7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m, and read prayers.
Senator GARDINER (New South privilege. Since the last meeting of the Senate, the Hansard report of parliamentary debates has been issued, and it contains the report of as incident which occurred here on last Thursday night.
This report affects, not only myself, but the Senate, and I, therefore, desire on this, the earliest opportunity, to move, as a matter of privilege, that the reportbe removed from the records of the Senate. I take this actionwithout any personal feeling, and because I am absolutely of the opinion that if the record to which I refer is allowed by the Senate to stand without alteration, it will not merely do an injustice to myself, which it is my privilege and right to prevent, but what is much more important, will do an injustice to the Senate. That I may put the matter before honorable senators without passion or feeling, I may be permitted to read the whole of the report to which I take exception. It will be found at page 4747 of Hansard for 15th May. A discussion was going on in connexion with the report from the Select Committee on Intoxicants. A motion of dissent from a ruling of the . President had been moved. There then follows this report of the proceeding, which I shall read without comment: -
– Order! The question, I think, has ‘been sufficiently discussed by honorable senators. I claim my right now to speak. The honorable senator, if he desires, will have an- opportunity later.
– Mr. President, I rise to a point of order. Are you in order, sir, in refusing the right of the honorable senator to speak in this Senate, and in taking to yourself the right to speak–
– Has any one the right to call the President to order?
– I am perfectly within my right in speaking to a question of order at any time.
Senatorde Largie. -It does not necessarily close the debate, you know.
– But, Mr. President–
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will have a further opportunity of discussing the matter when my ruling has been disposed of.
– Mr. President–
– Order! The idea which is becoming prevalent in the minds of certain honorable senators that they may attack the presiding officer in this Chamber with impunity will have to be stopped.
– Mr. President, I only want to say–
– But, Mr. President–
– Order ! I ask the honorable senator to obey the Chair. The Standing Orders strictly provide that no honorable senator shall interrupt the President when he is on his feet. I want to put this matter clearly to the Senate, so that it may have an opportunity of arriving at a right decision.
– I rose to a point of order–
– Order! The honorable senator must resume his seat. I ask him to obey the Chair.
– I will obey the Chair; but I will dissent from your ruling; and, what is more, the Chair will have to obey the Standing Orders.
– The Chair will at all times obey theStanding Orders, for there is an obligation imposed by which not only honorable senators generally, but the President also, must strictly abide–
– But you are breaking the Standing Orders yourself.
– Order! The honorable senator must know that the Standing Orders are emphatic that when the President is on his feet -
– Good gracious!. But you are never off. your feet.
– Order ! The honorable senator will show proper respect for the Chair, or I shall consider myself at perfect liberty to enforce that respect.
– You are at perfect liberty to do as you like.
– Do not carry the matter farther.
– Then, has he any right to threaten me? I will not be threatened. I will not stand it..
– Order! The Standing Orders compel me now to take a certain course.
– Then take the course.
– I will.I report Senator Gardiner to the Senate for continued disobedience of the Chair.
– You having reported Senator Gardiner to the Senate,. Mr. President, for declining to obey your directions, I have no option but to move -
That Senator Gardiner be suspended from this sitting of the Senate.
I submit the motion without any comment.
– I second the motion.
– The question is that Senator Gardiner be suspended from the sitting of the Senate. Before putting that,I ask the honorable senator to reconsider his attitude and withdraw.
– Before putting the question, Mr. President, can Isay anything?
– Upon sucha motion there must be no debate.
– What do you ask?
– I ask the honorable senator to withdraw the expressionwhich he used towards the Chair.
– I am quite prepared to follow your directions in any way you like, to withdraw anything you consider offensive, to withdraw anything in connexion with this Senate. But I certainly must claim the right to protect myself.
– Order! The honorable senator must not debate the matter at this stage.
– Am I not to be heard in defence? Am I to go out without an opportunity of discussing it?
– Upon the moving of such a motion as this there must be no debate. The Standing. Orders say -
When any senator has been reported as . having committed an offence he shall be called upon to stand up in his place and make any explanation or apology he may think fit, and afterwards a Motion may be moved - “ That such Senator be suspended from thesitting of the Senate!” No Amendment, Adjournment, or Debate shall be allowed on such Motion, which shall be immediately put by the President.
– Then I have no right to speak?
– No honorablesenator has a right to speak - not even the mover of the motion himself. I again ask Senator Gardiner, before putting the motion, if he will reconsider his attitude and withdraw his expression towards the Chair.
– From the beginning, Mr. President, you have been under a misapprehension. You take offence where none is intended. Senator Guy had risen to. speak.
You had - quite in an improper way–
– Order! I ask the honorable senator not to discuss that.
– I again appeal to Senator Gardiner. I do not wish to take further action. Altogether, this incident is very regrettable. I will ask the honorable gentleman again to make the usual amende to the President.
– If anything has been said, or if any conduct of mine has been offensive to you, sir, I am prepared to withdraw it; but I refuse to admit that I have done anything that could be considered offensive to the President.
– You have been defying the Chair all the evening.
– I have asked the honorable senator to make the usual amende, which I have a right to expect of any honorable senator.
The honorable senator has not made, and refuses to make, the unreserved amende to the Senate and the Chair which is required by the Standing Orders, and I must now put the motion without further comment-
That Senator Gardiner be suspended from this sitting ofthe Senate.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . 6.
Then follow the names of honorable senators, which I need not read. They are all that I am omitting from my quota- tion of the report which appears in Handard.
– It is very accurate. I have taken the precaution to read the whole of the report bearing on this unpleasant incident, so that when I am commenting on any part of it rib honorable senator will be in a position to say that I am commenting upon a part and holding something back.
I wish to approach this matter with no personal feeling, although I do feel - as any honorable senator in similar circumstances would feel - the indignity that has been placed upon me. But.I feel even more keenly the fact that, perhaps quite unintentionally in its conduct towards me, the Senate made a grave mistake. I propose to point out what that mistake is, and I am going to ask honorable senators who claim, as I do, that the Standing Orders are for the guidance of the Senate, to see that they are carried Out, even though an honorable senator like myself sometimes becomes objectionable. Standing order 440 has reference to “ Proceedings on report of offence.” I ask honorable senators to mark that marginal note. The standing order reads -
When any senator has been reported as having committed an offence he shall be called upon to stand up in his place and make any explanation or apology he may think fit, and afterwards a motion may be’ moved : “ That such senator be Suspended from the sitting of the Senate.” No amendment, adjournment or debate shall be allowed on such motion, which shall bc immediately put by the President.
I hope honorable senators have followed me with sufficient care to note that portion of the standing order to which effect
Was not given on the occasion upon which I was removed from the Senate. If I can show that a portion of that standing order was not put into operation, I do not think I shall have to appeal to you, sir, to remove the indignity which was put upon me owing to a misunderstanding. The part of the standing order to which I wish specially to direct attention reads -
When any senator has been reported as having committed an offence he shall be called upon to stand up in his place and make any explanation or apology he may think fit, and afterwards a motion may be moved.
Here is the Hansard record to show that when you, sir, threatened me you said - -
I will. I report Senator Gardiner to the Senate for continued disobedience of the Chair.
When I was reported to the Senate, the standing order compelled the President to call upon me to make any explanation or apology that I might have deemed fit. That action was not taken. Instead, Senator Millen immediately rose, and moved that I be suspended. Now it is not a question of whether I deserved to be suspended or not.
– The honorable senator is not raising that point?
– No. But had the President called upon me for an explanation I would not have been removed from the chamber, because, according to the Hansard report, the misapprehension under which he acted would have been removed. Consequently, I am going to ask the Senate to expunge this record from Hansard because of the injustice which has been done to me. Unfortunately, I was not sufficiently acquainted with our Standing Orders at the time to know that I had the right to speak. But when the President read the standing order which prevented me speaking after the, motion had been carried, I saw the weakness of his position. I saw that, had he carried out the Standing Orders in their entirety, immediately before reporting me to the Senate, I should have been called upon to make an explanation or any apology I thought fit. I tried to get in that explanation, but wa9 prevented from so doing. I propose, therefore, to give the explanation, and I trust that I shall do it in the same frame of mind that I am in now.
At the commencement of the incident which led to such unpleasant consequences, Senator Guy rose to speak. The President thereupon said -
Order ! The question, I think, has been sufficiently discussed by honorable senators, and I claim my right to speak.
I wish to assure you, sir, that that is all I heard of your statement. Having heard those words, I was naturally under the impression that Senator Guy was to be refused the’ right to speak. If I thought that that was your intention then, I was more convinced of it when you said -
I am perfectly within my rights in speaking to a question of order at any time.
Then I thought that you were under the impression that we were dealing with a question of order, when, as a matter of fact, we were dealing with a motion which was before the Senate. I even persisted in my refusal to leave the chamber until force was used. I can assure Senator Barker, who laughs, that this is not a laughing matter to me. The force which was used gave effect to Mr. President’s authority. I was not willing to concede one particle of my rights by admitting the right of the Senate to remove me from the chamber. I was entitled to make an explanation, but that right was not permitted me. I rose to a point of order because I was convinced that the President had decided to close the1 debate owing to the fact that I only heard him say that the question had been sufficiently discussed.
– Did you hear the President call upon you to take your place ?
– Yes; and every time he so called upon me I took my place. Every time I rose to speak I did so to assert the rights of the Senate.
I have had a long parliamentary career, thanks to the forbearance of the electors, and this is only the second occasion upon which I have been removed from the House. Upon the previous occasion, in the New South Wales Parliament, there was a proposal to construct a north coast railway. I rose to discuss the question, and the Chairman of Committees immediately called me to order. I made what he considered to be an impertinent remark. I said, “I represent a town on the western line, where we are agitating for lower freights. If we add to the cost of the New South Wales railways a railway which, the report shows, will involve us in a loss of £2,000,000 a year, surely I am in order in pointing that out.” The Chairman replied that I was not in order, and thereupon I said, “ That is just the sort of ruling which I would expect from you.” I was at once removed from the chamber by the SerjeantatArms. I may say that the Gloucester Company made a fortune by running that railway through their own land. They won their point by one vote. Had the standing order been strictly carried out that evening, had Mr. President called upon me to make an apology or explanation, my explanation would have been that I understood his ruling to mean that he had closed the debate. I never doubted that that was his ruling until I read the Hansard report. If honorable senators read the record of the incident they will see how easily an honorable senator could act on that opinion. Honorable senators may ask me, “ Why persist in these things?” The oldest and ablest parliamentarian I ever met advised me on one occasion never to let irregularities, though harmless in themselves, pass unnoticed, lest they acquired the force of precedents. I have followed that advice all my life, and even with the indignity of the Senate sitting in judgment on me, and removing me from my place, I am prepared still to follow it. I appeal to honorable senators to follow closely the record of the incident. If they then say that the standing order was carried out, they will adhere to their judgment, and refuse to take the action I now ask them to take. If you, sir, with the standing order before you, say that it was carried out, you are, of course, entitled to your opinion; but I venture to say that if that attitude is taken to-day by the Senate, which is, after all, the High Court of Parliament, and stands higher than all other Courts, and it refuses to reverse its decision with facta before it upon which in any other Court in Australia a reversal of such a decision could be obtained, a very bad precedent will be established. I base my claim that the report of these proceedings be expunged from Hansard on the ground that standing order 440 was not given effect to. I move -
That the record of the proceedings regarding the suspension of Senator Gardiner on 16th May be removed from the Journals of the Senate and from Hansard.
I ask honorable senators, apart altogether from any feeling in the matter, to read the standing order carefully, and to read the report in Hansard. I feel sure that Senator Millen will agree that between my being reported and his moving the motion, the opportunity that the standing order lays down was not afforded to me.
– Before the Senate proceeds to consider the question, I should like to remove one misapprehension under which Senator Gardiner seems to be labouring. I wish to follow exactly the same course as he has followed - to speak entirely dispassionately on the matter, and allow the Senate to arrive at an unbiased judgment, without any reflection on any honorable senator whatever. Senator Gardiner seems to think that under the standing order it was my duty, after reporting him to the Senate, to give him an opportunity of making any explanation or apology that he thought fit. Neither Senator Gardiner nor any other honorable senator will find that in any part of the Standing Orders, or in any part of the practice or procedure of this or any other House of Parliament. My duty ended when I reported the matter to the Senate. That is all I was required to do by the standing order. The usual practice has been for the Leader of the Senate, or the Leader of any other House in which a like incident occurred, to give the honorable member offending the opportunity referred to. Perhaps in the excitement of the moment, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) did not make the usual pause before moving the motion. Honorable senators will see that under the standing order that opportunity must be given before the motion is moved, and not afterwards.
– After reporting, and before the motion is moved.
– Yes. Therefore, Senator Gardiner can have absolutely no basis for a charge of injustice either against myself or any body else for not allowing a long disquisition, or explanation, or discussion, after the. motion was moved and before it was put. As a matter of fact, I exceeded my duty, after the motion was moved, in offering him more than once an opportunity to put himself right with the Senate and with the Chair.I think the honorable senator and the Senate will forgive me for so exceeding my duty, because, although perhaps not in accordance with the strict reading of the standing order, it was the right and wise course to follow. Standing order 440 provides -
When any senator has been reported as having committed an offence, he shall be called upon to stand up in his place and make any explanation or apology he may think fit, and afterwards a motion may be moved, “ That such senator be suspended from the sitting of the Senate.” No amendment, adjournment, or debate shall be allowed on such motion, which shall be immediately put by the President.
The honorable senator will, therefore, see that it was only before the motion was moved that he would have the right to make an explanation or offer an apology. That opportunity may not have been given to him in full before the motion was moved, but I gave him a full and ample opportunity for making to the Chair and to the Senate the amende which the Chair and the Senate had a right to expect, and which would have been entirely in accordance with the dignity of the honorable senator himself. I do not desire to bias the opinion of the Senate in any way. My wish is simply to point out that I fulfilled my whole duty, and even went a little beyond my duty, to give the honorable senator an opportunity to put himself right with the Senate.
– Whose duty is it to call upon the senator who has been reported to make an explanation?
– The usual practice has been for the Minister leading the Senate, before moving the motion, to call upon the honorable senator offending to apologize.
– The standing order provides that it shall be done.
– It provides that there shall be an opportunity, but the’ honorable senator was given a full and ample opportunity even after the motion was moved, although in giving him that opportunity I was going outside the strict provisions of the standing order. The honorable senator wanted to debate the matter in full, which was distinctly contrary to the standing order. I could wish that the whole incident was allowed to pass. I could wish further that it had never taken place, but it is my duty to preserve the order and good conduct of business in the Senate, and, so far as I can, the dignity of the Senate, and I think, in that connexion, I afforded the honorable senator every opportunity that could possibly be afforded by the Chair.
– Except the opportunity the standing order entitles him to.
– I would first direct attention to the fact that Senator Gardiner, who is asking that the record of the proceedings referred to shall be expunged, has taken very good care that, even if it is expunged in one place, it shall re-appear in another, because he has read it word for word. Is that not a fact?
– If you want to impute that to me,I am simply beyond that stage.
– I am not imputing anything, but stating a simple fact. What I wanted to lead up to was this, that clearly it is not the record about which Senator Gardiner is concerned, because he has taken steps to preserve it. What he is asking the Senate to do is to reverse the judgment it arrived at the other night. Does the honorable senator take any exception to that way of stating the case?
– None whatever.
– When we are asked to reverse that judgment, we are entitled to consider whether we have broken the spirit of the standing order, and whether we are to be tied too closely by its letter. Does Senator Gardiner pretend that the spirit of the standing order has been broken ?
– I do.
– I invite honorable senators to recall the incidents of that night, and to ask themselves fairly, even honorable senators on the other side, whether there was anything in Senator Gardiner’s attitude to suggest that if he had been asked a minute earlier rather than a minute later, he would have adopted any other than the defiant attitude that he did adopt? The honorable senator has referred to the fact that you, sir, or some one, did not at a particular time ask him to withdraw. He has read the record showing that on three specific occasions he was asked–
– I should have been given the opportunity to make an explanation.
– To give some reason for what he did.
– The honorable senator was given, by the express invitation of the President, three opportunities to put himself right with the Senate.
– No; only to apologize.
– The honorable senator knows as well as I do that, on the previous day–
– I was not referring to the previous day.
– But I wish to refer to the events of the previous day, and. it is necessary to do so to indicate the attitude of the honorable senator on this particular occasion. I say that on the previous day Senator Gardiner was acting in exactly the same manner as on the Thursday, and, when given an opportunity of explaining his attitude, he took advantage of it. So, after all, he was not inexperienced. He was experienced. His experience was less than twenty-four hours’ old. On the previous day, when Senator Gardiner was invited by you, Mr. President, to withdraw, he took advantage of the opportunity, and withdrew the words objected to, and put himself right , with the Senate. On the Thursday he was given the same opportunity on three occasions, but, right throughout, his attitude was one of defiance to the Chair.
– Even if that were so, am I not entitled to my rights under the Standing Orders?
– If the honorable senator wants to escape on technicalities, he may do so. But, in a matter like this, I take the opportunity of reminding the Senate of the absolute necessity of maintaining the authority of the Chair. I had no wish to revive this matter - it has been revived by Senator Gardiner himself - so he must not blame other honorable senators if they take a view different from that which he holds in regard to this matter. I say that Senator Gardiner’s whole attitude throughout the debate was one of defiance to the Chair, and he had carried it to such an extent that it was impossible for you, Mr. President, to ignore him. The Senate now has to make up its mind whether it will support the authority of the Chair, and require, even from its most distinguished senators, that they obey the Chair and the Standing Orders, or whether they will allow the authority of the President to be whittled down until it disappears altogether. There is one point which you, sir, have referred to, and upon which I differ from you, namely, that it is the duty of the Minister, or whoever may move the motion of suspension, to invite the honorable senator concerned to make an explanation or apology. I do not quite share your view on this point. Our standing order states -
When any senator has been reported as having committed an offence, he shall be called upon to stand up in his place and make any explanation or apology he may think fit. . .
I contend that if any person is entitled to call upon an honorable senator to do that, it is the President of the Senate.
– So our authorities differ.
– I have no more authority in a matter of this kind than is given to any other honorable senator, though it may be the usual practice of the Minister to move a motion, because he is responsible in this Chamber for insuring adequate support to the Presiding Officer. But the standing order leaves it open for any other honorable senator to move the motion. Can Senator McDougall say that he regards himself as being free of any responsibility for not having called upon Senator Gardiner to obey the Chair? The obvious conclusion is that it is the responsibility of the Presiding Officer to see that the Standing Orders are carried out. On that point, therefore, I differ from you, Mr. President. I want to say, however, that it is the invariable practice, when a Minister is placed in the regrettable position of having to move such a motion, to make an appeal to the honorable senator concerned to withdraw the objectionable words It is the invariable practice, and I might have done so on the last occasion ; but I ask honorable senators to remember that when I did so on the previous day I did not receive a very graceful response from Senator Gardiner. Honorable senators must not lose sight of the fact that Senator Gardiner is asking the Senate to reverse the judgment passed upon him for his disobedience to the Chair..
– If I can prove to the Minister that I was not given an opportunity to explain, will that affect his judgment?
– Every time Senator Gardiner attempted to speak he was stopped.
– Senator Gardiner was specifically invited to withdraw his statement. Here are the exact words of Mr. President prior to submitting the motion -
I again ask Senator Gardiner, before putting the motion, if he will reconsider his attitude and withdraw his expression towards the Chair.
– What was my reply to that?
– In reply to this invitation from the President, Senator Gardiner said: -
From the beginning, Mr. President, you have been under a misapprehension. You take offence where none is intended. Senator Guy had risen to speak. You had - quite in an improper way–
Senator Gardiner refused to be called to order, and the Senate should remember that his attitude was the culminating point in a number of incidents that had occurred; and, though I regret exceedingly to be obliged to do so, I must ask the Senate now to say that on that occasion it carried out fairly, justly, and impartially, the standing order under which Senator Gardiner was suspended.
. -As one who was not present when this heated discussion took place, I may be allowed, in a few words, to approach it without any exhibition of partisanship. I have obtained my information from the newspaper report of the incident supplemented by the full Hansard report, and it appears to me that the speech just made by Senator Millen is special pleading which ought not to come from the Leader of the Senate. Senator Gardiner has given what was simply a resume of what appeared in Hansard, and I am confident that if standing order 440 were placed before any tribunal in Australia, its judgment would bo that Senator Gardiner was deprived of his right, which is also the right of every other honorable senator. Iam pleased to know that Senator Millen acknowledges that you, sir, failed in your duty in not, at the proper time, carrying out the letter of the standing order. It may be, as Senator Millen hassaid, that the spirit of the standing order was observed, but it was not carried out technically; and I think that, when altercations occur between the President and any honorable senator leading to a suspension of an honorable senator, the standing order should be observed by you, sir, in the strictest letter, and to the end. Any honorable senator who reads the report of the debate will recognise that Senator Gardiner wa3 not allowed by you, at the proper time, in the proper place, and in the prescribed manner, to put himself right with the Senate. That is absolutely clear; and the honorable senator says he would have been able to show that his alleged defiance of the Chair on that afternoon, which has been made so much of by Senator Millen - or his actual defiance of the Chair - was due to the fact that he was resenting the position that Senator Guy had not been allowed to speak, because he felt that you, Mr. President, had not interpreted the Standing Orders properly.
Senator Gardiner may have been right, and he may have been wrong; but the fact remains that he was not given an opportunity of making his explanation at the right time, or at any time. And it was that fact which led to his suspension. I can understand Senator Gardiner, or any other honorable senator, feeling the. matter so keenly that he might be led to continue in defiance of the Chair, and break the Standing Orders, because he has this excuse: that if he broke the Standing Orders by his continued defiance of the Chair, then, if there is any meaning in the English language at all, you, sir, also broke a standing order. You did not give Senator Gardiner that opportunity which the Standing Orders plainly say must be given at the right time. You did not give him that opportunity to put himself right with the Chair. There is a standing order which, if there is any meaning in the English language, must be plain to every senator. It is a pity that, on an occasion like this, a standing order, which, if it is put into effect, becomes vital to every member of the Senate, should have been broken, even if only technically. And, therefore, whatever our party feelings may be, it would be well if you, Mr. President, concurred, and the Leader of the Senate also, that the records of the whole incident be expunged.
