7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens)took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
SenatorMILLEN (New South WalesMinister for Repatriation) [3.1]. - (By leave). - I move -
Thatthe Senate places on record its appreciation of the public services of the late Honorable Sir Simon Fraser, who was a member of the Federal Convention and a representative of the State of Victoria in this Chamber, from the inception ‘ of Federation, for several years.
The Senate tenders its sincere sympathy to bis bereaved widow and family.
By means of this motion 1 invite the Senate to place on record its appreciation of the personality and services of a distinguished and highly respected citizen. Thelate Sir Simon Fraser has left behind him that which any man might well envy, namely, an honorable record of useful public life, served both in the State and the Federal arena. Sir Simon Fraser, as many honorable senators will recollect, was associated, in its early stages, with the movement which ultimately brought about the union of the several States of the Commonwealth. The public of Victoria showed their appreciation, both of the man and the service he had rendered, by electing him first as a member of the Federal Convention, and later to a position in this Chamber.
If, however, Sir Simon Fraser had never filled that part in. the public life of this country he would still, I venture to say, have left behind him a record of great and useful service. He was one of those who, in his earlier days, did much to build up this Australia of ours, and we owe in a large measure the conditions we now enjoy, to the work which he and others then performed.
Those honorable senators who, with myself, were privileged to share his companionship in this Chamber, will always appreciate his shrewd judgment and kindly yet vigorous personality. I was, on ina.ny occasions, under a distinct obligation to the late honorable gentleman for the very cordial assistance he rendered to me, and he always tried to assist in the conduct of the business of the Senate. With other honorable senators I can look back to many kindly personal acts which endeared the late Sir Simon Fraser to those privileged to enjoy his company.
As is proper, the motion I have submitted expresses the sympathy of the Senate for those who are mourning the loss of Sir Simon Fraser even more deeply than we do. I submit the motion quite confident of the reception which it will receive at the hands of honorable s 6 ii aton
– It is with very sincere feeling that I rise to second the motion submitted by the Leader of the Senate. T think I can speak for all honorable senators on this side of . the Chamber, when I say that we associate ourselves most heartily with every word which the Leader of the Government in the Senate has said- with regard to the merit, thework, the character, the capacity and attainments of the late Sir Simon Fraser.
Personally, I feel as if a friend has gone from amongst us. Although he had long passed the allotted span of three score- years and ten - had, in fact, passed four score years, and was nearly approaching four score and ten - the late Sir Simon Fraser had a bright, youthful, and sunny presence which seemed to create a circle of light around all with whom he came in contact.
It is with, feelings of the deepest sympathy that I join with the Leader of the Senate and other honorable senators, in passing a motion of sympathy with the relatives he has left behind.
– It is with a deep sense of responsibility and regret that I rise to support the motion - responsibility because of my early association with the late Sir Simon Fraser, and regret because of his departure and for the loss suffered, by his household. When the Senate first assembled, Sir Simon - then Senator Fraser - was the oldest man in this Chamber and I was the youngest. We shared the privilege of moving and seconding the adoption, of the first Address-in-Reply moved in the Senate. Doubtless other honorable senators have seen the late Sir Simon Fraser about this building recently, but I think I saw him even more recently than they, and I was very pleased to note the state of health in which he then appeared tobe. With every word uttered by the Minister . for Repatriation in addressing himself to this motion I am in absolute accord.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable senators standing in their places.
INCREASE in Price or Gas.
– On our last day of sitting, in reply to a question I had submitted concerning the proposal of the Metropolitan Gas Company of Melbourne to increase the price of gas by ls. 6d. per 1,000 cubic feet’ and for the consideration of which I suggested’ arbitration, the Minister said that the matter had been referred to the State Government. I ask that honorable senator. now if the State Government has indicated any action it contemplates taking, in that regard?
– I am not in a position to answer the honorable- senator’s question just now.- I shall endeavour to secure the information for him tomorrow.
Relief of Distress in Queensland.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether he is aware of the fact that at the present time, on account of the. seamen’s strike, thousands of people in North Queensland are practically on the verge of starvation. What action do the Government propose to take* in the early future to see that some relief is brought to those people!
– The question, submitted by the honorable senator goes, as the Senate will recognise, a little beyond the mere question of the relief of the people suffering in Queensland. I am quite conscious- that in this matter the fr overrun ent have had to rely upon ‘ the patience of honorable senators to, perhaps, an unusual extent. I can only say, that for reasons which appear to the Government to. be absolutely sound, we crave that that patience be extended a little longer. The matter is not being lost sight of, and I venture to express the hope that developments in the next few days will justify the action which the Government have taken.
Offer of Land at Lithgow.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether the Government have any information to give to the Senate in regard to the acceptance or otherwise of the piece of land at Lithgow which has been offered as a gift for war service homes by Mr. Brown?
– The Housing Commissioner informed me recently that he was taking the steps which appeared to him to be necessary before deciding upon the action which would ultimately be taken. Those steps included the inspection of the land by those who are qualified to judge of its suitability or otherwise for war service homes.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether, in considering the question of making advances to returned members of the Australian Imperial Force, it is customary to refuse financial assistance to those who, in the opinion of the Commission, are financially strong enough to do without it?
– The financial resources of the applicant are not considered. The merits of each case constitute the factor which determines the success or otherwise of the application.
– I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council whether, in view of the enormous number of amendments which have been made in the Public Service regulations, he will favorably consider the reprinting of the whole of those regulations, so as to bring them up todate as they were brought up to date in 1915 ?
– I will bring the request of the honorable senator under the notice of the Prime Minister’s Department.
Third report of the Printing Committee presented by Senator Barker.
The following papers were presented : -
Customs Act 1901-1916 -
Dated 16th July, 1919, prohibiting ex portation of Preventives to Conception, &c.
Dated 16th July, 1919, revoking proclamation of 4th September, 1918, relating to the exportation of Broom Millet.
Public Service Act 1902-1918.- Appointments, promotions, &c. -
H. A. Peterson, Prime Minister’s Department.
War Precautions Act 1914-1918. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1918, No. 178.
Women in Industry. - Report of War Cabinet Committee. (Paper presented to British Parliament.)
Shaw Wireless Works, Randwick. - Correspondence between ex-Senator J. J. Long and the Acting Prime Minister respecting the question of a further inquiry into purchase.
Dismissal of Major W. D. Evans.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.
.- I move-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 11 a.m. to-morrow.
Four honorable senators having risen in their places in support of the motion,
– It will be within the memory of honorable senators that, on the 17th July last, the Minister for Repatriation made a statement which, to my mind, and I think to the minds of many honorable senators, if not of the general public, impugned the honour and integrity of Major W. D. Evans, in the transaction regarding the purchase of the Mount Bardwell Estate for the erection of homes under our War Service Homes Act. I offer no apology for availing myself of our Standing Orders to place before the Senate a statement in reply by Major Evans and other gentlemen, whose names were mentioned by the Minister during the course of his remarks. As I am allowed only half-an-hour to deal with this matter, I intend, for the purposes of accuracy, to read from certain documents so as to obviate the possibility of any misunderstanding arising. Some of these documents have been sworn to. In the first place, I have here a letter from Major Evans himself, which is addressed to me, and which reads -
Enclosed herewith you will please find a complete refutation of Senator Millen’s statement relativeto my administration as Deputy Commissioner for New South Wales, in connexion with the War Service Homes’ Commission.
His statements, though highly slanderous in nature, are unfortunately privileged, consequently I possess no other redress than to approach my parliamentary friends, and especially you, whom I regard, in all sincerity, as one of the warmest, to refute same in my interests. I would like you to have a chat with Higgs and Grant. Let them see this.
If you consider it necessary, I can have all these facts incorporated in a sworn declaration. I now leave my honour in your hands with full confidence, for old times’ sake, that you will take the earliest opportunity of vindicating me before the Senate and the public.
Sincere good wishes.
Yours as ever,
Major W. D. Evans.
I may here interpolate that when the Minister made his statement on the 17th July last I intimated that I had known Major Evans for many years, and that I had never known him to be guilty of a dishonest action. That is the reason why he has written to me. Here is his statement -
Relative to the statement by the Minister for Repatriation, made in the Senate yesterday, it is inconceivable that Senator Millen, holding the high and honorable position of a Commonwealth Minister, would, in a privileges statement made to the Senate, descend to an undignified vituperation, allied with an unmistakahle distortion of fact, unless he, in turn, had been deliberately deceived by some responsible official adviser.
For instance, take his statement, “Major Evans had exceeded the limits of land pur- chase by the Act, and had been dismissed. . . .. The official papers disclosed that, on 20th June, the Commissioner wrote to Major Evans terminating his services. Colonel Walker went to Sydney, arriving on 24th June, to deliver the letter and appoint a successor.” Commissioner Walker made the public statement recently, in Sydney, that I had been called upon to resign. However, I am not stressing the contradiction, as it is one of many. My offer to the attorneys (whose business antecedents and personnel I was not called upon to investigate, and who throughout all the investigations have acted in a straightforward and open manner) of Mrs. Ada Violet Mitchell, the owner of the estate, was only made on Thursday, 19th June. A letter of acceptance was forwarded on Saturday, 21st June, and was received by me on the morning of the 24th June. I might call attention to the fact that Sunday, 22nd, and . Monday, 23rd (public holiday), intervened. The sale was reported verbally to the Commissioner on the morning of the 24th, the first available opportunity offering. The question that now arises (especially in view of the senator’s statement that “ The Commissioner knew nothing until he received a letter from the vending firm to nominate a solicitor, who would fix the matter”) is, how was it possible for the Commissioner, in Melbourne, on the 20th June, to associate this purchase as the governing factor in my retirement?
The limitation of powers to £5,000 under the War Service Homes Act is applicable only to the compulsory acquisition of land. The section prescribing this limit is incorporated with that part of the Act dealing solely with the compulsory acquisition under the Lands Acquisition Act as apart from purchase by mutual agreement and negotiation.
In any case, my instruction from Commissioner Walker (who knew the land well, and who, further, to my own personal knowledge, has had business dealings with Chas. Myers and Co., the attorneys of the estate) was to purchase the estate, if possible. These instructions were issued before the receipt of any expressed powers vested in me under any delegation of limitations subsequently determined by the Commissioner.
– He says that he had instructions. Does he give you a copy of them ?
– I will read everything that I have for the information of the Minister.
– But I want you to read something you have not got.
Even if the delegation of powers were capable of retrospective application, a departmental Commissioner is expressly empowered thereunder to bind the Commissioner in excess of these delegated powers in matters of expediency.
Regarding my valuation for land within the 5-miles radius to the Central Railway Station of less than 15s. per foot (i.e., allowing for the value of the homestead), I had, quite apart from my own judgment in the matter as a guiding basis, three different valuations by sworn valuators of this city - Phillips, Wheeler and Co. Limited, J. G. Griffin and Harrison, J. Frank Cox Limited. I also had submitted for perusal contracts of actual sales on the estates from £2 up to £6 per foot. I was also cognisant with ‘the fact that Major Whyte, a returned Australian Imperial Force officer, had purchased several blocks at the former price, and erected his home oh the estate, when he had practically the whole metropolitan area to draw upon.
– Does he state by whom the valuations were made?
Doctors, lawyers, and even sworn valuators, have been known to differ, and in many cases of litigation and arbitration consistent with the object of the party that employs them’ are prepared to even back up such differences by sworn testimony. The fallacy of taking a local government or State valuation as a prima facie basis for negotiations has been previously exemplified. I need only quote a case fresh in the mind of the Sydney public - the Clontarf lands owned by the Sydney Ferries Limited, valued for taxation purposes at £1.1,200 - which, after negotiation with the company for their resumption for public services had failed,’ were put up for auction recently, and actually realized, for a portion of the estate only, over £30,000. I reiterate that the Mount Bardwell estate, despite the determined attempts to discredit the sale, constitutes an excellent bargain at the price, and is capable of being utilized almost immediately for the erection of 700 or 800 homes for returned soldiers - a big factor to be considered in such an urgent situation.
