House of Representatives
24 September 1903

1st Parliament · 2nd Session

Mr. Speaker took the chair at2.30 p.m., and read prayers.

page 5463


Appointments to the High Court Bench.

Minister of External Affairs · Ballarat · Protectionist

– It is my duty to announce to the House that Sir Edmund Barton this morning tendered his resignation to His Excellency the Governor-General, and that His Excellency was pleased to accept it. His Excellency then cast upon me the duty of forming an Administration. I shall myself fill the office of Minister of State for External Affairs, and have communicated with the following gentlemen, who have accepted the offices allotted to them : -

Minister of State for Trade and Customs - The Honorable Sir William John Lyne, K.C.M.G

Treasurer - The Right Honorable Sir George Turner, P.O., K.C.M.G.

Minister of State for Home Affairs - The Right Honorable Sir John Forrest, P.O., G.C.M.G

Attorney-General - The Honorable James George Drake

Postmaster-General - The Honorable Sir Philip Oakley Fysh, K.C.M.G

Minister of State for Defence - The Honorable Austin Chapman

Vice-President of the Executive Council - The Honorable Thomas Playford.

The late Prime Minister, as the House is aware, had communicated by telegram with the present Chief Justice of Queensland, and this morning received from that right honorable gentleman a telegram accepting the offer of the Chief Justiceship of the High Court of the Commonwealth Since the resignation of Sir Edmund Barton the new Ministry have offered to Sir Edmund Barton and Senator O’Connor, and they have agreed to accept, the positions of Justices of the High Court of Australia.

Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !


– It will be necessary for Ministers to be sworn into their offices this afternoon, andto make some arrangements necessitated by the changes of duties. I therefore ask honorable members to consent that the House shall adjourn until Tuesday next. I move -

That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next.


– I am sure that honorable members on all sides of the House, as well as people of all shades of political opinion throughout the Commonwealth, will agree with me that the retirement of Sir Edmund Barton from political life is a severe loss to the people of Australia. His career has been unique. Born and bred on the soil of Australia, he was, in the first instance, a brilliant scholar at his school and his University. In early manhood, in his own State he was a prominent figure in public life. He is a man gifted with great eloquence and unquestioned genius, and he remains one of the highest authorities in Australia upon constitution al law and procedure. Although he rendered eminent public service to his own State he has been more intimately associated in our minds with the gradual concentration of the forces of Australia into this Commonwealth. Upon him, in this noble effort, fell the mantle of the late Sir Henry Parkes, and for years with great pertinacity and great unselfishness he fought the battle of that union which has found its consummation in this Parliament. Therefore, whatever feelings we may have had in the strife of the past, we cannot help regarding it as a great honour to Australia that one of her own sons should be in the first instance the leader of the great Convention which brought about our Constitution, that in the next place he should be the first Prime Minister of Australia, and now one of the first Justices of the High Court. Although we have always been politically opposed, there was one characteristic of Sir Edmund Barton which I always recognised, and that was his generous nature and his extreme magnanimity. Not altogether by his genius, by his great ability, or by his political experience, did he bind together the men who loyally surrounded him, but by a personal magnetism and a personal affection which went far beyond the ordinary political ties. Honorable members on this side of the House trust that his great career will find a fitting consummation in his new high . position, in which he will be removed from all associations of a political nature, and in which, on behalf of the people of

Australia, he will be called upon to administer supreme justice. I cannot help referring to the fact that the great man who is practically responsible for the framework of the Constitution under which we now exist - Sir Samuel Griffith - has had the honour conferred upon him of being appointed the first Chief Justice of Australia. I am also gratified that a no less worthy friend of mine, Mr. Richard O’Connor, who has been one of the most distinguished successes in this Parliament, has secured a similar honour. I do not think that it would be fitting for me to sit down before congratulating my old friend, Mr. Deakin, upon the high position to which he has attained. I believe that years ago, when some State business took him to London, no less a person than Sir Charles Dilke prophesied that he would be the first Prime Minister of Australia. He has not secured that distinction, but, at any rate, he has become the second Prime Minister. All I can say is this : that I can promise him on behalf of this side of the House, the same courtesy, the same fair play, and the same honorable conduct that he has always shown from his side of the Chamber. I may be permitted, as this may be the last time that I shall have an opportunity to occupy my present position, to thank honorable members on all sides of the House, and particularly those belonging to the party of which I have been the deputy leader, for the kindness and courtesy which they have always shown to me in a rather trying and difficult position. I omitted to congratulate the honorable member who has been newly admitted to the Ministry. We have all noticed with great admiration the extraordinary agility which he has always displayed against the manoeuvrings of a very worthy foe in the person of my friend, the honorable member for Macquarie. I can only hope that in the high position to which he has attained he will show talents of an administrative character which will reward the confidence of his friends and practically justify his colleagues in placing him where he is to-day. I have nothing more to say, except to assure the new Ministry that while honorable members on this side of the House will fight them to the utmost in the assertion of their principles, they hope that ‘no political feeling will ever interfere with that friendliness which has hitherto existed between us, and which ought always to exist even between political foes.

