the Department, but no man, even if he is an officer of the Department, and has the courage to make a statement such as Mr. Gilchrist has made, should be subjected to this method of investigation. He is entitled to a free, open, and public inquiry, such as he has asked for, and his request should be granted. His superior officers ought not to have taken him into a private room, and there, as it were, applied to him the third degree. I hope that while there is a Labour Government in power, if the statement of Mr. Gilchrist is true, such a thing will not occur again.
– I have listened with a good deal of attention, I will not say to the charges, because both Senators de Largie and Needham refrained from making any charges, and just expressed a doubt in their minds, which generally concluded with an “ if “ or a “ but.” Of course, I recognise the difficulty of proving a statement on the floor of this Chamber.
– Did you want us to enter into the merits of the charges?
– No; I am speaking about the third degree only. I intend to limit my remarks to the charge that certain officers put the third degree on Mr. Gilchrist.
– I have read his statement.
– Yes ; I have a letter of Mr. Gilchrist, too; but we will come to that directly. As there is a doubt entertained by those who have stated the charges, I ask the Senate to keep an open mind, as there may be another side of the case. What is the position? Senator de Largie, acting on behalf of Mr. Gilchrist, received certain statements and a signed declaration in regard to the truth or accuracy of the statements.
– I am not acting on behalf of Mr. Gilchrist, but on behalf of the public.
– I meant no such limitation. I simply want to get at the facts. Eventually these statements -were handed to the Minister of Home Affairs, who, being responsible for the administration of the Department, handed the statements to his head engineer, Mr. Bell, and demanded from him a report as to their accuracy or otherwise. Mr. Bell naturally looked round amongst the members of his staff to see who could help him to unravel the charges. The first officer he looked to was his right hand man, Mr. Poynton, and the next was the Chief Clerk of the Department, Mr. Sims. They wanted a fuller statement from Mr. Gilchrist. Mr. Bell, through his Chief Clerk, wrote to Mr. Gilchrist, who replied, not taking any exception to the request to meet Mr. Bell, but saying -
Your letter of 2nd September, which was delivered by post at my late private address, reached me by messenger in camp late this afternoon, consequently I was unable to comply with your request to attend the office at 10 a.m. this day.
Practically an apology for not attending at ten o’clock.
– No apology, because he could not attend.
– It was an explanation.
– An explanation, but no refusal to attend.
As I am an enlisted soldier, you, of course, will understand that I am under the control of the Defence Department, and therefore unable to leave camp at will, or at any time without the special consent of the officer in charge.
Regarding the statements contained in my statutory declaration, I desire to inform you that the declaration was handed by me to Senator de Largie, to whom I would refer you for particulars contained therein.
It will be seen that Gilchrist takes no strong exception to being asked to go before Mr. Bell. He was an employee of the Department, and was on leave of absence for six weeks prior to volunteering. It has been the usual practice, when men come on leave of absence from the western end of the line, for them to make a courtesy call on Mr. Bell, and have a chat with him in regard to how matters are going at the western end.
– Now you have introduced that question, will you explain how Mr. Bell treated him ?
– I have no information on that point. When the letter came back stating that Mr. Gilchrist could not attend, Mr. Bell asked Mr. Bingie to see if he could make arrangements with the Defence Department for Mr. Gilchrist to see Mr. Bell. That had been done in other cases. Colonel Hawker was communicated with, and evidently sent the usual cold-blooded business wire, and no more, asking that Mr. Gilchrist should see Mr. Bell. I am given to understand that Mr. Gilchrist then called on Captain Newman ; and it is said that Captain Newman told him that he had better go at once to see Mr. Bell, or there would be trouble. If Captain Newman adopted that tone, it is remarkable, because we all know him to be one of the most polite and gentlemanly officers of the Department. He says he did not discuss the matter with Mr. Gilchrist, nor was he present when Gilchrist was interrogated by Mr. Bell. In the circumstances, there was no great harm in asking permission of the Military Department for Mr. Gilchrist to be sent along, nob by way of tyranny, but that Mr. Bell might obtain information about matters of importance to the Railway Department. Mr. Bell, Mr. Poynton, and Mr. Sims met him in the office. Mr. Sims asked no questions, being simply called in to take a shorthand note of any interview that took place ; but from the start Mr. Gilchrist took up the attitude that he was not prepared to discuss the question at all. Mr. Bell then left the room. The whole affair did not take longer than ten minutes; and, whatever may have been at the back of the officers’ minds, there was nothing approaching the rack or the third degree, nor could such a thing very well take place in ten minutes in a Commonwealth office in town. I have asked Mr. Bell and Mr. Poynton direct about that matter, because if anything of the sort took place, I should be no party to it; but they tell me that Mr. Bell simply asked the ordinary questions that he would have asked of any other employee. Charges had been made, and Mr. Bell told Mr. Gilchrist that he was determined to get right to the bottom of the matter.
– What were “ the ordinary questions ‘ ‘ t
– Questions relating purely to the charges made, and framed with a view to getting fuller information, so that a complete report could be prepared to be sent to the Minister of Home Affairs.
– It is very strange that he had to go to the man who made the charges to get further evidence.
– The Minister wants information in order to decide whether to recommend the Government that an inquiry shall b© held. All I am doing is to put the case of the officers. - who cannot speak here for themselves - as clearly and concisely as possible. Mr. Bell and Mr. Poynton say they asked the ordinary business questions strictly relating to the charges levelled against the Department, and used no threats; but Mr. Gilchrist declined to say anything. Subsequently, Mr. Bell said, “I am determined to get to the bottom of this case,” and left the room. The Minister of Some Affairs knew nothing of this. All he did was to ask Mr. Bell to report on the charges. He was not consulted in regard to the interview. Personally, I have always found the officers of the. Department trustworthy, reliable, and polite, and it will come as a surprise to me to learn that any of them have been guilty of such conduct as is alleged in this case. If we obtain clear proof that the third degree was applied, the Government will not tolerate it for a moment; but there is not sufficient proof before us now that any of the officers in the Railway Department have been guilty of applying it. We ask for further proof, and if that is forthcoming, we shall leave no stone unturned to get to the bottom of the case. In the meantime, I ask honorable senators to keep an open mind in regard to any officer against whom charges in connexion with this matter have been made.
.- I do not propose to accept absolutely either Mr. Gilchrist’s or Mr. Bell’s statement, nor even the Assistant Minister’s reply; but the matter should be investigated fully and calmly in the interests of the whole of the taxpayers. I have the highest regard for Mr. Bell’s general capabilities as Engineer-in-Chief, and in anything I say about Mr. Gilchrist, it must be understood that I am not questioning Mr. Bell’s ability.
– I also have no desire to question Mr. Gilchrist’s honesty.
– But Mr. Archibald tried in another place to belittle Mr. Gilchrist’s ability by saying that he was going to be dismissed on account of incompetency, and making even worse statements. If Mr. Gilchrist is as incompetent as alleged, it is peculiar that, within a few days of joining the Expeditionary Forces, he was appointed quartermaster-sergeant. He must be a dunce, must he not ? After close observation of this man I have come to the conclusion that he is earnest and sincere in making his statements, even though they should be found to beerroneous.
– His promotion to such a position in the Expeditionary Force might not be inconsistent with a lack of ability.
– If Senator Lynch by his interjection suggests that an incompetent man might be appointed a quartermaster-sergeant, that would not be to the credit of the Defence Department. I have referred to his appointment to the Expeditionary Force as evidence of competence.
– He must have had some previous military training.
– I do not know whether he had or not. I hold no brief for him, and do not accept his ex parte statement. All that I desire is that light should be let into this matter.
– How long will Gilchrist remain here?
– I understand that he is going away, but the honorable senator will see that he is under military control at the present time. In my view, the authorities of the Department of Home Affairs acted injudiciously, and without tact when they tried to exercise supervision over a man who was under the control of the Department of Defence. By leave of Lt. -Colonel Hawker, Gilchrist obeyed the call of Mr. Bell, and went to the office of the Home Affairs Department, as an employee of that Department, to listen to what was to be said to him. I think that Messrs. Bell, Poynton, and Sims acted injudiciously in asking their accuser to come before them and give them information in connexion with the statements he had made. They knew of his sworn declaration, and that should have been enough. I have seen the declaration, which covers nearly eight pages of typewritten foolscap, and I have read it.
– It is very circumstantial, is it not?