Regarding the Lithgow gift lands, Senator Millen stated, “ They had not rejected the offer.” Commissioner Walker had previously publicly stated, “ They had declined the gift because they had not the power to accept it.” But his official wire instructed me as follows: - “ Decided Commissioner cannot accept gift lands. Attention particularly drawn to Lithgow donation.”
– Is that the quotation as given to you, because if it is, important sentences are left out.
– The Minister will have half-an-hour in which to reply, and 1 shall not interject when he is speaking. My time is limited. The statement continues -
The discrediting statement that the gift lands “ were so low lying,” &c, I will leave in abler hands than mine to refute. Senator Millen, in reply to Senator Gardiner asking that the correspondence concering the Bexley transaction should be tabled in the Senate, stated “ There is no correspondence.” All I wish to say at this stage is that, on Handing over all my documents to Messrs. F. W. Toll and Bailey, on the 24th June last, prior to proceeding on one week’s official final leave, this correspondence, which is fairly voluminous, was handed over with the rest. The official Records Register will disclose this. I can quite understand the official reluctance to disclosing the exceptional merits of the deal, which untampered correspondence would reveal, and thus obviate any necessity for stultifying tl:le extraordinary action of the Commissioner in his repudiation of the purchase. I greatly deplore the adoption of such slanderous tactics as this launching of a discrediting propaganda. It only tends to cloud and side-track the real issue, one that materially affects the interests of returned soldiers, which I have so much at heart, viz., the public exposure of the proscrastinating methods and detrimental policy of centralization adopted by the War Service Homes Commissioner in this State since the inception of the scheme, a charge which, in justice to over 3,000 soldier applicants, merits official explanation, but up to date has been studiously avoided.
Let me read now some statutory declarations which have been made by Major Evans -
I, William Drynan Jervois Evans, of “ Maidstone,” Vivian-street south, Bellevue Bill, Woollahra, Sydney, in the State of New South Wales, civil engineer, do solemnly and sincerely declare as follows: -
That the following dates and events constitute the correct chronological sequence of events connected with my’ administration as Deputy Commissioner of New South Wales and Federal Territory for Seat of Government: - 1919.
Feb. 27.- Mr Bardwell land offered to Charles Myers and Company to Commissioner Walker for £31,000.
March 25. - Charles Myers and Company advised by Commissioner Walker that the matter would bo referred to .the Deputy Commissioner for New South Wales on his appointment.
April 2S. - I reported to Commissioner Walker in Melbourne.
April 29. - Found Victorian office a going concern’ under Captain Tait (a former adjutant and quartermaster of Walker) as Deputy Commissioner. Pressed by
Commissioner Walker to push purchase of Mr Bardwell Estate, as he knew the land, was satisfied with price, and stated Myers had been to see. him, and was a good chap.
May 1. - Received appointment as Deputy Commissioner.
May 2.- Left Melbourne for Sydney. Asked by Walker to appoint Peterson (private secretary to Millen) as my chief clerk in Sydney. I declined - he was not a returned soldier. Again urged to take up Myers’ offer.
May 6. - Opened temporary office at Repatriationbuildings.
May 10. - Completed report on organization and establishment necessary for my administration.
May 13. - Report posted, with salaries recommended, to Walker in Melbourne. Commissioner urged to expedite matter.
May 17. - Left for Melbourne to attend conference of Deputy Commissioners.
May 21. - Conference commenced. Victorian State Savings Bank agreement reported signed. (See Exhibit A.)
May 23. - Left Melbourne for Sydney.
May 28. -Advertisedin press for approved positions chief clerk and nucleus of small administration staff.
May 30. - Application for same closed. Power of delegation received, with power to bind Commissioner in event of any act in excess of delegation.
June 2. - Wired recommendation for appointment of staff to Melbourne.
June 3. - Visited Newcastle officially.
June 4. - Recommendation approved of by Walker.
June 6. - Interviewed Charles Myers and Company re Mr Bardwell Estate.
June 8. - Inspected Mr Bardwell Estate.
June 10. - Commissioner Walker arrived my office. Progress report made to Commissioner re Mr Bardwell. Staff commenced duty. I threatened to resign owing procrastinating methods. I informed Colonel Parr, Deputy Comptroller Repatriation, at time my intention.
June 12. - I wrote Charles Myers and Company for further data. Walker left for Melbourne.
June 14. - I visited Lithgow officially.
June 16. - Returned to Sydney from Lithgow.
June 17. - I interviewed Railway Department and Messrs. Bradley, Son, and Maughan, the solicitors for Mr. Brown, re Lithgow gift lands.
June 18. - I discussed details of “lay-out” of Lithgow land with Mr. John Sulman, F.R.I.B.A., the president of New South Wales Town Planning Association.
June 19. - I wired Wollongong executive relative official visit to southern indus trial area. Offer made to Charles Myers and Company as attorneys for Mrs. Ada Violet Mitchell, to purchase at £25,000. Received wire from Walker, refused Lithgow gift. I forwarded urgent wire, and letter posted on Melbourne mail train, urging reconsideration of decision re Lithgow land.
June 20. - I advised Lithgow executive of newposition. I decided to resign in consequence non-receipt satisfactory reply my appeal re Lithgow.
Advertised for two architectural draughtsmen on request from Walker.
The Commissioner dated his letter concerning my retirement from position of Deputy Comnrissioner for New South Wales.
June 21. - I left for Wollongong. The acceptance by Charles Myers and Company of offer forwarded.
June 24. - The acceptance of offer received by me. I wrote out my resignation at the Imperial Service Club, Elizabethstreet. (See Exhibit B.) Kept appointment with Walker at the Commonwealth Bank Office at 11.30 a.m. Handed Commissioner my resignation. After reading same, declined to accept, on the grounds that heheld an official document dated 20th inst., approved of by Millen, terminating my services as Deputy Commissioner for New South Wales, and which, despite the postscript thereon, dated 24th, he claimed must receive official priority. (See Exhibit C.) I demanded the reasons. He declined to furnish same. I then made a request in writing (see Exhibit D), in order to have a protest on official records. I advised Walker of the sale of Mr Bardwell. I handed over official records, to Toll and Bailey at 4.30 p.m., at my office. I proceeded on one week’s approved official leave.
June 25. -Received authorized official letter from Walker, stating, in effect, that my request for the reasons would receive attention onhis return to Melbourne.
July 1. -I retired from position of Deputy Commissioner for New South Wales.
July 3. - The sale of Mr Bardwell Estate repudiated by Walker, and in same letter Charles Myers and Company invited to discuss matter of purchase with Toll.
July 21. - The foundation of the first house in New South Wales under the scheme laid by Denison Miller, same to be completed by September 16th next.
I further declare that on June 24th, 1919, these following conditions existed: -
Over 3,000 applicationshad been received in New South Wales. No money was available to the credit of the scheme in Sydney for the building of homes, the purchase of dwellings erected, or for the redemption of mortgages. No technical staff, real property searchers, or investigation clerks appointed. No standard drawings ofhomes were available in New South Wales. No details relative to standardized fittings, &c., were available. No regulations governing transactions under the Act were in existence in New South Wales.
And I further declarethat -
My retirement was in no wayconnected with the sale of the Mr Bardwell Estate. I was not asked to resign. I had not been previously warned by the Commissioner on any matter. The position of Deputy Commissioner for New South Wales vacated by me was not filled by my successor as the result of public advertisement for the position. I haveperused, notwithstanding ‘Walker’s denial, a written document signed by Walker, indicating past business relations with the firm of Charles Myers and Company. I was advised by George Mitchell, thehusband of Mrs. Ada Violet Mitchell, that he had personally conducted Lt.-Colonel James Walker over the Mr Bardwell Estate, notwithstanding Walker’s statement that he had not visited the estate. I bad access to valuation furnished by Phillips, Wheeler and Co. Ltd., J. G. Griffin and Harrison, and J. Frank Cox and Co. Ltd., confirming my judgment. Ihad knowledge of actual sales on the estate ranging up to £6 per foot. (See Exhibit E-F.) I have investigated the allegations that a legal member of the firm of Charles Myers and Company had been struck off the roll of solicitors. Mr. A. J. Macaulay, the only legal member (see Exhibit G) of the firm is still practising his profession at 164 Pitt-street, Sydney. Mrs. Ada Violet Mitchellhas stated that an offer of between £22,000 and £23,000 was made by Walker’s agent direct to her on the evening of the2nd inst., and that she replied to Walker declining same. The Lithgow gift (see Exhibit H) was definitely refused by Walker.
And I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true, and by virtue of the provisions of the Oaths Act 1900. (Sgd) W. D. J. Evans.
Subscribed and declared at Sydney this twenty-fourth day of July, 1919, before me - R. Fuller, J.P.
The following is another statutory declaration : -
I, William Drynan Jervois Evans, of Maidstone, Vivian-street south, Bellevue Hill, Woolahra, Sydney, in the State of New South Wales, civil engineer, do solemnly and sincerely declare as follows: - That the exhibits marked “ B,” “ C,” “ E,” “ F,” and “ H “ mentioned in the statutory declaration signed by me on the 24th day of July, 1919, are true copies of the originals thereof. And I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true andby virtue of the provisions of the Oaths Act 1900. (Signed) W. D. Evans.
Subscribed and declared at Sydney this 24th day of July, 1919, before me.
I now produce exhibit “A,” and as it is a rather lengthy document, I shall merely read the heading, which is: -
Memorandum of an agreement made this day of , 1919, between the War Service Homes Commissioner of the one part and the Commissioners of the State Savings Bank of Victoria of the other part, whereby with the consent of the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, acting with the advice of the Federal Executive Council, and with the consent of the Governor in Council of the State of Victoria, and pursuant to section 50 of the War Service Homes Act 1918 of the Commonwealth of Australia and the State Savings Bank Act 1918 of Victoria, it is arranged as follows: -
The document then sets out the terms of the memorandum, but I cannot deal with them in detail in the limited time at my disposal. Exhibit “ B “ is a copy of a. letter from Major Evans to the War Service Homes Commissioner, Melbourne, dated 24th June, 1919, and is as follows : -
I submit herewith my resignation of the position of Deputy Commissioner for New South Wales and Deputy Commissioner for the Federal Territory for the Seat of Government.
I desire the resignation to take effect from such date as my successor can conveniently take over these duties.
This action of mine will not, in view of my expressed intention, conveyed to you at our interview on the 10th instant, come as much of a surprise to you.
In the interests of the returned soldiers of New South Wales, whose welfare I have so much at heart, I feel I possess no other alternative than to resign from the Commission, and then publicly expose the unfortunate and exasperating policy of procrastination pursued by you in regard to the New South Wales administration, which is in marked distinction to that manifested by you in the State of Victoria, where financial arrangements have been actually completed with the State Savings Bank with substantial emoluments provided for the Inspector-General and Commissioners of the bank. I contend that it is nothing short of a positive scandal to find at this stage ( six months after the assent to the War Service Homes Act and two months after my appointment), over 3,000 applications in hand in New South Wales, and not one penny available locally for furthering these; not one valuator, investigation clerk, or real property searcher appointed for even the essential preliminary work on each application; all this notwithstanding the fact that you were asked by me to undertake, on 10th May last, to expedite approval to these appointments. Many applications have been withdrawn in desperation. I have even been advised of forfeiture of deposits in some cases.
In conclusion, the public humiliation (which you must surely have anticipated would result in my resignation), that you deliberately subjected me by your official telegraphic repudiation of my acceptance of the Lithgow gift on the 19th instant, on such a flimsy pretext, followed by your action in ignoring my wire and letter of same date urging your consideration, constituted the determining factors in my decision to resign. No self-respecting senior member of your staff could calmly submit to such scant discourtesy at your hands and continue to serve under your administration.
That is certified as a true copy of the original. Exhibit “ C’’ is a certified copy of a memorandum from CommissionerWalker to Major Evans. It is as follows : -
Melbourne, 20th June, 1919.