– I support the motion of Senator Gardiner. I was present during the whole period in question, and I am under the impression now, as I was then, that Senator Gardiner was not properly treated by yourself, sir, or by the Senate. There is a most remarkable phase of the debate this afternoon to which I desire to draw attention. That is the statement of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Millen), who justified the action of the Senate last Thursday, not upon what Senator Gardiner did on that occasion, and which is alleged to have been defiance of the Chair, but because of what he had done the day before.
– No, I did not.
– Any honorable senator who has listened carefully to Senator Millen’s speech this afternoon knows that he pinned his faith, with respect to the action of the Senate last Thursday, on the attitude which Senator Gardiner had adapted the day before. I can only say that that is a most remarkable kind of justice. Senator Gardiner came into conflict with the Chair on Wednesday evening. He made use of a term which is not supposed to be parliamentary. He was called on to withdraw. He did not, at that time; and the assertion which he made, by the way, was against a statement of the Leader of the Senate. Then Senator Millen was placed in a rather curious position, because, in that capacity, he had to move for Senator Gardiner’s suspension. But, in doing so, Senator Millen asked Senator Gardiner to take another view of the matter. And in such a way did he put it that Senator Gardiner made the amende honorable to the senator and to the Senate, and thus that matter ended. But because another incident occurred on the following day - a matter of an entirely different nature, when Senator Gardiner was asking for the right of another honorable senator to address himself to a question arising out of a ruling by you, sir, and which honorable senator you would not allow to speak at that juncture - then, because of the events which happened around that incident, Senator Millen this afternoon justifies the action of the Senate in the light of the attitude of Senator Gardiner the day before. What a wonderful point of view! In an ordinary Police Court in any part of the Commonwealth, if a man is charged with an offence, and pays the penalty, they dare not adduce that against him if he comes before the Court again.
– They bring up his past record.
– Not before judgment is given; and that is the atti- tude of the Leader of the Senate to-day. I would not have risen to discuss this motion but for the statement of Senator Millen that it was not so much the actions of Senator Gardiner on the Thursday as what had occurred on the Wednesday. After the Senate had disposed of that first incident, it evidently remained in the mind of Senator Millen that Senator Gardiner, who had been in a fighting mood the day before, must still be in the same state of mind on the Thursday.
As for your ruling, Mr. President, Senator Guy had risen to discuss that matter when you sat him down peremptorily.
– Order! I ask the honorable senator to confine himself to the motion before the Chair.
– I am trying to lead up to the present question by indicating
– Order ! The honorable senator will obey the Chair.
– Mr. President, I was only - -
– Order ! The honorable senator will please not interrupt me when I am giving a ruling.
– Well, you were not standing, sir.
– Will the honorable senator please resume his seat. The question which the Senate is discussing now is a motion for expunging from the records of the Senate and Hansard the incident connected with Senator Gardiner’s suspension. The records of that incident have been fully set out this afternoon. They have been read over by Senator Gardiner, who, I think, did not omit a single item. Every honorable senator will have a perfect right to discuss the motion, and everything connected with that incident; but every honorable senator has not the right to discuss the proceedings of the Senate which preceded the matter in question, or something that took place elsewhere, except, perhaps, by way of a ruling, or an illustration to a point desired to be made. Otherwise, the discussion would become interminable, and there would be no opportunity of arriving at a distinct judgment on the matter before the Senate at the present time.
– All I can say, sir, is that I was merely following on the lines of Senator Millen himself to-day, who referred to the occurrence of the day before that onwhich the suspension of Senator Gardiner took place.
.- Hear, hear! The Minister started it.
– He did; and surely I am to have the same right as Senator Millen. Surely, I am to have the same liberty as a Minister to refer to a matter by way of illustration. It is becoming somewhat habitual–
– Order ! The honorable senator will refrain from making reflections on the Chair.
– Well, I am simply following out the rules of debate. You, Mr. President, when you were speaking on this very motion, said it was the duty of the Leader of the Senate to have given Senator Gardiner the opportunity which he desired. But the Leader of the Senate now says that that was your duty.
– Certainly. You cannot get away from the Standing Orders.
– Undoubtedly that is the duty of the President. No private member can stand up in his place - not even a Minister - and call upon any honorable senator to do something at a certain juncture. What is the President for? What are the Chairman and the Temporary Chairman of Committees for? Undoubtedly - and I am not making this any personal reflection on yourself, sir - the Chair did not give Senator Gardiner the chance he should have got under standing order 440. You can take that statement whatever way you like. The President did not on Thursday evening last give effect to standing order 440 and afford Senator Gardiner an opportunity to explain his position before he was suspended. That is all I have to say. I hope the Senate will review the matter, and expunge the record of the incident.
, - I am pleased that Senator Gardiner has to-day made his explanation. I am glad to learn that he was labouring under a misapprehension on the occasion upon which his conduct caused his suspension. I believe that the honorable senator has been unfortunate, but will have to suffer. In my view, the standing order upon which he bases his claim for the removal of the record of the incident’ from Hansard and from the Journals of thu Senate has been slightly misread.
– Let the honorable senator give his reading of it.
– That is what I intend to do. Standing order 440 in this case has to be read in conjunction with standing order 439. Honorable senators must see immediately that, the President, having been forced by the disorderly conduct of a senator to report him to the Senate, it would be an absurd thing for him, having reported the senator, to call upon him to stand up and make an explanation.
– That is what the standing order provides.
– It was never intended for that at all.
– How .does the honorable senator know that? Let him read the standing order.
– If Senator Thomas can read plain English, he will see that it is as I have stated.
– Why would it be absurd ?
– Because the disorderly conduct of the senator has forced the President to report him to the Senate.
– At that stage the President is placed in a position to give the senator reported an opportunity to explain his conduct.
– No. The President would give the senator an opportunity to explain his conduct before he reported him. That would be the natural thing to do, and that is what the standing order aims at. Standing order 438 provides that -
If any Senator -
persistently and wilfully disregards the authority of the Chair, the President may report to the Senate that such senator has committed an offence.
Then standing order 439 provides that -
If any of the abovenamed offences has been committed by a senator in a Committee of the whole Senate the Chairman may suspend the proceedings of the Committee and report to the President that an offence has been committed by such senator.
The President then takes the chair.
– The honorable senator is referring to proceedings in Committee and report to the President.
– That is when the incident takes place in Committee.
– That is so. The President takes the chair and receives the report from the Chairman of Committees that a senator has defied the authority of the Chair, and he then asks the senator to make his explanation.
– Let the honorable senator read standing order 440 and say how he can read that into it.
– I say that -we must’ read the two standing orders together. Standing order 439 deals with a case where disorderly conduct has teen committed while the Senate is in Committee.
– Why does the honorable senator desire to consider what happens in Committee when it “was in “the Senate that the incident occurred?
– Because in this case the disorderly conduct occurred before the President himself.
– And is governed by standing order 440.
– Of course, and there was no necessity, after the President had been compelled by the disorderly conduct of Senator Gardiner to report him to the Senate, why he should ask him for an explanation.
– The honorable senator has just awakened to the fact that standing order 439 refers to proceedings in Committee.
– I have said that standing order 439 provides that in case of disorder in Committee the Chairman of Committees shall suspend the business, the President be called in, and the Chairman report the disorder that has taken place. Then the President immediately calls upon the disorderly senator to make his explanation. That is necessary, in that case, otherwise the President would not know what all the fuss was about. After the explanation, if it is not considered satisfactory, the Leader of the Senate moves the motion for the suspension of the “disorderly senator. That is the practical application of the standing order, and we must take a practical view of what was intended by those who framed it. When the President has been driven, we may suppose, to ‘report an honorable senator for disorderly conduct, is it not absurd to suggest that the same President should then ask the of- fending senator to make an explanation? I have given my view of the matter. I was very sorry for the whole incident, but I can see no reason for expunging the record of it from Hansard or the Journals of the Senate. If Senator Gardiner sets up any claim, apart from his rights under that standing order, that he was unjustly treated -
– I do claim thatI was unjustly treated all through. I was not allowed to explain, and I will read from the report to prove that, when I reply to this debate.
– The honorable senator was not as cool on the occasion referred to as he usually is.
– I was more cool than usual.
– Then I say that the honorable senator’s conduct did not indicate that he was cool and deliberate at that particular time. I cannot support the motion. I am sorry that the incident occurred, but it did occur, there is an absolutely accurate record of it in Hansard, and there is no provision in the Standing Orders, so far as I can see, that would warrant me, or any one else, voting for expunging the record.
.- I intend to vote for the motion. I shall do so because I believe sincerely that a grave injustice has been done to Senator Gardiner by his suspension from the sitting of the Senate on the occasion referred to. I did not wish to interrupt Senator Earle when he was speaking, but. I say now that the standing order upon which he relied to justify his objection to voting for the motion has not anything whatever to do with the real point at issue raised by Senator Gardiner. That is governed exclusively by standing order 440. You, sir, were good enough to allow Senator Earle plenty of latitude to deal with standing order 439, which refers solely to disorder which may arise in Committee.
– Quite so, and the Chairman has to make a report to the President.
– There is no doubt that Senator Gardiner came into conflict with the Chair. That the honorable senator has admitted. He has not attempted to run away from that position for a moment. He claims, and I agree with him, that he did not receive the protection which the Standing Orders afford him, in common with every other member of the Senate. You, sir, in your explanation, have told the Senate that you took a certain course, and that your responsibility ended there. Senator Millen, in his explanation, told us that he was bound to give effect to your report by moving that Senator Gardiner be suspended. If honorable senators will read the official report of the dispute - if I may use that term - between Senator Gardiner and the Chair, they must come to the conclusion that there seemed to be undue haste on the part of the President and on the part of the Leader of the Senate in moving the motion of suspension.
– “Undue haste”? Three columns of Hansard in which the President was trying to avoid having to do so.
– Let me quote from the report to prove the assertion I have just made. Honorable senators will find, at page 4748, the following report : -
– Order! The Standing Orders compel me now to take a certain course.
– Then take the course.
– I will. I report Senator Gardiner to the Senate for continued disobedience to the Chair.
Then Senator Millen, without extending to Senator Gardiner the consideration he was entitled to under the Standing Orders, said -
You having reported Senator Gardiner to the Senate, Mr. President, for declining to obey your directions, I have no option but to move -
That Senator Gardiner be suspended from this sitting of the Senate.
I say that if there had not been undue haste - I will not say indecent haste - Senator Millen, as a chivalrous opponent, might have extended to Senator Gardiner the benefit of the first paragraph of standing order 440. But, for reasons best known to himself, he did not do that, but straight away moved the motion I have just read. The President then, as in duty bound, put the question in these words -
The question is that Senator Gardiner be suspended from the sitting of the Senate. Before putting that question, I ask the honorable senator to reconsider his attitude and withdraw.
Now, I submit, with all respect, that that is what the President should have done before calling upon Senator Millen to take the action which he did take. If the President failed to recognise his responsibility in that connexion, it was the duty of Senator Millen to take that course before submitting his motion which resulted in the suspension of Senator Gardiner. The report proceeds -
– Before putting the question, Mr. President, can I say anything
There is surely nothing disrespectful or discourteous in that–
– Upon such a motion, there must be no debate.
Having had the ground cut from under his feet by this motion being put so precipitately, Senator Gardiner was denied the right to put himself in order with the Chair and with the Senate. The report proceeds -
– What do you ask?
– I ask the honorable senator to withdraw the expression which he used towards the Chair.
Now, I invite honorable senators to read Senator Gardiner’s reply to that statement by the President -
– I am quite prepared to follow your directions in any way you like; to withdraw anything you consider offensive; to withdraw anything in connexion with this Senate. But I certainly must claim the right to protect myself.
Could any honorable senator have made the amende more honorably than that? The report proceeds -
– Order ! The honorable senator must not debate the matter at this stage.
Subsequently, after preventing Senator Gardiner from making an explanation earlier, the President said -
I again appeal to Senator Gardiner. I do not wish to take further action. Altogether, this incident is very regrettable.I will ask the honorable gentleman again to make the usual amende to the President.
– What happened? He refused to do so.
– Permit me to answer that question, and not Senator Millen. Thereupon Senator Gardiner said -
If anything has been said, or if any conduct of mine has been offensive to you, sir, I am prepared to withdraw it; but I refuse to admit that I have done anything that could be considered offensive to the President.
That is briefly the history of this very regrettable incident; and any impartial person, upon reading the official report of it will, I venture to say, agree with me that Senator Gardiner was harshly treated in being subjected to the indignity of being suspended from the sitting of the Senate for the alleged offence of continued disobedience to the Chair. If honorable senators are prepared to calmly consider the case upon its whole merits, they will see that Senator Gardiner is perfectly justified in the application which he is now making to have this record expunged from Hansard, and from the official records of the Senate. Without any hesitation whatever, I shall support the motion, and I would accord the same support quite as freely to any other honorable senator who found himself in the same position as Senator Gardiner occupies today.
Senator . Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [4.8]. - Like Senator
O’Keefe, I was not present when this regrettable incident took place, and, therefore, I can approach it only with the knowledge I have gained from the reports which have appeared in the daily newspapers, and from the fuller report which Senator Gardiner has quoted, and which I have not read, in Hansard. It seems to me that one fact is admitted, namely, that the provisions of standing order 440 have not been carried out. That being so, it appears to me that, having started upon a wrong basis, the whole of the subsequent proceedings are entirely vitiated. The rights of honorable senators are amongst the most precious things connected with our parliamentary system, and one of the rights of any member of this Chamber is that, before judgment is passed upon him, he shall have an opportunity of putting his position and of stating his case.
– The standing order provides that he shall be called upon by the Presiding Officer to do so.
– That is a mandatory provision which was not put into operation.
– The honorable senator does not dispute that Senator Gardiner was given an opportunity to explain, does he? The only point is whether he was given it at the right time.
SenatorLt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN It cannot be overlooked that even a criminal in a dock is given a right to make an explanation.
– Senator Gardiner was given that opportunity.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.He was not given that opportunity according to our Standing Orders, which have been devised for the protection of honorable senators.
– He was given the opportunity.
– That is a mere quibble. A very ingenious, but rather far-fetched, argument in connexion with this matter has been advanced by Senator Earle. He has put it that the rights of an honorable senator vary according to whether he commits an offence in Committee or in the Senate itself. He has urged that, under standing order 339, a disturbance having occurred in Committee, the circumstance is reported to the President, who calls upon the offender for an explanation, for the reason that the President has no previous knowledge of the incident. But I would point out to him that it is not the President who has to pass judgment upon an honorable senator who is accused. It is the Senate which has that right. Of course, the responsibility of taking action devolves upon the Leader of this Chamber, and it is for him to move that the honorable senator in question be suspended. But it is then for the jury, which is represented by his fellow senators, to pass judgment upon the alleged offender. It is not to the President that an explanation is due, and consequently the argument of Senator Earle falls entirely to the ground. Holding that the whole of the subsequent proceedings were vitiated by a breach of our Standing Orders in the first place, I do not think that the Senate would be exhibiting any lack of dignity by acknowledging its error, and taking the action for which Senator Gardiner has pleaded. From the reports which he has read, it seems to me that he did not treat this matter - at any rate in the final stage - in a refractory manner.
– Why, he had to be removed by force.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.Certain statements have been made by Senator Gardiner this afternoon which may fairly be accepted by this
Chamber. He stated that he did not intend anything offensive to the President. Indeed, a fuller apology is contained in the statements which he made last Thursday evening than I have often known to be accepted both in this and other Houses of Parliament.
– Having been present throughout the proceedings on Thursday evening last, and having witnessed a few scenes of a similar character in other places, I have no sympathy whatever with Senator Gardiner.
– He does not ask for sympathy.
– I cannot forget his attitude towards the President on that evening. All those honorable senators who have spoken appear to have entirely forgotten one point which appeals to me very strongly. When Senator Guy rose to speak, the President intervened, and Senator Guy had to give way. Senator Gardiner then got up, and objected to the President taking Senator Guy’s place. I did not object to him doing that at the time, but afterwards it was made quite clear to me - and the statement which he has read this afternoon emphasizes the point - when during the debate Senator de Largie remarked across the table to Senator Gardiner, “ Thisdoes not finish the debate,” that Senator Guy was not being thus deprived of his right to speak at a later stage.
– Who made that remark ?
– Senator de Largie.
– But he is not the President.
– As the official head of this Chamber, the President was not allowed to put the case to honorable senators in a dispassionate way. In my opinion, he rose to stop an acrimonious debate, and, as the guardian of the rights and privileges of this Senate, to state his view of the matter. But Senator Gardiner never allowed him to exercise that right. The honorable senator was told by the President that he was merely going to explain the position, and that his action would not prevent other honorable senators from having their say afterwards. That point, I repeat, was emphasized by Senator de Largie’s remark across the table. That is why I disagree with Senator Gardiner’s contention, and why I cannot vote for this motion. It was distinctly stated that Senator Guy had not been deprived of his right to apeak, which was Senator Gardiner’s contention all the time.
– Later on in the proceedings the President ordered Senator Millen to resume his seat, and Senator Keating rose to speak upon a point of order.
– I am speaking of Senator Gardiner’s conduct in not allowing the President to make his statement. He would not listen to one word that the President had to say.
– We wanted to hear Senator Guy then.
– Senator Guy was told that he had not been robbed of his privilege or of his right to speak, and that he would be able to follow the President. That being the case, I submit that the President had a right to get up and make his official statement. But Senator Gardiner would not allow him to do so. He would not listen to reason.
– Is it not the privilege of any honorable senator to raise a point of order ?
– Not when the President is on his feet. This is a deliberative assembly. I want to say here, too, that as the official head of this Chamber the President is insulted a great deal too much. Interjections and innuendoes are constantly being made against the official whose duty it is to protect our rights and privileges.
– The statement that the President is insulted is untrue. I say that it is deliberately untrue.
– Order! Senator Long has interjected that Senator Reid has been guilty of deliberately making an untruestatement. That is entirely contrary to parliamentary practice, and must be regarded as an offensive interjection. I must, therefore, ask the honorable senator to withdraw it.
– I want to say this–
– The honorable senator must withdraw. I would point out to him that a withdrawal must not be accompanied by reservations or explanations. Any offensive expression must be withdrawn unreservedly.
– Then I say that the statement of Senator Reid, that you are being continually insulted, is untrue, and deliberately untrue, and I will not withdraw my interjection.
– I must again ask the honorable senator to withdraw it.
– I will not withdraw it, because Senator Reid’s statement is untrue, and is a deliberate lie.
– Order ! The honorable senator has not only refused to withdraw when called upon to do so, but has aggravated his offence. I now ask him to withdraw and apologize to the Senate.
– Am I not allowed to make an explanation ?
– The honorable senator will be allowed to make an explanation, but his withdrawal must be unreserved .
– The statement that you, sir, have been continually insulted by this side is deliberately untrue.
– That is a repetition of the offence, and not a withdrawal.
– I will not withdraw it.
– The honorable senator knows quite well what is required of him by parliamentary practice and procedure, and I ask him again to relieve me of the unpleasant duty of having to report him to the Senate.
– If Senator Reid withdraws his statement, I will withdraw mine.
– The honorable senator must make no conditions, and qualify his withdrawal by no reservations, when asked to withdraw. The honorable senator knows that that is the practice.
– You will give me the credit of having endeavoured at all times during the years I have been in the Senate to assist you in maintaining order, and of having on all occasions conducted myself with a due regard for the dignity of the Chamber. I do not want to conflict with my record, and, out of respect for you, I withdraw.
– Now ask Senator Reid to withdraw.
– No ; let him have it.
– I have been asked to withdraw what I believe–
– Nobody asked you to withdraw.
– I made the statement that it seemed to me–
– Tell all the lies you can.
– I ask Senator Needham to withdraw that offensive in- terjection. These are most objectionable interjections, and are bound to lead to disorder, recrimination, and bad feeling.
– As it is a one-sided show, I withdraw.
– Order ! I ask the honorable senator to “withdraw that expression, which is offensive both to the Chair and to the Senate, and to apologize for having used it.
– I withdraw, and apologise. Now what about Senator Reid?
– We should recollect that this is a deliberative assembly.
– You are making it a bear garden.
– The President is in his place to carry out the Standing Orders, and, in my opinion, has done so very impartially all through, especially ou the occasion on which Senator Gardiner defied him. It was the worst case of defiance towards a Presiding Officer which I have seen in my experience in any Parliament, and I have been in a few. Senator Gardiner’s attitude was so strong that he “would not allow the President to make his statement. Senator Gardiner has raised a mere technical point now as to when he should have been offered a chance to explain. He was given a chance three times by the President, and my opinion is that the President was just a little too lenient with him.
– Too lenient for you !
– Too lenient from my point of view of the conduct of business in a deliberative assembly of intelligent, sensible men elected to look after affairs of State.
– “Would you give the President a gun?
– It was a disgrace to the Senate that such an attitude as was taken up by Senator Gardiner should be taken up by any honorable senator.
– Order! The honorable senator has no right to make any statement reflecting in that way upon the Senate.
– What about a withdrawal ?
– I withdraw and apologize for it.
– I did not ask you ; the President should have asked you.
– I withdraw it unreservedly, both as regards the President and the Senate.
– Why did not the President ask you to withdraw it?
– Order! I ask Senator Needham to refrain from, these continuous offensive interjections; otherwise I shall have to take another and stronger course.
– You can take it.
– Order ! The honorable senator has been persistently for many days past impudent to the Chair, and I warn him now that this will not be tolerated for another moment.