– Whether the charges made are right or wrong is not for me to say. I have, so far, only Mr. Gilchrist’s statement in support of them. The statements have been published in the press, and have been read by the Minister of Home Affairs and by the EngineerinChief. If they can be proved to be true, the effect will be to seriously discredit the day-labour system, which it is alleged has added largely to the cost of the railway, and they will probably involve the dismissal of many men connected with this great project of railway construction. Senator Russell has said that Mr. Gilchrist, coming from Kalgoorlie on leave to Melbourne, called upon Mr. Bell as a matter of courtesy. If that be so, one would think that, in the interests of the Department and of the railway, Mr. Bell would have been only too pleased to listen to any man coming from a distant part of the Commonwealth who was prepared to give the benefit of his experience, and say what he had seen, unless it was known that the man was a bore, an ignoramus, or was actuated by malice against the Home Affairs Department. I have it from Mr. Gilchrist himself that, when he came over, he had a long interview with Mr. Bell. He said that, after telling him all these things, and mentioning the grave charges to which he has sworn - and in connexion with whichhe could be prosecuted for perjury if it could be shown that he has sworn falsely - Mr. Bell said to him, “ Young man, you have been too observant while vou have been there.” I do not. know whether that statement is correct or not, but I give it to the Senate as Mr. Gilchrist told it to me. I hope that the Government will see that an inquiry is made into these charges by some impartial person. I have in mind a man possessing first class engineering knowledge and a judicial mind, who would be well fitted to conduct such an inquiry. He should be given the power to call in engineering experts to discuss concave and convex rails and other technical matters. I hope that the Government will see that no one is permitted to intimidate a junior official who apparently, without any axe to grind, has spoken of what he believes to be wrong. I hope also that the inquiries may be the means of remedying any mistakes that have been made, and of putting a stop to extravagant expenditure if there has been such expenditure.
– I have not much to say on this motion, except that we have, so far, heard only one side of the case, which does not present the chief officers of the Home Affairs Department in a very favorable light. I am not prepared without inquiry to regard them in an unfavorable light, and I trust that honorable senators generally will suspend their judgment until the last word in connexion with this matter has been said. The reason I say this is that I have in mind the case of a man who occupied a leading position in the engineering world, and who was hounded to death as the result of false and fabricated charges which were made against him. In consequence of those charges the man to whom I refer ultimately committed suicide. So long as I am a member of this Parliament I shall never accept as true charges of this kind made against any man until all the matters in dispute have been thoroughly threshed out. I know, and Senator de Largie also knows, that the man to whom I have referred was one of the best and most capable officers in the service of the Western State, and that he was not given a fair deal.
– Who is being “hounded” in this case?
– I say that in such matters we need to be very careful of what we are doing. I am not going to be told by Senator de Largie that I am an apologist for the Government. I am a supporter of the Government.
– The honorable senator is more like an apologist than a supporter.
– I resent the statement that I am an apologist for the Government, and I can tell Senator de Largie that I am a supporter of the Government as he was at one time.
– I have always been a supporter of the Government.
– A change has come over the honorable senator. I am not going to be taunted with being an apologist who will overlook the faults of the Government. I shall not lie down under a charge of that kind from Senator de Largie, or from any one else. I am here in the interests of fair play, and I will not accept an ex parte statement, even though it should be sworn on ten thousand bibles, until it is supported by proof. I am not going to hand over men of reputation to the jibes of those who may desire to injure them on any ex parte statement. I shall wait and see whether these men in high places, and who must have attained their positions on the strength of their previous credentials, are given fair play.
– What about Gilchrist?
– In the case to which I referred a man was hounded to his death by the action of spies. I saw politicians in Western Australia rise in their places in the State Parliament and utter fabricated charges against this man whose boots they were not fit to clean. That kind of thing shall not be done in this Parliament with my consent. I, therefore, exhort honorable senators, who should, perhaps, be engaged in other work, to suspend their judgment in this matter until the’ last moment, and to remember that the worth of these documents cannot be tested until the other side has been put. I am not going into the charges which have been made at all, but I say that an impartial observer, listening in the gallery of this chamber to what has been said this morning, would be led to the conclusion that able officers of the Department of Home Affairs are open to the charges which have been made in a sworn declaration. I am not prepared to subscribe to any such view upon an ex parte statement, and I shall never do so. I have said that I have had a little experience in matters of the kind, and Senator de Largie has had a similar experience, and I have learned how necessary it is to suspend one’s judgment until the last word on such matters has been said. I am not prepared to destroy the reputation of any man at one stroke.. I say that, in the interests of the Senate and in the interests of the party to which I belong, we need to be very careful about what we do in this matter. Men at the head of affairs have not reached their positions without any record, but because of services they have rendered, and I do not propose upon any ex parte statement to write such men down as incapables
– Who is saying that they are incapables ‘!
– That is the gravamen and essence of the charges that have been made, and we have nothing in support of those charges but the solitary declaration to which reference has been made.
– It is untrue to say that Gilchrist has touched upon their capabilities at all.
– The speeches which have been made this morning prove the necessity for an inquiry into the way in which matters connected with the construction of the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta railway have been conducted. I agree with many of the remarks which were made by Senator Lynch. It is an undoubted fact that the higher the position a man holds, the greater his responsibilities, and very often the better he conducts his business, the greater the number of his critics. We should, therefore, be very careful about giving credence to criticisms of such men. I went very carefully through the sworn declaration of Mr. Gilchrist, and I think that the Government have done wisely in agreeing to have an inquiry into the charges which have been made. That is all that we want. We want to have the matter sifted to the bottom.’ The officers at the head of the Home Affairs Department should have nothing to fear from the closest inquiry into their administration. I think that, in the circumstances, they made a mistake in calling upon Mr. Gilchrist for a further statement when they had his sworn declaration. I have been pleased to find that Ministers have no sympathy with their action in calling Mr. Gilchrist before them. They do not indorse that action, and will not permit anything of the kind to occur in future with their knowledge. That is very satisfactory to me. I have no intention of condemning the officers of the Home Affairs Department. No doubt they have made some mistakes. The officer who superintends a large undertaking like the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway will naturally make some mistakes. But I do not think for a moment that it was the intention of Mr. Bell - knowing as I do his record in Queensland - to force Gilchrist to supply information which would tell against him personally.
– I regret that, owing to my absence in Queensland, I did not see the charges formulated by Mr. Gilchrist in the public press.
– They have not been published.
– Neither have I seen his statutory declaration, and consequently I know nothing about the situation generally. But let me put a suppositious case which I conceive to be a somewhat analogous one. Let us assume that John Smith, an employee in the Postal Department, lays a series of charges before the Postmaster-General against certain officers who are engaged on a particular work which is being carried out by the Department. Is it conceivable that the Postmaster-General, no matter how grave those charges might be, would at once advise the Cabinet to grant an inquiry into them ?
– But it has been shown that an independent inquiry was to take place.
– I understand that at the time Mr. Gilchrist was interviewed by the Engineer-in-Chief no inquiry had been promised.
– The honorable senator is quite wrong. The Government were pledged to grant an independent inquiry into the charges before the interview in question took place.
– Whilst Senator Needham was speaking, I asked if any inquiry had been promised, and Senator de Largie replied by way of interjection, “ No, not at that time.”
– The interview between Gilchrist and Mr. Bell took place only this week, whereas the independent inquiry was promised two weeks ago.
– Evidently ‘ the honorable senator misunderstood my question. In view of Mr. Bell’s record in Queensland, I cannot imagine that he would be guilty of anything in the nature of browbeating. As a member of the Parliament of that State, I had some years .of association with him. and I can honestly say that to the humblest man engaged upon construction work he was always approachable. I can scarcely conceive of anything going on in connexion with the construction of the transcontinental line, which, according to Senator Blakey, is calculated to damn the day labour system in Australia, seeing that Mr. Bell himself is the father of that system, and the gentleman who was responsible for its adoption in Queensland. He it was who initiated the system there, and who carried it out under Administrations which were not always wholeheartedly in sympathy with it. Despite these adverse conditions, it cannot be denied that he made a huge success of it, and that he is entitled to be recognised as the pioneer of the system in the Commonwealth.
– What I cannot understand is why the officers of the Department required to get more information from a man who had already made his charges in a statutory declaration.
– Then I come back to my reference to John Smith and the Postmaster- General. If John Smith, an employee of the Postal Department, made certain charges, would not the PostmasterGeneral be afforded an opportunity of gauging the work of that employee, and of ascertaining whether there was any substance in his accusations ? The first thing he would naturally do would be to inquire, “ What sort of a man is John Smith?”
– But the honorable senator must recollect that an inquiry had been promised.