Please note that I have decided to relieve you of the duties of Deputy Commissioner for New South Wales, and to terminate your services as from 1st July next. You will hand over all documents and other papers to me personally at Sydney, and proceed on leave until the date of termination of appointment. (Signed) James Walker,
P.S. - The documents and other papers referred to above are to be handed over to Messrs. F. W. Toll and W.R. Bailey on the 24th instant.
J.W., Commissioner. 24th June, 1919.
Exhibit “ D “ is a certified copy of a memorandum from Major Evans to the Commissioner, dated 24th . June, 1919. It reads: -
I have to acknowledge your 19/C50, numbered 1288, and dated 20th instant, handed me personally by you at 11.30 this morning. The decision to relieve me of my duties as Deputy Commissioner of this State suggests some serious omission or commission in connexion with my administration in New South Wales, especially when such action is not preceded by some preliminary inquiry into the circumstances of the implied charges. I feel that some grave misunderstanding has arisen on ex parte evidence furnished. The position is so unusual for an officer of my status to be secretly charged, tried, and sentenced, without being heard in my own defence. I court the fullest scrutiny of all my official and unofficial actions since taking over my functions as Deputy Commissioner of this State, and I now ask, in the face of the grave injustice which I have been subjected to, to be supplied with the reasons for your summary action in peremptorily dismissing me from office. The fact that, as alleged by you, “ that I had written to some person in Ballarat advising him, inter alia, ‘ not to be in such a damned hurry’” (a statement absolutely false) indicates a manifest tendency onthe part of some unknown person or persons to prejudice me through unfair misrepresentation. The further fact that official letters alleged to have been forwarded me from your office, such as, for instance, “ Technical Circular No. 1,” stated to have been handed over to me, never actually received by me, or at my office, induces meto believe that probably important instructions have similarly disappeared. My work has been conscientiously and fearlessly performed, despite many difficulties - these efforts have always been directed in the sole interests of the housing scheme in New South Wales.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Motion (bySenator Grant) agreed to-
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the honorable senator to continue his speech for an additional half-hour.
– I thank honorable senators for allowing me to continue. Exhibits “ E “ and “ F “ are private contract forms setting out the conditions and terms of sale in connexion with property forming part of the Mount Bardwell estate. I shall not take up the time of the Senate further in reading them. Exhibit “G” is the memorandum and articles of association of Charles Myers and Co. Limited, and I quote the following from page 11: -
We, the several persons whose names and addresses are subscribed hereto, are desirous of being formed into a company, in pursuance of this memorandum of association, and we respectively agree to take the number of shares in the capital of the company set opposite our respective names: -
The witness to all the signatures isS. Polle, Shirley-road,Wollstooecraft, and this is dated the 27th May, 1919. Exhibit “ H “ comprises the following correspondence : -
War Service Homes Commission, 19th June, 1919.
The Commissioner, War Service Homes, Melbourne.
Re Lithgow Gift Lands.
I have to acknowledge receipt of your wire of even date re the above and to confirm my wire to you in reply thereto. The facts are these: -
Lithgow is sadly congested as regards housing of its population (which includes many returned soldiers). Suitable land for building purposes in accessible sites is almost unprocurable, even at prohibitive prices.
After persistent overtures, Mr. J. L. Brown, of Lithgow, a wealthy land-owner, was prevailed upon to donate an area of suitable land, centrally situated, containingover 30 acres, and valued at £2,000, to the War Service Homes Commission.
Mr. John Sulman, F.R.I.B.A., Vicepresident of the Institute of Architects’ and President of the Town Planning Association of New South Wales,is a personal friend of the donor and quite naturally he (Brown) stipulated that the lay-out should be undertaken by the Town Planning Association free of cost, and without delay, and with full knowledge of local conditions.
I accepted the offer on this condition, not anticipating for one second that my action relating to such a generous offer would ultimately not receive your indorsement.
I arranged forthwith -
for the quotations of material supply from local manufacturers;
Lithgow and undertake the lay-out gratuitously.
The offer in question has been given by the elated Lithgow people wide publicity, and the precedent is likely to be taken advantage of in other parts of the State.
Your action, if persisted in, I am afraid will create quite a storm, and will re-act disastrously on public support in this State.
Decided Commission cannot accept gift lands unless property absolutely free from conditions governing subsequent dealings. Attention particularly drawn Lithgow donation.
Reference your wire, strongly urge reconsideration your policy relative gift land Lithgow, valued £2,000, otherwise this and future donations seriously jeopardized this State.
These telegrams are certified by Major Evans as true copies of the originals. The next exhibit is the f ollowing letter : - 26th June, 1919.
Dear Sir, - I would be glad if you would kindly insert the following paragraph in your next issue: - “Major W. D. Jervois Evans will relinquish the position of Deputy Commissioner for Now South Wales (War Service Homes Commission) on the 1st prox.”
Major Evans will probably be succeeded by Mr. Frederick Wm. Toll, a well known joiner and undertaker from Charters Towers, North Queensland.
Mr. Toll, as Major Toll,was formerly associated with Lieutenant-Colonel James Walker (then Lieutenant Walker) in the Kennedy Infantry Regiment (Townsville and Charters Towers ) , where Lieutenant-Colonel Walker carried on his trade as a builder.
Copies of that communication were sent to Sydney Morning Herald, Daily Telegraph, Evening News, Sun, Sunday Times, and Smith’s Weekly. Then there is the following letter, addressed to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald: -
Imperial Service Club Ltd.,
Penzance Chambers, 29 Elizabeth-street. Sydney.
Dear Sir. - I would esteem it a favour if you would publish the following disclaimer in your next issue: - “ The telegraphed Ministerial statement of Senator Millen that Major Evans has been asked to resign by the Housing Commissioner - one of the reasons being that he had entered into a contract of £25,000 worth of land, whereas his authority was limited to £1,000 - appearing in your issue this- morning, is (and I utter this advisedly, with a full knowledge of the consequences), wholly opposed to the truth in every detail. “ This attitude of the Minister only confirms the opinion that I have held throughout, viz., that Senator Millen has been the unconscious yet unfortunate victim of a system of official dupery, that has not only highly exasperated the returned men, persistently, humiliated and retarded me in my honest desire to advance the interest of the scheme in New South Wales on business principles, but even now seeks audaciously to deceive the Minister, and, through him, the Commonwealth Parliament.”
Ex Deputy Commissioner.
– I should . not have ventured to occupy the time of honorable senators over a matter which, in a sense, is unimportant, except that there appears to be a prevailing tendency now. the moment any statement is published in the press reflecting upon a public Department, to ‘ accept it at its face value, without investigation. ,
Answer. - The tendency to take rash statements at face value, without investigation, would appear to be one of the faults of Senator Millen. Without any official inquiry, withoutgiving any one a chance to present the other side, he accepted the Statement of his Departmental officers at their .face value, and described Major Evans, a returned officer, as having to answer the charge of being either a fool or a rogue, and held up. the firm of Charles Myers and Co. to public odium as a gang of robbers, who had tried to swindle the returned soldiers. The damning of a returned officer, and a slander of a public company, Senator Millen describes as “ a matter which, in a sense, is unimportant.” Does the senator place no value on his own veracity and sense of -justice?
I have said that these are statements quoted from Senator Millen’s speech, to which Charles Myers and Company are replying. The quotation continues -
– But what the papers do disclose, supporting the facts I propose to give, is that, on the 20th June, five days before
Major Evans made any announcement in the press, the Housing Commissioner wrote a letter to him terminating his services…..
This letter by the Housing Commissioner was written and dated on 20th June. Colonel Walker told me then of his intention to dispense with the services of Major Evans, and stated that he proposed to go over to Sydney and personally deliver his letter to Major Evans, and install his successor in his place. He did so, and delivered the letter to Major Evans on the 24th June.
Answer. - This statement of dates is very important
– It is.
– The quotation continues - because it reveals the fact that, on 20th June, Colonel Walker had determined to dispense with Major Evans, and had acquainted Senator Millen of- the fact. The whole trend of the senator’s speech is to show that Major Evans was summarily dismissed for having exceeded his powers in the purchase of the Mount Bardwell Estate. Yet, when he made that speech, Senator Millen must have known that the purchase of the Mount Bardwell Estate had not been made; and, further, he goes on to tell a shocked Senate that the Department knew nothing of the purchase on that date, regardless of the fact that he is contradicting himself.
– Major Evans, like all Deputies, was empowered, under a power of delegation, to purchase lands for the War Service Homes Act up to £1,000 in value, without reference to any one. If he thought it desirable to purchase land in excess of that sum,, he had to remit the matter, with his recommendation, to the Commissioner. The Commissioner himself, by terms of the Act, can purchase up to only £5,000 worth. If he wishes to purchase in excess of that value, he must seek Ministerial authority.
If Commissioner Walker was prepared to refer the matter of the purchase of the estate which he had refused at £25,000, as he says in his letter to Charles Myers and Co., he presumably had Ministerial authority from Senator Millen to do so.
– But he did not make the offer, and, therefore, did not require the authority.
– The quotation continues -
If Mr. Bailey was empowered to make an offer of between £22.000 and £23,000 for a direct sale, presumably he had authority from the Minister to do so. In which case, what becomes of the senator’s statements as to the value of this property when he said-
– This is .all built up on “ifs.”
– No. Senator Millen’s own statements are quoted here, and answers are supplied to them. This is the statement by the honorable senator last referred to -
When the Commissioner was made aware that’ the contract had been signed, he naturally looked into it, and caused certain valuations to be made. One of these was by a gentleman who had for nine years been the valuer of the municipality in which the land is situated, and who is also retained by the Railways Commissioners for valuations in that district. It may, therefore, be assumed that he is a gentleman of both knowledge and reputation. He values the land at £7,750, and, in addition, affirms that in no circumstances ought this land to be purchased, because of its unsuitability for the purpose for which the Housing Commissioner would want it. In addition, the Department of the Valuer-General was applied to. New South Wales has created a Department, the purpose of which is to value all the lands of the State, and those valuations, becoming a public record, are available for municipal, State, and other purposes, and would also form the basis of resumption, should the State at any time desire to acquire any parcel of land. This Department puts the value of this land at £0,225…..
The Commissioner also directed his officers in Sydney to invite representatives of the Returned Soldiers League and the secretary of the Soldiers and Citizens Political Party to accompany him on a visit of inspection of the land. One of these gentlemen, Mr. Cortis, happened to be a licensed surveyor . . . but I am stressing more particularly the fact that he is a licensed surveyor. In the report he has been good enough to furnish he says the- Bexley estate is totally unsuited for war service homes. I do not know of any more sweeping condemnation than that; but he goes into details: - “About two-thirds of the allotment, as designed and marked out on the ground, are projected upon the rough precipitous slopes of the plateau. The land is so precipitous that it is entirely unsuitable for building purposes of a nature required for soldier settlement. I am of opinion that at least £3 per foot would bo required to make any of the allotments ready for building purposes. “ The whole subdivision is a courageous, and almost impertinent, attempt to make hope triumph over experience. The area is about one mile and a half from railway or tramway communication, and the intervening country is very rough, and badly provided with road access.”
– Is the honorable senator reading from Hansard?
– No, I am reading seriatim replies to statements made by Senator Millen.
– Every word the honorable senator has just read appears in Ronsard.
– I am not reading from Ronsard, but from replies furnished to statements, made by Senator Millen. I indicated at the commencement that I was reading a seriatim reply to Senator Millen’s speech, and if I am out of order in so doing, the President will tell me.
– “Whose reply is the honorable senator reading?
– The reply of Charles Myers and Co.
– Who are Charles Myers and Co.?
– I do not know them. The statement proceeds -
I consider that the value “of the whole subdivision is about . . . per foot frontage of allotments …. As one sincerely interested in the cause of the soldiers, I desire herewith to enter an emphatic protest against any suggestion that such unsuitable land should be made available for the soldiers.
The answer is -
If the senator really believed these valua tions to be anywhere near correct, why did Colonel Walker tell Myers and Co. bie was willing to refer the subject of purchasing the property to Lieutenant-Colonel Toll ? He. had official access to copies of valuations forwarded to the Deputy Commissioner, Sydney, which were subsequently confirmed by actual sales, from £2 up to £6 per foot.