– I am sorry that my few words should make such a disturbance. I believe in Senator Gardiner fighting for all he thinks is worth fighting for, but I have always felt very strongly that every official should be treated on all occasions with respect. Although I have defied Speakers and Chairmen of Committees over and over again, I have always resumed my seat as soon as those officials rose to their feet, because that is the right attitude for members to assume towards any official who has been placed in the chair to preserve order in a deliberative assembly. However much -we may disagree with them, and however much we may fight them - and it is the privilege of members to fight them as much as they like - they should bo treated with respect when they rise to their feet, and allowed to give their ruling or judgment without interruption. On the night that he was suspended Senator Gardiner was not in a frame of mind to listen to anything.
– Can you read out one offensive remark in all my statements from the report?
– It was not the honorable senator’s remarks. There was nothing particular in his words, but it was his attitude. According to the report which the honorable senator read just now, the President gave Senator Gardiner three opportunities to apologize. He was rather lenient, in my opinion, in making three appeals to the honorable senator. The honorable senator had assumed in his own mind that Senator Guy could not speak, and that the President was robbing him of his opportunity. I was with him up to that point, because I did not think the President had the right to rob any senator of his right to speak.
– He robbed Senator Millen of his.
SenatorREID. - As soon as the President said that he was not robbing Senator Guy, or anybody else, of his right to speak, because he had not closed the debate, Senator Gardiner’s attitude to the President should have been one of silence. He should have listened to the President’s statement, because Senator Guy was not robbed of anything. That is why I have no sympathy now with Senator Gardiner when, on a mere technical point, he asks the Chamber to expunge the record from the Journals and from Hansard. If Senator Gardiner had been then in the frame of mind that he is in now, he would have listened to the President, and there would have been no suspension. It was Senator Gardiner’s frame of mind, and the words he used, that led Senator Millen to move the motion, as he said, without comment, because Senator Gardiner had defied the President right up to the very minute, and finished up by saying, “ I have done nothing that can be considered offensive to the President.”
– Is that offensive or not?
– Yes; because all the evening the honorable senator had been taking up an attitude that was most offensive, and outrageous, and discourteous to any, official presiding over a deliberative assembly. I thought Senator Millen was quite justified in moving the motion without a word, and that the President was quite justified in putting it through. We should always treat officials in the chair with respect, and if I had been the President, instead of giving the honorable senator one night’s suspension, I would have suspended him for a week or a month.
– The President has not the power to do that.
– I mean if I had been President, and had had the power. It is not that I have any feeling about Senator Gardiner personally one way or the other. I am speaking simply as one who believes in the preservation of order in a deliberative assembly. We cannot have order unless proper respect is paid to the Chair. Because of the continued disrespect that was shown to the Chair, I thought a lesson should be taught, so that honorable senators on either side of the Senate would remember that the President and other officials must be treated with respect. Senator Gardiner was very leniently dealt with, and if the President has no power to suspend an honorable senator for a month, I would be prepared to amend the Standing Orders to give him that power in similar circumstances.
– You should join Ryan’s Thousand.
– It is not a matter of joining anybody’s thousand, but of carrying on the deliberations of the Senate in a proper way. If honorable senators cannot behave themselves, but act like a lot of school boys, losing their tempers and their heads, and taking up an attitude that is lacking in all sense of courtesy, they should be punished.
– All sense of fairness is sometimes lacking, too.
– I am not disputing that. All I say is that those who offend in that way should be properly punished, even if they are members of Parliament. I cannot vote for the motion. I agree that honorable senators have every right to fight and stick up for their privileges, but I simply emphasize that, especially in these democratic days, every respect should be paid to officials who have to preside over deliberative assemblies, so that our procedure may be on sane, intelligent, and proper lines.
– I wish to remove amisapprehension with regard to a point of order, expressed by way of interjection by Senator Ferricks and others. Unless removed, it may leave a false impression on the minds of honorable senators. It is that on a previous occasion I prevented Senator Millen from speaking.
– On a later occasion.
– I think itwas on a previous occasion, but that point is immaterial. The incident arose on a point of order, and what was done was perfectly in accordance with standing order 430, which provides -
Upon a question of order being raised, the senator called to order shall resume his seat, and after the question of order has been stated to the President by the senator rising to order, the President may give his decision thereon, or he may first hear further argument thereon, at his discretion.
Senator Millen was not speaking on that occasion to a motion. He was rising to speak to a point of order, which, in my opinion, did not require any discussion. The two cases, therefore, are not on all fours.
.- I take it that what we are discussing is whether the standing order was carried out or not. It is not a question whether Senator Gardiner did
Or did not do right. I am not here to say whether he did all he ought to have done or not, or whether the President was right or wrong. I was present during the whole evening, and confess that I fell into exactly the same error as Senator Gardiner; that is, I thought Senator Guy was not allowed to speak, and I had the idea that Senator Gardiner was simply championing the right of Senator Guy to speak. I voted with Senator Gardiner on those lines.
– Did you ever know an occasion when a debate was closed in that peremptory way by a Presiding Officer?
– The Standing Orders of the Senate are a little different from those of the House of Representatives, and as I was for a number of years in the House and am a comparatively new member of the Senate, I am influenced a good deal by the procedure of the other place. I take it that the whole question is whether or not Senator Gardiner had the right before a vote was taken to make an explanation of his action. I did not know until I read standing order 440 that Senator Gardiner had the right to make an explanation, and I do not remember hearing Senator Gardiner given the right to explain what he had done. I do not say that it did not take place, but all that I heard was the opportunity given to him again and again to apologize unreservedly. That, however, is not the point. Senator Gardiner says that, according to standing order 440, he should have been given an opportunity either to apologize or make an explanation before he was condemned. I confess that I was not aware of the existence of such a standing order in this Chamber. I know that in the other place we have no such standing order ; and I speak feelingly on this matter, because on one occasion I was removed from the House of Representatives, and I felt it very much for a long time. Had there been an opportunity on that occasion to explain my attitude, I feel sure the incident would not have happened. The question is whether Senator Gardiner was given this opportunity or not. I admit that he had an opportunity, half-a-dozen times, to apologize, but he wanted to explain his attitude; and I understand, now, that he was defending the right of Senator Guy to speak, under the impression that the debate was being closed by the President. We are perfectly justified in taking Senator Gardiner’s word for that. I thought the same, though I may have been wrong.
– If the honorable senator was under that impression, does he think Senator Gardiner was correct in his manner of asserting his right?
- Senator Gardiner may have been wrong; but if Senator Gardiner were the greatest criminal that had ever lived, and had been elected to this Senate, he would still have every right, under our Standing Orders, that is accorded to any other honorable senator. I have heard the President again and again, when giving a ruling, declare that he had nothing to do with the Standing Orders, that he was only the custodian of them, and it was his duty to see that they were carried out. In such circumstances, the President is quite right. An opportunity for explanation was not given to Senator Gardiner before his suspension. We ought to be very careful of our Standing Orders, because what happened to Senator Gardiner on Thursday last may happen to any other honorable senator tomorrow. The standing order referred to by Senator Gardiner gives an- honorable senator an opportunity, amidst the heat of debate, to explain his position in a few words, which perhaps may have the desired result. I have not heard yet that such an opportunity was given to Senator Gardiner. Senator Reid said that Senator Gardiner was offensive. I am offering no opinion on -that subject at all; it has nothing to do with the question before the Senate. It has not yet been shown that Senator Gardiner was given the opportunity that should have been extended to him under our Standing Orders.
– The opportunity was given him three times.
– I differ from the honorable senator. At any rate, the opportunity was not given to him at the proper time; so, unless I hear something in the course of the debate to make me alter my opinion, I shall vote for the motion. Up to the present, the argument has been in favour of Senator Gardiner’s contention. There may be something in the point raised by Senator Earle, that the standing order refers to the Committee, and not to the Senate ; but it does not say so, and we have no right to infer that it does refer to the Committee.
– The President quoted No. 440 as the standing order he was acting upon.
-Yes; and I remind the Senate that neither the President nor Senator Millen raised the point that the standing order referred to the Committee, and not tothe Senate.
– Standing order 439 exclusively controls business in the Committee.
– I am always sorry when a conflict occurs between any senator and the Chair. I think we ought to support the ruling of the Chair, wherever possible; and I have always voted for the suspension of an offending member except in the case of Senator Gardiner, and, in my own case in another place, because I thought that Senator Gardiner was being removed unfairly. In the other place, the motion for my suspension was only carried on the casting vote of the Speaker.
– Order ! The honorable senator is out of order.
– I believe in the maintenance of order in debate ; but I say that, under our Standing Orders, Senator Gardiner was not given that protection which he had a right to expect.
– Honorable senators will remember that the whole of this trouble arose consequent upon a report submitted by Senator Thomas.
– You ruled, sir–
– Order ! I ask the honorable senator toconfine himself to the subject of the debate. The motion submitted by Senator Thomas has absolutely nothing to do with the question now before the Chair.
– I onlywish to make one or two remarks upon the posi tion. It appears to me that the trouble has arisen largely because Senator Gardiner did not hear the President distinctly when he was asking Senator Guy to take his seat. When Senator Guy rose to speak the President also rose and said -
Order! The question, I think, has been sufficiently discussed by honorable senators.
The President then continued, and said -
I claim my right to speak now. The honorable senator, if he desires, will have an opportunity later.
Senator Gardiner, I understand, did not hear that last sentence, and was under the impression that the President was refusing right of speech to Senator Guy. Had Senator Gardiner heard the President clearly I do not believe the trouble we are now discussing would have arisen at all, and, therefore, Senator Gardiner was, in my opinion, justified in insisting upon Senator Guy’s right to speak.
– Senator Gardiner did not stress that point when he was speaking.
– That, at all events, is the reason why this trouble has arisen, and, that being so, I contend that Senator Gardiner was quite justified in insisting upon one of his followers having the right to speak in this Chamber. What occurred subsequently may, perhaps, have been somewhat in conflict with the Chair, but as Senator Gardiner did not hear the closing sentence uttered by the President, I, for one, am going to vote to have the record expunged from Hansard.
.- As the innocent cause of what happened on Thursday last, I may be permitted to say a few words. On the occasion referred to, I was present throughout the whole sitting, and, as usual, gave the debate my closest attention. When I rose to speak on the question, the President also rose, and intimated that he thought that the question had been discussed sufficiently. My first impression was that I was shut out. How this was going to be brought about I did not know, but I thought that some standing order with which I was not familiar would prevent me from speaking, or that possibly there was a time limit to the debate. At all events, that was my first impression, but soon afterwards the President cleared the matter up by saying that I would not be prevented from speaking later. I think that there was a misunderstanding, and I honestly believe that all through Senator Gardiner was under the impression that I was to be prevented from speaking. We all admire a man who fights for his rights when he thinks he is being imposed upon, and I make an appeal to honorable senators to sink all party differences in this matter.
– To uphold the dignity of the Chair is not a party matter.
– Does the honorable senator think that any senator will record a party vote on a question like this?
– Then I appeal to any honorable senator who may have intended to vote on party lines not to do so. If any honorable senator reads our Standing Orders, he will find that the standing order referred to was not carried out, and that Senator Gardiner was not given an opportunity to make an explanation.
– He had an opportunity on three occasions.
– He was given an opportunity to apologize. Evidently the President thought that Senator Gardiner was defying him, and, apparently, Senator Gardiner was labouring under a misapprehension. While persistently disobeying the Chair he ought to, have been rebuked, but, under the circumstances, he was doing quite right, so I am going to appeal to honorable senators to remove the record from Hansard. Do not let it remain on our records that Senator Gardiner was put out without recourse to that standing order, and without an opportunity to make an explanation; for I verily believe that had he been given the opportunity he could, in two or three words, have explained the whole situation, and it would have been seen that there was a misunderstanding. In fact, there were misunderstandings all round, so let honorable senators start de novo, and remember that standing order, since it is a very good one. Its purpose is clear. It is to provide against misunderstandings of this kind, namely, that whenever an honorable senator has been reported as having committed an offence he should be called upon to stand up and make an explanation. That, in this instance, was not done.
– Yes, three times, according to the Hansard report.
– The President admits that that was not done, as it should have been done, under the standing order.
– I contend that the honorable senator was not given that opportunity. I have read the report of the proceedings, and I heard the debate at the time ; and I must say that I hold a directly opposite opinion from that of Senator Reid. I am convinced that Senator Gardiner was anxious to make an explanation, and I feel sure that it was because he was smarting under that disability, and felt that an injustice was being done him, that he adopted such an attitude. Most other honorable senators, if they felt that an injustice was being done them, would, at any rate, resent it. Had Senator Gardiner been given an opportunity to make an explanation he would have made it clear to the Senate. Unfortunately, however, not one honorable senator knew there was such a provision in the standing order. I, at least, did not.
– It was read. The standing order was referred to.
– Then why was Senator Gardiner not asked to make the explanation ? Why was he not given an opportunity?
A very lame case was put before the Senate this afternoon by Senator Earle, in quoting the preceding standing order as an excuse for what arose. I could not help smiling, for the honorable senator had evidently mistaken it for something else, and was trying to read into the situation a standing order which applied to a distinctly different position. No honorable senator who has yet spoken has made it clear that the provision in standing order 440 was carried out. Even Senator Millen, whom we can all admire for his ability and alacrity in getting hold of a point, admitted that technically it was not carried out.
– Carried out in the spirit, but not in the letter.
– We need to carry out these provisions both in the spirit and in the letter. I trust that we shall sink any feeling that Honorable senators may have and wipe the whole business off the records. I thought at first that I was going to be prevented from speaking to the motion. As I have indicated, that was certainly my first impression from the statement of the President. But be subsequently removed that, and indicated that I would have another opportunity. Senator Gardiner did not hear that. He still laboured under the misunderstanding that I. was prevented from speaking, and he felt that an injustice was being imposed on me. The whole incident, therefore, rests upon a misunderstanding; and the quickest and best way is for us to agree that the record be expunged so that it may appear as if the incident had not occurred at all.
– As one of those honorable senators present throughout the occasion which has given rise to this discussion, I want to say that I carried away a vivid recollection of everything that happened. I was very much interested in it because of the motion of dissent from the ruling which you, Mr. President, had given upon another matter - because of” the bearing of the discussion on that particular motion. Consequently I was somewhat in sympathy with. Senator Gardiner when he rose at the moment that he came into conflict with you. Like Senator Guy, who by the way has given a very fair account of how the matter appeared to honorable senators generally, I was somewhat under the same impression, and I could then see a very good reason for that impression being held by honorable senators, namely, that the rising of the President would have the effect of closing the debate so far as that other point of order was concerned. That was owing to the first sentence to which the President gave utterance. But as the President proceeded, and knowing as I did that his speech did not close the debate on the other point of order, I made a remark across the floor of the chamber - speaking at Senator Gardiner, who was on his feet, but who did not hear me, I think. The reason why I interjected was to acquaint Senator Gardiner with the point. I said, “The President, speaking at this stage, does not necessarily close the debate.” Whether Senator Gardiner heard me or not I am not going to say.
– I will say that possibly I heard you.
– I do not know whether the honorable senator did, but that was the aspect of the question a3 it appealed to me. From that on, however, Senator Gardiner put himself out of court by coming so repeatedly into conflict with the President. It has been claimed by those disputing the ruling on that occasion that, even if it were a technical point-
– No, it is not a technical point. It is the whole of the Standing Orders which are at stake.
– If you give up the technical point, I hold that you have no claim whatever.
– Order! Will the honorable senator please address the Chair?
– Any honorable senator who was present must admit that the spirit of the Standing Orders was put into effect so far as it was possible to do so.
During this discussion the idea has occurred to me that standing order 440 is not quite so clear as it might he. It is one which requires a further standing order to fully meet a position such as has arisen. The procedure of putting standing order 440 into operation is not quite clear to honorable senators. I agree with the point raised by Senator Earle wherein he drew attention to the fact that one must read No. 440 in conjunction with standing orders 438 and 439. Then, any one reading the three together could come to no other opinion than that these are the standing orders which may be put into practice when disorder has occurred in Committee. The one follows on the other, and would lead. one to believe that that is the procedure for disorder occurring in Committee only, and that disorder when the President is in the chair is of such a nature that these standing orders do not apply to it. For that reason, therefore, I think No. 440 needs amending. But, if action is not taken to suspend an honorable senator under standing order 440, on the ground that it does not apply, then we are in the unfortunate position that we have no standing order whatever under which to suspend an honorable senator.
– Thus No. 440 obviously applies to this case.
– If I am right so far as I have gone, it must be seenthat the spirit of the Standing Orders must be taken to have been put into practice by an honorable senator having been given an opportunity to withdraw from is position of defiance of the President, when that offer has been made, and whether it is before or after the motion.
– That does not make it right.
– It would, if we had no other standing orders to appeal to. The spirit of the Standing Orders was carried out so far as Senator Gardiner’s suspension was concerned.
– Read that standing order, and try to read that spirit into it.
– I assure the honorable senator that I carried no party spirit into the vote which I cast. I was rather inclined to be sympathetic with him, but he deliberately came into collision, and so repeatedly, with the President, when he was on his feet, that he put himself out of court, and has now no claim, therefore, to ask that the decision of the Senate be set aside. I do not say that in any triumphant tone at all. But so far as the Standing Orders are concerned, they were undoubtedly given effect, and I have not heard any case made out for rescinding the motion, or for going back on the vote which I cast.
One has only to carry his recollection a little further. Senator Gardiner had run counter to the feeling of the Senate by his conduct, and, I dare say, to that extent he suffered.
– There is no standing order to punish me for that.
– An honorable senator’s conduct should, I think, be taken into consideration.
– Do you not think that he himself is the best judge of his conduct ?
– Not always. Other honorable senators whose duty it is to cast a vote upon one’s conduct must also be in a position to judge.
– Do you think that every honorable senator should make his own Standing Orders?
– No one is arguing that.
– Your remarks have that tendency.
– Not in the slightest. The standing order states, ‘ When any senator has been reported as having committed an offence . . . .” The question is, “ When is a’ senator reported?”
– When the President stands up, and reports him to the Senate.
– Is that so? Not necessarily. That report may come before the Senate from the Chairman of Committees. I ask honorable senators to read the preceding standing orders, whereupon they must realize that that is the most logical interpretation to put upon them.
– But the Chairman must report to the President.
– Then it is the same position.
– This offence having been committed while the President was in the Chair, the procedure of reporting was not necessary in order to carry out this standing order. Altogether, the decision of the Senate was arrived at with the full consequences of the case before honorable senators, when they had everything fresh in their minds as to what had transpired. I regret that I cannot see my way clear to reverse my vote.
.- I did not think that this debate would last as long as it has done, because, after listening to Senator Gardiner, I must say that I was puzzled to understand what he expected to gain by his motion. The terms of the motion are that there should be expunged from the records of the Senate and from Hansard the account and report of the proceedings of Thursday night last in relation to this incident. Let that motion be carried, and the account and report be expunged from the records and from Hansard, and then what will be the position ? A much more elaborate record of those proceedings will take its place in Hansard.
– Yes, but with satisfaction to Senator Gardiner, because the original report will be expunged.
– But not with satisfaction to the Senate. I was present on Thursday evening, and witnessed and heard the whole of the proceedings. T must say that I regretted to have had that experience in the Senate, and I sincerely hope that there will be no repetition of it. My sympathy at first went out to a large extent to Senator Gardiner. I realized that he, perhaps, had misunderstood the position. But there was no reason why he should have misunderstood the position the President was taking after the interjection by Senator de Largie to the effect that the President’s interposition in the debate at that time did not close the debate. Notwithstanding that, I think Senator Gardiner will agree with me that he was during the next quarter of an hour repeatedly in defiance of the Chair. The Senate took its action afterwards when the President reported the honorable senator. The Leader of the Senate moved, under standing order 440, Senator Gardiner’s suspension from the sitting. I recognise that it was the duty of the President to call upon Senator Gardiner for an explanation or an apology. I recognise, further, that notwithstanding what has been said this afternoon, Senator Gardiner did not get an opportunity for an explanation. He was given an opportunity for a withdrawal and an apology repeatedly, but I do not think that he got an opportunity for an explanation. What was the position? Senator Millen moved the motion for suspension, and it was then open for Senator Gardiner, or any one on his behalf, at that time to take a point of order that the motion was out of order, inasmuch as the condition precedent to it had not been fulfilled, namely, that Senator Gardiner should be given an opportunity, after report and before the motion, to make an explanation or an apology.
– Nobody seemed to know that that could be done.
– Exactly. Nobody seemed to know that that could be done, notwithstanding the. fact that the President at that juncture read out the whole of standing order 440. No one seemed to realize that the opportunity for explanation or apology, not for withdrawal and apology, was a condition precedent to the motion submitted by Senator Millen.
– The reading of the standing order by the President occurred after Senator Millen moved the motion.
– The opportunity was still there before Senator Gardiner was actually suspended. Senator Gardiner, or any other honorable senator on his behalf, might have raised the point of order, when all other business would have had to be suspended.
– That would not have been allowed.
– It would have been allowed. There is no reason to assume that the President would have disregarded the standing order. A point of order raised would have taken precedence, as a matter of privilege takes precedence, and all other business is suspended for the time being. But, as Senator Guy has said, no one seemed no remember that a point of order might have been taken. I think, sir, that you slipped; Senator Millen slipped; we all slipped, and I think that Senator Gardiner fell. We went on, and he was left. The point should have been taken then, and it was not taken.
If Senator Gardiner’s present motion be carried, we shall put on record again the whole of the proceedings to which the honorable senator takes exception, because in this debate he has read every word of the debate and interjections that took place in connexion with, the incident. If we carry this motion we enshrine that in the lengthy debate of this afternoon, and record it once more in Hansard. From that point of view there cannot be much satisfaction in carrying the motion. We cannot restore Senator Gardiner to the sitting of Thursday. That sitting is over, and Senator Gardiner was absent from a portion of it. We cannot turn time back, nor can we get back to the session of Thursday evening, or to the portion of it from which Senator Gardiner was excluded. I admit that Senator Gardiner has made out that, technically, we all erred.