– That is a weakness, truly. But if anything transpires in connexion with the construction of the transcontinental line which will mean the destruction of the day labour system, I shall be very much surprised, and I think that Mr. Bell will be equally surprised.
– I have listened attentively to this debate, and the only point which puzzles me is why Sergeant Gilchrist should have been sent for by the Engineer-in-Chief. Here was a public officer who had made a series of sworn charges, which had been handed to Senator de Largie, who in turn had forwarded them to the Minister, who in due course had transmitted them to the Engineer-in-Chief with a request for a report upon them. That is the position as I understand it. Then the officers of the Department apparently sent for the author of these charges. Why? The charges had been definitely formulated, and for the life of me I cannot understand why the Engineer-in-Chief should require to interview the man who had made them.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the EngineerinChief might want further information?
– It was not a question of wanting further information, but of a request by the Minister to reply to the charges.
– Though the great majority of the charges were definite enough, the officers say that there were one or two of them upon which they desired further information.
– Then the matter becomes still more complicated, because, although the Engineer-in-Chief had been asked to report upon them, the statement has been made that an independent inquiry into them had been promised. In these circumstances I cannot understand why Gilchrist was sent for to further explain those charges.
– It was a kind of interrogatory and answer before the inquiry took place.
– But why? The Engineer-in-Chief had been asked to reply to certain definite statements, knowing at the time the request was made that there was to be a further inquiry into them.
– A request had been made to the Government for an inquiry, and it was then under consideration.
– Oh! That is a different matter altogether.
– Had it not been settled that an inquiry was to take place ?
– It had not been decided.
– Had it not been decided by the Caucus?
– I understand that before Sergeant Gilchrist was sent for by his superior officer, an independent inquiry had been agreed to. If that be so, there was no need for Mr. Bell to summon this man to attend at his office in order that he might gain further information.
– Did the EngineerinChief know that an inquiry had been promised 1
– No; he did not.
– The Assistant Minister has said that an inquiry had not been promised, and that the matter was under consideration.
– The Government have not yet given instructions that an inquiry shall be held.
– I can quite understand the charges made by Sergeant Gilchrist being forwarded to the Minister of Home Affairs, and the Minister transmitting them to the Engineer-in-Chief for report. I can also understand Mr. Bell asking for more information concerning them if he did not know that a further inquiry into them was to be held. But if that further inquiry had been promised, there was no need for him to summon Gilchrist at all.
– Unless the officers can satisfy the Government that there is nothing in the charges, there will be an inquiry.
– Senator de Largie has stated that at the time Gilchrist was summoned to appear before his superior officer, it had already been decided that an independent inquiry was to be held.
If that be so, the summoning of that officer to give further information in regard to his charges was a blunder and a mistake.
– I have listened attentively to this debate from the moment that the motion was tabled, in order that Senator de Largie and others might express, in vigorous language, their condemnation of the alleged action of certain departmental officers. When Sergeant Gilchrist levelled his accusations against the head of the Commonwealth Railway Department, he levelled them against the Government of which I am a supporter.
– Not a bit of it.
– If there be any truth in his allegations, the Government must accept the full responsibility.
– Why talk about the Government accepting responsibility?
– Why does not the honorable senator allow others to “laugh at his jokes?
– It must be necessary for the honorable senator to protest that he is a supporter of the Government.
– We have been told this morning that the departmental officers subjected Sergeant Gilchrist to the third degree. Now we know what the third degree means so far as our Criminal Investigation Department is concerned. When a man is arrested on a serious charge we are told by those who know the meaning of the third degree, that he is subjected to a process of exhaustion until he is virtually worn to a standstill. Senator de Largie has stated that Sergeant Gilchrist was subjected to the third degree.
– The officers attempted to subject him to it.
– The third degree implies the exercise of compulsion. It constitutes an attempt to compel a man to say something which he would not say if he were normal. Pressure is applied to him until, from sheer exhaustion, he is induced to say something which he would not otherwise say. According to the statements made by honorable senators who are supporting this motion for the adjournment, the declaration made by Mr. Gilchrist contains charges of a most serious and damaging character. Publicity has been given to them.
– Publicity has been given to them through the columns of the Melbourne Age.
– I tell you that the sworn declaration has not yet been published, so far as I know, in any paper.
– In the columns of the Melbourne Age there was a summary of the charges made by Gilchrist in his sworn declaration.
Senatorde Largie. - Have you seen that sworn declaration?
– No; but I know a summary when I read it.
– Then you must know the summary of charges you have never seen.
– I am satisfied that the summary which appeared in the Age is as near being a correct summary of the declaration as the declaration itself is incorrect in regard to the charges made. Now, an investigation was promised. The Minister controlling the Home Affairs Department, who is responsible for the construction of the trans- Australian railway, communicated with the Engineer-in-Chief , Mr. Bell, and asked for a report in respect of the charges. Mr. Bell - evidently ignorant that any promise has been made, because the Minister would not tell him that an independent inquiry had been promised - as departmental head - did what the Minister requested him to do.
– Yes; he sent to the accuser.
– He took steps to get a reply by way of a report to the statements made by Mr. Gilchrist.
– Yes; and he asked his accuser for it.
– Because the statements were not quite as clear as the departmental head desired them to be. Mr. Bell communicated directly or indirectly with the accuser. Mr. Gilchrist was asked to go to the railway office and make clearer certain statements which, according to the departmental heads, were not clear enough. Gilchrist could have declined. In the face of this, we are told that the third degree was applied to him. As I have said, he could have declined to go.
– After he had been instructed by his superior officer to go ? It was a military order.
– He was told that he could have leave to go, the object be ing that he might be able to state more clearly the charges he had made. He said, according to the statement made by Senator de Largie, that he declined to answer or have anything to say at that interview, which lasted only afew minutes, and then he said, “ Good morning !” and left the office. If that is the third degree, I guarantee that, in different parts of the world, there are thousands of criminals who, according to reports have had the third degree applied to them, would not mind if they had it applied in the way which Senator de Largie says it was applied to this man by a departmental head.
– Do you compare Gilchrist with a criminal?
– Now the honorable senator, in his characteristic way, is endeavouring to impute motives.
– Are you not making a comparison?
– Yes; I am making a comparison in regard to the third degree.
– And a criminal.
– I am not making a comparison between criminals and Mr. Gilchrist at all, and the honorable senator knows it. I am not surprised, however, that the honorable senator should attempt to connect me with a statement that I desire to associate Mr. Gilchrist with criminals. I do not know Mr. Gilchrist. But when an honorable senator in his representative capacity gets up in this; Chamber and says that the third degree, as we understand it as applied to criminals, was applied to this man, the statement is absolutely misleading.
– You have no proof of that statement.
– I have proof that the third degree, as it is understood in the criminal world, was not applied to this man at all. He was merely told he could have leave to attend at the railway offices.
– I have listened to the discussion very carefully, and so far as I have been able to gather the gentleman who ordered Gilchrist to go to interview Mr. Bell was Mr. Newman, who, in addition to being an employee of the Home Affairs Department, also holds a commission in the Military Department.
– He is in the Defence Department now.
– He has been transferred to the Defence Department.
– I believe that a mistake was made if any officer, who could be thought by Gilchrist to have any military authority, ordered him to go before Mr. Bell for an investigation. I have no feeling in this matter at all, but I am saying this in reply to the statement made by Senator Findley, who took up the cudgels on behalf of Mr. Bell and the Department, and contended that Mr. Gilchrist could simply have told them that he would not go. I was under the impression, until a few minutes ago, that that was the position, because I interjected, during the course of an honorable senator’s speech, “Why did Mr. Gilchrist go?” understanding at that time that, as he had enlisted and had been granted leave of absence, he had left the Home Affairs Department to all intents and purposes, and could have turned round and said to Mr. Bell, “ You have my evidence in the sworn declaration; I am no longer in your employ.” Now I am informed, however, that Mr. Gilchrist might have thought that he was, to some extent, still under the control or authority of Mr. Newman.
– Colonel Hawker ordered him to go.
– The wire was signed by Colonel Hawker, and when Gilchrist went to the barracks Colonel Hawker was not there, and he had to report himself to Mr. Newman.