Obviously, Cortis must have visited the wrong area, as his assessment of precipitous area differs from the surveyors who designed the estate, and the estate is only 700 yards in a direct line from the Bexley tram line, and three-quarters of a mile from Banksia Railway Station.
The senator stressed the point that Mr. Cortis is a licensed surveyor. Apparently, Mr. Millen is under the impression that a licensed surveyor is an authority on building.. It never seemed to occur to Mr. Cortis that the presence of large quantities of sandstone meant plenty of building material of a most substantial sort, and was an asset.
If the senatorhad the slightest reliance on the accuracy of any of these valuations, it was his duty to immediately veto any further negotiations with either Myers and Co. or Mrs. Mitchell direct. If, as Mr. Cortis says in the report, “ He was good enough to furnish the land,” and the land is “ totally unsuited for war service homes,” why does Mr. Bailey suggest to Mrs. Mitchell the advisability of “cutting out the agents “ and taking £22,000 or £23,000 direct from the Housing Commissioner ?
– The honorable senator is now dealing with astatement which has come to him through three mouths. I deny the statement absolutely. He is building on “if Mr. Bailey did this.” But Mr. Bailey did not do it.
– As Major Evans is not here, and Charles Myers is not here, we can surely allow the statement to stand upon its merits.
Another curious feature is that, when questioned by Senator Gardiner as to the date of those valuations, Senator Millen replied - “They are all since Major Evans’ resignation.” He had previously proved to his own satisfaction that the major bad not resigned.
The PREISIDENT (Senator the Hon. T. Givens). - Order! I have been following the honorable senator at considerable length, and it appears to me that, if he is allowed to proceed, every person outside will have a right to take part in our debates here. Standing order No. 414 reads -
No senator shall read extracts from newspapers or other documents, except Hansard, referring to debates in the Senate during the same session.
Senator Needham is reading, word for word, statements made by Senator Millen in this Chamber some time ago, which are reported in Hansard. He is also reading replies from some person outside to each of those statements. He is thus according to persons outside this Parliament a privilege which has never before been accorded them, and I must rule him out of order.
– I have no desire to challenge your ruling, sir. I bow to it, and shall probably embrace some other opportunity of referring to the matter. I come now to the letter from Charles Myers, which is addressed to myself. It reads-
Sydney, 28th July, 1919.
Referring to the call of our manager and our conversations concerning Major Evans at his specific request, we enclose herewith a résumé of the whole case. This, together with the facts which Major Evans supplied you with, shouldform a most comprehensive outline of the whole position, and, in justice to the Senate, the public, and Major Evans and ourselves, we feel sure that you will secure the means of its publication in Hansard. Our solicitor in Melbourne, Mr. J. W. McComas, will use his discretion regarding the copy that we have sent him to be attached to the statement of the whole facts and position lodged with Senator Millen’s secretary. This is a matter that must not be allowed to rest. Firstly, the public must know the true facts; secondly, the Government must carry out its obligations to those from whom they purchased this property.
With all good wishes,
Charles Myers & Co. Ltd.,
Charles Myers, Managing Director.
Shall I be in order in reading the sworn declarations ?
– It all depends upon what they contain.
– Then I shall proceed to read them. The statutory declaration of Fergus Gordon Matthew reads -
I, Fergus GordonMatthew, of63 Pitt-street, Sydney, in the State of New South Wales, public accountant, do solemnly and sincerely declare as follows: -
The thirty-two sheets of type-written matter hereunto annexed, each of which has been initialled by me, are true copies of -
Homes Act, Repatriation Department, Melbourne, dated 27th February, 1919, from Charles Myers and Co.
– Order ! The halfhour’s extension granted to the honorable senator has expired.
– During a very long parliamentary experience I have listened to motions for the adjournment of the Senate on many occasions, but I have never known one in regard to which the time allotted under the Standing Orders has been so ruthlessly wasted as it has been by the honorable senator. It may be interesting to him to get into Hansard what is really an index to correspondence which somebody else holds, but it does not help the matter one iota. There are only two or three outstanding points in connexion with this question. In the first place I gather that the honorable senator’s accusation, as applied to myself, is that Major Evans was not dismissed from office but resigned. . Yet Senator Needham was not able to see that he, himself, cut the ground from under the feet of Major Evans when he read that gentleman’3 letter of the 24th June last. In that letter, Major Evans protests against his peremptory dismissal, and says-
I now ask, in the face of the grave injustice to which I have been subjected, to be supplied with the reasons for your summary action in dismissing me from office. The gentleman who wrote that now comes here and says, “ I resigned,” and Senator Needham echoes his statement.
– The honorable senator himself made the statement last week that Major Evans resigned.
– I did not. Last week, as appears in Hansard, I endeavoured to show that Major Evans’ pretence had no substance in it. The only resignation which that officer has put in is dated 17th July last. His notice of dismissal was dated 20th June last. Nearly a month later - for what reason I cannot conceive - Major Evans wrote a letter of resignation. It seems to me that during that time some Legal mind had been at work, hoping, possibly, to discover a flaw in the notice of dismissal, and had then suggested - three weeks after Major Evans left office - that he should put in a formal notice of resignation. That was done long after the matter had got into print. It is impossible for any fair minded man to assume that when Major Evans wrote the letter protesting against his summary dis- missal, he had any notion of talking resignation.
– Upon what date did his salary cease?
– He was relieved of office immediately. The letter of dismissal was written on the 20th June last. The Housing Commissioner, who alone is responsible for appointments to, and dismissals from, his staff, informed me that he was going to Sydney for the purpose of dismissing Major Evans. I am, therefore, personally able to say that on the 20th June, Colonel Walker had made up his mind to take that step. He took the letter over to Sydney, and delivered it to Major Evans himself, and this accounts for tho fact .that it was not delivered until the 24th June. In view of these facts it is idle for Major Evans or Senator Needham to come here and pretend that there was any bona fide resignation on the part of the former gentleman.
– Was he dismissed because of entering into the contract in regard to the land at Bexley ?
– I will come to that. The honorable senator need not be afraid that I wish to skip any material points in this case. On the evidence that I have produced the only possible verdict is that Major Evans was dismissed.
Now I come to the question as to whether the Mount Bardwell estate had anything to do with the dismissal. I have never said that it had. The very dates show that. What I did tell the Senate was that I wanted to deal with this matter because of the volume of criticism concerning it which had been published in Sydney.
Senator Gardiner has drawn my attention to a statement contained in my previous speech, when, in reply to a question put by him as to the date of the valuations, I said they had all been made since Major Evans’ resignation. That statement, taken by itself, might be capable of being misunderstood, but the whole trend of my speech on the previous occasion showed that there had been no resignation. The point involved in Senator Gardiner’s question was whether these were old valuations, .and I stated in effect that they had been made since the departure of Major Evans from the office.
I come now to the . question of the Mount Bardwell estate. I have never said that the negotiations for its purchase had anything to do with Major Evans’ dismissal. In my previous speech I made it clear that the Commissioner knew nothing of the Mount Bardwell Estate at the time of dismissal. I referred then to two subjects which were exciting a good deal of attention in Sydney, one being Major Evans’ statements, and the other the Mount Bardwell transaction. At that time the Sydney newspapers were discussing the Mount Bardwell transaction, and I thought it desirable, for the reputation of the Department, that the action taken by the Commissioner in regard thereto should be explained in public. The two things were intimately associated with one man, but I think I made it clear that Major Evans was dismissed for other reasons.
– That alters the impression you created in my mind last week.
– Unfortunately, I am not. able to quote the whole of my speech, but I invite the honorable gentleman to prove that the one thing hinged upon the other. So much has been said about the Mount Bardwell transaction, that I want to say a little more, and to give specific denials to certain definite statements. In the course of the statement read by Senator Needham it is alleged that Colonel Walker knows the land. Colonel Walker denies that. He states he was taken out somewhere in the locality of the Mount Bardwell Estate to look at some land, but he denies that this particular estate was. ever brought under his notice. It is stated also that he had dealings with Myers and Company. He denies this; unless the impression that he had dealings with Myers and Company is due to the fact that Mr. Myers, or some one representing that gentleman, called at the Melbourne office, and left a plan or some letter bringing the estate under notice. That is the only dealing which Colonel Walker has ever had with Mr. Myers, and Colonel Walker states that this matter was dealt with bv the Sydney office representative to whom the paper was forwarded. That is the only transaction which Colonel Walker had with Myers and Company.
– I do not think Mr. Cortis saw the land either.
– Mr. Cortis damned it.
– But he did not see it.
– I think, however, that I may dispense with all these valuations, because I intend to give the vendors’ own .valuation a month before it was offered to the Department. It is alleged, further, that Major Evans was instructed by Colonel Walker to purchase this land. Colonel Walker absolutely denies that. He declares that when such matters are brought before the head office, following the usual .course, they are sent to the deputies in the different States with instructions to look into them.
– Then, so far as you are concerned, it is Colonel Walker’s statement against Major Evans’ ?
– Yes; but we have this fact to the discredit of Major Evans - ?that whilst he claimed that he had resigned from the Department, he has sent in a letter protesting against his dismissal. Senator Needham has quoted a letter from Major Evans in which he says that not only did he rely on his own judgment as to the value of this land, but that he had three independent valuations to support his opinion. I interjected immediately, “ For whom were the valuations made ? “ That was a very important point, and for the information of the Senate I may- state that, so far as I can discover, these valuations were made for Myers and Company, the vendors. There is no record in the Department of any other valuation at that time, and curiously enough, Senator Needham has given corroboration of this theory by his reading of a prospectus of a company that was being formed for the purpose of proceeding with the subdivision of the land prior to its being offered to the War Service Homes Commissioner. One of the gentlemen mentioned in the prospectus is Mr. Cox, one df the valuers referred to by Senator Needham. Honorable senators will agree, I think, that a valuation made for the vendor is about the last that should be accepted by any . Government that has regard for the expenditure of public money.
– But other valuers’ names are mentioned also.
– Yes; I think the other valuers referred to were Harrison and Griffin. It does not matter what their names are. If they had acted as valuers for the vendors they may be regarded as unsuitable authorities by the purchaser.
In the course’ of my previous speech I made a statement which. I should like to explain. I was asked if I would table the correspondence dealing with this matter, and I said in reply, that there was no correspondence. I was referring then to head office, and had no knowledge of any correspondence that had passed between Major Evans and Myers and Company. My statement was literally correct so far as it affected the head office. Since then I have obtained information concerning the correspondence, in the
Sydney office between Major Evans, the vendors, and other people.
I come now to the question whether Major Evans had authority to purchase the land. If, as is contended, he was vested with this authority,- then Myers and Company have only to proceed through the ordinary channels and they may complete the transaction. There is no doubt about that. I venture to say that if they believed Major Evans had authority to carry this transaction through, they would not have asked Senator Needham to waste the time of the Senate this’ afternoon in discussing this matter. The Act is quite clear upon this point.
– The Senate did not think I was wasting time, because I was given permission to speak beyond the time limit fixed.
– That was because honorable senators did not want any one to be able to say that the Senate did not give Major Evans’ champion a chance to state his case.
– That was the only reason.
– Major Evans has attempted to make out that, although he was limited to a transaction involving not more than £1,000 where the purchase was by compulsory acquisition, he had a perfectly free hand to acquire, by negotiation, land in excess of that value. Parliament never meant that.
– And it is not in the Act.
– lt is laid down clearly in the Act that the authority given to the Commissioner-^- not to his deputy - must not exceed £5,000, and that in transactions over that amount the proposal must be submitted for the approval of the Minister. If, as ,provided in the Act, the Commissioner is limited to £5,000, would it not be an absurdity to say that he could give a Deputy Commissioner authority to expend an unlimited amount? Under the power of delegation the authority given to a Deputy is expressly - limited to £1,000 without reference to Melbourne office, and I point out. that Major Evans initialed that instruction, indicating plainly that he knew of it. Moreover, at a conference in Melbourne, between the Commissioner and the Deputies, Major Evans fought strenuously, but unsuccessfully, to get an enlargement of this authority, so it is idle to pretend that Major Evans did not know the limit of his powers.
