10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands) took the chair at 11.40 a.m., and, having read prayers, directed the Usher of the Black Rod, through the Clerk of the Senate, to convey his invitation to honorable members of the House of Representatives to attend in the Senate Chamber forthwith to hear His Royal Highness the Duke of York read a message from His Majesty the King.
They having come, with their Speaker and his officers, the approach of the King’s Commissioner was announced by the Usher of the Black Rod.
His Royal Highness, accompanied by Her Royal Highness the Duchess of York, the Governor-General of the Commonwealth, and the State Governors, entered the chamber.
Their Royal Highnesses being seated, the Clerk of the Senate read the King’s Commission, as follows : -
George the Fifth, by the Grace of God,
Dated 28th December, 1926. of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India: To our right trusty and well-beloved Counsellor, John Lawrence, Baron Stonehaven, Knight Grand Cross of Our Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Companion of the Distinguished Service Order, Major, late Territorial Force Reserve, Governor-General and CommanderinChief in and over Our Commonwealth of Australia, and to Our trusty and wellbeloved the Senators, Representatives, and People of Our Commonwealth of Australia,
Whereas, by the Constitution of Our Commonwealth of Australia, it is provided that the Seat of Government of Our said Commonwealth shall be determined by the Parliament thereof, and that the said Parliament shall sit at Melbourne until it meet at the Seat of Government:
And whereas the said Parliament has enacted the Seat of Government Acceptance Act 1909, and the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1924-1926, and has thereby declared and determined that the Seat of Government of Our said Commonwealth shall be the Territory described in the Second Schedule to the said Seat of Government Acceptance Act 1909 :
And whereas it is intended that due preparation being made in that behalf, Our said Parliament shall meet at Canberra in the said Territory on the ninth day of May, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-seven, in the House of Parliament atCanberra aforesaid, and from that time forth shall be there holden.
And. whereas We are desirous of marking the importance of the first meeting of Our said Parliament at the Seat of Government, and of showing Our special interest in the welfare of Our Loyal Subjects in Our Commonwealth aforesaid, and forasmuch as for certain causes We cannot conveniently be present in Our Royal Person at the first meeting of Our said Parliament at Canberra:
Now know ye that We, trusting in the discretion, fidelity, and care of Our most dear and entirely beloved Son and most faithful Counsellor Albert Frederick Arthur George, Duke of York, Knight of Our Most Noble Order of the Garter, Knight of Our Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, Knight Grand Cross of Our Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Knight Grand Cross of Our Royal Victorian Order, Captain in Our Navy, Group Captain in Our Air Force, One of Our Personal Aides-de-Camp, do give and grant by the tenor of these presents unto the said Albert Frederick Arthur George, Duke of York, full power in Our Name to proclaim the inauguration of the meetings of Our said Parliament at Canberra aforesaid, and to open the first meeting of Our said Parliament at Canberra aforesaid, and to do everything which for Us and by Us shall be therein to be done: Willing that Our said dear Son shall hereby carry to Our said Parliament and People Our Royal Message of Goodwill and Our assurance of Our earn’est prayer for the blessing of Almighty God on Canberra, the capital city of Our Commonwealth of Australia, and for the continued prosperity and happiness of all Our Loyal Subjects in Our said Commonwealth.
And we dofurther direct and enjoin that these Our Letters Patent shall be read and proclaimed at such place or places as Our said Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief shall think fit within Our Commonwealth of Australia.
In witness whereof We have caused these Our Letters to be made Patent.
Witness Ourself at Westminster, the twenty-eighth day of December, in the seventeenth year of Our Reign.
By the King Himself,
Signed With His Own Hand,
HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS was then pleased to deliver the following speech : -
Gentlemen of the Senate and Gentlemen of the House of Representatives :
His Majesty the King, my dear father, desiring to mark the importance of the opening of this, the first meeting of the Federal Parliament in the new capital city of the Commonwealth of Australia, and to show his keen interest in all that concerns the welfare and advancement of his loyal subjects in Australia, has granted me the special commission which has just been read. Unable himself to be present in person, His Majesty has by that commission charged me as his representative to perform to-day’s ceremony, which inaugurates the new capital of Australia.