– It seems to me that, after Gilchrist had made a sworn declaration, a very great mistake was made if any person who could have been assumed by Gilchrist to have military authority or control should have said to him in effect, “ Look here, you must go before this Department, and mind, we’ll have no funny business about it.” If that statement was made by any one in the King’s uniform - and it is said that it was made by Mr. Newman, for whom I have the very highest regard - a very great mistake was made, because it might have intimidated Gilchrist, who, perhaps, would say to himself, “I am under military authority; Colonel Hawker has, to a certain extent, ordered me to appear, and now this other military officer, Mr. Newman, has also told me that I must go.” Probably in such circumstances Gilchrist thought it incumbent on him to go, and that he would have been punished if he had not obeyed. In my opinion, that is the position of the case. I think it is possible that rather greater importance than is necessary has been attached by some honorable members to the circumstances. If, however, an injustice has been done to any one, it may be that the time of the Senate has not been wasted discussing this motion.
– It appears to me that substantial reasons for the motion for adjournment have been adduced by Senator de Largie with reference to this matter, which alleges maladministration in connexion with the transcontinental railway. The officers responsible for that undertaking asked Mr. Gilchrist to go before them. I do not know that very great harm was done to Mr. Gilchrist by that request, because possibly the officers mentioned might have had very little knowledge of the niceties to be observed in connexion with a judicial inquiry. It is not given to all men tobe lawyers.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.80 p.m.
– At the suspension of the sitting, I think I was stating that too much importance ought not to be attached to the action of the officers in having Mr. Gilchrist before them, because men, otherwise very intelligent and experienced, sometimes do not know much of the niceties of judicial procedure and the proprieties which should be observed. Seeing that they knew that charges had been levelled against them, it would have been better, perhaps, for Mr. Bell and his subordinates to address themselves to the securing of evidence in rebuttal of the charges, rather than to ask Mr. Gilchrist to present himself before them. But I do not attribute any importance to the matter, because Mr. Gilchrist evidently stood on his rights and refused to say anything. I hope that the charges made will be properly investigated by a competent official or tribunal. I was going to ask the Assistant Minister if it was the present intention of the Government to institute an inquiry before a proper tribunal ; but now a question of that sort addressed to the honorable gentleman would be meaningless, because, lo and behold ! there has come along a sacrilegious Pompey in the shape of Senator de Largie. He has lifted the veil which obscures the holy of holies of the Caucus, and told us that Ministers have to hold an inquiry.
– Which the Minister for Home Affairs voted for and agreed to. There is no compulsion there.
– Is the honorable senator further alluding to proceedings in Caucus?
– I may tell you that the Minister agreed to the proposal for an inquiry, and supported it.
– Then the Ministry have no discretion in the matter now, and it is useless for me to address any question to them. The matter has been decided, and an inquiry must be held.
– Yes; and why not?
– Let me be a little supplicatory towards Senator de Largie. Will he lift the veil a little higher? Will he let us know what kind of a tribunal has been decided on ? Will he tell us the name of the Judge selected ? We are on the tip-toes of expectation to hear this information. We are thankful to the honorable senator for disclosing so much as he has done about the matter.
– Do you not want an inquiry ?
– I desire a proper inquiry, most decidedly.
– That is what I want, too.
– I was going to ask the Ministers if they, in their discretion, had decided on an inquiry, but now such a question is unnecessary, because the honorable senator has told us that the Caucus have decided on an inquiry. Will he kindly vouchsafe to us a little more information ? Will he tell us whether the inquiry is to be made by a Judge, a Parliamentary Committee, or a permanent official ?
– Perhaps the Assistant Minister can tell you that; I cannot.
– Will the honorable senator tell us a little more? Have not the Ministers any discretion in the matter ?
– If I could, I would be candid and tell you. That is straight.
– If the Minister in charge of the Department has no discretion in the matter-
– Who says so?
– That is a question for the Minister to answer.
– He has some discretion in the matter.
– The Minister has no discretion in regard to an inquiry.
– He has; and do not try to belittle him like that.
– I understood the Assistant Minister to say here this morning that it had not been decided that there should be an inquiry, but Senator de Largie interjected that an inquiry had been decided on, and Senator O’Keefe knows that. If the information is available, I would like to know what official, Judge, or tribunal is to hold the inquiry.
– This much is clear, any way, that the Minister for Home Affairs has not intimated to his officials that there will be an inquiry, or the nature of the inquiry.
– I am very much obliged to the Minister of Defence for the information, but he will recognise that he occupiesonly a secondary position in the matter; in fact, the Ministry, as a whole, occupy only a secondary position. They have no discretion, for an inquiry has been decided on. I accept that decision as final.
– I thought that you did not take ex parte statements?
– This is an intraparty statement, not an ex parte one. It is a statement proceeding from an honorable gentleman who was present at the Caucus which, I understand, has the soul of the Government in its keeping.
– Do not let Senator de Largie “ pull your leg “ too much.
– In regard to the charges themselves, I know that javelins of this sort are always being hurled at officials in high positions; and unless the charges are substantiated - substantiated to a very considerable extent - before a competent tribunal, I attach no great importance to them. But as the Administration has been so circumstantially assailed, as I understand it has been in the declaration of Mr. Gilchrist, in regard to which Senator Findley has very properly said a summary appeared in a newspaper, and as the expenditure on the transcontinental railway and the methods of its construction are of paramount importance to the people of the Commonwealth, I hope that an inquiry will be held, not because of the inherent gravamen of the charges themselves, but because of the fact that it is necessary, in all probability, to clear high, and most likely very competent, officials of the charges contained in the sworn declaration. I hope that it will be a fair and open inquiry, and I would prefer it to be conducted by an official of the status at least of the gentleman who inquired into the statements regarding the Liverpool Camp, for a very large sum of public money, apart from the competency of the officials themselves, is involved in the construction of the railway. I have said, from time to time, that, in all probability, the work will cost a great deal more money than the Administration have stated to be necessary. Therefore, in all good faith, and without impugning the competency of the officials in any way, without prejudging the statements made by Mr. Gilchrist, I hope that a satisfactory inquiry will be made into the whole matter, and conducted by a competent tribunal absolutely above reproach.
– In regard to the great discovery which Senator Bakhap seems to think he has made, I can assure him that it is the usual mare’s nest, and, consequently, of little importance. I shall be quite candid, and tell him the circumstances, so that his mind may be at ease, as it seems to be troubled to some extent. When I interjected that there was to be an inquiry, and that the Minister had agreed to an inquiry, I stated a fact. There was nothing very much in the announcement. It is not a question of appealing to the Minister to do something, when I tell the honorable senator that the Minister supported the idea of holding an inquiry-
– He has not stated in Parliament that he agrees to an inquiry.
– I should have said the Minister of Home Affairs; I do not mean Senator Russell. It would seem, from the remarks of Senator Lynch, as if I had made a violent attack on Mr. Bell. I made no violent attack on that officer. I have never had any need, until the present occasion, to bring up here any matter regarding Mr. Bell. But on the floor of this chamber I defended Mr. Bell when he was attacked in the Western Australian press about his management of the transcontinental railway. Indeed, I never saw Mr. Bell in my life until Senator Needham told me, just prior to the suspension of the sitting, that Mr. Bell was seated in the box behind the Ministers. Prior to that event I did not even know Mr. Bell by sight.
– I am sure that I did not either.
– That ought to show that I have no enmity or ill-feeling towards Mr. Bell. I can assure Senator Lynch that I did not judge Mr. Bell, so far as these charges by Mr. Gilchrist are concerned. I have, expressed no opinion on the charges contained in the statutory declaration; but I think that when an independent inquiry had been arranged for, all movements in the matter should have been suspended until the inquiry was held. That, I think, would have been fair to the man who made the charges, and also to Mr. Bell, who, I consider, placed himself in a false position by the action he took. I am not suggesting that he deliberately did this thing. Perhaps he blundered into doing what seems to me a foolish thing. In my opinion he did not improve his position. No matter what view Mr. Bell may take, and no matter how some honorable senators may regard the question from his stand-point, there are other persons to be considered. I hold that the interests of the humblest men working on this railway are equally at stake, and that they are just as much entitled to justice and consideration as is the Engineer-in-Chief himself.
– We want fair play all round, of course.
– There should not be the slightest insinuation of persecution. No pressure ought to be brought to bear on any man, no matter how humble his position may be. Neither Mr. Bell nor the Minister had a right to stand up and make personal charges against Mr. Gilchrist, as undoubtedly has been done. He has been referred to by the Minister of Home Affairs in another place, in his first presentment of this matter, in a way which was grossly unfair. Not a word’ in the statement which Mr. Archibald made in the first instance was true. He should have waited until he understood the case, if he did not understand it before he made the statement he did in the House of Representatives. Some honorable senators have tried to excuse the act of taking Mr. Gilchrist to the railway offices. But what would a Judge say, when a case came on, if the accuser had been forced to go to where the accused was, questioned, and subjected to pressure to make statements in regard to charges? Would not the Judge very properly say that the accused had interfered with the course of justice? I think so. It was, under the circumstances, grossly improper.