I wish now to say a word or two about the valuations. I know that valuers of land differ very much in their ideas. It has been part of my experience to have something to do with the valuation of land, and I know that there is frequently a wide difference of opinion between men whose competence no one would doubt, because perhaps one sees in certain land opportunities which another fails to discern. But, even after making all. these allowances, there are limits beyond which it is impossible to go. I ask the Senate to remember that the departmental valuation of this property was not made by people interested in the sale, nor, presumably, by people- who wished to damn it. In the first place, there was the valuation .made by the State Valuer-General. If there is one person to whom we may look with some degree of confidence as being unprejudiced, surely it is the official appointed by the Government of New South Wales to value, the lands of the State generally, and part of whose duty it is to see that the value of one block bears some relation, to that of a block in a corresponding locality elsewhere. His valuation of this property was £6,225. I may point out that the vendors agreed to accept £25.000. Previously they asked £31,000. If the true value was, as stated by the State ValuerGeneral, £6,225, there was nothing very melodramatic about the vendors dropping the price from £31,000 to £25,000. Another valuation was by Mr. McMillan, a valuer under the Local Government Act of New South Wales. He fixed the price at £7,750. Mr. Cortis, a licensed valuer, whom Senator McDougall appears to discredit, said that, as a representative of the returned soldiers, he inspected the ground with the officers of the Department, and fixed the value at 5s. per foot frontage, as against 16s. per foot which the £25,000 fixed by the vendors would represent. The municipal unimproved value is £6,880, and improved value £7,100. But perhaps I can- not do better than give the owners’ valuation as furnished to the Land Tax Commissioner.
– That is the one to get.
– I thought two people would be interested in this valuation - one being Senator Grant and the other the Taxation Commissioner. The owner’s valuation, as set out in the Federal land tax return, was - unimproved value, £2,200; improved, £2,900. I am not going to say. that the values returned for land tax purposes are indicative of the true market value, but I do regard it as a part of my duty to bring these facts under the notice of- the Land Tax Commissioner. There is one way in which I think we can demonstrate the actual value of the land. A month before it was submitted to1 Major Evans, it was placed under offer to, and refused by, the City Mutual Life Insurance Company for £12,000. In view of these facts, I do not propose to detain the Senate much longer. Senator Needham read, in the first portion of his address, a telegram from the Commissioner in Melbourne, which had already appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald over the signature of Major Evans. Now, as that telegram was read by Senator Needham, it stated -
Decided Commission cannot accept gift, lands. Attention particularly drawn Lithgow donation.
I interjected that that was a mutilated telegram. The true one reads -
Decided Commission cannot accept gift lands unless property absolutely free from conditions governing subsequent dealings. Attention particularly drawn Lithgow donation.
– Would the’ mutilation be to that extent?
- Senator Needham now. is actually going to question my statement that it is a mutilated telegram. He did not stop to consider his brief sufficiently well to realize that he would be reading that same telegram himself in the later portion of his remarks. The honorable senator read the mutilated message first; and then, at a later stage, he read the full telegram.
– That shows, at any rate, that I was honest in my purposes.
– It shows, at least, that Senator Needham had not studied his brief. Major Evans, in his statement, provided for Senator Needham and furnished to the press - probably overlooking that the documents contradicted his own statement - put in a mutilated telegram, and then, when supplying copies of the official documents, he failed to notice or realize that he thus gave away his own case, as has been proved here to-day. I do not know that I need bother any more about this matter. I’ shall be considerably disappointed, and I would regard the administration of a public department as almost intolerable, if, after the facts which I have given, I am to be worried any more upon this subject.
– I hope that criticism never will worry the Minister. But, if there is one thing which leaves him more open to criticism thom any other, it is the fact, at this stage, that Major Evans was not discharged on account of his having entered into this contract for the purchase of the Bexley land.
– I never said that he was.
– -Then the Minister was unfortunate- in the language which he employed upon the last occasion of his addressing himself to this matter. Senator Millen distinctly left an impression upon the minds of honorable senators that that was the reason for . Major Evans’ dismissal. (Senator Millen. - I informed the Senate that the Commissioner in Sydney knew nothing about the Mount Bardwell estate until the transaction was completed.
– Then I am prepared to quote the interjections of various honorable senators showing just what was in their minds. Senator de Largie, Senator Fairbairn, and other honorable senators- .
– You cannot hold me bound by those..
– I do not say that upon close examination it can be proved that Senator Millen directly stated that Major Evans was discharged for the reason I have just mentioned; but the remarks of the Minister certainly conveyed that impression to .the minds of those who heard him. T am bound to say that I took up this matter without knowing anything about the circumstances, except that I had had the advantage, twenty-five years ago, of occupying a seat in Parliament with Senator Millen, and that I am in a position, therefore, to know his methods and manners,. He is the finest word painter, the finest drawer of pictures, of any man whom I know in public life. Those touches in his speech of a week or two ago were the touches of an artist. He referred to the land company of which a man named Earle Hermann, and also a solicitor who had been struck off the rolls, were members. After investigation, I have ascertained that this individual named Hermann never was a member of that company.
– Will you say that he was never. in any way associated with it?
– I believe him to be an employee of the company. Senator Millen stated that he was a member of that company, and that he had authority for so saying.
– You will admit that he is an employee ?
– I want to say emphatically that I am not defending him, or any one associated .with him or the company in question. I desire merely to get at the truth and the whole truth. Senator Millen said he was a member of tie company. The Minister further stated that another member of the company was a discharged solicitor. There has never been any such member of the company.
– Will you admit that he also was an employee?
– I will not do bo, because I know nothing about the employees of that firm.
– Have you seen a list of the shareholders?
– Yes, and I will produce the list if required.
– I would very much like to see it, because, so far, we have been quite unable to pet hold of it.
– That is a most remarkable statement for a Minister to make; for I am assured that a company, before it can be legally formed, must furnish a list of its shareholders to the authorities.
– The only way in which one can get that list of shareholders is by going to the office of ‘ the company’s solicitors.
– The Minister’s statement was calculated to discredit the whole concern, because iai the first place he introduced -a solicitor who, he asserted, had been struck off the rolls, and, then, another individual who possessed a notorious reputation as a company promoter. Yet neither man is in any way connected with Charles Myers and Company.
– I am glad of your admission, however, that they are employed there.
– As for any statement or admission of mine in this or any regard, I shall not withhold public information or facts which may be in my possession.
Let us now wipe from our minds all impressions that the two individuals under discussion were members of the company at all. Also let us forget the statement or impression that Major Evans had been discharged because of his having entered into this particular contract. Since I spoke upon the .subject in the Senate a week or two ago, 1 have taken the opportunity to go over the estate. Senator Grant and I traversed the whole of it; and if we did not go over every yard of it, I am certainly prepared to say that we looked over every single block on the estate. I propose to quote now from a statement which Senator Millen read, in which a Mr. Cortis made certain comments. I desire to say first, however, that I have before me a map of the estate in which all the distances are set to scale by the simple process of marking the plan, with the aid of a compass, in i-mile circles. There can be no discussion or dispute as to the accuracy of my distances, then. I do not intend to get excited, nor to interest myself on behalf of Myers and Company, or Earle Hermann, whom I do not know. But I do protest that the way in which this whole business has been made public is not the’ proper method. For the Minister to have indicated or hinted that a possibly reputable firm is in actual fact a set of land “ boodleiers,” who are deliberately trying to pass on an estate to the returned soldiers for an amount of £25,000, when it is worth- only £6,000 or £7,000-
– Well, it certainly looks like it.
– On the Minister’s statement it does certainly look like it.
– That statement is full of inaccuracies.
– I have given the name of the company to whom an offer was actually made.
– Exactly ; but in your last statement in this Senate you gave us six statements which were inaccuracies.
– I deny that.
– Would Senator Gardiner, who states that he has gone over .the property, care to recommend it at the higher price?
– I am not here to do anything of the kind. I am not a land valuator, but I am prepared to say that, after having carefully gone over the estate - having walked over almost every “block, and having viewed any that I may not have traversed- there is no block on, the estate for which I would not give 30s.. a foot.
– The Department possesses a letter from the City Mutual insur.ara.ee Company giving us the facts as I stated them.
– That, of course, is additional -information. I think, however,’ that it is quite possible that the Minister has been misinformed by the various reports. Having read the report of Mr. Cortis, I am of opinion that he could not have seen the estate. He may have thought he was examining it, but I feel positive, in view of his statements, that he could not have done so. He said, for example, that about twothirds of the allotments, as designed and marked out on the ground, are projected upon the Tough precipitous’ sandstone slopes of the plateau. He continues that j the land is so precipitous that it is en- tirely unsuitable for buildings of a nature required for soldier settlement. Mr. Cortis adds -
I am of the opinion that at least £3 a foot would be required to make any of the allotments ready for building purposes.
I emphatically assert, after having made my own investigations, that the great bulk of the allotments require no improvements or alterations before buildings can be erected upon them. There are hundreds of sites upon the estate as level as a billiard table.
– What is the slope?
– From the northern side a new road has been made, which may be said to be on the slope. On the other side, however, one can travel along without noticing any rise whatever. Honorable senators should bear in mind that this land is less than 6 miles from the Sydney Railway Station.
– That is, direct?
– Yes. The railway runs within a mile of the estate, and there are no turnings in the route of the main southern railway down to the south coast. Mr. Cortis asserted that the land would cost, at least, £3 a foot tobe put in order for building purposes. I assert that it would cost nothing to make it ready for the erection of buildings. That is one reason why I am of opinion that Mr. Cortis must have traversed the wrong tract of land. There is no block which would entail any preparatory building cost over and above that in connexion with a level piece of land.
– You infer, then, that they were asking too little for the estate.
– I am merely giving information according to the opinions which I formed as the result of my observations. Mr. Cortis said that the area is about 1½ miles from railway or tramway communication, and that the intervening country is very rough and badly provided with road access. He could not have seen the land. The map before me shows that from the Arncliffe Railway Station the distance to this land is a mile, and that from the estate to the tram it is only a matter of 700 yards. If a party reports to the effect that a certain site is1½ miles from railway and tramway communication, whereas it is only 1 mile from the railway and 700 yards from the tramway, then he must have looked over the wrong property. This estate is within 2 miles of Botany Bay. The Bexley tramway runs to the Arncliffe Railway Station, which is 1 mile from the property, and the tramway line en route to Arncliffe runs within 700 yards of the estate. Is it not fair to assume, in view of the divergence between Mr. Cortis’ estimate of the distance and the actual facts that he must have made a mistake in his examination? I am trying to look from a charitable point of view upon Mr. Cortis’ report. Honorable senators know full well that land valuations vary. When a big estate is subdivided, there is nothing very extraordinary inthe fact that its value is judged to be much greater than when it was one whole block.
– But when you buy a piece of land before subdivision you do not pay retail prices for it.
– It is an entirely different thing to say that such a property as this is worth only 5s. a foot. No man can be looked upon as a judge of land values throughout the whole country;but to say that land such as the estate in question is worth only 5s. a foot when it is within 6 miles of the Sydney Central Railway Station is altogether misleading. In my judgment, it is worth from 30s. to £2 a foot; or, at any rate, I am willing to say that 30s. to 40s. is much nearer the true value than 5s. a foot.
– In a wholesale block?
– Yes. I am sure the Minister has been misinformed. But if that land is worth 30s. in its present condition-
– It is worth 5s.
– Then I would not be in the least surprised to discover, when it is sold, that it had fetched 60s. a foot. About 12,000 feet have been sold, and one block, which was purchased for prospective values realized £6 per foot, whilst another 1,000 feet were sold at £2 per foot. There are thousands of feet of land which, I believe, are equally as good as that sold at £2 per foot. These are the facts, and they are supported by Senator Grant, who is a man of common sense, and one who took considerable trouble in looking over the land. The land is there, and any one who is interested can inspect it for himself. The Minister has been misinformed by the reports he has received, just as he has been in connexion with the Lithgow land. I believe a mistakehas been made over the Lithgow property. Senator Newland stated that it was all swampy country.