I am commanded by the King to say that his thoughts are with you in this hour. To-day’s historic occasion brings back vivid memories of that other 9th of May 26 years ago, when, as Duke of
Cornwall and York, His Majesty opened the first Parliament of the Commonwealth. Both he and the Queen retain the happiest recollections of that great event, and of their visit to Australia, of which it formed so memorable a part. They will never forget the manifestations of loyalty and affection with which they were everywhere received. The Duchess and I are proud to be following in their footsteps, and we thank you with full hearts for the welcome we have received, and the kindnesses that have been showered on us in every part of Australia which we have visited.
How much has happened in the quarter of a century sincethe opening of the first Commonwealth Parliament! What changes in the world! What revolution in human life and thought ! What marvellous progress in the means of communication and locomotion! For Australia and the whole Empire it has been a period of extraordinary evolution and development. It has been a testing time when, under the stress of the greatest war of our history, the Empire has found new meaning and new strength. Quickened by all these influences, without and within, the British Empire has advanced to a new conception of autonomy and freedom, to the idea of a system of British nations, each freely ordering its own individual life, but bound together in unity, by allegiance to one Crown, and co-operating with one another in all that concerns the common weal.
It is the King’s earnest prayer, in which I fervently join, that under Divine Providence, the future years may see the same advance in the development and prosperity of the Empire and all its parts, the same spirit of mutual understanding and sympathy, and the same determination to support one another to the uttermost, should the need come.
It is perhaps peculiarly fitting that we should celebrate the birth of this new capital city just after the close of an Imperial Conference, which represents the beginning of another chapter in our Empire story. May this day’s ceremony mark the re-dedication of this Commonwealth to those great ideals of liberty, fair dealing, justice, and devotion to the cause of peace, for which the Empire and all its members stand. We turn to-day a new page of history. May it be a page glorious for Australia and the whole Empire.
A fanfare of trumpets having been sounded,
HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS. - It affords me much pleasure to convey this message from His Majesty tho King, which arrived yesterday -
Our thoughts are more than ever with you on this day of happy memories to me and to the Queen.
On this occasion of signal importance in the history of Australia I ask you to assure the people of the Commonwealth of my heartfelt wishes for their continued happiness and progress.
I share their pride in the new capital city and join in their prayers for its successful future.
Their Royal Highnesses, accompanied by Their Excellencies the GovernorGeneral and the State Governors, having retired, honorable members of the House of Representatives withdrew.
Sitting suspended from 12.3 to 5 p.m.
The President (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands) reported to the Senate the message from His Majesty the King, as delivered by His Royal Highness the Duke of York.
[5.1]. - Mr. President
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
– I ask leave to move a motion transmitting a reply to the message from His Majesty the King.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed: -
That the following message be transmitted to His Majesty the King: -
In assuring Your Majesty of the loyalty and devotion of the people of Australia to your Person and to the Throne the Senate desires to thank Your Majesty for your most gracious message on the occasion of the establishment of the Scat of Government of the Commonwealth at Canberra. It recalls with pride and affection the important part Your Majesty took when the Federal Parliament was opened in Melbourne twenty-six years ago to-day, and expresses its deep gratitude for the active and continued interest which Your Majesty has been pleased to take in all that affects the common weal of the people of this Dominion. It will be long treasured as a mark of your special favour that Your Majesty should have honored Australia by commissioning your beloved son, His Royal Highness the Duke of York, to perform the official act for the establishment of the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth in its own Territory.
– I second the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable senators standing in their places.
– I have to inform the Senate that TheirRoyal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of York, have been pleased to present to the Parliament a cigarette box for the Parliament House, Canberra. The box was handed to me by HisRoyal Highness on the occasion of the dinner held in his honour in Parliament House, Melbourne. On behalf of the Parliament I accepted it and expressed our appreciation of this very handsome gift which TheirRoyal Highnesses have been so graciously pleased to make on the occasion of their visit to Australia to proclaim the inauguration of the meetings of the Parliament of the Commonwealth at Canberra.