– Since this discussion was started, I got in touch with Mr. Newman, and he said that he simply intimated to the man that he was granted leave to see Mr. Bell, and directed him to the office. He had no military power. I think the honorable senator said that the man was forced to go to the railway offices.
– I was dealing with quite another thing; but now I will deal with the point to which the Minister has directed my attention. It has to be remembered that, in the first instance, Mr. Gilchrist refused to go to the railway offices, as the letter read by the Minister to-day proves, and that he, in a sense, did go there afterwards under compulsion. He refused to go in the first instance, but when, as a member of the Military Forces, he was summoned to go to the Barracks by the wire from Colonel Hawker, and Captain Newman told him to report himself at the railway offices within half an hour, he was under military orders, and went practically under compulsion. He could not have refused to go without disobeying his superior officers.
– Mr. Newman says that not only did he not order him to go, but that he had no power to do so.
– Why, then, did he direct Mr. Gilchrist to go to Mr. Bell?
– All that happened was that Mr. Newman said that leave had been granted to him. He asked Mr. Newman where the offices were, and Mr. Newman directed him there.
- Mr. Gilchrist did not ask for leave to visit Mr. Bell, nor did he desire to go there. Who asked that this should be done?
– Mr. Bingie rang up the Defence authorities, and asked that leave of absence should be granted to Mr. Gilchrist to see Mr. Bell, and it was granted. This was the result of a wire from Colonel Hawker, intimating that leave had been granted.
– All this proves that Mr. Gilchrist was ordered by his superior officer to go to the railway offices, and, therefore, could not refuse to go.
– When he went to the railway offices he was on leave of ab- .sence, and not under military control.
– We have heard enough to prove that he did not want to go there. When he went there he objected to be cross-examined upon statements that he had put into writing, and in taking up that attitude he did the right thing. Whoever was responsible for compelling him to go to the railway offices after he had demurred to goIng there, did the wrong thing. I hope that we shall not again have to raise a protest of this kind in this Chamber, but so long as I am in the Senate I intend to defend any man who is put in the position in> which Mr. Gilchrist finds himself. He has been vilified and misrepresented by references to himself and his charges in the press, and the attack has been followed up by an inquisitorial kind of inquiry, at which the official charged with mismanagement wanted to subject him to crossexamination. In doing so Mr. Bell placed himself in a very false position. I say this without any heat or enmity towards him. I have never met Mr. Bell, and it cannot reasonably be said that I have any animosity against him. I have been compelled to bring this matter up by the remarks that have appeared in Ilansard from the Minister of Home Affairs with regard to Mr. Gilchrist, and by the subsequent action of the Engineer-in-Chief. I have declined throughout this debate to discuss the charges made in the statutory declaration. If I did so I could put a very different complexion on the case I have presented to-day, but I have refrained for very obvious reasons from going into those charges in any way. All I have done has been to bring before the Senate what has happened since. It was most unreasonable to ask the accuser to submit himself to cross-examination at the hands of the man he had accused, especially in a room where he had no support and no witness on his side, as against three men, all more or less implicated in the charges he had made, who could give afterwards what version they chose, whilst he would have no witness to support his version. This was most unfair to Mr. Gilchrist, and I shall never be a party to covering up practices of that kind, whether they are indulged in under a Labour or a Capitalistic Government. In fact, I shall be all the more determined to put down that sort of thing if it is practised by a Government that professes to be against it, while, at the same time, indulging in it. I do not think the Ministry as a whole are responsible for what has happened in this case, for I believe that the responsibility rests on one individual only. By leave, I desire to withdraw the motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer is - 1 and 2. No. All tradesmen work in accordance with the determination of the Wages Board. Carpenters 44 hours per week, quarrymen 46 hours per week, labourers 48 hours per week, Quarrymen and carpenters, by arrangement and at their own request, start early and curtail their lunch hour to enable them to catch their train.
Rights fob Sale of Fruit.
Senator BLAKEY (for Senator
Barnes) asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Has the Y.M.C.A. sole rights for sale of fruit, &c, at the Ballarat Camp ?
Has it any right to sublet those rights?
Has it sublet the right to sell fruit?
– A reply has not yet been received from Ballarat, but when it is it will be sent on to Senator Barnes.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Has any communication been received from the State Government in Tasmania with reference to the establishment of a Munitions Factory at Beaconsfleld, Tasmania; and, if so, has the State Government asked the Federal Government for assistance in establishing such factory, and will favorable consideration be given to such request?
– The answer is-
No communication of the nature indicated has yet been received by the Government.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Is it his intention to take any action, and, if so, what, in the direction of preventing enemy subjects or sympathizers in the Commonwealth creating or fomenting mischief?
Is it a fact that some Germans who are permitted to remain at large are in possession of arms and ammunition?
If so, will he take prompt measures to disarm them?
Has not the time arrived when all Germans, whether naturalized or not, should be compelled to take out a licence to remain at large, and to report themselves at regular intervals to the police?
– The answers are-
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Do the Government intend to take any action to prevent the Continental Tyre Company from flooding the market (at very much reduced prices) with German manufactured goods, to the detriment of Australian and British manufacturers ?
– I hope to obtain a reply before the Senate rises.
Motion (by Senator Ferricks) agreed to-
That one week’s leave of absence be granted to Senator Maughan, on the ground of urgent business.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives, with a message stating that it had agreed to the second amendment made by the Senate, and had disagreed to the first, but had made a consequential amendment.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and amendments ordered to be considered in Committee forthwith.
In Committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ amendments) :
Clause 4 -
Section twenty-one of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section (2) thereof the words “ One hundred and ten pounds per annum “, and inserting in their stead the words “ One hundred and twentysix pounds per annum,”
Senate’s Amendment - Leave out “ One hundred and twenty-six pounds per annum.”
House of Representatives’ Message - Omission of words disagreed to, but the following consequential amendment made in place thereof - Omit the whole clause.
– I move -
That the Committee does not insist on amendment No. 1, disagreed to by the House of Representatives, and agrees to the consequential amendment made by the House of Representatives in the Bill.
– What is the effect of all this?
– The effect will be to omit clause 4 altogether. Honorable senators will remember that this was a Bill dealing mainly with conditions in the Public Service created by the war, but the Government took advantage of the opportunity to bring forward a proposal to give statutory effect , to certain allowances they have been paying in addition to the minimum wage provided for under the Public Service Act. Honorable senators took the view that clause 4 raised the question of the minimum wage of public servants, and that they were entitled to press for an increase. To give effect to their desire they carried an amendment to omit the words “ One hundred and twenty-six pounds per annum,” thus leaving a blank in the clause, the object being to have the minimum wage fixed, not at £126, as desired by the Government, but at £138. The House of Representatives has disagreed with the amendment of the Senate, and has proposed the omission of the whole clause. The minimum wage provided for under the Public Service Act is £110 per annum. The Government, by Executive act, have _ been giving effect to an increase in the minimum wage to £126 per annum by paying allowances, in addition to the statutory minimum wage. The omission of clause 4 of the Public Service Bill will not affect that, and therefore the existing position of the public servants will not be endangered.
– Have we any security for that?
– There is the assurance of the Government that they will not interfere with the Executive act to which I have referred without consulting Parliament. Under that Executive act an allowance of £16 per year is given in addition to the statutory wage of £110.
– So that the labours of the Senate in connexion with this Bill will result in nothing.
– On this particular question the labours of both Houses will result in nothing, and the Bill will deal only with conditions of the Public Service affected by the war. Honorable senators know that for some time the necessity for amending the Public Service Act in many directions has been frequently discussed. The Government intend to take advantage of an early oppor tunity, as soon as they can get the time, to go into the question of the amendment of the Act generally. When that is proposed, the question of the minimum wage in the Public Service and other questions of equal importance to the Service may be reviewed by Parliament.
.- Though I admit that we have to bow to the inevitable, I wish to say that I regret very much that honorable members, in another place did not see their way to give effect to the wishes of honorable senators to increase the minimum wage in the Public Service. I hope that, as Senator Pearce has promised, the Government will, as soon as they can get an opportunity, consider fully the necessity for amending the Public Service Act. I hope that, as a result of the consideration which has been given to this Bill, -the position of the public servants in the matter of pay will not be worse than it was before the measure was introduced, and that the omission of clause 4 will not prevent them receiving some allowance, in addition to the existing statutory minimum wage of £110 per year. I trust that, even in these times of financial stress, the Government will find it possible to do something to alleviate the condition of the poorer paid servants of the State.