-I did not say anything of the kind.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– As one who has looked into this transaction very closely since we were here last, I believe there has been some roguery or foolery, as stated by the Minister, but that he has struck the wrong nail on the head. He should call for an investigation to get the matter thoroughly cleared up. I am not going into the values of the land, but I am going to say that the statement read by the Minister has been compiled by some officer who is trying to smother up something. It is bristlingwith inaccuracies, if not deliberate falsehoods. I do not say that the Minister knows anything about them, but the statement has been compiled with the idea of smothering up something.
– Will you indicate one of the statements which . is inaccurate?
– I will with pleasure. One is in connexion with the Lithgow land.
– This adjournment was not moved to deal with the Lithgow land.
– I am not dealing with it.
– I think you are.
– May I be permitted, Mr. President, to refer to the Lithgow land ?
– The honorable senator is in order in merely referring to it.
– There are inaccuracies and false statements in connexion with the Lithgow land.
– I propose to take your ruling, Mr. President, as to whether the honorable senator is right in dealing with the Lithgow land under this motion.
– The motion is specifically worded to deal with the case of Major Evans, and the Mount Bardwell estate purchase. The Standing orders are emphatic on the point, and the honorable senator cannot deal with any other question.
– I contend that I am speaking within the terms of the motion, and the Minister referred to the two.
– I did not.
– I will find some other occasion to deal with the inaccuracies to which I have referred in connexion with the other land. One inaccuracy is that the members of this company are undesirable citizens, that a member of this company has served time in gaol, and that another One has been struck off the rolls. The man who put that into a statement for the Minister is attempting to misleadhim and to smother up something. Senator Gardiner has shown that the distance of the land from the railway in the Minister’s statement iswrong.
– He has referred to only one of these officers who reported on the proposition, and has left out all reference to the others.
– My time would not permit me to deal with all of them; otherwise I would have gone through the lot.
– You do not suggest that we should purchase Mount Bardwell Estate ?
– Not a bit of it. I would not suggest purchasing it or the Lithgow land either. It is better land than we have in other placesthe same distancefrom Sydney, that have been sold for £5 per foot. It is an outrage to ask men who have to work on the wharfs to pay such an excessive price. Colonel Walker, according to the Minister’s statement, has had a distant eight of the land, and. I believe he was over the place.
– Are you saying that he was on the land ?
– I believe he was. I am going to believe what the Minister says, although I was debarred from replying to Senator Newland when he made a most outrageous statement about an old gentleman seventy-three years of age,- who was desirous of helping returned soldiers by making the presenta-tion to them. There is no likelihood of any one spending large sums of money in that locality until he has an assurance of continuity of employment in that district. If the Small Arms Factory were permanently established the land would have been sold long ago.
– I have not said a word against that respectable old gentleman, and you have no right to 6ay that I have.
– It is there all right, if you will look it up in Hansard. I believe the honorable senator was not in a sane mind when he made the statement, and he was then smarting under some fancied injustice that he had to suffer by some senator wasting time when he was waiting to address the Senate. In justice to the soldiers there should be an inquiry, and I hope one will be instituted as quickly as possible. I hope that every one who has had anything to do with the case will have the opportunity of proving their bona fides so far as their transactions with .the Government are concerned. I have not had the pleasure of seeing the Bardwell estate, but I had the opportunity of inquiring from the vendors of the land, and from others who have been connected with it. I am perfectly satisfied that the information given by the Minister is inaccurate; that somebody has something to cover up, and that the wrong man has been sacked.
– It is singular that, whilst we are on the threshold of making efforts ‘ to secure lands for returned soldiers these two transactions should have brought forth a whole volume of scandal. The valuations given this afternoon by the
Minister may be, and no doubt are, the valuations made by those gentlemen, but I am surprised at the enormous difference in the figures quoted. The first amount is .£31,000, and then it is reduced to £25,000 when the . Commonwealth desires to purchase the estate, whilst for local taxation and Federal taxation purposes the estate is valued at only £7,500. I am of the opinion that the local valuations, and that of the Federal authorities, are all below the mark, and that in this, as well .as in other instances, the ‘ holders of large estates are escaping their just share of taxation. The Federal Taxation Commissioner should, I think, be called upon to explain why a valuation of £7,500 was placed on the property.This gentleman is a highly paid officer, with, a big staff, and is supposed to place something like the true valuation on the properties assessed . They are apparently asking these people to pay on a valuation of £7,500, and with the exemption of £5,000 - which I am glad to say the Labour party, at their Federal Conference, determined to have repealed - the taxable value is reduced to £2,500.
– The honorable senator is discussing land taxation generally, and this is not the question before the Chair.
– I am merely expressing my surprise at the difference between the selling price of the land and the price at which it is assessed for taxation purposes. I inspected the land, and also that at Lithgow, which at present is not under consideration. In regard to the estate at Bexley, I wish to support the statement made by Senator Gardiner to the effect that it is excellent building land. To say that that land is worth only 5s. per foot is absurd. If it were put up at auction to-morrow it would fetch an average of a good, deal more than £2 per foot. Land about Sydney is very valuable, and is increasing in value every day. There may, and I suppose there must, be something in connexion with the estate, which has not been disclosed. It may be that access to the estate will be very costly, and that before it is sold access to it must be provided. But if that be so, it is somewhat strange, not to use another term, that already a number of blocks on the estate have been sold, and that a number of cottages have been erected upon it. These matters should be inquired into. It is altogether inexplicable to me that it should be suggested that this block of land is worth only 5s. per foot. There is no land in the neighbourhood, or even a long way out from it,, that could be obtained at anything approximating that price. It is a matter of very great surprise to me that it should be valued at such a price either by the local authorities or the Federal Taxing Commissioner.
Personally I am not very much enamoured of the idea of constructing a large number of houses together for returned soldiers. I think the scheme adopted by the Commonwealth Bank of agreeing to purchase vacant blocks of land in any suitable position, and erecting on them homes for returned soldiers, whenever they may require them, is very much better than the erection of a large number of homes together for returned men. In my view it is better that the returned soldiers should be assimilated with the general population as soon as possible’, than that they should be set apart in settlements by themselves.
Enough has . been said by the Minister or by previous speakers to justify a searching inquiry into this matter. If it is true that the difficulty of access to this estate is so great that the land is really not worth more than 5s. per foot, that should be definitely established by inquiry. If,’ on the other hand, it is true that the land is worth a great deal more, and that homes for returned soldiers are urgently required, that also should be established by inquiry. There is an opinion, which I share. that the Government are not at all anxious to erect homes for returned soldiers. I have said before that if they were, seeing that we have placed an unlimited amount of money at their disposal, thousands of such homes would be erected to-day. Yet I do not know of one that has been completed so far, although the War Service Homes Act was passed more than seven months ago. I understand that a few soldiers’ homes have been commenced, and that a few may be completed inside of two months. It may be that in appointing Commis sioners and Deputy Commissioners under the War Service Homes Act the Government are only misleading, deceiving, and deluding the returned’ men into the belief that they are going to be provided with homes. That may be one reason why this estate was not accepted. I do not say that that was the reason, but I dc say that that interpretation may be put upon the refusal of it. I hope that later on an effort will be made to secure a full and complete inquiry into this matter.
– In submitting my motion I was constrained to read a number of documents in order that the Senate and the country should be supplied with something in the nature of a rebuttal to the Minister’s statement concerning Major Evans’ connexion with .the purchase of the Mount Bardwell estate. The honorable senator has since replied,, and he appeared to be a little ruffled about the matter. He was anxious about the time of the Senate being occupied, and suggested that by my motion the time of the Senate was being wasted, but I think he missed the main point, and that is that the honour and integrity of Major W. D. J. Evans have been impugned.
– And of Myers and Company, also.
– I am not bothered in this matter about anything but the honour and integrity of Major Evans. The Minister for Repatriation, speaking here under cover of privilege, has unconsciously impugned his honour and integrity. I venture to say, if I can judge from the chorus of approbation from honorable senators opposite which greeted Senator Millen’s remarks on the 17 th July, when he placed Major Evans in the pillory, so to speak, an impression was left on their minds that Major Evans had been guilty of some dishonest action. That impression is in the minds of the public of Australia to-day, and it was in order to secure an inquiry into this matter by some impartial tribunal that T moved the adjournment of the Senate. I hold no brief’ for Charles Myers and Company. I do not know them. I hold no brief for any man who is guilty of wrong-doing; but as an elected representative in this Senate of the people of the Commonwealth, I do hold a brief for any man who is tried and condemned, and judgment pronounced upon him in his absence, and without his being given an opportunity to put in one word in his own defence. The Minister’s reply, to me this afternoon proves that when Major Evans was dismissed he was not given the reasons for his dismissal. On the 17th July, the Minister for Repatriation said, in connexion with the purchase of the Mount Bardwell Estate, that Major Evans was either a fool or a rogue. I ask the honorable senator now if he will give Major Evans a chance to prove that he was neither a fool nor a rogue. Not only are the honour and integrity of Major Evans at stake, but the honour of his family is also at stake. Imagine the stigma cast upon the wife and children of a reputable citizen of this country if the Minister’s statement were allowed to go without challenge.
Let me try to condense the whole of this debate. I quoted from sworn documents this afternoon, and the Minister for Repatriation has replied, advised by Colonel Walker, the Chief Commissioner under tha Housing Scheme. The documents I submitted were sworn to, and were supplied by Major Evans and by Myers and Company, and the whole matter boiled down is whether the word of Colonel Walker can be taken’ as against that of Major Evans.’ The Minister for Repatriation has no personal knowledge of the matter; he is advised by Colonel Walker. I have no personal knowledge of the matter, and I am advise’d by Major Evans. This is a case in which there is doubt, and in accordance with the ordinary principles of British justice I appeal to the Minister for Repatriation and to the Senate to give Major Evans a chance before another tribunal to prove his innocence. The Minister has said that he hopes he may never again be ruffled about questions such as this in connexion with matters of public administration. I am not concerned about the feelings of the Minister, who has used his position in this House to attack a man outside.
– The Minister did not attack him. He made statements in answer to statements made by Major Evans.
– The Minister made statements which impugned the honour of Major Evans. Senator Reid cannot deny that. I hope that .some time to-day or to-morrow the Minister for Repatriation will make another statement, informing honorable senators that an impartial inquiry will be held into the whole business. . The honorable senator says that the reputation of the Department is at stake.
– It has gone.
– I never knew that the Department had a reputation at all.
– The honorable senator is trying to give it one.
– I am concerned about the reputation and character of Major Evans. They are at stake, and I ask the Minister for Repatriation to arrange for an impartial inquiry into this matter. I have nothing more to say at this stage, except that unless an impartial tribunal is appointed to inquire into this matter by the Senate or by tho Government, the innuendo and suggestion of wrong-doing and wrong-dealing will remain at the door of Major Evans. I ask the leave of the Senate to withdraw my motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn accordingly.
– I should like, as a point of order, to ask whether before the next business is proceeded with I should be in order in giving notice for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into this matter.
– ‘The Standing Orders are emphatic that at the conclusion of notices of motion and questions the business of the day is proceeded with. The honorable senator would, therefore, not be in order in giving his notice of motion now.
Residents of Enemy Origin - Extension of Act
asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has the Administration taken into consideration the stating of a case for submission to the High Court in order to determine the constitutional validity of the Act intituled “ An Act to extend the duration of the War Precautions Act 1914-1916, and for other purposes,” which extends the operation of the War Precautions Act after a state of peace has been reached ?