[5.6]. - (By leave.) I move -
That the following address be presented to His Royal Highness the Duke of York: -
To His Royal Highness the Duke of York, Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order.
May it please Your Royal Highness:
We, the Senate, in Parliament assembled, express to Your Royal Highness our duty and loyalty to the Crown and Person of our Most Gracious Sovereign.
We offer to you and Her Royal Highness, on behalf of the people of Australia, a warm welcome. We feel sure that your visit will serve to strengthen still further the tics of kinship and affection which bind this country with Britain and the Empire. Our citizens deeply appreciate the further opportunity of personal contact with the members of Your Royal House which your presence amongst us affords.
We recall, with pride, the visit to Australia of His Majesty the King before his accession to the Throne, when he was graciously pleased to open in person the inaugural session of the Australian Parliament. We remember, with feelings of deep gratification, the later visit by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. We rejoice that, on the occasion of the establishment of the permanent Seat of Government of the Commonwealth at Canberra, it has been your gracious pleasure to open the new Parliamentary buildings.
This ceremony,which is the object of your long and arduous mission to these shores, is one of great significance to the people of Australia. It is the culmination of a series of important events in the history of our Commonwealth, marking the progress of our country, the unity of our people, and their loyalty to the Throne.
We earnestly trust that your sojourn among us has given happiness and pleasure to Your Royal Highnesses. Your association with our citizens on this historic occasion will be a source of inspiration to our people in the achievement of their destiny within the British Empire.
After the brilliant and historic ceremony in which we have taken part to-day, it is appropriate that the first business which the Senate is asked to transact in this new home to which the Parliament of Australia has been transferred should be the adoption of a motion in reply to the most gracious message of His Majesty the King, and the presentation by the President, on behalf of the Senate, of an Address to His Royal Highness the Duke of York, who opened this building to-day under such happy auspices. The cloudless skies and glorious sunshine which attended to-day’s proceedings augur well, I think, for the future that awaits the Commonwealth
The Senate, I am sure, will earnestly join in the expressions, in the motion, of loyalty to the Throne, and appreciation of the action of His Majesty the King in sending an illustrious scion of the Royal House, in the person of His Royal Highness the Duke of York, to perform the ceremony of opening the new Houses of Parliament at Canberra.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The people of Australia have already, in a most unmistakable manner, shown their appreciation of the visit of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York, and it now remains for us, their representatives in the Senate, to express in this way the satisfaction and pleasure which it has afforded us.
– As Leader of the Opposition, I cordially endorse the sentiments expressed by the right honorable the Leader of the Senate, and contained in the Address which, upon the adoption of this motion, will be presented to His Royal Highness the Duke of York. Together with all my colleagues of the Labour party, I join in the enthusiastic welcome that has been extended to their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York. Their visit to our shores, and the part they have played in to-day’s historic ceremony, will long be cherished in the memories of His Majesty’s subjects in this part of His far-flung realm. It seems but yesterday that His Gracious Majesty the King, as Duke of Cornwall and York, performed the ceremony of opening the firstParliament of- .the Commonwealth. Twenty-six years, however, have elapsed. In the intervening period much history has been made. To-day, we have reached the portals of that nationhood along the path to which we then took the first step. The Commonwealth was at that time but a political babe in swaddling clothes. To-day it is in the full possession of a lusty vigour.