– When this Bill was before the Senate a week or so ago the object which the Government had in view was to amend the Public Service Act, so that they might have statutory authority for the payment of a minimum wage of £126. In this Chamber an amendment was made with the object of increasing the minimum to £13S, in order that it might be in keeping with awards made as to wages for work done by public servants. I regret that, notwithstanding the overwhelming majority recorded in favour of that proposal in this Chamber, honorable members in another place have seen fit to disagree with us. We were told that as the amendment proposed here would create a blank in clause 4, there would be no further chance for revision, which, of course, was absurd, and that consequently the Government would be free to make the minimum wage what they liked, and so far from increasing it our amendment would decrease it. That statement was made by the representatives of the Government in this
Chamber with the object, of course, of bludgeoning their Bill through without amendment. I should like to have some definite guarantee from the Minister now in charge of the Bill that, although it is now impossible for us to give effect to our desire to increase the minimum wage to £138, the Public Service at least will not suffer by the omission of clause 4. We should, I think, have some assurance that the minimum wage of £126, which the Government have provided for by Executive act, will not in any way be affected by the omission of the clause.
– I frankly give the assurance the honorable senator has asked for, and which I thought I had already given. The present Government give the assurance that the Executive act by which an allowance of £16 per year is made to public servants, in addition to the existing statutory minimum, will be continued in operation. The Government will not interfere with it without consulting Parliament either by resolution or by a Bill.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill returned from ££e House of Representatives with amendments.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and amendments ordered to be considered in Committee forthwith.
In Committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ amendments) :
Clause 4 -
It shall be the duty of every elector to record his vote at the referendums to which this Act applies.
House of Representatives’ Amendment - Insert after “ elector “ the words “ residing within five miles of a polling place.”
Motion (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– I did think that the Government would have had sufficient common sense to drop a Bill of this description, which, owing to the amendments which have been made in it, has become a mere farce. Perhaps it is a farce with a sinister intention. We are now called upon to consider an amendment to a measure the operation of which is to be confined to the re ferenda, and which is allegedly designed to secure an increased vote on the part of those electors who have been in the habit of neglecting to record their votes - electors who live in the remote portions of the country. The amendment which is now before us seeks to exempt these persons from being obliged to exercise the franchise. In other words, the compulsory principle of the Bill will be operative only in all the large centres of population where votes are usually recorded to the extent of 90 or nearly 100 per cent., and where the Ministry hope to secure the major portion of their support to the referenda proposals. The largest percentage of the unrecorded votes at elections is unquestionably to be found in our country districts. If the principle of compulsion is to operate beneficially, obviously those are the very districts to which it should be applied.
– This amendment is a big concession to the honorable senator’s own arguments, and yet he is not satisfied.
– I care very little who supported or who opposed the amendment in another place. I say, without hesitation, that it is quite inconsistent with the whole scope of the Bill. In our large centres of population the electors always record their votes. Down almost every other street they can find a polling booth. If the principle of compulsion is intended to gather in a large crop of unrecorded votes, it is necessary to apply it to the country districts.
– Of what is the honorable senator afraid ?
– I am afraid of nothing.
– The amendment does not impose a prohibition upon anybody going to the polling booth.
– But the principle of the Bill is not one of prohibition, but of compulsion. The design of the measure is to glean every possible vote in the large centres of population, where an overwhelming majority of the electors are favorable to the referenda proposals, and to let slide that large area in which reside the electors who are opposed to those proposals. That is the whole scope and purpose of the amendment. The idea of compulsion has been completely abandoned, and the principle is to be made applicable only to those centres of population where the Government hope to secure sufficient votes to enable them to carry the referenda proposals. The amendment will serve only to make more marked the line between urban and rural voters. The real question at issue is whether the urban electors shall have the right to fix the prices of commodities which are produced by rural electors. Consequently, this amendment is a most iniquitous one.
– A most villainous one.
– It is a complete abrogation of the intention that was expressed in the Bill in its original form.
– The amendment was forced on the Government in another place.
– I do not care for that. But can it be seriously contended that the Liberal party in another place have sufficient power to force anything on the Government? That party is in a minority of ten or eleven in the other branch of the Legislature, and has no power to alter a single syllable of any legislative proposals which may emanate from the Labour Caucus. I have no desire to retract one word of my utterances in this connexion.
– The honorable senator will entertain a different opinion in his calmer moments.
– I will make the position very clear to the rural voters. The intention of the amendment is to minimize their electoral strength and to correspondingly increase the electoral strength of the urban voters.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 4 -
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Omit “ sub-section,” and insert “ sub-sections ( 1 ) and.”
Motion (by Senator Russell) agreed to-
That the amendment be agreed to.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. -
After sub-clause (11) insert the following new sub-clause: - “ (11a) Non-compliance with the requisitions contained in a notice under sub-section
– I need scarcely remind honorable senators that, under the Bill in the form in which it left this Chamber, a reasonable excuse for neglect to vote would be accepted by the electoral authorities.
– What sort of a nonsensical arrangement is it, in any case ? Will not the members of the Expeditionary Forces be more than 5 miles distant from the nearest polling booth on polling day ?
– We desire to make the position perfectly clear, and, therefore, I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– The whole of this amendment is in the nature of a redundancy. Will any member of our Expeditionary Forces be within 5 miles of the nearest polling booth on polling day? The thing is contemptible. It is reducing legislation to a farce. I have no hesitation in saying that the original intention of the measure - which might have contained some semblance of equity - has completely aborted, and that the Bill is now one of the worst that has ever been placed upon the national statute-book.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 5 -
The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing all matters which by this Act are required or permitted to be prescribed, or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed, for carrying out or giving effect to this Act, and in particular for prescribing the procedure on the prosecution and trial of offences against this Act.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Omit “ on the prosecution and trial of,” and insert “ in relation to the recovery of penalties for.”
– The idea underlying the amendment is to avoid the necessity of prosecution in all cases. Where electors plead guilty of neglect to vote without a reasonable excuse, the officer will be able to collect a fine without dragging them before the Court. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
Resolutions reported ; report adopted.
– I move - That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till
As honorable senators are aware, the business brought forward has all been completed with the exception of the Freight Arrangements Bill, and probably that will not come from another place for about half-an-hour.
– I will not detain the Senate for more than a minute, but I want to say I understood that when we proposed to adjourn on a former occasion, it was, owing to the critical period through which we are passing, the intention to so frame the motion that the Senate would adjourn until a certain date, or an earlier date, if circumstances warranted that course. We do not know what might transpire between now and the 27th October. A grave national emergency might arise, necessitating the meeting of Parliament at an earlier date than that fixed in the motion. If this motion were carried, I understand it would really be necessary to prorogue Parliament formally before we could arrange for its opening at an earlier date. I really think, in view of the extraordinary circumstances and the critical times we are passing through, the Minister might well consider the advisability of not fixing a definite date, but of framing the motion in such a way as to allow Parliament to meet earlier if necessary.
.- The honorable senator’s suggestion is a good one, and, by leave of the Senate, I will amend my motion to read as follows -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Wednesday, 27th October, unless Mr. President shall, prior to that date, by telegram or letter addressed to each Senator, fix an earlier date of meeting.
Question so amended and resolved in the affirmative.
.- For the convenience of honorable senators, I suggest, Mr. President, that you order a suspension of the sitting until 4 o’clock, but I remember that there is a sessional order under which the motion for the adjournment must be put at that hour.
– There is no difficulty with regard to the sessional order, because it provides that, unless otherwise ordered, the motion for adjournment shall be put at 4 o’clock. If the sitting is suspended until after 4 o’clock, the Senate will not be in session at that hour, and, therefore, the motion cannot be put. I will suspend the sitting until 4.5 p.m.
Sitting suspended from3.36 to4.5 p.m.
– I am sorry to say that, apparently, the other House is not yet through with the Bill for which we are waiting.
– In view of the statement made by the Minister of Defence, the sitting of the Senate will be further suspended until 4.30 p.m.
Sitting further suspended from4..30 to 4.40 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill (on motion by Senator Russell) read a first time.