– The honorable senator admits that?
– I do admit it. I say that we all erred technically.
– But then the honorable senator takes another technical point.
– Yes. I take the point that the time for raising the point of order was before Senator Gardiner was conducted out of the chamber. This is not like a motion in arrest of judgment. This is taking a point at a time subsequent when no practical advantage can result from asserting, it. It is too late, in my opinion, to take the point now to secure any practical advantage from it. After all, what does it come to ? Are we, at this stage, to reverse the decision arrived at on Thursday, in the taking of which every one agreed?
– Every one would not have agreed with the decision had the Standing Orders been complied with. That is the whole point.
– Perhaps everyone would not have agreed with the decision if Senator Gardiner had been afforded an opportunity for an explanation. His explanation might or might not have been satisfactory. What the Senate would have done had the honorable senator tendered an explanation is now purely speculative. But what will happen if the motion now under consideration is carried is that we shall repeat in our records the whole proceedings to which exception has been taken.
– Let the honorable senator move an amendment to cut out to-day’s proceedings also.
– There is no obligation to do that thrown upon me. I wish we could get back to the time when the Senate assembled to-day. If, by moving a motion, I could bring that about, I should gladly move it. My contention is that Senator Gardiner is relying upon a point that has been discovered too late, and because of non-compliance with a technical requirement the Senate suspended him, he now asks that we should reverse that judgment, which was deliberately arrived at, irrespective of technicalities, upon what honorable senators considered to be the merits of the case. I cannot support his motion for that reason.
– I should not have said anything on the motion had it not been for the lucid explanation of Senator Keating. Because exactly of what that honorable senator has said, I shall support the motion for all I am worth. He says that Senator Gardiner was punished wrongly, and he has no redress, because he did not take the proper action at the time. If, in a Court of law, a man is sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment, and after he has served twelve months of his sentence it is discovered that he was innocent, he is entitled to redress.
– He can be given something practical. He can be given his liberty, but we cannot return to Senator
Gardiner the portion of the sitting from which he was suspended.
– If we have wronged him we can recompense him, and the only recompensewe can make to Senator Gardiner is to cut out of the record of our proceedings that which does him a wrong. Senator Keating admits that it does the honorable senator a wrong. Every other member of the Senate admits that, but still they will give Senator Gardiner no redress, because some point of order was not raised at the proper time.
– We are asked to cut the report out of one place and insert it in another.
– Any time is the proper time in which to do what is right and fair. Senator Gardiner has no other means of redressthan to ask the Senate to expunge from its records its decision suspending him. The punishment, whether deserved or not, was not imposed under the laws of the Senate. The honorable senator was punished because he attempted to do something which he had a right to do. The spirit of the law has nothing to do with this case or any other, but only the law itself and the way in which it is interpreted. If a law is wrongly interpreted by a judge inaddressing a jury the defendant has a right to redress, no matter what punishment has been imposed upon him. I know from what has been said by honorable senators on the other side that Senator Gardiner’s motion will not be carried. Honorable senators opposite dare not do justice to the honorable senator. I would not have taken any part in the debate but for the explanation of the matter given by Senator Keating, and because I wished to say that his explanation has satisfied me that the punishment inflicted upon Senator Gardiner was not according to the Standing Orders, and he is now right in asking for the only redress that is open to him.
– I wish to say a word or two on the motion. I was not present when the incident took place, and I have therefore acquired my knowledge of it directly from Senator Gardiner’s address this afternoon, and from the Hansard report. Standing order 438 deals directly with offences by honorable senators.
Listening to Senator Gardiner’s own statement, as read from the Hansard report, no candid person can doubt that he was guilty of an offence against the Chair. The honorable senator has not this afternoon put up any defence, or attempted in any way to clear himself from guilt. At the close of standing order 438 it is provided that -
The President may report to the Senate that such senator has committed an offence.
In the case under review that report was made, and that connects the matter with standing order 440, which has been so much discussed this afternoon. The President’s report under standing order 438 is the basis for action under standing order 440. That action does not arise under standing order 439 in any sense at all, because that standing order deals entirely with proceedings in Committee and a report from Committee. Standing orders 439 and 440 are distinct and separate. Coming to standing order 440 and the opportunity given to Senator Gardiner under that standing order, the honorable senator claims that he was not given the opportunity he was entitled to.
– We all admit that.
– Honorable senators all admit that he was not given the opportunity. We will say that the honorable senator was guilty of an offence. That is admitted by himself.
– No. The honorable senator should not put that construction on it.
– Then why was the honorable senator reported?
– Because the President thought I was guilty.
– If the honorable senator was not guilty of an offence why was he reported, and why was the motion for his suspension submitted by the Leader of the Senate?
– If a man is arrested does that prove that he is guilty?
– Senator Gardiner did not object to it according to the report which the honorable senator wishes to have expunged from Hansard. He went so far as to admit his guilt. The evidence is here, and the honorable senator now practically asks the Senate to expunge from Hansard the evidence of his guilt. That is going a long way. He says that he had not an opportunity to clear himself, yet I find from the report that four separate times the President asked the honorable senator to make the amende honorable to the Senate.
– The President was asking the honorable senator to apologize, not to explain.
– When one has done wrong he is not asked to explain why he did wrong, but to plead guilty or not guilty.
– Senator Gardiner claims that he had not done wrong.
SenatorBakhap. - That is easily settled, because the honorable senator had no right to remain on his feet while the President was standing.
– May I be permitted to say distinctly that Senator Gardiner was asked by the President to show proper respect to the Chair, and the President added - or I shall consider myself at perfect liberty to enforce that respect.
SenatorGardiner persisted by saying -
You are at perfect liberty to do as you like.
That was certainly defying the Chair. Further on - referring to the Presidenthe said -
Then, has he any right to threaten me? I will not be threatened. I will not stand it.
Again he defied the Chair, and he was asked to apologize.
– Nothing less than an apology was sufficient.
– Nothing less than an apology could be accepted by the Chair, and nothing less than an apology would have been offered if Senator Gardiner had been in his usual frame of mind. I do not wonder that he wishes this page in his political -history to be expunged. But for the Senate to expunge it, and practically to reverse the verdict which it gave at the time by saying that the President did not deserve an apology, would be to place itself in exactly the same position as Senator Gardiner has placed himself.
– The whole thing arose out of a misunderstanding.
– We are not now judging the circumstances which led up to the expulsion of Senator Gardiner. We are judging the facts as a court of appeal. Was Senator Gardiner offered an opportunity to withdraw?
– According to the Standing Orders, I was not.
– How can the honorable senator say that, in view of the following record in Hansard : -
– The question is that Senator Gardiner be suspended from the sitting of the Senate. Before putting that, I ask the honorable senator - to reconsider his attitude and withdraw.
– But he was not asked for an explanation.
– If one has done wrong, it is not a question of why he did wrong.
– Stick to the point.
– Senator Gardiner had been disobeying the Chair.
– He says that he had not.
– Here is the Hansard record, which proves that he persisted in disobeying the Chair. In the circumstances, there was only one course open to him. namely, to withdraw his statement, as a man should have done.
– But the Standing Orders give him a right to explain, and he was denied that right.
– Was he denied it? How can it be said that he was denied it when the President asked him to withdraw and apologize on four different occasions during the course of the debate ? He was given that opportunity. Senator Gardiner is sufficiently familiar with our Standing Orders to know that after he had withdrawn he would have been at liberty, on our next day of sitting, to give the reasons which had prompted him to do so, as a matter of privilege. He would thus have obeyed the Chair, would have shown himself what he usually is, namely, an honorable man, and would have cleared himself. Now he cannot do that. When an honorable senator disobeys the Chair he must either withdraw or continue in his disobedience.
– Then what does standing order 440 mean ?
– It covers other matters.
– It deals with this matter exclusively.
– Standing order 440 reads -
When any senator has been reported as having committed an offence, he shall be called upon to stand up in his place and make any explanation or apology he may think fit -
It is quite evident that there are circumstances in which a man may commit an offence for which he may be able to give anexplanation. But in this particular case there was a persistent defiance of the Chair by Senator Gardiner, and for such conduct there could be no explanation. If the President calls me to order again and again and again, no explanation on my part can wipe out my conduct. The only course open to me is to apologize like a man.
– An explanation is of no value when an apology is necessary.
-Colonel O’Loghlin. - But it is for the Senate to decide upon the guilt of an alleged offender, and not the President.
– The Senate did decide this matter. Senator O’Loghlin must be hard up for an argument. The whole incident occurred in the Senate, so that every honorable senator was conversant with all the circumstances connected with it. What explanation was necessary? Senator Gardiner has given no explanation to-day, and he gave none then.
– He gave one explanation to-day, and a most satisfactory one.
– Senator Gardiner did not attempt to apologize–
– I assert that I did apologize.
– Does the honorable senator say that the President did not accept his apology?
– Yes, and I will prove it when I rise to reply.
– Did not the President say -
Before putting that, I ask the honorable senator to reconsider his attitude and withdraw. and did not Senator Gardiner reply -
Before putting the question, Mr. President, can I say anything?
The honorable senator had done a wrong, and it was not for him to stand talking, but to repair the evil which he had done.
– Could I apologize without saying anything?
– The Judge asks a man in the dock whether he has anything to say.
– The Judge does not ask a pickpocket to explain why he put his hand in another man’s pocket and endeavoured to take out his purse. The whole question at issue is “ Was Senator Gardiner guilty of disobeying the Chair or not?” Hansard says that he was. Mr. President says that he was. The Senate says that he was. Thus we have three witnesses in this matter. As the honorable senator was guilty of an offence, there was only one course open to him, namely, to withdraw and apologize. The Senate cannot stultify itself by reversing the verdict which it gave on Thursday evening last. Nothing can conceal the fact that four times Senator Gardiner was asked to withdraw and apologize, and that four times he declined to do so.
.- I can deal with this matter, I think, in a dispassionate way, seeing that I was absent last week when this unfortunate incident occurred. As. a new senator, I wish to say that there is a considerable amount of ignorance existing in the Senate regarding our Standing Orders.
– It is even shared by the new senators.
– In this connexion, I recall an incident which occurred a week or two ago, when I had the audacity to attempt to quote from Hansard something which I had said during this session. I was desirous of correcting the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) on that occasion; but Senator Gardiner at once raised a point of order, and entered into an illegal and quite irregular conspiracy with my friend the Chairman of Committees (Senator Shannon)
– Order ! The honorable senator will not be in order in making statements of that kind.
– In the course of the present discussion, my attention has been drawn to standing order 414, which reads -
No senator shall read extracts from newspapers or other documents, except Hansard, referring to debates in the Senate during the same session.
According to that standing order, the action of Senator Gardiner–
– Order ! I ask the honorable senator to connect his remarks with the motion which is before the Chair.
– I am endeavouring to connect standing order 414 with the observation which I made early in the course of my remarks, that, apparently, very little is known of our Standing Orders in this Senate.
– Is it necessary to demonstrate that?
– Evidently the action taken by Senator Gardiner on the occasion to which I refer was quite wrong.
– Order! I would remind the honorable senator that that matter is not now under discussion.
– In view of what was sprung quite wrongfully on a new senator upon that occasion, how can Senator Gardiner expect me to exhibit any sympathy for him in his present position? Senator Keating has rightly said that Senator Millen slipped, the President slipped, and Senator Gardiner fell. But what happened to me a fortnight ago?
– The honorable senator was “ outed.”
– Exactly. Consequently, I have not any sympathy with this discussion. I have been an innocent victim. I shall certainly not allow a point of order, such as was taken against me a week or two ago, to pass unchallenged again, and I think that this debate might be well settled by our giving way a little all round.
– I am not going to apologize to the Senate for this debate. To me it has been very interesting. Further, I am going to relieve honorable senators of the impression that I have asked for their sympathy. I have not. They gave a wrong decision under our Standing Orders, and I ask them to do what they can to put themselves right. I should like to make that point perfectly clear. As Senator Keating has very well put it, Senator Millen slipped, the President slipped, and I fell.
– Suppose that the slip had not been made, would the honorable senator have done the right thing?
– What was the right thing?
– To apologize to the President.
– I have already said that I did so. I claim that I made a full, ample, and a manly apology. It is contained in the following record from Hansard: -
– I again appeal to Senator Gardiner. I do not wish to take further action’ Altogether, this incident is very regrettable. I will ask the honorable gentleman again to make the -usual amende to the President.
– If anything has been said, or if any conduct of mine has been offensive to you, sir, 1 am prepared to withdraw it; but 1 refuse to admit that I have done anything that could be considered offensive to the President.
– The last portion of the honorable senator’s statement spoilt the Test.
– Let us view this matter without feeling. Necessarily we view it always in the light of how we interpret our Standing Orders. Having listened to the debate, and having noted that it followed the line which it did, I took the trouble to turn up Chambers’ Dictionary for the purpose of ascertaining its definition of “ apology.” Several meanings are given : “ Something spoken to ward off an attack; a defence for justification; a frank acknowledgment of an offence.” Those are all different definitions of “ apology.” If I hold a different view of the meaning from some honorable senators, am I to be blamed ? I said I was willing to withdraw anything, but I would not admit I was wrong, and when this debate is over I shall still stand as firm in my conscience as I was then, that I was absolutely right in every step I took. Yon, Mr. President, gave the ruling that Senator Guy- was not to speak. Let me give your exact words, because, after all, this is where the whole trouble came in. Senator Guy rose and said, “Mr. President.” You said -
Order! The question, I think, has been sufficiently discussed by honorable senators.
That is what you said in calling Senator Guy to order.
– That is not all that the President said at that time.
– I have not quoted everything yet. You said -
I claim my right now to speak.
Then you went on -
The honorable senator, if he desires, will have an opportunity later.
Yon will believe me when I say that I did not hear you make that statement. Senator de Largie says he did not hear it at first, and Senator Guy was under the same impression, and so was Senator Thomas. I was under the impression that you were taking to yourself the power to close the debate. Senator Keating, who, having made his speech, appears to have gone home, has very cleverly said that I should have risen later on to a point of order. That is exactly what I was doing.
– Senator Keating did not say that that was the time to take the point of order.
– No, he said that I should have risen to a point of order later on, under the impression that had. I risen to a point of order I would have been listened to. Senator Millen has been trying to make out that on that occasion my language and manner were particularly offensive. If they were, they were never intended to be so.
– Not offensive, but defiant.
– Does Senator Keating say that you should have raised a point of order at the time you were being bundled out?
– You had a remarkably good chance of raising a point of order then!
– The honorable senator is quite right, but Senator Keating argued in that way. If I wanted support for what has always been my attitude in this House, never to allow irregularities in procedure to pass, although harmless in themselves, lest they acquire the force of precedents, it is furnished to me by Senator Pratten himself.
– But this was not an irregularity.
– I am not going to debate whether it was or was not. On a recent occasion Senator Pratten was quoting from Hansard. I took the point that he was out of order in quoting Hansard of an earlier part of the session. You upheld that point of order. It was no business of mine to interfere with Senator Pratten on that occasion, because he was attacking the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), and as Leader of the Opposition I should have revelled in that attack ; but I took the point of order in the desire that not even the slightest irregularity in debate should pass without question. I am not claiming that what I have just read was not your full statement. I simply say that I did not hear it, and Senators Thomas, de Largie, and Guy were under the same impression. It is, therefore, quite easy to understand that I was of the opinion that you had ruled that enough had been said, or, in your own words -
The question, I think, has been sufficiently discussed by honorable senators.
I was quite startled at such a ruling. I have never claimed to be too well acquainted with the Standing Orders, and when the question of dissent from your ruling came up suddenly, I went to you and asked you if the motion was open for discussion, and found that it was. I believed’ then that you had given a ruling that would take from the Senate its rights, and I admit that I was most persistent, but I was not offensive, with the exception of one unfortunate sentence to which I plead guilty. When you, sir, said I was offensive in interrupting you when you were on’ your feet, I said “ Good gracious, but you are never off your feet.” That was one of those flippant remarks that should, not have been made. I admit it, but can any honorable senator who has been in the hurly-burly of parliamentary life truly say that he has never uttered one sentence that is wrong ? If he oan, he is welcome to vote against me on this motion.
– If the honorable senator had spoken like this the other night that motion would never have been put.
– The honorable senator had not the opportunity to speak.
– That is the whole trouble. Senator Millen went out of his way to quote my misconduct on another question. On that occasion I admit that I lost my temper - a thing I rarely do, but I hope I shall never live to be so calm that I will not lose my temper when charged with untruthfulness. The cause of my anger on that occasion - and I venture to say it was an occasion when a man could be angry and sin not - was that Senator Millen accused me of untruthfulness. The honorable senator has brought that matter up, and used it against me in this debate. I am not going to discuss it, but let me appeal to the records. Senator Millen on that occasion said -
Then the honorable senator stands convicted of repeating untruths.
– Repeating them, yea - the untruth that lOd. per bushel was the freight.
– If the honorable senator’s mind is so subtle that he can see any but the one meaning in that interjection, mine is. not. Immediately Senator Millen rose and made the explanation that he did, I, without hesitation, accepted it, to the satisfaction of the Senate. I am not asking honorable senators to vote for me on this occasion, because they can do nothing for me. The victim of their injustice, having suffered all the indignities they can heap on him by injustice, but not under the laws and rules of the Senate, has nothing to complain of.
– Do you complain of the justice of the verdict? .
– I do. Any verdict given without the accused being heard in his defence is unjust. That assertion will stand the test in any Court of law. There is not a criminal in the community who, when he comes before a magistrate, is not given a full opportunity of answering the charge against him.
– But the honorable senator forgets that his offence was committed in the sight and in the hearing of the jury.
– Let us examine the justice of that remark, which well illustrates the frame of mind in which the Senate dealt with me. If a magistrate going down the street sees an offence committed, and the case afterwards comes before him, will he decide it on what he saw, or on the evidence brought before him ? Will he decide it without hearing the person charged?
– Was every one who voted to suspend you present when the incident took place?
– That is the point. I am not- pleading here as a criminal. I am putting before the Senate the right of honorable senators to protect themselves. What will happen if honorable senators give their votes on party grounds? Let me first clear away Senator Earle’s far-fetched argument, that matters happening in Committee, and not matters happening in the Senate, ‘are covered by standing order 440. Does Senator Earle argue that there is one line of procedure as regards asking an offending senator for an apology and explana- tion in the Committee, and another in the Senate ?
– My argument is that the instruction to some person to call upon the offending senator to explain or apologize does not apply when that offence is committed in the presence of the person who is presiding.
– That is very easily answered, because the President, after putting up with what honorable senators are pleased to exaggerate into defiance on my part, very properly gave me an opportunity to apologize. If standing up for our rights is defiance, honorable senators will find that I am fairly defiant whenever our rights are being taken from us. The President gave me that opportunity after the matter had gone some considerable distance, and after refusing to hear me on a point of order. I say this with all due respect to him. I rose to a point of order, and was not given a hearing, and he also refused to accept from me a motion to dissent from his ruling. All these things, that are called “ defiance,” are the mere step-by-step statements of what I did. On that occasion not one defiant or angry feeling entered my mind. All I wished to assert was that the President had no right to close the debate. When you, sir, found I had gone so far, and when you took my remark as offensive, you threatened me; you said -
Order! The Standing Orders compel me now to take a certain course.
I said, “ Then take that course,” and you said -
I will. I report Senator Gardiner to the Senate for continued disobedience to the Chair.
I say to honorable senators: Please, do not think I am pleading for myself ; I am pleading for the Standing Orders.
– We used to play that game when we were boys !
– I will not reveal to the Senate the games my honorable friend has played since he ceased to be a boy. Mr. President reported me to the Senate, and the standing order under which I was reported provides that when any honorable senator has been reported as having committed an offence, he shall be called upon to stand in his place and make any explanation or apology he may think fit. I appeal to you, sir, and I feel sure that you will answer my appeal justly, to say whether the opportunity was given to me to make any apology or explanation I might think fit. You did give me an opportunity to apologize, but I think you will be just enough to say that the opportunity to explain was not given.” I may well take your silence, sir, as an admission that I have fairly stated that incident. The Senate said I was guilty of an offence, but my only offence on that occasion was to stand up, not for my own rights, but for the right of the Senate as against what I took to be your action in closing the debate. Your words that I heard on that occasion meant that you were closing the debate. Had I heard your next sentence, nobody would have more readily accepted it than myself. Senator Senior or Senator Reid said I was offered three opportunities of exercising my right under the Standing Orders. Here is how those opportunities were received : You, Mr. President, called upon me to withdraw. The report again shows my frame of mind - that I was not angry or insolent. I said -
From the beginning, Mr. President, you have been under a misapprehension. You take offence where none is intended. Senator Guy had risen to speak. You had - quite in an improper way-
Instantly you interrupted me. I got no further. My intention was to say that Senator Guy had risen to speak, and that you, in quite an improper way, declared that the matter had been sufficiently debated by honorable senators, and refused him that right. I can quite understand that those words, taken by themselves, annoyed you. I make every allowance for your irritation at my conduct; but if any man can see anything offensive in that, all I can say is that I do not envy him his frame of mind. Senator Keating with his flippant “ You have fallen,” suggests that my fall was due to a slip by the President or the Leader of the Senate, but he says it is too late now to remove the injustice. I take also Senator Milieu’s statement that I should have moved to rescind the resolution, and T reply that the only way that I could bring this matter to a debate to-day was by producing Hansard, and asking that the question be again considered by the Senate. As Senator Thomas has said, we have excellent Standing Orders, which provide that when there is irritation between the Chair and honorable senators, and when the dispute has been carried to such an extent that the President says, “ I shall report the honorable senator to the Senate,” time should be given for deliberation and consideration before the indignity of being removed is placed upon any honorable senator. Let me read standing order 440.