During these 26 years Australia has been tried and tested, not only in the walks and arts of peace, but also in the dread crucible of war. The ceremony today marks an epoch in our history: the beginning of a new era for the Commonwealth. We have established for all time the nation’s Parliament in the nation’s own territory. From now on, the laws of the Commonwealth will be made, its destinies guided, and the welfare of its people guarded, by the Federal Parliament established in Federal territory. I earnestly hope that we in this Parliament, in common with all other Parliaments of the British Commonwealth of Nations, will ever strive to preserve the peace of the world and direct our efforts to the promotion of the progress and best interests of our people. I trust that Their Royal Highnesses will return to their native land in full possession, of health and vigour, and that they Will convey from us to our kinsfolk overseas a message of good-will, love, and loyalty. I have much pleasure in seconding the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable senators rising in their places.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That the Address be presented ,to His Royal Highness by the President on behalf of the Senate.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Commonwealth Inscribed Stock 1927 Bill.
States Grants Bill.
Supply Bill (No. 1) 1927-28.
Dried Fruits Export Charges Bill.
Loan Bill (No. 1).
Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.
Wine Export Bounty Bill.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill.
States Loan Bill.
Pearl-shell Overseas Marketing Bill.
Pearl-shell Export Charges Bill.
Wire and Wire-netting Bill.
Petroleum Prospecting Bill.
War Service Homes Bill.
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1924-2S.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill1924-25.
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1925-26.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1925-26.
Fresh Fruits Overseas Marketing Bill.
Fresh Fruits Export Charges Bill.
Victorian Parliament House Memorial Bill.
The following papers were presented : -
Transport in Australia, with special reference to Port and Harbour Facilities - Report (Volume II.) by Sir George Buchanan, K.C.I.E., Kt.
High Commissioner for Australia in London - Report for the year 1926.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 2 of 1927 - Association of Draughtsmen, Public Service.
Nos. 4 and 5 of 1927 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
Nos.6, 7, 8, and 9 of 1927 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. . 10 of 1927 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. . 11 of 1927 - Arms, Explosives, , and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia.
Audit Act - Transfers of Amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial Year 1926-27 - Dated12th April, 1927.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 27.
Public Service Act -
Department of Works and Railways -
W. C. Bruce, J. Crust, C. V. Howard, H. E. V. James, A. C. Smith.
Science and Industry Research Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 38.
Australian War Memorial Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 29.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance of 1927 - No. 4 - Interpretation.
Scat of Government (Administration) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 25.
Northern Australia Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 36.
New Guinea Act -
Ordinances of 1927 -
No. 9- Customs Tariff.
No. 10 - Extradition.
No. 11 - Fugitive Offenders (Jurisdiction ) .
No. 12 - Appropriation (No. 2) 1926-27.
No. 13 - Fisheries.
No. 14 - Laws Repeal and Adopting.
No. 15 - Police Offences.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at -
Toowoomba, Queensland - for Defence Purposes.
Tuggeranong, Federal Territory - for Federal Capital purposes (two notifications).
Turimetta, New South Wales - for Postal purposes.
Spirits Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 28.
Customs Act - Proclamation, dated 17th February, 1927, relating to the prohibition of exportation of wine.
[5.23]. - (By leave.) - I move -
That leave of absence be granted to every member of the Senate from the determination of the sitting this day to the day on which the Senate next meets.
If the Senate agrees to this motion, I propose to submit another giving the President power to summon honorable senators in the usual way on a date to be fixed. As possibly more than two months may elapse before honorable senators can thus be summoned, it is necessary for leave of absence to be given in order to safeguard their position.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
[5.24]. - I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till a day and hour to be fixed by the President, which date and time of meeting shall be notified to each senator by telegram or letter.