– In moving -
That this Bill be now read a second time,
I need only mention that the Commonwealth Government, in conjunctionwith the States, have made an arrangement under which they will be the principal charterers in connexion with the transport of wheat and other commodities from Australia. In order to carry the business to a successful conclusion, it is necessary for the Government to have in their control a certain sum of money. This measure gives authority to the Treasurer to run what is practically an overdraft at the Commonwealth Bank to the extent of £100,000. Briefly stated, it authorizes the Treasurer to borrow the money to arrange for the supply of freight for Australian produce. The ‘ money received by the Commonwealth is to be paid into the Commonwealth Bank to the credit of an account to be called “ Commonwealth Treasurer Freight Arrangements Account.” Interest on the amount has to be paid at the rate of 5 per cent, daily on the amount which the account is in debit. The indebtedness of the Commonwealth as regards the account must not be more than £100,000 at any time. Provision is made for the closing of the account when the necessity for it no longer exists, and for the payment of the amount in credit or debit, as the case may be, to or from the Consolidated Revenue. In the other House an amendment was made which reads as follows : -
Provided that this Act shall continue in operation during the present wheat season, but thereafter shall not ‘continue in force after the expiration of six months from the end of the present war.
– Are the Governments of the States which ordinarily have a wheat surplus to export, consenting parties to this arrangement?
– Without exception. The object of this measure is merely to give authority to the Treasurer to run an advance up to £100,000 for the purpose of carrying out that arrangement mutually entered into between the Commonwealth and the States.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Treasurer may borrow moneys from the Commonwealth Bank).
– It appears to me that the Treasurer is bound, under the terms of this clause, not to incur a liability of more than £100,000 to the Commonwealth Bank at any given time. A mistake may be made if the clause is adhered to in its entirety. The work in which the Ministers are engaged is one of no small magnitude. The export of wheat and flour from the country in 1911 - a record year - was 63,000,000 bushels; and accepting the present season as a most promising one– in fact, there is every promise of an increase ‘of about 25 per cent. - it means that, all going well, we shall have at least 80,000,000 bushels to export this year. That quantity, on an average of, say, 2,000 tons for each bottom, will mean the chartering of at least 1,100 ships. When the Government embark upon a huge undertaking of that character, they are running very close to the wind, I think, in binding themselves down to an overdraft of £100,000 at any time. It may happen that charters may be arranged on very convenient terms, although at present the rates are very high. The present rates, I understand, average about 60s. a ton; whereas the former rates were nothing compared with that amount. I remember well being told by a gentleman who had an interest in and was master of a wheat ship, that at a freight of 18s. per ton his company was enabled to pay a dividend of 10 per cent, on the investment. With an increase of 300 per cent, in the freight charges, it is of importance that the Commonwealth Government should be placed in a position to charter quite a large number of ships, and for that purpose they will need . a much wider margin than £100,000. In face of the magnitude of the undertaking, that sum leaves a margin of very slender proportions. Although I know that the Government have gone into this matter thoroughly, still I remind them that they have to face the responsibility of finding £6,000,000 to cover the charges for the transport of the wheat. Therefore, a proposal strictly limiting them to a margin of £100,000 at any time will not give them a perfectly free hand which will enable them to make the best bargain. It is possible that during the transport of the wheat freights may come tumbling down. The Dardanelles may be opened, and very many of the interned ships there may be released, and special circumstances may arise which would enable the Government to charter ships on much more advantageous terms than are obtainable at present.
– The opening of the Dardanelles is not likely to make available any empty bottoms.
– I have heard that about 1,500 ships are detained in the Black Sea.
– They will be wanted to carry the Russian wheat harvest.
– Possibly ; but if the Dardanelles are forced they will be a solid accession to our ocean-carrying power. In the circumstances, and in view of the magnitude of the undertaking, the Government are sailing perilously close to the wind in limiting themselves to an overdraft of £100,000. At the same time, they are undertaking a work which will be highly valued by our people, and that will mean to those engaged in the industry the saving of large sums of money. I am sure that we in this Parliament who are acquainted with the hardships of those engaged in the industry, duly and highly appreciate the action of the Government on their behalf. 1 only hope that they have ample ground for believing that the clause, in its present form, will enable them to meet future contingencies. Presumably, I think they should have a much more ample margin than £100,000.
. -From the time the first ships get away, they will begin to earn freight, and all receipts, when they come to hand, will be paid immediately into the Commonwealth Bank. The freights for the first cargoes will come in long before the last go away. This clause simply gives us a margin to work on in the form of an ordinary business overdraft, and we believe, in view of the careful calculations that have been made, that the amount asked for will be quite sufficient. We hope that our overdraft in the Commonwealth Bank in connexion with this transaction will never reach £100,000; but, as Parliament is to meet again in October, and probably early in the New Year, we shall have no hesitation, if any difficulty arises, in asking for further power. At present we feel confident that we shall not want £100,000.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 to 5 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I have a partial reply for Senator Needham, who asked that the State Governments be approached with respect to railway passes for returned soldiers. On the 18th August a circular was sent by the Prime Minister to all the State Premiers on this subject. The New South Wales Government replied that passes on trams for one month, and passes on trains to and from a station in the country for one month, will be granted. No replies have been received from the other State Governments, but reminders have been sent to them.
SenatorFERRICKS (Queensland) [4.58]. - A number of men in the training camp at Enoggera have come from country towns, and desire to communicate by telephone with friends or relations in those towns. This necessitates their going into Brisbane, and a number of them have asked me to request the Defence Department to instal a telephone trunk system at the camp. They have the ordinary telephonic communication there now, but cannot get connected with trunk lines without going into Brisbane. Their request could, I think, be granted at a very small cost, and that would obviate the necessity for them to go so often into the city. Although Brisbane is a very attractive place, many of the men are not keen on going there too often. I trust the Minister will inquire into and bring about the improvement I have suggested. I do not propose that a wholly separate telephone line should be constructed, but that necessary additions to existing facilities should be made to enablethe men at the camp to connect up with any trunk system that they desire.
– Do you mean a telephone to be available to the troops, like the street telephone, apart from the official telephone? .
– One cannot make a trunk call, which costs from10d. to1s. 2d., on a public telephone. These men would like to speak to Maryborough, Gympie, Bundaberg, or other outside towns. They approached me about the matter when I was passing through Brisbane, and I almost took it upon myself to assure them that the Defence Department would grant them the slight facility they asked for.
– I wish to comply with a promise to answer a question appearing on the business-paper in the name of Senator McDougall in the following terms : -
Does the Government intend to take any action to prevent the Continental Tyre Company from Hooding the market (at very much reduced prices), with German manufactured goods, to the detriment of Australian and British manufactures?
The reply to the question is -
The whole question as regards this and other companies is receiving careful consideration. The endeavour of the Government will be to promote, and not to injure, Australian and British industries.
– I wish to refer to the recent appointment -of Dr. Carty Salmon to the charge of the Base Hospital at St. Kilda, and to one other matter of importance. I do not wish it to be thought that, in criticising the appointment of Dr. Carty Salmon, I do so in any spirit of vindictiveness. For the gentleman himself I have every regard. When submitting questions on the subject before, I stated that I was credibly informed that this man had not been engaged in general practice for the last twenty years. The Minister of Defence stated in reply to me that it was within the right of the Dis- “trict Commandant to appoint an officer to the position to which Dr. Carty Salmon has been appointed. On the question of his practice of his profession the Minister has stated that the work which Dr. Carty Salmon will have to perform at the Base Hospital will be purely administrative. If that be so, the wonder is that a doctor should have been appointed to the position at all. If the office is a purely administrative one, and it was not necessary to appoint a man having medical experience and knowledge, was it not possible for the Department to have secured the services of a man possessing higher qualifications as a business ‘man and an organizer than those possessed by Dr. Carty Salmon ? I think that the appointmentwas made somewhat hastily, and, perhaps, it is not yet too late for the Minister of Defence to review it. In his reply, the honorable senator has almost questioned the statement that Dr. Carty Salmon has not been engaged in the actual practice of his profession for a very considerable time, and I have only again to say that I have been informed on good authority that he has not generally practised his profession for twenty years. It is known to honorable senators, and to the public at large, that lie has been more of a politician than a doctor, and his qualifications for an administrative position at the Base Hospital are somewhat doubtful.
– Are not politicians good organizers?
– This may be & kind of organization for which a politician would not be well fitted. I should like the Minister of Defence, in replying, to state the reasons why Dr. Carty Salmon was chosen to fill this position as against many other persons at least as well qualified to fill it. The other matter to which I wish to refer is the fact that medical men who are not members of the British Medical Association are not being appointed to positions in connexion with the Defence Department? In replying to the question on this subject which I put to him, the Minister made use of the words “reputable man.” It is, of course, right that only reputable men should be appointed to these positions, but I should like to know who is to be the judge of reputable men in this connexion. I wish to know whether it is a fact that the making of these appointments of medical men to our Military Forces is delegated to the executive of the Australian branch of the British Medical Association ?