– At that stage were you refused the opportunity of an explanation ?
– Yes, I was never given an opportunity.
– You never asked for it.
– If the honorable senator is going to quibble like that I shall have nothing further to say to him ; but I point out that the decision of the Senate to-day will establish a prece dent, and if honorable senators say that I was not entitled to be called upon for an explanation before removal, I can only point to the standing order which says that an honorable senator may make - any explanation or apology he may think fit.
– The practice adopted in the honorable senator’s case has been the practice followed in both Houses since Federation was established.
– That may be so, because we did not know the Standing Orders.
– This is what; the procedure should be under standing order 440, which reads -
Whenany senator has been reported as having committed an offence, he shall be called upon to stand up in his place and make any explanation or apology he may think fit. . .
Senator de Largie asks did I rise and ask for an opportunity to make an explanation ? I can say, openly and honestly that I sat in my place waiting for this measure of justice to be meted out to me. But it was not given to me. What happened ? When Senator Millen moved the motion of suspension, I thought the President would call upon me to make any explanation or apology, but he did not. The motion was moved by Senator Millen in this way - “ That Senator Gardiner be suspended from this sitting of the Senate.”
Isubmit the motion without any comment.
– I second the motion.
– The question is, that Senator Gardiner be suspended from the sitting of the Senate. Before putting that, I ask the honorable senator to reconsider his attitude and withdraw.
– Before putting the question, Mr. President, can I say anything ?
If honorable senators want to get at the truth of what happened the other evening they should bear in mind that when Senator Millen submitted his motion,and the President asked me to reconsider my attitude and withdraw, he was not asking for an explanation. I asked if I would be allowed to say anything before the motion was put, and this is the Hansard report of what followed -
– Upon such a motion there must be no debate.
– What do you ask?
Is that offensive? .
– I _ask the honorable senator to withdraw the expression which he used towards the Chair.
– I am quite prepared to follow vour directions in any way you- like, to withdraw anything you consider offensive, to withdraw anything in connexion with this Senate. But I certainly must claim the right to protect myself.
Even there I was protecting myself by affirming that the Senate had no right to take a vote upon my conduct except in accordance with standing order 440. I knew that under it no drastic action could be taken without the honorable senator concerned being heard. And I remind the Senate that quite a number of other honorable senators have been in the same position; and I believe that while the Senate exists there will be found members sufficiently strong in their beliefs to fight for their lights when occasion demands. I appeal therefore to honorable senators not to allow -a wrong interpretation to be placed upon this standing order. I recognise that, on. many occasions, I may have said things offensive to honorable senators. We have had Senator Pratten reminding me that because I had taken a point of order upon him on one occasion, he was justified now in taking one upon me. That is a nice judicial frame of mind to bring to bear upon a question of this kind! On the other hand, there are. those who, like Senator Keating, say that because the President or the Leader of the Senate had made a slip, and I was suspended, it was too late to remedy the matter now. But I will be quite satisfied if the Senate will carry the motion I have submitted, in order to secure for other honorable senators in the future this right which is extended to them under our Standing Orders.
– We may be sure they will all enjoy this right in the future because of the fight you are putting up now.
– Then Senator Gardiner’s object will have been attained.
– I will be quite satisfied if, as a result of what I have said, the position is made so plain that, for the future, honorable senators will not, in their hurry to remove an offending senator, neglect to observe the Standing Orders of this Senate.
– Can the honorable senator say that there was any hurry about it? The President was pleading with him to apologize for fully a quarter of an hour.
– I am sorry the Minister persists in this strain. He says that the President was pleading with me for fully a quarter of an hour. Why, the whole business–
– The whole business was an appeal to the honorable senator to put himself in order with the Chair.
– I do not expect that Senator Millen will vote with me on this occasion, nor do I expect support from Senator Reid.
– Do you expect me?
– I expect to receive the vote of every honorable senator who has the slightest regard for the Standing Orders. There can be no excuse, except a determination to split straws, for inflicting this injustice upon me.
– Well -merited justice.
– Is that the Minister’s judgment of the incident?
– It is the judgment of the Senate.
– Any criminal may have a well-merited sentence imposed upon him, but he should have the right to show that it has been imposed in accordance with the law of the land.
– I thought the honorable senator did not impugn the justice of the decision, but the technicalities of procedure.
– I say that not only was I not offensive, but that I offered an ample apology to the President. It stands there in Hansard. There can be no getting away from it. It was as full, ample, and as earnest an apology as has ever been offered by any honorable senator ; but that was not sufficient. And now I bring additional evidence in substantiation of my manly and straightfor ward statement, and. to show that the action of the Senate in expelling me was not in accordance with standing order 440. If honorable senators are prepared to smile, as Senator Senior is smiling, or if they are prepared to wriggle out of the difficulty as Senator Earle wriggles out of it by suggesting that the standing order refers to procedure in Committee, I can say no more. If Senator Earle maintains that the standing order refers to the Committee, I will ask him to read other standing orders as to the Committee, and see if they can be applied to the Senate. I say I was removed under a misapprehension’ by honorable senators, who, in their hurry, or in their excitement - I do not care what they call it - did something which the standing order does not permit them to do. I decline to accept the narrow interpretation which some honorable senators wish toplace upon the apology that was expected of me. I regard an apology made byme as a defence, or explanation, if need be, of my conduct. If, however, honorable senators want to drag the Senate down to the level of a bully, or an overseer of a gang of slaves who recognises no restriction, they may do so; but I can assure the Senate that while I am here I will use all the powers I possess to object to any course of action that is fraught with danger to the Senate.
The President himself admitted that standing order 440 had not been fully carried out because, according to him, I should have been called upon by the mover of the motion for suspension to make an explanation or apology. But Senator Millen disputes this with the President. He denies that this is the duty of the Minister submitting the motion. I say that if, by my action, I have made clear what standing order 440 means, so that in future any other honorable senator may not slip, or be pushed out, something will have been achieved . It is clear and . unmistakable in its language, and definite in its direction. I never dreamt that when the proceedings had reached the stage of my being reported to the Senate, I would not be called upon to make an apology or explanation. Had that been done, I believe that my explanation would have removed any necessity for the subsequent action of the Senate, which thus placed an indignity upon me. I feel, as every other man feels when suffering an injustice, and I shall carry that sense of injustice to my grave. That may not concern some honorable senators very much; but I am satisfied that if any honorable senator who is listening to me now, and with all the knowledge of. the facts before him, puts party bitterness before judicial judgment, he will be committing a grave wrong. That, at all events, will be the interpretation which the public will place upon this incident. What other construction can be put upon the whole affair than that party bias overruns honest judgment, when the public read such facts as these: First, that the President acknowledged that the Standing Orders were not carried out, but that it was not his fault, and that the Leader of the Senate should have done so; second, that the Leader of the Senate held that the President should have done it ; and, third, that Senator Keating, with his legal mind, held that both the President and the Leader of the Senate slipped, but that he could not remedy it?
-You are putting it technically first, and ignoring the merits.
– -The President frequently impresses upon us that he is the custodian of the rights of the Senate, and that the purpose ofthe Standing Orders is to enable him to secure those rights.
– And had you been given your rghts under the Standing Orders, the result wouldnot have been that the Senate suspended you.
– The position is that if effect had been given in accordance with the Standing Orders–
– It was a verdict without hearing the defence.
– Yes ; and I am asking the Senate to reverse that verdict. I am asking honorable senators to meet the whole situation in such a way that, as years go by, no one of them will have to say that, in the heat of party spirit, he lent himself to a verdict which was not in accordance with justice.
The knowledge that I have been fighting for the rights of all honorable senators against what I consider a wrong ruling, is strengthened by the fact that, in the course of this debate, no honorable senator has denied that I was removed from this chamber outside the Standing Orders. No honorable gentleman has dared to say that the Standing Orders were complied with. I appeal to the laws of the Senate, which you, gentlemen, yourselves have made, and which you insist upon the President carrying out. If you have found fault with my attitude outside of the laws governing the debates of this Chamber, and have unwittingly punished me, then, though you must realize that you cannot withdraw the punishment, you can still admit the justice of my claim that I was condemned unheard. I ask you, therefore, to reverse that verdict - to remove it. I would ask for an even more complete removal, but that I know that I would not be in order in doing so now. However, this would be ample for myself. There has not been an honorable senator who has spoken but who has admitted that a wrong has been done me.
– I have not admitted that there has beena wrong done to you.
– The honorable senator brings a mind to bear on these debates which I would not dream of interpreting.
– That is your misfortune.
– I will except Senator Earle from all other honorable senators who have spoken, and who recognise that that part of standing order 440, which makes it imperative, when a charge is levelled against a member of the Senate, that he shall be given an opportunity to make an explanation or apology, was not carried out. There is no other honorable senator who will say that I was given such an opportunity. That being so, I leave it entirely in the hands of the Senate to do what little justice it can. It should remove the injustice which it did me on Thursday last, not that that will benefit me - for I do not ask for sympathy - but that this Chamber shall say that outside the Standing Orders no man shall be punished. I ask that the Senate, apart from personal feeling or party bias, shall sit , in judgment as to whether, under the standing order by which I was removed, I was given the full rights to which I was entitled. Honorable senators are in no way excited now. There is no argument between the President and one whom honorable senators might consider a defiant member. If honorable senators are not prepared to undo the injustice to myself, or to do themselves the credit of saying that they gave their judgment, not on the merits of my conduct - for I have been punished for that - but that I was adjudged guilty outside of the Standing Orders, then the responsibility must rest with them throughout the years. If the Standing Orders were not complied with, and if honorable senators refuse to amend their action in the matter, they will be setting , a precedent the effect of which they may ignore to-day; but will not be able to do so for ever. Never had a body of men a better opportunity of reversing an unjust verdict. The injustice of that verdict is not hurtful to myself, but to the men who have given it.
– You still ignore the merits, and rely on the technical point.
– I rely on the law of the Senate that such cases are dealt with under the Standing Orders. Senator Keating has admitted that the Senate did not comply with the Standing Orders.
– But you should have taken the point at the opportunity which was afforded.
– When he was being bundled out?
– That would have been about my only chance. It was for taking a point of order that all this trouble arose. I was not heard on that point of order. When I desired to dissent from the President’s ruling I was again refused a hearing. If Senator Keating, therefore, can shelter himself behind the statement that I did not take the point when opportunity was afforded me, he has done me another injustice. The injustice of the original decision was that it was contrary to the Standing Orders. My conduct does not come into the matter at all.
– It is your conduct that will be affected by this motion.
– It will not be affected by it, because nothing can be done to me.I have fallen because the Standing Orders were not given effect to, and, incidentally, because Senator Keating, with all his legal knowledge, permitted the procedure of the Senate to continue along a line with regard to which he now condemns both the Presidentand the Leader of the Senate. Senator Keating has as much right to protect and preserve the procedure of the Senate as the President or the Leader of the Senate. Senator Keating admits the justice of my claim–
– The fact of this motion being carried would be to whitewash you.
– If the honorable senator has that on his mind, I do not want him to consider it. In my full and ample apology to the President, which I was prepared , to make when I indicated that I was willing to withdraw anything offensive, I showed that I wanted no whitewashing.
– Well, if everybody admits everything, why keep on arguing?
– I do so because I am a little afraid that party bias will turn f air play and justice aside, when those qualities should be the pre-requisite of the Senate.
I leave it now to honorable senators to remember that when they record their votes I shall be neither elevated nor depressed by the manner of their decision. Sufficient to sustain me is the justice of my cause, and I trust that honorable senators, in giving their judgment, will know that they have done so in the interests of the maintenance of justice and of the Standing Orders.
Question - That the record of the proceedings regarding Senator Gardiner’s suspension on 16th May be removed from the Journals of the Senate and Hansard - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I have to intimate to the Senate that I have received the following letter from SenatorFairbairn
The President, the Senate, Melbourne.
Dear Sir, - It is with much regret that I find that the pressure of my many public duties and my private work compels me to retire from the Committee of Public Accounts. I have explained the details of my reasons to my fellow members of the Public Accounts Committee, and I am pleased to say that they quite recognise that I am unable to give this Committee the time that it requires.
I have to remind honorable senators that, the Public Accounts Committee being an honorary Committee, there is an obligation upon those appointed to it to carry out the duties imposed by their appointment. It is not in accordance with the practice of the Senate that members of such Committees should resign. The practice is that they should ask that they may be relieved of the duties of the position. Such a request is, of course, never refused.It is for the Senate to say whether it will accede to Senator Fairbairn’s desire or not.
– I think that the Senate will accept the letter which has just been read by the President as a request by Senator Fairbairn to be relieved of his duties as a member of the Public Accounts Committee. I therefore move -
That, at his request, Senator Fairbairn be discharged from attending the Committee of Public Accounts.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Winter Butter Pool, 1917 : Statement of Profit and Loss.
Public Service Act 1902-1916.- Thirteenth Report on the Commonwealth Public Service, by the Acting Commissioner.
Rabbit Skins - Trust Fund : Statement of Receipts and Expenditure from 7th to 30th June, 1917, and from 1st July, 1917, to 19th February 1918.
Employment of Returned Soldiers - Report of Board of Trustees
-Is the Minister for Repatriation aware of the fact that, during the last few weeks, in Brisbane, in connexion with the Soldiers’ Instructional Bureau, there has been a dispute regarding the appointment of a civilian to the position of general manager of the bureau? Is the Minister aware that, as a result of that dispute, the State Minister for Public Instruction has closed the bureau, and that approximately seventy returned soldiers are thrown out of employment because . of his action ? Will the Minister say what action he proposes to take in regard to the future of these men?
– The institution referred to by Senator Foll is not under the control of the Repatriation Department. It was originated by private effort, and subsequently passed to the control of the State Government, through the Education Department. In view of recent developments, I have communicated with Brisbane to ascertain the possibility of bringing the institution under the control of the Repatriation Department.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether, in view of the expressed wish of returned soldiers in Queensland, that all offices shall, where possible, be filled by returned soldiers, he is prepared to give effect to that wish in respect of the Repatriation Committee, and have none but returned soldiers upon it?
– The policy of the Government with regard to State Boards and Committees set out in the Repatriation Act has not been varied.
– I ask the Minister to say whether, in view of the expression of opinion by returned soldiers in Queensland, he will take the action I have indicated?
– I do not propose to vary the Act.
– I ask whether the Minister will introduce an amendment of the Act to enable him to give effect to the expressed wish of the returned soldiers that only returned men should administer repatriation affairs.
– I have no intention to introduceany measure of the kind. I remind Senator Gardiner that, had he wished to do what he suggests, he had an opportunity to do so when the Bill amending the Repatriation Act was before this Chamber a few days ago.
– In view of the Minister’s reply, I ask him whether he is not aware that I moved an amendment to that effect when the original Bill was before the Senate?
– In conformity with standing order No. 36, I move -
That the paper presented on 1st May : “ Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Fund Act 1916: Report of the Board of Trustees of Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Fund, March, 1918,” be printed.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– My chief object in rising is to ascertain whether on this motion I shall be in order in discussing matters generally relating to repatriation, or whether I shall be confined to the specific matter mentioned in the paper which has been laid upon the table ?
– The rule is that an honorable senator must not go beyond the subject mentioned in the paper.
– That being the case, I shall not proceed further. I desire to say something in respect of repatriation, but as I am not sure that the particular subject to which I wish to refer is mentioned in the paper, I shall reserve my remarks for another occasion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Numberof Enlistments - Reenlistment of Officers - Age of Enlistment and Parental Consent
– A week or two ago I asked the Minister for Defence certain questions relating to the number of recruits who had enlisted for active service overseas. I should like to know whether the honorable gentleman is yet in a position to supply me with answers?
– The questions asked by the honorable senator were as follow : - 1.What is the total number of men enlisted and passed for active service from 1st January, 1918, to 1st April, or later? ‘
Of this number, how many are -
What is the number of children dependent upon (c) ?
The answers to them are: -
(a) 76; (b) 4,562; (c) 1,082.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether it is a fact that at the present time an officer who has been returned from the Front is allowed to go back there only on condition that he reenlists as a private.; and, if so, whether it is not a waste of a man’s talents to oblige him - after having won a commission - to revert to the ranks?
– What the honorable senator states is a fact,for the reason that we must not send officers back to the Front unless specially requested to do so by the General Officer Commanding. Obviously, if officers are invalided here and we send them back in the absence of such a request, we may find on their arrival there that they are not required, in which case they will be again returned to Australia. But the General Officer Commanding has, at different times, requested that an officer who has been sent back to Australia should be returned. Obviously, it is better that he should do that than that we should send back officers without reference to him.
– Is it not a fact that some of the officers have already reenlisted and gone back as privates?
– I am not in possession of information to that effect, but what the honorable senator says is quite probable.
– Can the Minister for Defence inform me whether the Government propose to reconsider their decision in regard to accepting, without the consent of their parents, recruits for active service abroad between the ages of eighteen and nineteen years?
– The matter to which the honorable senator refers is now under the consideration of the Government. I expect to he able to make a statement as to their decision either tomorrow or on Friday.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council if he has any information regarding the question which I asked several days ago as to whether the Government are prepared to put America, in regard to the importation of soap, on the same plane as Japan and our other Allies ?
– I have received from the Minister for Customs the following reply: -
I desire to inform you that it is not proposed to review this matter. It is the wish of the Imperial Government that the prohibition of the importation of soap from the United States of America should be maintained, and the Government is acting accordingly.
Seizure of Documents
– I should like to know whether the Minister for Defence has yet received any answer to the question which I asked some days ago relative to the seizure of certain documents at the Italian Club, Melbourne?
– The honorable senator, in asking his question, quoted a letter which was signed by B. Santamaria, secretary of the Italian Club, Melbourne, which contained the statement that “ The military authorities yesterday (Tuesday, 14th instant) visited the above premises and seized all the printed petition forms and a number of other papers. We Italians now feel that we are helpless to express our protestation against the introduction for Italians if our right of petition is to be taken from us. We appeal to you to assist us to retain this right, which, we believe, is recognised as an institution in the Commonwealth of Australia.” The honorable senator wished to know if that information was correct and whether this action had been taken with the consent of the Government. The reply is as follows: -
A search was made by the military authorities upon the premises of the Italian Club, and certain documents of an incriminating nature were seized. Among such documents were found forms of a petition, all of which were unsigned. A return of these blank forms was offered to the representative of the Italian Club if he would give an undertaking not to disseminate the matter before referred to.
The blank forms of the petition are now in the hands of the military authorities.
Select Committee on Intoxicating Liquors.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I had intended to make it on Thursday last when I was dealing with the motion for the adoption of the report of the Select Committee on Intoxicating Liquors but for the fact that on that occasion you ruled me out of order. I wish to reply to statements which, upon your authority, have appeared in one of the leading temperance newspapers, and which, to my mind, rather reflect upon me personally. In order to be quite accurate I propose to read exactly what you said upon the occasion in question. You said -
I remember reading some time ago that Senator Thomas, who attaches wonderful importance to this Committee, of which he was the originator, was adversely criticised for originating this Committee by a leading temperance newspaper, which usually supports him, on the score that he was merely trying to save his face because he had supported the Government in the suppression of the Fiddler and Defeat, two pamphlets which had been suppressed by the Government censor.
I may say that I have not seen that statement in any temperance newspaper. But no doubt you read a great many more temperance newspapers than I do. Whilst I have not seen the statement in any temperance newspaper, some reference of that character was made by Senator Gardiner when speaking in this chamber on the 10th January last on the occasion upon which I moved for the appointment of that Select Committee. The honorable senator then stated that the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) and myself were taking certain action to make ourselves right with the temperance people, because we had voted in favour of the censorship of the Fiddler and Defeat. But I would point out that Senator Gardiner’s motion dealing with those publications was submitted on the 25th September last year, and that I had given notice of my motion for the appointment of the Select Committee on the 13th September of that year. As a matter of fact, that motion appeared upon the businesspaper of the Senate on the following day. It will be seen, therefore, that I had anticipated by twelve days the vote which I cast on the 25th September. I mention these facts in order to remove from your mind any suspicion that I moved for the appointment of the Committee merely for the purpose of whitewashing myself with the temperance party and also to make myself right with my temperance friends. I thank the Senate for allowing me to make this explanation, and in anticipation I thank you for the name of the newspaper to which you referred in order that I may communicate with it.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Millen) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Millen) read a first time.
– Can the Minister representing the Treasurer say whether it is a fact that a small mistake of about £19,000,000 was made in the statement of the finances put before the country by the Treasurer last week?
– I ask the honorable senator to give notice of that small question.
– I do not want to give notice if you do not know.
– I do not know anything of it.
Freight on Wheat to London.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers are -
– Arising out of the answer, the Minister has evidently misunderstood the question. I asked what was the cost of carrying wheat to London in 1916. The Minister gives me some answer about no steamer being chartered. All I wanted to know was the freights for carrying wheat. I direct the Minister’s attention to that point.