Honorable senators are sowell aware of the special circumstances associated at present with the conduct of the business of the Parliament that they need very little explanation from me; but in view of certain statements, particularly in sections of the press, it is desirable that, in the interests of honorable senators themselves, I should set out briefly the reasons why the Parliament of the Commonwealth has not and will not be meeting during certain periods of the current year. It is a unique experience for a young nation governed by a Parliament to have the whole of its administrative machinery transferred from one part of the country to another during the course of one year. By the deliberate will of the people of Australia it was inevitable, however, that the time would come when the Seat of Government must be transferred from Melbourne to Canberra. That transfer is taking place during the present year. Members of Parliament, because of their close association with the various departments that enable this Parliament and the executive officers to function, well understand how involved and intricate is the machinery of government; but many people do not. . They do not realize, for instance, that in the central administration of one department alone there are no less than 1,000 officers who will have to be removed to Canberra before it can function here as it has functioned in Melbourne. They do not know, perhaps, that there are ten departments, the central administrative staffs of which, although- certainly not as large as that of the department I have mentioned, must also be removed here before full executive government can be carried on in Canberra. Any one who knows anything at all about the machinery of government will realize, therefore, how impossible it is for the complete transfer to be effected in any one year. Fully aware of this, the Ministry, in. consultation with Parliament, has decided that the removal of the departments shall be gradual, and the transfer from Melbourne to Canberra is now gradually being made. Honorable senators are fully aware of the intimate relationship between Parliament, the Executive, and the administrative departments, and how necessary it is for the smooth working of the parliamentary machine that the departments should be in close touch with Ministers and Parliament. It has been the endeavour of the Government to see that the departments more closely associated with Parliament and the Executive shall be the first to be transferred. When this brief sitting of Parliament terminates, steps will be taken to bring to Canberra the central staffs of the departments of the
Prime Minister, the Attorney-General, and the Treasurer, which are the most closely associated with parliamentary government. But while this transfer is being effected, while the departmental files are being packed, conveyed here, unpacked and re-sorted, it will be almost impossible for parliamentary government to function. Any one with the slightest knowledge of administrative matters knows that this is so; but an attempt has been made to throw dust in the eyes of the people and make them believe that this Parliament is not meeting because of a lack of desire on the part of members and of the Government to go on with the business of the country. An essential part of the business of the country is the transfer of the Parliament and the departments to Canberra. This removal was inevitable. Having been undertaken, it has to be carried out in the most orderly and economical way, and - with due regard to the need for avoiding any breakdown or serious interruption in the service - in the speediest manner possible to enable Parliament to pursue its legislative work in its new home. These, briefly, are the reasons for the unusual break I am now proposing in our ordinary sittings this year. It is certainly not due to any desire on the part of the Government or Parliament to avoid any of its responsibilities. I trust that this explanation, which I repeat, is unnecessary to honorable senators, Will reach those people who have been misled by statements in the press, so that they may understand the real reasons for the delay that has been occasioned this year.
– Having had a little parliamentary experience, I recognize that the opinions that have been expressed outside as to the unwillingness of this Parliament to stand up to and perform its duties are but port and parcel of the unfair criticism that iff. generally directed at Parliaments and parliamentarians in this country. I do not know that the motive of these critics is a very lofty one, but I do know that among those who have spoken or written as the Minister (Senator Sir George Pearce) has described are many who would like to bring parliamentary institutions into disrepute and contempt. It is certain that their aim is not to extol or place them on the high plane they should undoubtedly occupy. While I agree in some measure with the explanation that has been given by the Minister, it has to be borne in mind that the present Government recently gave an all too willing ear to the alleged claims of particular interests in this country, the effect being to load the industries and the people of the Commonwealth with an impost that in my opinion, at least, is unwarranted. As this necessary obstacle to the functioning of the parliamentary and executive machine - the transfer from Melbourne to Canberra - had to be surmounted, it was the duty of the Government to measure the time and the circumstances more accurately, and not to yield so willingly to the pleadings of certain persons that they should be given an immediate and undue advantage over the interests of others at the expense of the whole community. I refer particularly to the tariff introduced in the closing days of the last session. It does not look well to have a tariff schedule thus presented and, to all intents and purposes, placed on the statute-book of the Commonwealth without the ratification of Parliament, which in the ordinary course of events could have been secured within a few months of its submission. To my mind the Government should have kept better in mind the interests of those people who were bound to be injured as a result of the introduction of these tariff proposals. I trust that it will take the earliest opportunity to consult Parliament and ascertain whether it agrees to or disapproves of what has been done by the imposition in this way of a tariff that penalizes the great bulk of the people of this country.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