– In view of advice which the Government obtained before the introduction of the Bill for the Act in question, it is not. considered that any necessity exists for the submission of the Act to the High Court in the manner suggested by the honorable senator.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer supplied is - 1 to 4. A number of reports have been received from the Royal Commissioner, who considered the cases of 768 officers. The Commissioner has recommended that 719 of these offi cers be retained in the Public Service, for the reasons that their alleged enemy origin has not been proved, or, if proved, that it is either too remote or is accompanied by circumstances which did not justify a recommendation of discontinuance of services. In 35 cases, the Commissioner has recommended that the officers’ services be not retained, and 14 cases have not been completed for various reasons, such as traffic restrictions, and delays in furnishing evidence.
In accordance with a. promise which the Acting Prime Minister made on 20th December, 1918, each of the officers whose dismissal has been recommended by the. Commissioner has been given an opportunity of making representations, with a knowledge of the questions and answers and the recommendation of the Commissioner, to show why he should not be dismissed or punished.
After fully considering the Commission’s recommendations and the representations of the officers concerned, it has been decided to discontinue the services of ten officers. Other cases, in which dismissal was recommended by the Commissioner, are now under consideration.
asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Amendment of Act - Evasion of Act
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice - ls it the intention of the Government to” introduce a Bill this session to amend the .Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914 on the lines suggested in paragraph 12 of page 7 of the Fourth General Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, recently presented to Parliament and printed?
– This matter is under the consideration of the Government.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The whole report is being considered in connexion with the amending legislation suggested.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer is - 1 to 3. The term of the option granted to the Commonwealth over the Blythe River iron deposit has been extended, free of additional charge, for a period of three months from the 1st June, 1919. The experts engaged to examine and report on the property have not yet completed their investigations, but as soon as their report is received the matter will be fully considered.
Wentworth ‘ Park Wool Stores - Profits’ on Skinned Wool.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
The Chairman, Central Wool Committee, advises as follows: -
£75,941 3s. 3d.
Messrs. Stuart Brothers, Camperdown, Sydney.
Central . Wool Committee remitted the necessary amounts to a special account operated upon by a building sub-committee, comprising the chairman and vice-chairman of the New South Wales State Wool Committee, and two members of the Central Wool Committee, Messrs. F. B. S. Falkiner, M.P., and Andrew Moore.
No. The control is vested in the Central Wool Committee, acting practically as trustees for the Australian wool growers and the Imperial Government.
asked the Minister representing the -Prime Minister, upon notice -
Does the Central Wool Committee purport to exclude skinned wool from participation in London profits; if so, by what authority?
– The answer is -
The Central Wool Committee resolved prior to the opening of the wool season 1918-1919 and during the currency of the wool scheme which terminates on 30th June, 1920, that skin wools would not participate in any dividends over and above the flat rate of 15½d. per lb. on a greasy basis.
The resolution was confirmed by ‘the Acting Prime Minister.
Issue of Rifle Barrels
askedthe Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice-
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Recommendation of Public Accounts Committee
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Ballasting of Line
asked the Min ister representing the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Purchase of Shaw Wireless Works - Marconi versus Commonwealth.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice - .
– The answers are -
asked the Acting
Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Will the Government supply each State for its War Museum a complete set of the New Guinea and Marshall Islands stamps?
– The answer is-
The stamps have been seized by the Customs, and when disposed of the proceeds must, in accordance with the law, be paid into revenue. They cannot be supplied free of charge, but it will be open to the State Governments to tender for the stamps desired for their War Museums.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Russell) read a first time.
.- I move-
That Northern Territory of Australia Ordinance No. 8 of 1919, entitled : “ An” Ordinance to provide for a Council of Advice for the Northern Territory,” be disallowed.
I recognise that it is an unpleasant duty to move for the disallowancecof this Ordinance. But I am quite justified in my action, seeing that this particular Ordinance seeks to introduce an entirely new form of administration into the Northern Territory. At the outset of my remarks, I wish to make it perfectly clear that, in moving for the disallowance of the Ordinance, I am not influenced in any way by the appointment to the proposed Councilof Advice of any of the gentlemen who are to form this new Advisory Board. I do not know any of them in this matter. All that concerns me is that a new departure is proposed in the administration of the Territory - a departure so drastic and important that, to my mind, it should first have been submitted to this Parliament for its consideration. Parliament has a right to say how our Federal Territories shall be administered in the future. For that reason, and in order to afford the Government an opportunity of submitting their proposals to Parliament, I am moving that the Ordinance be disallowed. Ever since I entered this Parliament, I have been decidedly of the opinion that the Northern Territory should be represented here. ‘ From that very important portion of Australia there should be in the National Legislature a certain number of representatives, who would be able to voice the opinions held by the residents there. Every honorable senator will agree with me that we know comparatively little of the Territory, of its requirements, and of the difficulties and hardships which confront the people who are settled there. Because of the very great distance by which it is removed from us, and because of the lack of means for the interchange of ideas, it is severely handicapped. The members of this Parliament know very little of the requirements of the Territory, and because of its remoteness from us, we are unable to visit it for the purpose of examining it for ourselves, and thus obtaining first hand information.
– That is a great argument against undue centralization.
– That is so, but so far as the Federal Government are concerned there must be centralization somewhere. 1 am anxious that the Northern Territory shall be represented at the Seat of Government by persons duly elected by the people, and I disapprove of the methods adopted in connexion with the election of representatives on the Advisory Council. The Labour organizations of Port Darwin were called upon, under this Ordinance, to elect two representatives to the Council, and a number of persons were permitted to vote because they were members, of Labour organizations. Many of these workmen are not naturalized subjects, and under a proper electoral system they would not be permitted to vote.
– Then the Ordinance really gives the franchise to unnaturalized citizens?
– There is no doubt about that. I do not know how far the ballot extended, but under the new arrangement members of the Australian Workers Union had the right to choose two representatives on fie Advisory Council. I have the names of the persons appointed, and also the number of votes cast. Every man engaged in manual labour in the Northern Territory must be a member of the . Australian Workers Union, and so’ had a vote. I am not finding fault with these men as workmen, nor would I object if they had an opportunity of qualifying for the franchise, and used it in the ordinary way; but this election to the Advisory Council has not been properly carried out. I understand also there is to be on the Council one representative of the pastoral industry, and another of the mining industry; but I have no idea how they are to be elected, though this information may be in the Department of Home Affairs. Every member of the Senate should know how these gentlemen are to be appointed, whether they are to be selected, or nominated by some person. There will also be on the Council two heads of Departments - one the officer occupying the position of Director of Lands, and the other the Director of Mines. I presume they will be Government nominees, and there will, of course, be the gentleman appointed as Director, who will be ‘chairman of the Council. My complaint is that we are not supplied with information concerning the proposed Council. We . get only scraps of information from time to time in the form of paragraphs in the press. The first intimation I had of the appointment of the Council was contained in a paragraph in the Age on the 3rd June of this year, to the effect that there had been an election of members of an Advisory Council for the purpose of assisting the Federal Government in the administration of the Northern Territory. Probably the paragraph was worded in an unfortunate way, as the casual reader would come to the conclusion that the Commonwealth Administration had failed absolutely in the past, and that the Government were seeking assistance from this elective body.
– Will the Council have administrative authority, or be only an advisory body?
– I will deal with the Ordinance in a few minutes. I do not intend to refer to any person who has ‘been appointed, but I draw attention to the fact that there has been a protest from returned soldiers that they were not given an opportunity of appointing a man or competing for the position. Probably this was due to oversight on the part ‘of the Government. The returned soldiers ought to have had an opportunity of submitting a candidate, and if he were found to be unsuitable they would then have been satisfied they had had a fair run for their money. The next information published in the press was in the Melbourne Herald of 3rd July, to the effect that Mr. Carey, who has since been appointed Director of the Northern Territory, was to leave Darwin on a visit to Melbourne, and probably would return to the Territory by the next steamer, when his appointment would be formally confirmed. The paragraph went on to say that many, of the trappings with which the past Administrator had been surrounded were to be dispensed with; that Mr. Carey would not have the title of “ His Excellency “ - though I do not know that that would be a great hardship - and that Government House was to be used for departmental offices. I have a recollection, during my visit to the Territory, of what happened at the Batchelor Homestead Farm, which had been furnished at considerable cost to the Government. There were then only two or three pieces of furniture left, and I am afraid Government House will be treated in the same way.
– Did you find out what had happened to. the furniture?
– Various explanations were offered for its disappearance. I think it would be a mistake to close up Government House at Darwin. The furniture and appointments will, very likely, have the .same fate as those at Batchelor Farm. I fail to see why the Government, in their desire to bring about reforms in the Territory, should attempt to belittle that portion of Australia. Visitors arrive there from all parts of the world, and the former Administrator, Dr. Gilruth, was allowed a certain sum. of money per annum for entertainment purposes. Under the new Ordinance, the Chairman of the Advisory Council will receive only £1,000 per annum, with no allowance for entertainment purposes. I do not want any trappings in the administration of the Northern Territory, but I believe the abolition of the entertainment allowance will be a step in the wrong direction. It will not be fair to the new Director to expect him to expend any portion of his salary in the entertainment of visitors, among whom may be gentlemen representing large interests in mining or other developmental enterprises, who may reasonably expect treatment similar to that which they would receive in any. other part of the world. With the entertainment allowance cut out, the Director will be unable to offer any of these people the usual courtesies, so they will have to put up at the local hotel. We are anxious to encourage the mining investor, the pastoralist, and the man who will settle and cultivate tropical products. It should be one of the chief functions of the Administrator, therefore, to afford such encouragement at every opportunity; >but 1 contend that under present arrangements it will be impossible to do so in a manner creditable to the Administrator or the Commonwealth Government. An Adelaide newspaper, on the 24th July, pointed out that provision was being made for an advisory council of seven representatives of various interests, with the Director of the Territory as chairman, and that that gentleman would be in touch with the Minister in Melbourne. One of the reasons why the Northern Territory administration .has been so unsuccessful is that the Minister, from his office in Melbourne, has taken too much responsibility, or, rather, has prevented the settlement of Territory affairs, large and small, on the spot. That has been the great fault. The Administrator was not given an opportunity to deal locally with local matters. Almost everything had to be referred to the Minister in Melbourne. Under the new regime the situation will be even worse. Dr. Gilruth had very extensive powers. Nevertheless, he had to refer to .Melbourne very many decisions of grave and small consequence, with resultant dissatisfaction and uncertainty. That kind of thing has greatly hampered the development of the Territory. In the Melbourne Herald of 27th July, it was announced that the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) had indicated on the previous day that Mr. H. E. Carey, formerly Government Secretary in Darwin, and now connected with Vestey Brothers’ meat works there, would be appointed director of the Territory. Mr. Carey left his position of
Government Secretary, and joined the firm of Vestey Brothers. Now he is leaving that company, and is taking up the duties of chairman of the Advisory Board at Darwin. I have no desire to discount the work of Vestey Brothers. Their enterprise in the Territory has been very great.; their expenditure has- been tremendous, and there should be considerable national benefit as an outcome ot their activities. But at Darwin there is a great deal of talk concerning the influence exercised by Vestey Brothers in relation to the government of the Northern Territory. It has been stated in various letters and communications which I have received direct from Darwin, that the fact that Mr. Carey has returned from his service with Vestey Brothers, will not be likely to lessen the influence of that firm in the government of the Territory. I have felt for a considerable time that Parliament and the public have not been able to secure that full fund of information regarding the progress of events in the Territory to which they are entitled. Dissatisfied with the meagre volume of information contained in the press from time to time., and with that made known by the Minister to Parliament, I ventured recently to ask certain questions in the Senate. I was anxious to discover whether there was any legal barrier to the direct representation of the Territory of the Federal’ Parliament. I had some doubt whether the Constitution would permit of the election of members. On 16th July I asked whether there were any constitutional disabilities, and was informed that there was no constitutional difficulty whatever. Further, I was told -
The Commonwealth Parliament may provide for direct representation in either House, subject to any limitation it may prescribe. The question of representation has been considered by Cabinet, which was of opinion that the state of development which would justify direct representation has not yet been reached.