Wool Stores, Wentworth Park
asked the Min- isterfor Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
– The answers are -
asked the Min ister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– I desire to have the last kick at this measure before it gets out of reach. I shall protest at every opportunity anywhere and anyhow against the taking away ofpark lands from the people by the Government. I know nothing at all of any dealing in connexion with this land that has not been perfectly honest, and am opposing the Bill purely on the principle that there are not enough breathing spaces around the thicklypopulated suburbs for the people who are there now. I have seen too much of this sort of thing.We have heard of a promise that the people of Leichhardt will get another piece of land. I have heard promises of that kind given before, but in not one instance have they been carried out, and that applies especially to the very district where this land is. I have seen these reclaimed areas - of which there are three, and this is one of them - dedicated to the people for all time, and handed over to trustees. We clapped our hands, raised a cheer, and said, “These are ours for all time.” One of them has gone for good; there is not an inch left of it. The best part of another has gone for five years, and now this one will be gone for evermore. It has been argued that no protest has been entered by the Municipal Council of Leichhardt. Probably not, and even if the Municipal Council were in favour of the Bill,I would still consider it my duty to stand up and protest against it, but the council are favorable to it only for one reason, and that is that they think they will get a better site. No promise of any description has been given to lead them to that conclusion. They are only going on the word of an officer, who made a promise to them that other land would be made available. The town clerk of Leichhardt, after having seen certain New South Wales members on the subject, put the position in writing in this way: -
Referring to the interview of His Worship the Mayor and myself with you this morning respecting the matter of the acquisition of certain park lands in this municipality by the Commonwealth Government, I am directed to inform you that this council did not formally protest against such resumption, as it understood that, at the date of the receipt of the first intimation thereof, the transaction had been completed, that is to say, the departmental communication covering such intimation was under date 10th April, 1918, whilst the specific proclamation of the acquisition was published in the Commonwealth Gazette of 18th March. Some day or two only before l’Oth April an officer of the Government interviewed the mayor on the subject, and gave him to understand that due compensation would be made by the Government in respect of the area thus taken. For these reasons the council did not consider that a protest would be effective. Although it waa, and is, most emphatically of opinion that the Commonwealth should provide another area for. public recreation purposes in lieu of that resumed, so that the park lands of this closely populated municipality shall not be curtailed. When it is remembered that the population of the municipality is over 30,000, and that it now has but one recreation ground (exclusive of the one under notice), and that at the extreme northern end of the area, the importance of this aspect will be apparent. It is recognised that difficulty may be experienced in securing another area of the size in the municipality, and I am. therefore, to suggest that the substitution might take the form of the conversion of the area known as the Balmain Cemetery into a recreation ground. That area comprises some tcn acres, situated at Nortonstreet, Leichhardt, in about the centre of the municipality. For many years the cemetery has been closed against burials, and the grave’s and area generally are in a dilapidated and unkept condition. It is in a main thoroughfare traversed by a tram-line, and is right in the heart of dense population; so that from all points of view its continuance is very detrimental to the locality. The area is at present %’ested in this council, subject to certain restrictions as to its use, which might possibly, in the hands of the council, require adjustment by State legislation, and, further, the removal of bodies therefrom would have to be provided for; but, on the other hand, the purchase of land would be avoided. It is felt that such matters should not be incapable of adjustment, and I am, therefore, to suggest it to you as a practical means of overcoming the difficulty referred to.
If the Leichhardt council thought they were going to lose this site for good, and not get another one, I do not think they would be in favour of the Bill. I believe they are going to lose the land for good, and I do not think they will get the other site. If the Government will give me a promise that they will hand over to the council the other ground mentioned, or get it for them, my objection will cease, but I have seen too much of this grabbing of .the public parks. The first thought that some public men have is to take away public reserves, even though for years before they entered Parliament they proclaimed that the health of the people was the one thing above ali others that they would safeguard. “We must have breathing spaces for the people,” they cried, but as soon as the people get a little breathing space, the Government come along and annex it - steal it - and I have never known one case where the people have been compensated. If the Government will say, “We will bear the expense of removing the bodies from the old cemetery, and give the land to the people for a park,” I will raise no further objection, but so far no promise has been given by the Commonwealth Government, the State Government, or anybody else. I therefore protest against the passage of the Bill. I hope the people of Leichhardt will get another area. If they do not, my words will be on record as uttering a last protest possible against, the alienation of the public parks that are so essential to the growth of our young nation. It is only too sad to find the present difficulty of child-raising, and it is also sad to contemplate the amount of diseased life in this Australia of ours, where there should be none. The keeping of the children out of their playgrounds, their air spaces, is one of the things that tends to assist the spread of disease, and I shall never be one, no matter where I am nor what the consequences are, to assist any Government in purloining the public parks from the people, and injuring the health of their children.
– I purpose^ yoting for the Government on the third reading, but I shall do so with a good deal of reluctance. It is unfortunate that with all the land we have in Australia, the Government have to fall back upon a public park for a site for an Ordnance Store for the Defence Department.
– It is only technically a park; it was dedicated in February last.
– That may be so. H it were only dedicated a fortnight ago if it has been used for public purposes and as a breathing space, it is most unfortunate that the Government should find it necessary to take it.
– The Minister of Lands has promised, on behalf of the New South Wales Government, that the money shall be devoted to purchasing other land for the Leichhardt Council.
– I shall vote for the third reading on the distinct understanding that the Government will provide a park of equal value for the public of Leichhardt. If they do that I shall be quite satisfied. Later on, we shall have another opportunity of dealing’ with the question when we are asked to vote the’ money necessary for the building, and if by that time another open space has not been definitely provided for the people of Leichhardt quite equal to the space now being taken, I shall feel called upon to vote against the putting up of the building.
– Vote against the third reading now, and make sure of it.
– I will vote for the third reading of the Bill, with the proviso that if a piece of ground of equal value for the health and benefit of the people is not provided, I shall hold myself open, at a later stage, to vote against the erection of any buildings on the land.
– At an earlier stage in the discussion on this measure I endeavoured to extract from the Minister in charge (Senator Pearce) a definite statement with regard to the prospect of another breathing space being secured for the residents of Leichhardt, but I was not successful. To-night the Minister has made a statement on the subject, but, in my judgment, it is not sufficiently definite. Under this proposal the Government intend to resume one of the few remaining 0,pen spaces surrounding the waters of the harbor in the municipality of Leichhardt. It is not proposed to appropriate the land for a limited period, but for all time, and I am satisfied that if the opinion of the residents of Leichhardt were asked on this subject they would give an emphatic “ no “ to it. The local council, I understand, are prepared to abandon the reserve on the understanding that the Government will agree to make available, for recreation purposes, another area nearer the centre of the municipality.
– But without a water frontage.
– This whittling away of our public parks is most deplorable. To-night we were told that a considerable area of Wentworth Park had been taken over for a period of five years. Does any one imagine that if expensive buildings are erected on that property they will be removed at the end of five years? Certainly not. We know very well, from long experience, that whenever a park land is taken temporarily for any public purpose it is gone for all time, so far as the people are concerned. I do not know of a single instance, in Sydney at all events, of a public park, taken for temporary purposes, that has not been lost to the people for all time. Many fights have been put up against this policy of appropriating park lands, but, despite all protests, bowling greens and other similar institutions have been allowed to encroach upon these areas until finally a very considerable portion of our parks has been appropriated. Only recently, and in spite of strong objections, an area of Hyde Park was resumed in order to make one of the city thoroughfares wider, and, following upon that, the Government of New South Wales fenced in an area, apparently for the purpose of constructing a railway line. But while the railway is not being proceeded with, the fences are still there, and the public are shut off from that section of the park. This policy has been pursued in connexion with other parks as well. I am entirely opposed to the area referred to in this Bill being appropriated for all time. It is an excellent site for a public park - one of the very best in the municipality - and at the present time it is not encumbered with any buildings. 1 shall vote against the third reading of the Bill. At the same time I would like to get from the Minister a clear understanding as to the prospect of acquiring another park in the municipality and how the money is to be disposed of.
There is just one other phase of the question which up to the present has not been touched upon. It will be within the recollection of honorable senators that it is not competent for local authorities to tax land belonging to the Commonwealth. The land upon which the head office of the Commonwealth Bank is situated, at the corner of Moore and Pitt streets, Sydney, is not liable to taxation by the Sydney City Council, but I understand that the Governor of the Bank has agreed, without prejudice, to pay to the council the sum of £1,000 annually. The Leichhardt Council, if this Bill is proceeded with, will have a considerable area transferred outside of their taxing authority, so I would like to know if the Minister for Defence is prepared to take the necessary steps to recoup the local council any loss in taxation, in somewhat the same way as has been done by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank.
– As I happened to have been a mayor of the adjoining municipality, I regret I cannot go all the way with the opposition to this Bill. I know the locality very well, and, while expressing every sympathy with the opposition that has been shown, and which, I hope, will always be shown to the acquisition of park lands in any part of Australia, it seems to me that members of the Opposition are, in this instance, making a mountain out of a mole-hill. The area affected by the Bill has been reclaimed from a shallow part of the Parramatta River,or the Iron Cove section of it, and it has only recently been gazetted as a park. It has also been cut off from the centre of population by a railway.
-That is not correct.
– I am sure, if honorable senators could only see this section of land in Leichhardt which it is proposed to acquire, they would realize at once that it would be very much to the advantage of the local Municipal Council to have, as an exchange, a park area in the centre of the municipality, as has been suggested, by acquiring the cemetery area than by clinging to the land under review. I had some communication with the Leichhardt Council on this subject very early in the history of this movement. In their replies to me they said, in effect, that they noted the intention of the Commonwealth Government to resume the land, and were seeking compensation elsewhere. I understand that compensation was promised them, and that the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) to-night has also definitely undertaken, on behalf of the Government, that the money paid for this area shall be ear-marked for a further open space somewhere in Leichhardt.
Whatever space is acquired in lieu of the areaunder review must be nearer the centre of population, as this site is practically in the western corner. There is a park in the adjoining municipality, called Robson Park, 10 acres in extent. This is one of the pretty points of the Parramatta River. While believing in the principle that public parks should not be taken by the Commonwealth Government unless under duress, I would ask honorable’ senators to remember that we are at war, and that, in the case of portion of the Wentworth Park and the area under review, we are bound to do something, because this course of action is being forced upon us by the circumstances of the war.
– This is not a war measure.
– It is for the acquisition of land for the purpose of erecting Ordnance Stores in connexion with the Defence Department.
– After the war is over.
– The Bill would not have been forced upon us but for the occurrence of the war, and, therefore, I ask honorable senators to get this matter in proper perspective. The area concerned is flat, reclaimed land, once part of a muddy area, in the extreme west of Leichhardt, and I am satisfied that, if an open space is given to the local governing body nearer the centre of population, it would be much more to the advantage of the people of Leichhardt and the western suburbs. I reiterate that, as I have created 20 acres of park land in the adjoining municipality, I can claim to have equal sympathy with any other member of this Chamber with the great principle of providing open-air spaces for the denizens of our crowded cities. But on this matter I believe that a quid pro quo will be obtained by the Leichhardt Council, and I understand that the members of that body, who are the responsible representatives in this matter, are not complaining.
– I again protest against any park lands - no matter where they may be situated - being taken by the Government. There is absolutely no necessity, in my opinion, for the erection of Ordnance Stores at Leichhardt, because the
George-street site is one ofthe finest in the world. It is alongside Circular Quay, and a conveyor belt would take all the material from ships straight into the Stores. I cannot understand what purpose the Government have in mind for abandoning the Circular Quay premises, which are on the most valuable site in Australia. Then again we have Garden Island. What is the matter with that? It has been used by the Imperial Government for the last 100 years.
– For naval purposes.
– For Naval Stores and Ordnance Stores.
– Naval stores ordinarily are not distributed on land.
– They were, all the time the Imperial authorities used those premises. If the Minister will look up the history of New South Wales, he will find that the whole distribution has been done from Garden Island. There is another site, one of the best in the world for Ordnance Stores - the old Admiralty house at Kirribilli Point. Alongside that property there is a wool store eight or ten stories in height. I cannot understand why the authorities did not select that site instead of going on to a mud bank. This is one of the absolutely unnecessary expenses of the Commonwealth Government in maintaining that property whilst doing nothing with it. It is a site second to none in the world for the erection of Ordnance Stores, and we are making no use of it. But private enterprise next door has wool stores which contain a passage where barges go right underneath and discharge their cargoes inside the premises.
Senator Pratten is in favour of the Ordnance Stores being built at Leichhardt, but is he aware of the nature of the foundations that will have to be laid? The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), when the relative merits of Dalgety and Canberra were being discussed as the site for the future capital of Australia, told us, out of the fullness of his experience as a builder, that it would not be possible for a building to be erected at Canberra, because foundations could not be put down there.
– Are you not drawing the long bow?
– No; that is what the Minister for Defence said in his advocacy of Dalgety as the site for the Federal Capital. Senator Pratten advocates the spending of money in constructing Ordnance Stores at Leichhardt. These will be probably four or five stories in height, if not more, and they will be built on reclaimed land upon which a foundation cannot be laid. ,
– What about the Public Works Committee?
– If we pass this Bill it will be a direction to the Public Works Committee that the Stores are to be erected on that site. That will be the direction of Parliament; and surely Parliament is a superior body to the Public Works Committee. There are hundreds of sites in Sydney Harbor without our having to touch the park lands at all - sites which would be far superior to that which is proposed.
– What about the cost?
– It would cost nothing at Admiralty Point. It belongs to the Government.
– Yes, and we are doing nothing with it. We are keeping a couple of soldiers there doing sentry duty, each of them costing the country 10s. per day, and the Government are making no use of that property. The buildings are empty. The Admiral is not resident there. The house is not in occupation. Nothing is being done with the grounds. Yet it is the best site in Australia for Ordnance Stores.
– How are you going to get a railway to that point?
– The wool stores on the next block are the best proposition in Sydney.
– For shipping. But we are not talking about shipping.
– Ordnance stores must be handled by ships. There is a railway within a mile of Kirribilli Point.
– Within a quarter of a mile.
– That is so. At Leichhardt one must first discharge goods at Circular Quay or Woolloomooloo, and then barge them under two bridges until they get to Leichhardt Park, where there is 4 feet of water.
– Will not barges float in 4 feet of water ?
– Not with any weight of cargo in them. They will not carry 300 tons of coal over 4 feet of water. If these Stores are to be built at all, let them be erected on our own property, which is not being used to-day, not bringing in a penny of revenue, and costing money for their upkeep. My particular opposition is that I am against the acquisition of any park lands at all. What would be said if it were proposed to erect Stores in Wynyard-square ?
– How would they do at Pratten Park ?
– We have had experience in Adelaide on the general principle of park lands. Fortunately, when the city was laid out there was a surveyor with an eye to the future. He laid out a three-quarter of a mile belt of park lands.
– You should put up a golden statue to him.
– Even that would not be enough. But when Colonel Light laid out those park lands the land jobber came along and sought to get hold of them. The people of South Australia have a great deal to thank Governor Gawler for The dedication of those lands had to be sent to England, and, while that was taking place, the land jobbers were at work. Governor Gawler went personally to the Crown Lands Office with his own cheque for £3,500, and saved the park lands of Adelaide. I take up a similar position to-day in my desire to make the strongest protest possible against the alienation of any park lands in any part of Australia for the benefit of a few land jobbers.
– Two questions have been submitted which I have no desire to ignore before the passage of this Bill. One was presented by Senator Grant, as to whether the Government proposed to make good the amount which the municipality would lose in rates as the result of the resumption of the private lands. That opens up a very big question, which has been repeatedly urged on respective Governments; and, so far, no Commonwealth Government have agreed upon it. Therefore, no such pro- mise can be made.
– The Leichhardt Council expect to get it, anyway.
SenatorKeating. - Do they expect an annual payment?
– They do. The Commonwealth Bank pays an annual sum to the Sydney City Council.
– No authority has been given to make such an offer, and, so far as I am aware, no such offer has ever been made. No officer would have the right to do so, and I know that no authority has been given to any one in that respect.
With respect to the other point raised, our representative who was conducting the. negotiations in regard to the land was instructed to get into touch with the State Government, and ascertain their attitude towards the request of the Leichhardt Council that another piece of land should be made available to that body. Our representative saw the Minister for Lands, and he has informed us that the attitude of the New South Wales Government is that any money received from the Commonwealth as the result of the resumption of this land they are prepared to make available to secure another site for a park in a better position for the people of Leichhardt. It has been shown to the satisfaction of the council that if the site is secured which has been suggested, the people will be given a central spot for a park - one that has none of the disadvantages of Leichhardt Park, but many advantages which that place does not possess.
– Is it not a fact that the transaction will be only a State debt, and that no money will be handed over at all?
– It is not a transferred property.
Question - That this Bill be now read a third time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I wish to explain that I voted in the division just taken quite inadvertently. For the moment, it quite escaped my memory that I was paired with Senator Maughan. I regretmy action exceedingly, and hope that such a thing will not occur again.
Debate resumed from 17th May (vide page 4828), on motion by Senator Millen -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I have a few words to say concerning some improvements which I think might be made in this Bill in Committee. It is a machinery measure for the better adjustment of taxation, and to secure uniformity of taxation by the States and Commonwealth. I understood the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) to mention that matter in introducing the Bill. There is some controversy at the present time as to whether the States or the Commonwealth authority should collect all taxation. I think it would be the greatest mistake in the world for the Commonwealth Parliament to give up any of its rights to collect taxation. The Commonwealth Government should, in my opinion, be the only tax gatherers in this country, and this should be the only taxing Parliament. I hold very strong views on that point, as I consider it essential if the country is to be properly controlled. The Commonwealth Parliament has not the sole right to legislate upon many matters, and amongst them the levying of taxation.I hopethat the time will come when Australia, so far as its government is concerned, will not be as it is to-day, the laughing-stock of the world. I hope that we shall soon see the day when rivalry between the States will be abolished, and we shall no longer have the sorry spectacle of seven different Australian agencies in London, and the re presentative of each State, not only pushing the wares of that State, but disparaging the products of all the other States. We have now the spectacle of a huge building, on which the Commonwealth has spent £800,000, on one of the finest sites in London, affording room for the accommodation of allthe State agencies, and yet the State Governments refuse to take advantage of it because it does not give them an entrance of their own. The only State Government accommodated in the building is the Victorian Government, and really the reason for that is that the site was previously occupied by a building in which the Victorian agency was carried on, and the Commonwealth building has been erected over the top of it. The huge cost of government of this country is one of the things that is calculated to cripple the nation when the war is over. I believe that the Commonwealth Government should collect all taxes. We have to collect war-time profits tax, a land tax, bachelor tax, and other taxes, and if the States are to impose taxation as well, there must be separate taxation offices for State and Commonwealth throughout the country. Some of the State Governments claim that they can collect taxation more cheaply than can the Commonwealth Government, but I do not think that is so. Next year we shall have to raise £8,000,000 to pay interest on existing war loans. The States have no liability in respect of our war loans. Their only connexion with them is in assisting to spend the money. I hope that the time is not far distant when we shall have news that the war is finished, and in the way in which it should be finished. I trust that, in the near future, the man power, and the moral and financial power of the United States of America, will be fully felt, and will compel our enemies to ask for terms. I believe that that is what will occur, and I hope I am correct in that belief. But if the war continues for another two years, we shall have to raise annually a sum of £10,000,000 to meet interest on our war loans, and the Government will be faced with a very great difficulty to discover new fields for taxation.
In this measure the Government have attempted to do something, but I think they have grossly misled their supporters whosent them here. From the information I have received, their supporters are now very much perplexed concerning the measure of taxation to be imposed upon them, the means to be adopted for collecting it, and the difficulties associated with the compilation of returns. One matter is deserving of special mention, in connexion with the interest on our war loans, and that is that it is a great consolation to know that the money will be spent in Australia, and may be the means of establishing important industries, lt is necessary that we should build up our industries in order that Australia may cany millions of population, as it is in that way only that our national existence can be secured. Athough this is not the time to utter warnings, it is a time when the Australian people should give some consideration to the means by which the country is to be kept going. Until we have sufficient people in Australia, it cannot be considered impregnable. We camnot expect to hold the country with the handful of people we have here now. The one thing necessary to enable us to retain this country is a sufficient population, and that population must be a white population. By expending the interest on our loans in Australia, we can establish industries here which will attract people to the country.
If we are to build up our population it is necessary, that we should remove the obstacles placed in the way of the rearing of large families. The dwindling of our national population must have struck every thinking person. It is due in some measure to the fact that we have not given fair consideration to those who, in the past, have reared large families, and who, when they get into the sere and yellow leaf, have to resort to the old-age pension. The second generation offer the treatment their forbears have received as the excuse for not attempting to rear large families themselves. One cannot blame them altogether, and it is certainly the duty of this National Parliament to remove all disabilities from those who in this regard are prepared to do their duty to the country.
There are a few objectionable clauses in the Bill which I shall endeavour to have amended in Committee. I have not much hope that I shall be successful, as the attitude adopted by the Government in all these cases is that they must have the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill. But very often the moving of amendments upon such measures influences those who have charge of them and leads to good results. Last year, when the Repatriation Bill was before the Senate, I moved eight different new clauses, and though the Government opposed them all, I am pleased to be able to say that the provisions of some of them are embodied, in a somewhat different dress, in the regulations which have been made under the Act. In the same way, some notice may be taken of amendments proposed to this Bill. If honorable senators point out deficiencies, inaccuracies, or the possibility of hardship under some of the clauses, a remedy for the matters complained of may be adopted later on. There is one clause of this Bill under which the Commissioner of Pensions is given the right to call upon the Commissioner of Taxation for information in reference to the income of an individual. I do not think that it is fair to give the Commissioner of Pensions any such right. The officers of the Taxation Department are sworn to secrecy in respect of the matters contained in a taxation schedule, and that secrecy will be violated if under this Bill the Commissioner of Pensions is to be given the right of call upon the Commissioner of Taxation to supply information concerning a person’s income. This cannot refer to old-age pensions, because persons who have the pleasure of filling in income tax schedules are not entitled to old-age pensions. It may refer to war pensions, and if it does, I say that the man who has done his bit for the country and the good old flag, should not have his private affairs paraded before any Commissioner of Pensions.
There is in the Bill a heavy penalty provided for neglect to properly fill in returns of income tax. This applied under the original Act to false returns made wilfully, but in this Bill the word “wilfully” is to be omitted, and! if a man happens to make a mistake in compiling his income tax return, he renders himself liable to a heavy penalty, which may be imposed, not by a Court of law, but by an official. That is not a fair thine. I have had several communications in reference to this matter from taxpayers in New South Wales. One of them says -
There is one section of the Federal Income Tax Assessment Bill now before Parliament that will act in a manner harassing, vexatious, and unjust to many perfectly honest persons. I refer to the section altering the name of the offences “wilful delay” and “wilful neglect” to “ delay “ and “ neglect,” which means that a Deputy Commissioner of Taxation will decide whether or not a taxpayer has committed one of these offences; and the reason put. forward for this extraordinary power with which it is proposed to clothe the taxing officials - . and which, by the way, one would expect in a country like Germany orRed Russia - is that it is an offence upon which it is difficult for the Department to satisfy the magistrate or Judge !