[5.34]. - In moving -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I desire, Mr. President - and I think I speak for honorable senators on both sides of the Senate - to congratulate you on the distinction that has been conferred on you to-day by His Royal Highness the Duke of York in the name of His Majesty the King, and to express the hope that you may live long to enjoy that honour.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
– As honorable senators are aware, the Joint Committee of Public Accounts has been pursuing for some time an investigation into the activities of the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Line. The chairman of that committee (Senator Kingsmill) intimated to the Government some little time ago that the committee had its report ready for presentation, and desired an opportunity to present it to Parliament. It was the wish of the Government that this should be done in order that Parliament and the public might be apprised of the contents of the report, and so that the Government itself might be in a position to consider what action it should ask the Parliament, at a later stage, to take upon it. When, however, the Prime Minister, in consulting the Leader of the Opposition in another place as to the business to be transacted at to-day’s sitting, made known to him the proposal of the chairman of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, Mr. Charlton took the point that as this would be more or less a formal sitting of the Parliament to enable an important ceremony to be carried out, there ought to be a general understanding that ordinary party politics or anything that was likely to give rise to discussion should for this day be set aside. On behalf of the Opposition, Mr. Charlton intimated that if the report of the joint committee were presented to Parliament to-day certain members of his party would feel it incumbent upon them to debate it at once. The Government, on giving the matter careful consideration, decided that on an occasion such as this, a ceremony so brilliantly begun and so fittingly carried out, might well be permitted to conclude without the introduction of the slightest display of party feeling intothe proceedings. It came,somewhat unwillingly, to the conclusion that in these special circumstances it would be better if the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, did not present its report at this sitting. The Government feels that it is unfortunate that this delay should have occurred, but after all we must remember that to-day the eyes of the world are on Australia-
– What right has the Government or any individual member to prevent the committee from presenting its report to-day if it desires to do so? Is the committee prepared to sacrifice its privileges ?
– 1 do not know that the Government has any right to prevent the committee from presenting its report. I am not discussing any question of right; I am merely putting it that the Government in the course it has taken to-day has not given the committee an opportunity to present its report. Notices of motion and questions were not called on because of the way in which the Government put certain motions before the Chamber. I am speaking not of the rights of honorable senators, but of what I conceive Do be the wish of the majority of the Senate, namely, that the first meeting of this Parliament at Canberra should close as it began, without any party discussion whatsoever. Regrettable as it is that this report of the. committee is not before us, I believe that honorable senators will agree that it was better to postpone its presentation than have to-day a discussion on a subject which would be likely to bring strong party feelings into the arena. I hope that the Senate will give the Government credit for being actuated solely by that desire, and nothing else, in so arranging the business to-day as not to afford the chairman of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts an opportunity to present his report. No blame can be laid on his shoulders. If there is any blame it rests with the Government for arranging the business of the Senate as it has done. I leave the matter in the hands of honorable senators, and appeal to them not to allow this day’s proceedings to be marred by any exhibition of party feeling.
that on the occasion of the inauguration of the meeting of the Parliament of the Commonwealth at Canberra His Majesty the King has been pleased to confer an honour on the esteemed and distinguished Leader of the Senate (Senator Sir George Pearce). I take this opportunity to offer him on behalf of the Senate our sincere congratulations.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.Sir George Pearce is the only original member of the Senate. He was elected a member of the first Parliament, and has retained his seat in this Chamber ever since. From the very establishment of the federation, and particularly during the great war, he has rendered signal service to the Commonwealth. As Minister for Defence he was in control of a department that was responsible for the organization, equipment, training, and transport of the troops that left our shores, for the handling of them during their period of active service abroad, and for the difficult task of returning them to Australia at the conclusion of the war. When subsequently he relinquished the portfolio of Defence he again rendered noteworthy service as Minister for Home and Territories. It is, therefore, fitting that on so memorable an occasion as this His Majesty the King should be pleased to confer a particularly high honour on him. Again I offer my right honorable colleague the congratulations of the Senate and its earnest wish that he may have a successful future.