– That is not so.
– Then will the Minister say who determines, amongst applicants for the positions, who are reputable medical men. I am credibly informed that there are hundreds of reputable medical men practising their profession in Australia, and recognised by the law, who have vainly offered their services to the Defence Department because they have been tabooed on the ground that they are not members of a particular association.
– If there are hundreds, I should like to know where to place my hands on some of them.
– I do not make the assertion, but repeat a statement which has been made to me, and into which I hope the Minister will make inquiries. I have here the card of Dr. S. Zichy-Woinarski, of Collins-street, who has given me permission to mention his name. He offered his services to the Defence Department in November, 1914. Since then he has made four other applications for a position, and during all that time has received only one acknowledgment of his offer, which, I think, was dated 31st August of this year. There may be others similarly placed in Australia. It is done, no doubt, without the knowledge and consent of the Minister of Defence, but the point I wish to make is that apparently an effort has been successfully made by the British Medical Association to keep within their own ranks appointments to any medical positions under the Defence Department, whether for services at the front or in the concentration camps of the Commonwealth. I am not making any charge against the Defence Department or the Minister of Defence when I say that I am credibly informed concerning the statements I have made. During the few weeks of well-earned holiday, which I hope the Minister of Defence will enjoy, I trust that he will find time to make inquiries into this matter, and will see that every medical man practising his profession in Australia will be given a fair deal when appointments under the Defence Department are being considered, whether he is a member of the Medical Association or is not.
– I wish to say a few words on the subject of the issue of cards for the war census. It has been announced that these cards must be returned by the 15th of the present month.
– The time has been extended to the 30th.
– Even though it should be extended to the 30th, I believe that quite a number of persons will be placed at a serious disadvantage by the arrangements which have been made. I called at one of the principal post-offices in Sydney this week for the cards that were supposed to be available there, and could not obtain any. I am informed that this afternoon no cards were obtainable at a Melbourne post-office.
– That is so.
– The position is somewhat serious, because if the cards are not obtainable in places like Sydney and Melbourne, what chance will there be for people in remote country districts to comply with the direction to return them by the 15th of the month, or by the 30th of the month.
– Perhaps these cards were sent to the remote country districts first.
– That may be so. I am aware that the Department concerned is working at high pressure, and each’ member of the community must take his share of the inconvenience that will be involved in the carrying out of the census, but I wish to impress upon the Leader of the Government in this Chamber that, even though the date for the return of the cards may have been extended from the 15th to the 30th of the month, it may be necessary to further extend the time if those who are called upon to send in cards in the country districts are not better served than are the people of places like Sydney and Melbourne. Some allowance must be made to persons who honestly endeavour to supply the required information.
– At the same time it is not desirable to extend the period unduly. We are sure to require to amend the Act.
– I am merely giving the results of my own observation in Sydney and Melbourne during the past few days. To expect the return of these census cards within the prescribed period or even by the end of the current month, would, in the circumstances, be quite unreasonable. Many persons may already have made a bond fide attempt to secure cards with a view to supplying the required information. In doing so they may have subjected themselves to very considerable personal inconvenience. For example, they may reside some distance from a postal centre, and I am not sure that, in the event of their neglecting to supply the requisite information, they could not put up a very good defence if they were prosecuted. I hope that the Ministry will speed up the arrangements in such a way that when it is announced that cards are available, they will be obtainable in a sufficient quantity to meet all the demands likely to be made for them until the date finally fixed for their return.
– I can indorse the remark of Senator Lynch that persons who have applied for cards have been unable to obtain them. This may lead to serious complications. If a man who has vainly endeavoured to secure cards, fails to furnish returns, I think that he will be able to put up a very good defence if he is ever prosecuted for neglect. We must remember that many persons may have subjected themselves to great inconvenience in making their applications for cards. Are they to be called upon to submit to that inconvenience repeatedly? I venture to think that if a man has applied for cards, and has failed to obtain them, any Court would regard that circumstance as a mitigating one.
– I consider myself exempt now.
– That is the position of a good many persons. I am of opinion that the Government should take into consideration . the desirableness pf extending the period for the return of the cards. At the same time, they ought to seriously consider the position of persons who have already unsuccessfully applied for cards, and the fact should be stressed that their action in that connexion will not exempt them from the obligation to supply the required information.
– I resent the action of Senator Lynch in criticising an officer who is an exceedingly busy man. I cannot forget that only this morning he treated us to a little lecturette upon the propriety of criticising the heads of Departments. Yet this afternoon I find him doing the very thing for which he condemned others. If there be one man in our Public Service who is busier than any other, it is surely Mr. Knibbs, the Commonwealth Statistician. He has the control of the business that we are now discussing, and, consequently, we ought to exhibit some consideration for him. I am surprised that Senator Lynch should criticise him in the way that he has done.
– I never mentioned his name.
-Whether the honorable senator mentioned his name or not, we all know whose work he has criticised. I am supporting the Government upon this matter. I have seen Ministries worried into their graves by constant criticism, and I am indeed astonished to find Senator Lynch taking up the attitude which he did this afternoon, especially as we know that Mr. Knibbs is such a busy man.
– I understand that the representations made by Senator Ferricks are designed to secure a trunk line connexion between the .coun try districts adjoining Brisbane and the Enoggera Military Camp. Of course that is not a matter for the Defence Department, but I will undertake to bring the honorable senator’s statements under the notice of the Postmaster-General, with a view to seeing whether effect cannot be given to his wish. Senator Needham has asked why Dr. Carty. Salmon has been appointed to an administrative position at the Base Hospital, St. Kilda-road. My reply is that he has been appointed in the same way as many other citizens have been appointed, comprising blacksmiths, farmers, carpenters, &c, who happen to have joined the military establishment, and to have obtained a certain military rank in time of peace. Now that we are short of officers, the services of these gentlemen are being availed of. Dr. Carty Salmon is a militia officer on the Army Medical Staff, and as the arrangements in connexion with our hospitals are supervised by that staff, he has been called upon to assume administrative duties at the Base Hospital, St. Kilda-road. Senator Needham has inquired as to what is Eis business capacity. I am informed that he is the managing director of a big tobacco factory in this city, which fact certainly goes to show that he must possess some business ability. The mere circumstance that that factory is one of the . few establishments which have managed to survive the competition of the Tobacco Combine is surely some evidence of business capacity. The conditions under which Dr. Carty Salmon was appointed to his present position by the Commandant of Victoria are exactly similar to the conditions under which some hundreds of militia officers have been appointed to other positions. Regarding the British Medical Association, I wish to say that, in all military appointments, that association - as is the case with other unions - is not recognised. The executive of the British Medical Association has no voice in the selection of the medical officers who are called upon to fill military appointments.
– The Australian Branch of it has.
– No; nor has any State Executive any voice in the selection of officers to fill military positions. What happens is that those who are members of the Army Medical Corps are on the military lists, and are called upon for duty in the same way that Dr. Carty Salmon has been called upon. In the case of our Expeditionary Forces, those who volunteer for service abroad are selected by the Director-General of Medical Service. Formerly they were chosen by SurgeonGeneral Williams, afterwards by LieutenantColonel Fetherston, and latterly by Colonel Shepherd, of Adelaide. In each case the officer selected was the senior officer on the medical list. In the case of Dr. Zichy-Woinarski, that gentleman applied, amongst hundreds of others, but was not selected. I do not know who informed Senator Needham that hundreds of men are being turned down.
– I did not say that. I said that the services of hundreds of men could be utilized.
– I am inclined to think that is not correct. There are only about 1,500 medical practitioners available in Australia, and the call upon them has been very heavy, so that it has been difficult to fill positions. I can assure Senator Needham, however, that, as far as I am concerned, I will not countenance any interference by the British Medical Association, or allow any one to be turned down because he does not happen to be a member of that particular body. Concerning the representations made by Senator Lynch and Senator Keating, I am in a position to say that the date for the return of the wealth census has been extended to the 30th September, and as regards the personal cards the date is fixed at 15th September. The personal card is easy to fill in, but the wealth card takes some time. I am also informed that the cards were sent to the country districts in every State first, and that the complaint about the difficulty of obtaining cards comes from the metropolitan districts. I obtained cards four or five days ago, though I did not get them from the Department distributing them, and so I know they were available in Melbourne, although not perhaps at all postoffices.
– I got my cards at the local post-office three days ago.
– I will bring the representations under the notice of the Minister who is carrying on the work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 5.23 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 September 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1915/19150910_senate_6_79/>.