Are Australians in this way to be robbed of all British justice? Are they to be condemned without a trial, and, because of some inadvertent delay or honest mistake, convicted and heavily fined? Because, although the name of the offence is being altered in the way stated, the penalties are actually being made heavier. The police might just as well be given the power to decide whether a prisoner is guilty of the crime with which he is charged, on the ground that it might be difficult to satisfy the Judge or jury! The proposal seems preposterous and is altogether going too far.
Another correspondent writes -
The desire of the Federal Government would seem to be to enable the Taxation Departments to get revenue more by imposing penalties than collecting tax. There is already a penalty provided for not furnishing returns within a certain time, but,in order to get a conviction carrying the heavier penalties (such as, for instance, double the amount of tax and sums of £100, £200, &c.), the Commissioner must show that the taxpayer has done wrong intentionally, and the law could very well be left as it stands in that respect; but in the Bill which went to the Senate at the end of last week, the heavier penalties may be imposed where the taxpayer does not act intentionally, but makes a mistake purely through ignorance, and in a perfectlybona fide way. I trust our senators will see that such an unjust provision is not allowed to remain in the measure.
These are the opinions of some of the taxpayers who have communicated with me. I believe that we ought not to attempt to put too much power in the hands of officials.
If a man possesses a property upon which he has expended £100 in repairs he is not allowed to deduct that expenditure from his income. If he does so, the Taxation Commissioner will send his return back to him, probably with an intimation that he must cut the amount down to £25. That official is vested with power to average the expenditure upon repairs to a dwelling over a number of years.
– Is the clause to which the honorable senator is referring contained in this Bill, or was it in the
Bill which was introduced in another place ?
– I have not had the pleasure of seeing that Bill yet. The Minister for Repatriation might as well let me get along, because his interjection will make no difference to me. Perhaps my colleague from New South Wales (Senator Pratten) will have something to say upon this matter, because I know that he feels it very keenly. I repeat that if £100 be expended by a man in repairs upon- a dwelling the taxation officials will not allow him to deduct it from the income included in his return. They will insist upon the expenditure being averaged over a number of years.
– Pardon me. The amending Bill gives him the right to deduct that £100.
– It will not give me that right, anyhow.
– It will give every other taxpayer that right.
– There is another matter upon which I wish to touch, namely, the proposal to compel the employer to garnishee the wages of his employees and to accept responsibility for the collection of the tax. Is that right?
– Then let me deal with it.
– Thatis one case out of three in which the statement made by the honorable senator is correct.
– Here I may be permitted to say a word in favour of the employer. There are some good employers. I have received a letter from my old “boss,” for whom I worked for fifteen years, and for whom I put in some useful work. He has written to me protesting against the garnisheeing of employees’ wages by employers and against the responsibility for the collection of the tax being thrown upon the employer. If a man is paid by the month it is all very well. But if he be in casual employment I do not see how his employer can be made liable for the tax due by him. If he is made thus liable he will have no option but to deduct it from the wages due to his employee before the time for payment arrives. That would be a very unfair thing to do. This gentleman says -
From our reading of the above Bill, we understand that this company (Mort’s Dock and Engineering Company), as employer, may be declared the agent of any employee who, after sixty days, has failed to pay the amount due as income tax, and that the Commissioner may require the employer to pay same on behalf of the employee, and deduct the amount from the latter’s wages; but that the responsibility to deduct from the employee’s wages and pay the tax shall date from the time the Commissioner’s notice is received. That is to say that the employer has no responsibility unless the taxpayer employee is still in his service, and a sufficient sum of money is due to him to enable same to be deducted and paid to the Commissioner.
In the report of the Acting Prime Minister’s speech upon the second reading of the Bill, it is stated that - “ An employer, to safeguard himself, would have to keep back part of the moneys coming to his employees,” which seems to impose ‘the greater responsibility on the employer of deducting from all salaries and wages paid, in anticipation of default, and involving a refund in most cases.
– That is not correct.
– If it is not, the provision is, nevertheless, in the Bill.
– It is not.
– I asked the Minister for Repatriation whether it was not so, and he said that it was.
– I did not say that. The interpretation put upon the Bill by the honorable senator’s correspondent is wrong.
– Still, that is the explanation which was given by Mr. Watt in another place.
– That is the interpretation placed upon what Mr. Watt said by the honorable senator’s correspondent.
- Mr. Franki, in his letter to me, continues -
In the report of the Acting Prime Minister’s speech upon the second reading of the Bill, it is stated that - “ An employer, to safeguard himself, would have to keep back part of the moneys coming to his employees,” which seems to impose the greater responsibility on the employer of deducting from all salaries and wages paid, in anticipation of default, and involving a refund in most cases.
May we ask your kind interest, with a view to avoiding any misapprehension as regards the intention of the Bill, and preventing an injustice to the larger proportion of employees and a hardship upon employers if deductions are to be made from all wages and salaries in anticipation of default, and involving in most cases a refund.
– There is no need to anticipate anything. No liability accrues until the employer receives notice.
– How is he going to get it? The Minister will admit, I suppose, that the employer is responsible for the employee’s taxation?
– The Minister said just now that he was.
There is another objectionable feature in connexion with this Bill - I refer to the small amount of the exemption which is allowed to a taxpayer with a large family. The States are not niggardly in this respect. They allow men with large families to deduct substantial amounts from their incomes. As I have previously remarked, Australia will have to depend in a very few years upon its white population for its very existence. If we win this war, we shall be better able to maintain our national integrity ; but, if we lose it, great will be our responsibility. In such circumstances, we ought to remove every obstacle from the man who is doing his duty to this country. It is unfair to penalize a man with a large family, while allowing the individual with a small family to escape by paying a less amount in taxation. In Committee, I shall endeavour to secure an alteration of the Bill in the direction I have indicated.
Then the measure provides for taking a large percentage from the winnings in connexion with Tattersall’s sweeps. To me, it is very heart-rending to see this Government attempting to obtain revenue from Tattersall’s sweeps. Those sweeps are illegal.
– No. They are not.
– I would not care if the Commonwealth took over the whole of the gambling interests throughout Australia, and thus secured the huge profit that is annually made out of them. So long as we permit gambling to proceed, we ought to get the most revenue that we can out of it. But we ought not to attempt to take it from the poor unfortunate individual who wins £100 in Tattersall’s sweep. Why, a poor servant girl at an hotel where I am stopping had to pay £5 to the Government out of a £100 prize which she had won. If the Government wish to control gambling, let them run the sweeps. Let them control the totalizator which is run at Randwick Race-course to-day. Let them take over all the means connected with gambling, and then they will get a very substantial revenue. But it is absolutely inconsistent for them to condemn gambling, and at the same time to lay hands upon portion of the proceeds from this evil. To my mind, that is not a fair thing. I like to have a littleflutter myself at times. I am not a “wowser,” but I object to the Government condemning gambling on the one hand whilst on the other hand they reach out for a portion of the proceeds from this evil. One of their own supporters recently stated that he would rather we lost the war than that we should secure revenue from gambling. It is a wonder to me that he has not been arrested for having made such a statement. I repeat that the Government can get plenty of money by taking over the gambling interests throughout Australia.
I come now to the proposal in the Bill to exempt charitable gifts in excess of £20. To my mind, that is grossly unfair. A man who gives £ 11s. to any charitable object should be allowed to deduct the amount in his income tax schedule. It is only the rich man who will obtain benefit under this provision in the Bill, which, in Committee, I shall endeavour to get amended.
In conclusion, I merely wish to say I believe the Government are at their wits’ ends to find money. Yet there is plenty of money in this country. So far, we have merely scratched the surface. Why, in Melbourne and Sydney to-day people are being called upon to pay £5 5s. for a pair of boots which cost only 32s. 6d. The same remark is applicable to clothes. Let the Government bring in a system of standardization in regard to clothing, boots, and food, and they will get sufficient money to carry on the services of this country, and sufficient to pay the interest upon our war loans, without penalizing unfortunate people who are not in a position to pay, and without interfering with the industrial life of the Commonwealth. To that industrial life alone can we look for our future salvation. Let us create markets by establishing huge industries here. Let us follow the example which has been set us by America and other countries. Let us look ahead now and establish these great industries, thus creating work for our own people. Let us get a good solid white population settled here, for by that means alone can we hope to keep Australia a good country for the white and British races.
.- The Bill before us is very largely a machinery measure, wherein changes only in the direction of collection of income taxation are proposed. Some of the clauses in it will have the effect of protecting the revenue, a few will operate towards the smoother working of the present complicated methods, whilst others will, to a certain extent, militate against the very generally recognised complicated and chaotic condition into which the Department has got itself. Personally, I rather regard the Bill as an attempt to caulk the leaks in the ship, nearly all the rivets of which are leaking, but being a Bill to protect the revenue it must have the sympathy of honorable senators. At the same time, it is our duty to see that it does not inflict an injustice upon any member of the community.
I regard income taxation as the mainstay of Australia’s financial stability, and there is no doubt that the income taxpayers throughout the Commonwealth, as the result of the huge expenditure on the war, will have largely to bear the immense permanent debt that this country will have to carry, not only in the immediate, but, perhaps, in the distant future. In the United Kingdom for a generation or more the income tax has been regarded almost purely as a war tax. For many years the British income tax has been increased to meet war expenditure, and lessened in times of peace. The financial problems of Australia loom very large indeed. I am not sure that the financial problem is not the most important problem which the Commonwealth will have to face in our time. Income tax legislation affects a very large number of people, and I make no apology therefore for endeavouring to analyze, to perhaps an incomplete extent, the financial position of the Commonwealth.
Towards the end of this year it can be approximately said that the States will have a public debt of about £400,000,000, and the Commonwealth of about £300,000,000, so that the total indebtedness of Australia - Federal and State - at the end of this year will probably approximate to the huge sum, for Australia, of £700,000,000.
– That is the public debt only?
– Yes. The gross receipts from our railways and our other revenue-producing public services are about £29,000,000 throughout Australia. The expenditure on those services is about £20,500,000, leaving a surplus, to go towards the reduction of the interest upon the public debt of Australia, of about £8,500,000, a little over £6,000,000 of this coming from Australian railways. This sum of £8,500,000, being the excess of revenue over expenditure on Australian revenue-producing public services, will just about pay interest on £200,000,000 of the State debts, so we shall have at the end of this year owing publicly iu Australia a sum of £500,000,000 of non-producing debt, of which £1200,000,000 will represent the balance >of the State debts, and £300,000,000 the Commonwealth debt.
About three years ago a wealth census was taken thoughout the Commonwealth. The returns are acknowledged to be incomplete, but sufficient data has been collected, and collated as to who and how many of our population have to pay income “tax, present and future. The Bill should affect about 350,000 of the adult population of Australia, and I make po apology therefore for proceeding further with the financial analysis. The net income of all persons in Australia, as given by Mr. Knibbs on the basis of the wealth census, is £257,000,000 per year. That is, probably, short of the actual amount, but is a sufficiently approximate total to figure on. Outside of Trust Funds and other matters of that sort, which do not amount to very much, and will not affect my figures, there are 2,200,000 adult persons in Australia, male and female, who have a total annual income of £240,000,000. This sum averages about £110 per head of the adult population of Australia, and according again to the invaluable Knibbs, the males average £150 per year, and the females about £50. Of those 2,200,000 adult persons in receipt of incomes, 1,800,000 have incomes of £156 per year or less, and can, consequently, be omitted from the taxable area. The incomes of those people who have £156 per year or less aggregate £120,000,000, or half the total income of the people of Australia. The remaining half is, according to Knibbs, obtained by 381,000 persons who have incomes of £156 per year or more, and are consequently within the Commonwealth taxable area. Of this amount of £120,000,000 which is taxable, about £30,000,000 is received by persons getting from £156 to £200 per year ; and under our exemption clauses, only about 25 per cent, of that £30,000,000 is within the taxable area. Persons getting from £200 to £300 per year receive about £28,000,000; and it is obvious, with our Commonwealth exemptions, that barely half of that sum is taxable. The net- annual income of all persons in the Commonwealth may be £240,000,000 or £250,000,000, but not very much more than £80,000,000 per year is within the Commonwealth taxable area; neither should it be, as exemptions must be made. The principle is sound that only surplus income should be taxed, and personally I think that the exemptions contained in this Bill are quite low enough.
I have shown that the taxable surplus income of the people of the Commonwealth does not greatly exceed £80,000,000. This, then, is the annual wealth that will have very largely to bear the burden of present and future Commonwealth income taxation. This year the States will tax that wealth to the extent of over £4,000,000, or nearly 6 per cent, of its total. The Commonwealth will take from it £6,500,000 in income taxation, or over 8 per cent, of its total. Consequently, the combined Federal and State income taxation will take this year from the taxable annual wealth of Australia a sum approximating, on the average, to 14 or 15 per cent, of its whole. The only figures available show that in the Commonwealth 235,000 assessments were made in the last taxation year, and that those 235,000 persons paid, on an average £17 15s. per assessment. Under our graduated system, of course, the taxation is infinitely more on the higher incomes. The returns of. the wealth census, show that about £8,000,000 out of the £80,000,000 of taxable income belongs to persons having incomes of £5,000 per year or more ; and under £10,000,000 belongs to persons having incomes of over £2,000 and under £5,000. It is therefore reasonable to assume that incomes of £2,000 per year and more are now paying on an average, in State and Federal income taxation, over 20 per cent, of their total.
In these circumstances, honorable senators will see how far the Commonwealth and the States have already gone in income taxation. On those figures,
Commonwealth income taxation is by no means illimitable. There is a limit to what can be done; and although honorable senators may talk glibly about the wealth of Australia it seems to me that, when we get down to figures such as these, taxation is not endless, and its potentialities are not without limit. I do not think we can hope to make up our huge annual future budgets out of income taxation alone. There is a point at which the incentive to exertion is going to stop.
– That is, capital will go slow if it has to pay its share ?
– No, I am speaking principally of personal exertion. Our conditions cannot be compared with those of older countries, such as the United Kingdom, where most of the income of the country is obtained from investments. Most of the annual income in Australia is obtained from the personal exertions of its people. If we overburden this section of the community with illimitable taxation, we shall be rapidly approaching the point where the incentive to exertion ceases, and where it will not be worth while for a man to work for the development of Australia as hard as he has worked before. Any excessive taxation in this direction will tend to slow up the development that we want so much. Our primary and secondary (production totals from £250,000,000 to £300,000,000 per year. This is the source from which all taxation must come to meet our future bills. In land tax, local government rates, stamp, and probate duties, the Commonwealth and States now collect about £20,000,000 from the total productive wealth of Australia, and it seems to me that, hand in hand with the imposition of new taxation for the big Budgets ahead, there must go* an absolute determination to get economy and efficiency in administration. Every pound saved is a pound gained. I say most deliberately I shall not, in this Senate, support the imposition of tax upon tax, unless, accompanying that policy, there is seen a determination to secure the utmost economy and efficiency of administration. Knibbs gives our private assets of Australia - that is, the net wealth of Australia, excluding public properties or properties invested in the Commonwealth and States -at about £1,600,000,000. This total, too, is probably more now, as the census was admittedly somewhat incomplete.
Australia’s State and Federal nonrevenue producing debts will at the end of this year be in the region of £500,000,000. I ask honorable senators to realize what this means. Our national assets total about £1,600,000,000, but against them we have to put public non-revenue producing debts of £500,000,000. In fact, to-day we owe 6s. 3d. in the £1 on all we are worth. True, we owe some of the money to ourselves, but there is about £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 of local government debts in addition to these, and which are not included in my figures. It may safely be said, therefore, that for every £1 of our net assets we shall have, at the end of this year, a liability of 5s. 4d. in the £1 to financiers overseas, and we shall owe to ourselves ls. 8d. in the £1 in connexion with money borrowed from ourselves, so that our total liabilities in respect of our total assets will be 7s. in the £1.
– Is the honorable senator giving the figures for the wealth of Australia, taken, I assume, from the census, but not the publicly-owned wealth ?
– I think I said my figures were exclusive of the public assets owned by the various Governments.
Knibbs gives the private wealth at £327 per head, and the wealth per head of the people in the United Kingdom at £355. The total net wealth of the people of the United Kingdom is estimated to be in the region of £15,000,000,000, as compared with Australia’s £1,600,000,000.
– Is the honorable senator excluding the public wealth in the United Kingdom?
– In the United Kingdom very little of the wealth is publicly owned. The railways, which are our biggest asset in Australia, are owned privately in the United Kingdom, and must be excluded from the figures I have given for Australia, but are included in my figures for the United Kingdom. In France the private wealth is estimated at about £300 per head, and the net assets, or public wealth in private hands, at about £12,000,000,000. I quote these figures merely to remind persons who airily boast about the economic position ‘of Australia, that their views must be revised after the war, because no longer shall we be able to say that Australia owns, on the average, £327 per head of population, because we shall have to add to the statement that against their wealth we must place a debt of about £100 per head of population.
– That remark would also apply to other countries.
– Quite so; but I am speaking particularly in regard to Australia, and trying to get down to the basic figure of taxable wealth that we so glibly talk about. I believe I heard Senator McDougall speak airily of millions of pounds that may still be taxed, and I want to find out in a practical way just where we are.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that there is any incongruity between the war census returns and the taxable area as defined by Mr. Knibbs?
– Not yet.
On the Bill I may say that the exemptions proposed are for incomes up to £156 per year, and these will apply, in the future, only to those taxpayers who have dependants; and in respect of persons without dependants the exemption will be only £100. The Treasurer’s first determination to make subscriptions to clubs taxable was difficult to understand, and I am pleased to know that some amendment has been made in another place in regard to this clause of the Bill. I am not quite clear yet what will be the effect of the amendment, as the Bill as amended has just been placed in our hands, but I am hopeful that the anticipated injustice, at first feared, will be done away with altogether.
I think the most objectionable feature of the Bill - and I believe it will be objectionable to honorable senators on both sides of the House - is its retrospective character. It is proposed, in spite of the High Court decision, to make the Act retrospective. The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) states that it is proposed to give retrospective force to the principal amending provisions by dating their operation back to the commencement of the Act, to 1st July, 1914, and that the said amendments are to be deemed to have had force at and from that date. This means that all assessments and adjustments that have been made over the last three years will probably have to be opened up again.
– No. That is merely a validating clause in respect of what has already been done.
– Then the Treasurer’s words do not mean what they apparently mean, namely, that the Bill is to have retrospective force as from the 1st July, 1914.
– The position is, the Department has been carrying on, on its own interpretation of the law, making assessments and collecting the tax. When a case was taken to the High Court, it was found that the Court did not support the departmental interpretation of the Act. The clause referred to, therefore, is to validate what has already been done.
– Then, in effect, the Minister says that the Government intend to keep what, according to the decision of the High Court, they have illegally collected; that they intend to allow all the other cases to go, and start again.
I most emphatically protest against the inadequate amount allowed by the Commissioner as depreciation in respect of machinery used in most of our secondary industries. It is true this is not particularized in the amending Bill before us, but it is one of the things that, in the course of administration by the Commissioner, is very strongly objected to by the manufacturing community. I believe that a standard schedule has been adopted, but in my own experience I know that the amount allowed by the Commissioner is altogether inadequate, and is most unfair. Although it can be pointed out that in some industries the machinery will not last ten years, the Commissioner objects to an allowance of more than 5 per cent, per annum on the diminishing value. I point out that it is a very bad national policy to discourage ample depreciation for machinery and plant. The allowance generally is from 5 per cent, to 7½ per cent, per year.
– Is any consideration allowed for machinery becoming obsolete ?
– No; but I think in some few cases the allowance goes up to 10 per cent, on the decreasing value of machinery and plant. The net effect of this policy, if the procedure of the Income Tax Commissioner is followed, is that the plant and machinery are never written off. Upon buildings irrespective of whether they have been specially built or not to carry on any particular trade, no depreciation whatever is allowed. We know that progressive manufacturers have found that it is necessary in some cases to put aside a sum up to 100 per cent, in excess of the allowance permitted by the Commissioner for depreciation of plant and machinery. I .was struck the other day in reading the proceedings of a conference of British engineers. The account which I read was from the London Times, and the question of the depreciation of plant and machinery was recognised by that conference to bc most important. The delegates recommended, for national reasons, that in ordinary peace times no less than 15 per cent, per annum be allowed for depreciation on the decreasing -value of plant and machinery. They pointed out that the British Income Tax Commissioner - and the Australian Commissioner is not alone in this matter - rarely allowed more than 5 per cent., and, in consequence, firms tended to retain oldfashioned machinery, which imposes a very heavy industrial handicap in these days of rapid progress. . If we are going to have science bureaux and progressive bodies of that character to give us a lead, we shall have to turn over a new leaf in Australia. But let the Commissioner of Taxation also turn over a new leaf, and not place a handicap upon progressive manufacturers by reason of what I may fairly term his harsh and unfair administration of this section of the Act.
– But what about new plant, bought to keep old plant going?
– New plant doe3 not come in here. It is obviously bad policy on the part of the State to sanction any action that discourages the scrapping of old machinery for new. If we are going to pay off our war debt in the future, it can only be easily done by stimulating production. And if we, by the administration of the Income Tax Department, are going to prevent manufacturers from scrapping old machinery, the country will certainly be none the better for it.
– Why not write off altogether machinery that is going to be scrapped ?
– That is a point for consideration. As to the operations of the British and the Australian law, these are administered on practically identical lines, but my objection is that they are pre-war lines. And I stress again the importance of this seemingly small point, because it is going to put a strong brake on the progress of Australia, since it is certain that increasing production can only be secured by increasing the efficiency of our methods.