– I take this opportunity to express the pleasure which it gives me to see you, Mr. President, once more in occupation of the chair, and on the way, as we all hope you are, to the full restoration of your health. I trust that your recovery will be rapid, and that before long you will be in your usual vigour. I also congratulate you, sir, on the distinction that has been conferred upon you by His Majesty the King, and I trust that you may long be spared to enjoy it.
I join with Senator Sir William Glasgow in congratulating the Leader of the Senate, Senator Sir George Pearce, who has also been marked out for distinction on this memorable occasion. I have had many years acquaintance with the right honorable gentleman, and although we may not always have been in agreement on many matters of policy, we have maintained throughout a close personal friendship. I can say of Senator Sir George Pearce that in the discharge of his duties as a Minister he has always brought to# bear on any task entrusted to him great zeal, outstanding ability, and an earnest desire to achieve success. I trust that he also will long be spared to enjoy the distinction that has been conferred on him.
– I desire, at the outset, to congratulate Mr. President and the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Sir George Pearce) on the distinctions that have, been conferred upon them on this very appropriate day. I rose, however, to discuss what to me is a more important matter, namely, the report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts on the Commonwealth Government’s shipping activities, including Cockatoo Island Dockyard, which was to have been presented to the Senate this afternoon. Honorable senators who are familiar with parliamentary procedure will realize that at no time this afternoon was there an opportunity for that report to be tabled; and I desire to make it perfectly clear that that was not because of any wish on the part of the committee. On the contrary, it was the desire of the committee that the report, which had been eagerly waited by the public of Australia for some months, should be laid on the table at an early date. It will be recalled that early in the proceedings in another place this session the joint committee was taken to task for what was said to be its undue delay in presenting a report. It was pointed out by its then chairman, Sir Granville Ryrie, that the delay had been caused by the Government having asked the committee to take in hand an additional investigation. That further investigation it undertook and completed. Its report is now ready, and I deeply regret that it cannot be tabled to-day. I disclaim on behalf of the committee, and as its chairman, any responsibility for the delay. It cannot be attributed to the committee. We have completed our inquiry, and we are prepared at once to lay the result of our investiga tions before Parliament and the public. I have nothing more to say except to express my regret that this committee, which was urged by the Government some time ago to complete its labours as early as possible, has not been given an opportunity to lay before Parliament the result of those labours.
– First of all, I desire to join with others who have spoken in congratulating Mr. President and the right honorable the Leader of the Senate on the honours which have been conferred upon them by His Majesty the King. I should not have risen but that it appears to me that this Parliament needs to be thoroughly on the alert to preserve its rights and privileges. You, Mr. President, are not merely the custodian of the rights and privileges of the Senate; by virtue of your position, you are also the guardian of them, and it is lamentable that you should have allowed to go unresented an attack which has been made upon those rights and privileges by the Government on the historic occasion of the first meeting of the Parliament at Canberra. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has told us that the Government deliberately arranged the business of this sitting so that the Joint Committee of Public Accounts should not have an opportunity to present a certain report to the Senate. I want to know from you, sir, what right the Government had to arrange the business of the Senate? It is distinctly laid down in our Standing Orders, of which you are the interpreter, that the first right of all is the right of the people to petition Parliament before it proceeds to the transaction of any business. The second is the right of honorable senators to ask questions without notice or to give notice of questions or notices of motion. N© opportunity was given by you, Mr. President, to any honorable senator to do any of these things to-day. It is your bounden duty as the guardian of the rights and privileges of the Senate to see that the Standing Orders of the Senate are strictly observed. We have now a lamentable situation. . A report, of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, for which the people have been clamouring, has not been presented to Parliament, and probably cannot be presented for another three months, because of the Government usurpation of your functions and the abrogation of the rights of the Senate under its own Standing Orders. It is, I repeat, lamentable that this precedent should be set up on the first day of our meeting in Canberra. It shall not be done without protest. Twenty-six years have elapsed since the first meeting of the Federal Parliament, and for exactly half that period I occupied the position which you now dignify. It was my constant care to preserve every right and privilege of honorable senators, and to afford every opportunity for debate .that was properly due to the Senate. It is deplorable that a violent attack should have been made to-day on the rights of the community and of the Senate in such an important respect as this. In matters of less concern also the same thing has occurred. To-day, when we entered this House, we found that honorable senators were locked out of the room sot apart for their own use. By whose authority that was done 1* do not know. The moment you, sir, and Mr. Speaker were banded the keys of this House which His Royal Highness the Duke of York had honoured us by opening, the control of this building passed into the hands of its presiding officers. You, sir, as chairman of the Joint House Committee, may reasonably be expected to explain some of the occurrences of to-day whereby we have been deprived of rights and privileges that we have hitherto enjoyed in the Senate. I protest against the attack’ made by the Government on the rights of the Senate and on the right of a parliamentary committee to present a report, lt is a most lamentable precedent to establish on the first day of our meeting here.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Council) [5.51]. - In reply to Senator Givens, I would say that nothing has been done to-day that is not in strict accordance with the Standing Orders.