I fear that if the present rate of expansion is maintained it ‘ will be very many years before the Territory will have reached that stage of development where the Commonwealth Parliament may consider there is justification for granting direct parliamentary representation. On the other hand, I am satisfied that if the
Territory were directly represented in the Federal Legislature it would not be many years before that part of the Commonwealth was heard from in a manner advantageous both to itself and to the whole of Australia.
In regard to the Ordinance itself, members of the Federal Parliament had been given no prior particulars. On 17th July I asked if the Ordinance had been laid on the table of the Senate, whereupon I was informed that it had been tabled on the evening of the date on which 1 made my inquiry. I desire to call attention to this Ordinance, and I am interested to know if honorable senators are of opinion that a form of government is about to be established under which they would care to live. Let us imagine ourselves as residents of the Territory, anxious to participate in some of the conveniences of civilization. Residents of that part of Australia are provided with a mail only once in two or three months. There are practically no railway conveniences; there is very little police supervision. Food has to be transported over great distances. Women and children - in the interior, at all events - live a very strenuous existence. Section 5 of the Ordinance states-
It amounts precisely to this : If the Minister desires to put through any special regulation, and is blocked by the Council of Advice as it then exists, he has only to appoint sufficient additional members who will be to his way of thinking, and he can easily secure his ends. The Ordinance does not say how many additional members may be appointed. If the Minister finds a majority of the existing members opposing any of his designs !.e can swamp such opposition by making as many additional appointments as ho deems necessary. All Democrats are opposed to nominee Legislatures. We have fought in Australia for many years against nominee Chambers. Senators are elected on the most democratic franchise in the world. Yet the democratic Parliament of Australia is asked to connive at the appointment of a nominee Chamber to rule over a section of this Commonwealth, and we are invited, in addition to deliberately place power in the hands of one individual to so “ rig “ that nominee council that he may gain hia ends, whatever they may be. I do not suggest that a Minister controlling the , Northern Territory may ever do or seek ‘ to perpetrate such a thing; but here is his power. We hand over to the Minister absolute freedom to nominate councillors when he likes, how .he likes, and such as he likes. This Board of Advice may frame, rules of procedure and government, irrespective of the views of the people themselves. ‘ Residents of the Territory have become so sick and tired of Federal neglect that they care little what -is done or intended in the way of governing them. They have no vote for any Australian Legislature, and they worry mighty little about politics. For that reason I’ ask honorable senators to support me in my desire that this Ordinance be disallowed. It is only right that fairer and better steps be taken toward the government of the people of the Northern Territory. The Ordinance continues in section 6, sub-clause 1 -
Sub.-section (1) of section 6 provides -
The meetings of the Council of Advice shall be held at least once in three months, at such times and places as the chairman appoints.
There is no question of remuneration, nor is it stated that the members of the Council shall be located at Port Darwin. There is no mention of whether the mining and pastoral interests shall be repre sented, and, generally speaking, we are left entirely in doubt as to what regulations may be framed. If there are regulations, this Parliament should be acquainted with them, particularly if the Government are to be involved in additional expenditure. Unless members of the advisory council axe to be paid, it will be an unsatisfactory body. Section 6, sub-section 2 provides -
The chairman, or in his absence the Government Secretary, shall preside at all meetings of the Council. In the absence of the chairman and the Government Secretary, the senior official member present shall preside.
This democratic council is not to have the right to select its own chairman, and the choice of at least three members is offered from whom to select a chairman or officer presiding. This is the kind of Ordinance that this Parliament is being asked to agree to. Further on, sub-section 1 of section S provides -
Any member of the Council may, by giving at least seven days’ notice in writing to the Government Secretary, request that any question relating to the Territory shall be submitted to the Council.
A member of the Council who has some business to bring forward for consideration by the Council will have to give at least seven days’ notice of his intention so to do. It will not be a very fastworking machine, this Advisory Council when appointed. Sub-section 2 of section 8 provides -
On receipt of any such request, the Government Secretary shall forthwith notify ‘ the chairman, and if he consents the question may be discussed at the next meeting, provided that at least seven days have elapsed from the date of the receipt by the Government Secretary of notice of the request.
I wish to draw special attention to this sub-section. Notwithstanding the prior provision, with all its safeguards, the chairman shall have the right to refuse to deal with any matter which a member of the Council may wish to bring forward. I wish to repeat that if a member of the Council has business to bring forward, he has to give at least seven days’ notice of his intention to do so, and even then .the chairman of this nominee Council will have the right to say whether the matter shall be discussed or not. Sub-section 3 of section 8 provides -
Any member may, at any meeting, submit in writing a question which he desires to be discussed at that meeting, but the question shall not be so discussed unless the chairman consents thereto.
The chairman has the full power to say what shall be discussed, and if the discussion of a question proceeds in a way unsatisfactory to the chairman, the Government can appointother nominees to swamp the men who comprise the Council. If this is not a safe institution for the Government, I do not know what is. I trust that the Senate will not agree to an Ordinance of this description, and no member of the Senate can go to his constituents and plead for a full and free franchise if he records a vote in favour of the retention of this Ordinance.
– It is Autocracy!
– It is Autocracy camouflaged as Democracy. It is obvious to every one that it is Autocracy mingled with a little Democracy. Some of the gentlemen appointed on this Council of Advice are known to me, and I can imagine with what lamb-like submission they will agree to the powers of the chairman as set out in sub-section 3 of section 8 already quoted. I am strongly opposed to the Ordinance giving him such autocratic powers in the guise of Democracy.
– Are you going to submit a substitute purposely ?
– I am not allowed to submit alternatives under this motion ; but I am in favour of the Northern Territory having two representatives in this Parliament. I am not prepared to say definitely what representation there should be in either House, but I would suggest that the Territory be represented by one member in the Senate and two members in the House of Representatives. At present the residents of the Territory have no one here to put their case before the people, and generally they are in a most” unfortunate position. If they had two or three representatives in this Parliament, who were continually speaking on behalf of the Territory, the people there would be in a better position, and they would have their interests protected, just as they were when they had representatives in the South Australian Parliament.
– This Government are spending more money in the Territory than South Australia ever did.
– Yes ; but the Government are not spending the money so effectively.
– That is an open question.
– I do not know that it is. The Federal Parliament agreed to the present arrangement with their eyes open, and the Federal Parliament will have to deal with the matter without making sneering references to South Australia. I have quoted sufficient of the Ordinance to show that the hands of this Council will be tied absolutely. I would also like to call attention to section 10, which reads -
Nothing in this Ordinance shall be construed as authorizing the Council to appropriate any public moneys.
That seems to indicate that the seven gentlemen appointed to the Council will not be allowed to do one stroke in connexion with public works without consulting the Minister in Melbourne, and instead of this being an improvement, the position will really be worse. “Without the permission of the supreme authority, it will be impossible to put even a paneof glass in a window unless the work has been referred to Melbourne for the authority of the Minister. I dare say the Ordinance has been carefully studied by some honorable senators, and that, in the case of others, it has,like many other proposals, escaped attention. I have taken a great deal of interest in the Territory, perhaps more than others, and I am giving the Senate an opportunity of considering this matter, and seeing whether it is wise to pass the Ordinance in its present form. I wish to remind honorable senators that the Northern Territory was represented in the South Australian House of Assembly by two members, from 1890 onwards, when it had only one-third of the white population it has to-day.
– What is the population ?
- Dr. Gilruth’s latest report, which has been placed in our handsrecently, is the most optimistic documenthehas every submitted. Ap- parently it was his last; but during the whole time he was there he never presented a more cheerful report concerning the Territory and its potentialities than he has done on this occasion.I do not intend to read much of it now, because I will have an opportunity later.
– What is the white population of the Northern Territory at the present time?
– I quote the followingfrom page 5 of the report: -
The white population shows a slight increase, in spite of the cessation of railway construction and the approaching completion of the Meat Works.
At the end of 1910,when the Commonwealth assumed responsibility, the white population was 1,173; by June last it was 3,767.
The white population had increased more than threefold.
– Is that the total population or the number of adult males ?
– I think that it refers to the total white population. The report continues -
In the same period the Asiatics, who in 1901 exceeded the Europeans by 659,had decreased by655, numbering now 1;177.
The number of children shows also a satisfactory increase. In 1910 the average school attendance at Darwin was 38.8. To-day it is 150.8.
These figures show a large gain in the number of children, and a very substantial increase in the white population. The report proceeds -
While the total population is small, the increase isrelativelygreat. It must be remembered that the absence of fuel (coal costs 80s. per ton landed, and firewood 40s. per cord) precludes almost any manufacture; while the high wages in Darwin, and isolation of the country districts, deters many possible agriculturistsfrom any attempt at pioneering.
I do not intend to read any more from thereport to-night.
– To-day there are 4,900 Europeans in the Territory.
– It is a little difficult to reconcile that with Dr. Gilruth’sreport, which was issued for the period ending . 30th June of last year.
SenatorRussell. -He may be referring to European adults.
– That makes my case only the stronger, and I thank the Vice-President of the Executive Council for the information he has given as to the presentEuropean population of the Territory. It is apparent thatthe population is increasing, in spite of many disabilities and of the fact that the Government have been neglectful of the Territory. I say this, notwithstanding that they have spent large sums of money there, because money spent at Darwin on Government officials and officialdom is not going to develop the Northern Territory. The Minister has never heard me preaching economy, although I hope I shall never justify wasteful expenditure of money. It is possible that to spend no money at all might.be the most wasteful . thing the Government could do. Even to spend money in the wrong direction to prevent previous expenditure being wasted would be better than to spend no money at all.
Having said so much, I feel that honorable senators will be quite justified in supporting my motion. I do not ask them to do so with anyidea of embarrassing the Government, nor do I suggest that they should refrain from voting for the motion because to carry it might embarrass the Government. I think more of the importance of developing this great Territory than I do of temporarily embarrassing the Government.
Comparisons may be drawn with another Possession under the control of the Commonwealth; and the Minister, in his reply, will very likely remindhonorable senators that Papua is being administered by a Board such as that to which I take exception. In anticipation of the honorable senator’s reference to Papua, I should like toremind honorable senators that there are two governing authorities in Papua. There is an Executive Council and a Legislative Council. The Executive Council is comprised of six gentlemen highly placed in the administration of the country, and the Legislative Council is composed of nine other gentlemen. The six who form the Executive Council are also members of the Legislative Council of Papua. That will indicate that no comparison can be made between the government of Papua and that of the Northern Territory. The white population of Papua numbers about 1,000. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
First report from Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I regret that the VicePresident of the Executive Council should have moved the adjournment of the Senate. Senators Newland, Fairbairn, de Largio, and quite a number of other honorable senators have been accusing me of wasting the time of the Senate ; but I am here now, ready to work, and yet, at half-past 6 o’clock, when we have thebest of the evening before us, it is proposed that the Senate should adjourn. I sincerely upbraid the Government for proposing the adjournment of the Senate at this hour. I protest against being charged with wasting the time of the Senate, when here the Government propose to waste the time of the country. It is strange that they should do so when they put up senators to speak, as some honorable senators spoke last week. I particularly refer to Senator Newland, whose remarks are to be found in Hansard.
– “ Put up ?”
– Yes. I say that the honorable senator is like a cattledog yappingat the heels of a draught horse.
– Is Senator Gardiner the draught horse?
– Yes, I feel like one, and sometimesI feel like kicking. The point is that certain honorable senators falsely accused me of wasting the time of the Senate and of the coun try, and now the Government are doing the same thing. I have helped the Government during the session. I have helped to fill in the time for them, and to improve their measures. We have had these senators abusing me for going slow; but Senator Newland is the limit for going slow. I shall not continue how, as I do not wish to be brought back after dinner.
.- The Government are very anxious to go on with business; but I recognise that a big constitutional issue is involved in the matter that was raised by Senator Newland, and honorable senators who desire to speak on the matter are not ready to go on with the debate. I do not think that it is fair to Senator Newland that there should notbe a reasonable reply to him from the Government, and I am not now prepared to go on with the discussion. IfI have made a mistake, I regret it; but I wish to avoid bringing honorable senators back for only about ten minutes after dinner.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 8.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 August 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1919/19190806_senate_7_88/>.