I ,am very glad to have seen, in reading the debates in another place, that the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) stressed the importance of endeavouring to get one return throughout Australia for the purposes both of Federal and State income taxation. He said it would probably save the taxpayer a million and a half sterling per annum in fees, and in trouble, and in time. I have had no opportunity of checking that estimate, but I feel sure that a very large sum will be saved the taxpayers in expenditure of time and trouble if this desideratum can be brought about.
The penalty clause in this Bill, I understand, has been somewhat modified in another place; the original objections, therefore, do not at present exist.
On the question of deductions for charitable and war donations there appears to be some confusion. I understand that the Bill has left the other House in a rather unsatisfactory position - that deductions on account of war donations are allowable over a certain amount, but not deductions for charitable purposes. I hope this phase of the amending Bill will receive some attention from honorable senators. So far as I can see, the Federal Income Tax Commissioner has committed a breach of faith with the Senate in connexion with his decisions upon assessments sent in under the Wartime Profits Act. Before this Bill was introduced, I understood that deductions were allowed to the taxpayer for contributions for war purposes and for charitable purposes. I remember distinctly receiving the assurance of the Leader of the Senate when he was in charge of the War-time Profits Bill that assessments under that Bill would be allowed in exactly the same way as income tax assessments are made up. I am informed, however, that the Commissioner is taking up a very highhanded and harsh action in disallowing taxpayers, when making up their wartime profits assessments, any deductions for war and charitable purposes.
– Would you claim to deduct for both?
– The Minister said that the schedule of the War-time Profits Act could be made up, and would be allowed on exactly the same basis as the income tax assessments, which allow charitable and war contributions; but the Commissioner is disallowing all contributions of that nature in the assessments under the War-time Profits Act.
Another matter mentioned in the Senate to-night relates to clause 32, which will give the Commissioner power to call upon any employer of a taxpayer who is in arrears in payment of his tax to deduct the amount due from the salary or wages due to the taxpayer by the employer. I think this clause should have the most careful consideration. I hesitate, in dealing with it, to give the Commissioner the power which the Bill as it stands would provide. This clause is full of pitfalls. It may have the effect of disturbing the harmonious relationships which should exist between employer and employee. On the other hand, I admit that the Commissioner is in a difficulty in collecting the amounts from comparatively small incomes. I would like to see some modus vivendi whereby revenue stamps could be used by the employer, much on the lines that stamps are employed in England to-day in connexion with the insurance and other schemes. Thus friction might be prevented, and at the same time the Treasury could be protected.
The great difficulty inregard to income taxation in Australia is its application, and since the incursion’ of the Commonwealth Government into this matter confusion has become worse confounded. Different methods have been adopted by the Commonwealth. Different principles have governed the collection of the Commonwealth taxation, and protest after protest has been made by the commercial, primary and secondary industries in the community with regard to these difficul ties, concerning both Federal and State income taxation. Taxpayers really have much to complain about. I complain that an arrangement has not yet been arrived at between the Commonwealth and the States to simplify and reduce the work imposed on taxpayers in connexion with their schedules. This applies also to land, income, and probate duties, which are collected by both Federal and State authorities. All taxation schedules should be alike. We should certainly have one uniform schedule for the preparation of income tax returns throughout Australia.
– They want great simplification.
– Yes, andif possible we should have one central collecting authority. I question whether the Commonwealth can collect more cheaply than the States. It is obvious that one taxing authority could collect more cheaply than seven, but no reasonable comparison can be made between the. collections of the States and the Commonwealth until we get some idea of the actual cost per assessment of the Commonwealth. The cost of collecting direct taxation by the Commonwealth was given by the Treasurer a little while ago as 2½ per cent., or 6d. in the pound of the total yield. The Treasurer was particularly definite in saying that he was speaking from memory, to the effect that the States taxation officers averaged in the region of 5 per cent. The States may have averaged in the region of 5 per cent, of the collection of their income tax years ago, but to-day throughout the States the collection of income tax is in every case lower than the cost , of the collection of the Federal tax. Consequently the Treasurer’s illustration was quite illusory, as the Commonwealth taxation also graduates up to 6s. 3d. in the pound, while in no case does any State tax more than 2s. in the pound.
The Victorian Treasurer states that the cost of the collection of the Victorian income tax assessment is 5s.10d. each. The New South Wales Treasurer says the cost of collection in that State is equal to £11s. per cent., and that same gentleman further states that if the collection of the Federal income tax were delegated to the New South Wales authorities that
State could collect the Federal income tax at a cost probably not exceeding 10s. per cent.
– But they have not the various curves in New South Wales that we have in the Commonwealth taxation.
– I shall come to the curves anon.
Another matter is that, although the Federal Taxation Department is one as a whole, people are apt to overlook the fact that in each State there is a Federal Taxation Department, as a subDepartment, presided over by a Deputy Commissioner. I doubt very much whether the States taxation officers desire to have their status reduced by absorption by the Commonwealth, or limitation of the duties they perform . The objection is only natural, and it is natural, too, that the Federal taxation authorities should not desire their status reduced by being absorbed within the ambit of State Taxation Departments. So far as the officers of these Departments and their opinion is concerned, the Ministry and Parliament should deal with these matters on their merits, irrespective of what is advised or desired by the officers of either State or Commonwealth Taxation Departments.
It seems to me that, with regard to the uniformity of taxation returns, the difference between the States and Commonwealth Taxation Commissioners is vital. The State Commissioners desire to tax income at its source, the Federal Commissioner desires to follow the money, or to tax the individual taxpayer. There is a slight difference, too, I believe, on the question of the taxation of sales and assets ; but the vital matter connected with the difficulty of uniformity of income taxation returns throughout the Commonwealth is that the State authorities want to tax the money at its source and the Federal authorities desire to tax individual taxpayers.
– That seems to be the most important point of disagreement between them.
– That is so. It is obvious that some method of agreement should be found. I read the proceedings of the last Premiers’ Conference with very much interest, but I found that very little progress was made in this direction in spite of the high hopes some of us had that a point of agreement might be reached.
– The honorable senator is wrong in presuming that what he has stated was regarded as the difficulty.
– I say unhesitatingly that the vital point of difference with regard to the want of uniformity in Commonwealth and State taxation is that which I have stated.
– That is not a difficulty in the way of having one schedule.
– It is a difficulty with regard to uniformity of collection, as the State authorities want to do it in one way and the Commonwealth authorities in another.
– That does not affect the collection, or the filling in of returns.
– I think that the Minister for Repatriation misunderstands the position. I am speaking now with regard to uniformity, not only of schedules, but of collection, and practically the only point of difference and the obstacle to uniformity, efficiency, and economy and the establishment of one collecting authority is that point of difference between the methods of the State authorities and of the Federal Administration.
I think that the whole question of income taxation, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, and our whole Act, requires reviewing. I believe that in the Commonwealth we are drifting into complications, if not chaos, that is not creditable to the Commonwealth Administration. Largely owing to the complications of the Commonwealth method of collection of income taxation, I say most deliberately and dispassionately that the Federal Taxation Department cannot properly collect its taxes. At any rate, it has not succeeded in doing so up to now, and this is the third year in which the Act has been in operation. It was stated last Sunday week in a newspaper published in Sydney, that the Federal authorities started income tax collection in 1915. Three years’ returns have been furnished, and we are on the eve of the fourth, and it is well within the mark to say that 80 per cent, of the total assessments issued to date are tentative, and if the Department were to be closed tomorrow, and asked to clean up the work to date, it could not do so in less than two years, which would very materially increase the cost of collection.
– That is a charge, where is the substantiation of it?
– I wish in my own way to give some support to the statement which was printed in this newspaper in Sydney.
Mr. Knibbs, in his wealth statistics for 1915, stated that there were approximately 381,000 persons in Australia receiving incomes of £156 per year or over.
– That, in addition to the 1,800,000 the honorable senator previously mentioned, does not bring the total up to 2,200,000.
– I think I mentioned 1,800,000, and approximately 2,200,000 altogether. This figure of 381,000, added to the 1,800,000, will approximately make my figure of 2,200,000 adult persons throughout Australia re-‘ ceiving incomes of any sort or any size. Mr. Knibbs, in his wealth census, states that in 1915 there were 381,000 persons in Australia receiving incomes of £156 a year or over. Seeing that the people were asked to send in statements of what their income was, and it was generally recognised that this wealth census was intended for future taxation requirements, I think it is reasonable to assume that there were 381,000 persons at least in Australia receiving an income of £156 a year and over.
– The honorable senator is discussing human nature now.
– The last Commonwealth assessments showed that there were approximately 235,000 assessments made by the Commonwealth taxing authorities. On these figures I ask honorable senators to say whether any reasonable man cannot come to a well-defined and definite conclusion that at present there may he approximately 100,000 persons in the Commonwealth who are evading Federal income tax.
– I think that is very likely.
– I have said that the great desideratum is uniformity of returns and collection. I am now going to give some reasons why I think it would be better for the revenue of the country if Commonwealth income tax were col lected by the State and not by the Federal taxation authorities. I am going to give some figures that have been verified, and which I can quote on very excellent, and I think irrefutable, authority from this point of view.
I have said that the only obstacle to uniformity seems to me to be the difference between the Commonwealth and State methods of taxation ; that is to say, whether the company earnings should be taxed at their source or the individual shareholders in those companies should be taxed individually. The argument for the taxation of incomes individually is stubbornly adhered to by the academic mathematicians who run our Federal Income Tax Department. The argument is that if you tax the income of a company at its source you will tax a number of poor people, and amongst them, perhaps, poor widows, who ought not to be called upon to pay Federal income tax at all.
– Whilst they are taxing people who won a small prize in Tattersall’s sweep two or three years ago, and were not otherwise taxable.
– Quite so. There seems to be nothing at all in their argument. It does not appear to me to be reasonable to suppose that people who invest in the shares of companies are in receipt of an income of less than £156, or £100, a year, as the case my be. If people have money to spare to invest in the shares of companies it may reasonably be assumed that they come within the Commonwealth taxable area. Persons in receipt of less than the Commonwealth taxable income with its small exemption are not likely to be able to invest in the shares of companies. Even if they did. that could easily be provided for here, just as it is provided for in England, by giving a rebate at the end of the year to those people who were unfairly taxed. On the other hand, it is claimed that the taxation of income at its source would not enable the Commonwealth to properly graduate incomes, and the rich man would get off with a lighter tax than he is called upon to pay under the present system. I ask whether every man is not called upon now to make an individual schedule. There is practically no difficulty, therefore, with regard to graduation. Consequently, all the arguments for the Commonwealth methods of taxation fall to the ground.
I shall give honorable senators one illustration of the result of the complications of the Commonwealth system of taxation. There is one Broken Hill company that requires 16,000 separate and distinct assessments by the Federal taxation authorities, whilst in the case of that company one assessment only is made by the New South Wales authorities.
– But would there not be the 16,000 assessments under the arrangement the honorable senator proposes?
– Under the Commonwealth system we must follow the money in respect of the 16,000 different sources. It does seem to me that it is clear and irrefutable that the muddle and chaos that the Federal Income Tax Department is in is largely and almost solely due to this academic method of income taxation.
– How do the States do it?
– I am going to show how the States do it. I can quote a case that occurred in Sydney not so long ago to show the chaos into which the Income Tax Department of the Commonwealth has got. It is a case where refund vouchers to the extent of £80 were given where no income tax had been’ paid. In other words, vouchers to collect £80 at the Treasury were given to a firm that had paid no income tax. I am not going to say that these things are the fault of the staff. I know that we have a very estimable staff in the Commonwealth Taxation Department. These things are the fault of the system, and we shall never get satisfaction in the matter of Commonwealth income tax administration until the system is radically altered.. The system, as. honorable senators are aware, includes curves of the second and third degree. The academic scientists who say they are right, but whose fellowscientists sometimes say they are wrong, who impose curves to the second and third degree, and impose upon’ us the collection of taxation following the money, instead of at its source, are the persons who are responsible for the very unsatisfactory position that the Commonwealth Income Department is in at the present time. Even the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is reported to have said in connexion with these curves that he “ did not know how in the devil it wa3 done.”
On the great point of the difference between the Commonwealth and State systems, I would remind honorable senators that tlie system of collecting income tax at its source is carried out in England, in New Zealand, and in every State of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth taxation authorities are the pariahs in this matter, because they represent the odd man out in regard to the system. This is the only’ obstacle to uniformity, and I do not believe uniformity will ever be achieved unless the Commonwealth is prepared to adopt what, to my mind, is the common -sense method of collection. Other matters, such as synchronizing the date upon which the year shall close, can easily be adjusted if this great stumbling block is removed. I believe that, if we remove this lion in the path, an hour’s discussion between the Commonwealth and State authorities would be sufficient to give Australia, not only uniformity in regard to income tax schedules, but uniformity in regard to the collection of the tax, which is so greatly to be desired.
Mr. Watt stated the other day that the cost of collecting the Commonwealth income tax was only 2^ per cent., or 6d. in the £1. May I point out that the New South Wales Income Tax Department spends less than £30,000 a year, and yet it collected during the last financial year no less a sum than £2,040,000. These figures, which should have been available to the Acting Prime Minister when he made his statement, show that the cost of collecting the New South Wales income tax is, approximately, only lj per cent., or one-half the cost of collecting the Commonwealth income tax, despite the higher rates imposed by the Commonwealth. The cost of collection in Tasmania, I am informed, is the highest that obtains in any State, but even there it does not exceed 2J per cent. That cost, too, includes the collection of the Tasmanian land tax.
It is obvious from a close study of the wealth census . figures, and of the official statements published from time to time by the Commonwealth Taxation Department, that there is something very wrong in connexion with the administration of that Department.
I would like to show the basis upon which I make this grave charge. In New South Wales, a general exemption is allowed of £250 a year, whereas the Federal authorities allow an exemption of only £156. For each child, the State from which I hail allows a deduction of £50, whereas the Federal authorities allow a deduction of £26 each, for two children only. New South Wales allows a deduction for the maintenance of a child up to eighteen years of age, but the Federal authorities allow a deduction up to the age of only sixteen years. The maximum tax imposed in New South Wales is ls. lid. in the £1 on income derived from property; whereas in the Commonwealth it is 6s. 3d. in the £1.
– There is a super-tax in New South Wales.
– The maximum tax on income from property in New South Wales, including the super-tax, is ls. lid. in the £1. Upon income from personal exertion, including the super tax, the maximum is ls. 5d. in the £1. The Commonwealth tax is four times as much.
– The curves under our Commonwealth system are misleading.
– I do not think so. The minimum in both cases is approximately the same. New South Wales collects from companies a maximum of ls. 3d. in the £1; whereas the Commonwealth collects a maximum of ls. 10£d. in the £1. If the New South Wales rates were the same as the Commonwealth rates, that State would collect from companies alone £500,000 more than she does. In spite of all these great differences in. favour of the Commonwealth - differences of rates and charges - the Federal authorities during the last financial year failed to collect more than £5,500,000 throughout the whole of Australia; whereas the New South Wales Taxation Department, upon its low rates and with a maximum of ls. lid. in the £1, collected £2,040,000.
– That shows how defective the curve system is.
– This year, New South Wales will collect, approximately, £2,250,000. Had the New South Wales rates been in line with those of the Com monwealth in the matter of exemptions in respect of children only, the revenue collected by that State last year would have been increased £100,000. Had the taxation of New South Wales been in line with that of the Commonwealth in respect of companies, the State I have mentioned would have collected an additional revenue of £500,000. I am informed, on unimpeachable authority, that if the New South Wales Taxation Department had collected under the New South Wales Act at Commonwealth rates, it would have derived from this source last year a revenue of at least £4,000,000.
– New South Wales collects on the flat-rate system, whereas the Commonwealth does not.
– My honorable friend, I am afraid, fails to understand my contention. I am contending that, under the flat rate, and under the method of taxing income at its source, a greater revenue would be secured than can be obtained by the adoption of the present Commonwealth method. I can give my authority for this statement if I am desired to do so. I am emphasizing the fact that, if the New South Wales State Taxation Department had collected Commonwealth rates under the New South Wales Act, which taxes income at its source, it would have collected last year approximately £4,000,000.. Now, I think it is generally conceded that, in order to get a factor for the whole Commonwealth, we may multiply the New South Wales figures approximately by two and a half. This factor appertains in regard to total wealth, net assets, total net incomes, Commonwealth taxation, population, and several other matters. Consequently, I think it is reasonable to assume that, on the basis of this factor, the Commonwealth income tax returns, if they had been collected during the last financial year under the laws operating in the State of New South Wales, would have approximated £10,000,000 instead of £5,500,000.
I have, already indicated a suspicion that there are at least 100,000 persons in Australia who are escaping payment of the Federal income tax. Do not these facts and figures lead one to believe that the Federal Income Tax Department is not yet thoroughly organized 1 It cannot be regarded as being in a state, of efficiency, and no State Government is likely to rush in blindly and to hand over to the tender mercies’ of a Department, which has only collected £5,500,000 where it ought to have collected £10,000,000, the collection of the whole of its taxation. I submit that the policy of the Government should be to rake in the defaulters before imposing additional taxation.
I should have liked very much to have gone into the question of the rates which obtain in England as compared with the rates which obtain in the Commonwealth and in the States which compose it. But, briefly speaking, the comparison with England, from the stand-point of taxation, may be roughly divided into four headings. Under the heading of personal exertion the tax in England is practically double our own on lower incomes, and it graduates higher until, when an income of £20,000 a year is reached, it is practically much the same as that which obtains here. In England, however, additional income taxation has been imposed in the form of a super-tax. Now, there is no super-tax on incomes in the Commonwealth, although there is a comparatively small super-tax operating in New South Wales. This super-tax graduates from £3 15s. on an income of £300 a year to £250 on an income of £20,000 a year. But in England the super-tax graduates from £12 10s. on an income of £300 a year to £4,500 on an income of £20,000 a year. In Britain the tax upon income from personal exertion, plus the super-tax, compares with our taxation here in this way : In the Commonwealth the total taxation - Federal and State- is £33 on an income of £500 a year, and it graduates to £4,505 on an income of £20,000 a year, whereas in England the graduation is from £46 on an income of £500 a year to £10,500 on an income of £20,000 a year. The combined taxes in respect of income from property in the Federal and State arenas of Australia are very much the same as the taxes in England. So that there seems to be only room in the Commonwealth for a war super-tax on moderate incomes from personal exertion when compared with the taxation that obtains in England. There does not appear to be very much room for taxation in respect of the higher incomes.
I would remind the Minister in charge of the Bill that conditions in Australia differ very much from conditions in England - that, comparatively speaking, a very small proportion of the total income of the people of the Commonwealth is derived from investments. By far the largest proportion of that income is derived from personal exertion. For the next “financial year, the Treasurer has forecast some increase in taxation. I admit that the Commissioner of Taxes has a most difficult task to perform - the task of collecting taxation over a whole continent. But I am sure he will be the last to assert that the Commonwealth Taxation Office is not full of imperfections, and that he would not like to rake in the thousands and tens of thousands of taxpayers who at the present time are evading the payment of the Federal income tax. There aTe, I believe, some thousands of ‘State civil servants who are evading its payment; but these do not make up the big discrepancy which is apparent in the figures which I have previously quoted. I have given reasonable proof that we may be yet £3,000,000 short of the proper collection of our present income taxation. It is also likely, on the figures, that 100,000 people are still evading their in-‘ come tax dues. It seems to me that the common-sense method is to collect this amount first before imposing new taxation.
It would be as well, in view of the controversy between the States and Commonwealth on uniformity, which seems to have got no further in spite of all the pressure that has been brought to bear, for the Government to obtain some unbiased inquiry into the actual position. I accept any .challenge so far as the figures I have quoted are concerned. My authority is irrefutable, and I believe the only solution of the present chaotic condition for the benefit of the Commonwealth is to have an unbiased inquiry, and, if necessary, to come down from the pedestal, admit that the Commonwealth is not successful in- what it set out to achieve, and. that these academic mathematicians have gone wrong, and led us in a wrong direction. Then let the .States collect the income tax, and give us. certainly le3s trouble’ and more revenue. My figures lave been carefully collated, particularly those applying to New South Wales income tax collection.
– Whilst the honorable senator has made -statements, no doubt, upon authority, in all sincerity, he has given no evidence of them.
– I have produced evidence that 381,000 persons supplied returns stating that they were getting over £156 per year in income, and that the Commonwealth assessments so far only number 236.000.
– There were many exemptions in the income tax which were not in the census returns.
– I have figures showing that, in 1915, the New South Wales Taxation Commissioners collected income tax from the State to the extent of £1,653,000. In the nearest financial year of the Commonwealth the Federal income tax authorities collected only £1,691,000 from that State.
– You are taking the first year -the Federal income tax came into force.
– No, it first came into force in 1934-15. I am quoting the year 1915-16, in which -the Commonwealth collected only £38,000 more from New South Wales than the State authorities did, in spite of the much higher rates and charges. If that is not evidence that things’ are not what we should like them to be, in heaven’s name what sort of evidence does the Minister want) It is clear that the Commonwealth tax should be nearer twice what the State collects than just about the same. The present income tax schedules of the Commonwealth, if properly collected, and if the Department is efficient, .should bring in nearer £10,000,000 than the sum they now bring in.
I apologize to the Senate for speaking so long on this matter at such a late hour, but the subject is very important, because, after all, it is here that we have to consider the finances of the Commonwealth, and if I can put the Ministry on the track of another £3,000,000 of .revenue without increasing taxation, I consider I am doing something for the public weal. There seem to be only three or four points in the Bill, and I have mentioned them in passing. The figures I have given have been supplied to me on unquestionable authority, and are well worthy of the investigation of the Ministry in relation to the’ attempt to get extra revenue, and the great desirableness of simplifying income taxation throughout the Commonwealth.
Debate (on motion by Senator Grant)’ adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.52 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 May 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1918/19180522_senate_7_85/>.