– Nothing of the kind. The procedure was absolutely wrong. At the very outset, Mr. President should have asked if. any honorable senator had a petition to present.
– It is in strict accordance with the Standing
Orders that a Minister may ask leave to submit a motion without notice. That was done by me. Each motion that has been submitted to-day, save that relating to the date of meeting, I had the leave of the Senate to move, and the giving of leave is provided for in the Standing Orders. Mr. President had no choice in the matter. If the Senate gives a Minister leave to submit a motion, the presiding officer cannot disregard the decision of the Senate. Therefore, in my judgment, Senator Givens is quite wrong in saying that the Government has in any way usurped the powers of the Senate.
– The right honorable senator is wrong. I know more about the Standing Orders than he does.
– Order !
– I do not propose to pursue this subject, except to say that I understand, from what the honorable senator has said, that honorable senators have suffered some inconvenience by being deprived for a little while of the use of certain rooms in this building. A large number of vice-regal representatives, for whom some accommodation had to be found, if only out of courtesy to them as our guests, were here to-day; and 1 am quite sure that honorable senators will be content to overlook any little inconvenience that may have been occasioned them when they know that it was due to the cause I have mentioned.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - I thank the VicePresident of the Executive Council for his very kindly references to myself, and in turn I congratulate him upon the mark of distinction that has been conferred upon him this afternoon by the representative of His Majesty the King. I regret that, during the closing hours of the session in Melbourne, illness prevented me from attending to my duties as I should very much have liked to do. It would have given me as much satisfaction and pleasure to take my place in Melbourne during the closing sittings of the Senate there as I have experienced in taking part in the proceedings which have marked the opening of the sittings of the Parliament at Canberra. I trust that the kindly expressions of the Leader of the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition will be realized - that my health will improve, and that I may be able to take my place in this Parliament for many years to come.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
– In regard to the charge that I have neglected my duty, in that I have not guarded the privileges of honorable senators as I should have done, I may say that, as the chief executive officer of the Senate, I can deal only with matters that are brought before me. I had before me a statement indicating that a report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts would be presented this afternoon. I do not know why it was not presented,nor have I, in my opinion, anything to do with the matter. The report was not presented, and the responsibility for its non-submission is not mine. It is complained by Senator Givens that certain words were not uttered by me before the Senate proceeded to deal with ordinary business, but I remind him there was not a dissentient voice when the Leader of the Government in the Senate rose, as soon as we met, and asked for leave to do certain things. Honorable senators cheered him to the echo when he rose. That, I venture to say, was the time when objection should have been taken to the course proposed. Had that been done, I should have been, in duty bound, to follow a certain course. It was not done, however, and in my opinion the Senate has not stultified itself, has not suffered in dignity, has not failed in any way in the discharge of its duties by reason of anything that has occurred here to-day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 5.57 p.m. until a date to be fixed.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 May 1927, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1927/19270509_senate_10_116/>.