South Australia

– I rise for the purpose of adding a few words ; and, first, I should like to heartily congratulate my two old colleagues, the late Prime Minister and Senator O’Connor, on their promotion to the Judicial Bench of the Commonwealth. It is unnecessary for me to dwell on the esteem which both these gentlemen command amongst all who have the honour to know them. Having served under the Prime Minister, and as a colleague of Mr. O’Connor, I desire to express my delight that such eminent men have been first chosen for the Australian Bench, my satisfaction being subject to the one regret, that the post of Chief Justice has not been filled by the appointment of one or the other of them. I do not propose at this moment to discuss the fitness of the appointment of the Chief Justice, beyond saying that for an office of that character, I think a most fatal mistake has been made in the selection of Sir Samuel Griffith. I should have thought that it was well in the minds of those who were lately engaged in the achievement of Federation that there was no one, who, when the representatives of Australia were in London endeavouring to secure the Imperial enactment of the will of Australia as expressed in the Constitution adopted by the people, did more to prevent effect being given to that will than did Sir Samuel Griffith, who is now selected for the post of Chief Justice.

Mr Crouch:

– I hope the right honorable gentleman will not take our silence as expressing approval of his words.


– I am simply expressing my own opinion. I have cause to know what was done by the gentleman to whom I refer ; and I should be wanting in courage if, when it is suggested that the appointment meets with approbation, I did not at once say that, at any rate, it has not my approval. I know that .a large section of the House are animated by sentiments similar to those which I-express ; and it is good that the general public should at the earliest moment be told what we think. I repeat that, in my opinion, a most fatal mistake has been made. I congratulate my old friend and colleague, the present Prime Minister, on his attaining a position which I know he will adorn. The present is not the time to define our relations with the Government in this House in regard to this, that, or the other point - that will all depend on what the Government propose to do. At the same time, I assure my old colleagues generally, and the Prime Minister in particular, that they have my hearty good wishes. I hope that they may so order the affairs of Government as to command the support and respect of those who regard those affairs from an Australian stand-point. I should like particularly to refer to the new Minister. In the duties which that gentleman had previously to perform he exhibited tact and consideration ; and he has established a place in the good-will of honorable members which will be of service to him to-day. We like to see him where he is, and to him as Minister for Defence I look for great reforms. We have heard him speak with considerable strength of the necessity for reform in the Department over which he now presides, and now is his time. Some one was said by him, I believe, to have exercised too much influence in the wrong direction in connexion with military affairs, and now is the honorable gentleman’s opportunity - there is the Department ; let him, as its Ministerial head, reform it.


– I heartily indorse every word that has been said in commendation of our late worthy Prime Minister, to whose distinguished career his appointment to the first Bench of the High Court of Australia is a fitting consummation. It is a position which I am perfectly sure Sir Edmund Barton will adorn. I should not have risen but for mv desire to express my regret that a discordant note has been struck in connexion with the appointment to the chief position on the Bench. Whilst no one would have been better pleased than I to have seen our late Prime Minister Chief Justice, I, nevertheless, feel sure that the whole people of Australia will agree that a most fitting appointment has been made. The career of Sir Samuel Griffith has been most distinguished.

Mr McDonald:

– Do not let us discuss that matter. If the honorable member starts praising Sir Samuel Griffith, he may have a bad time.


– I only wish to express my own opinion that Australia will approve of the appointment. I sincerely congratulate the present Prime Minister on the honorable and distinguished position he now occupies. From my past knowledge of that gentleman, I have great confidence that he will discharge the duties of the office in such a manner as to reflect credit on the Commonwealth. I have much pleasure in congratulating our old friend the honorable member for Eden-Monaro on his promotion to Ministerial rank. I am sure the honorable member has the hearty good wishes of honorable members on both sides of the House.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 5465


Contemplated Retirement of Sir William McMillan : Minister for Defence : Order of Business.

Minister for External Affairs · Ballarat · Protectionist

– I move -

That the House do now adjourn.

As this occasion has been taken advantage of to make remarks of a farewell and congratulatory character, may I say, on behalf of this side of the House, how much we personally feel and regret the intimation made by my old political friend, the honorable member for Wentworth, that this is probably the last occasion on which we shall have the advantage of his presence. My own relationship with the honorable member began most happily in the Federal Conference of 1890. That Conference met in the neighbouring Chamber of this Parliament House in order to pass the first resolutions which, moved by the late Sir Henry Parkes, became the foundation of the whole Federal movement. From that time to this I have had the pleasure of being associated with the honorable member for Wentworth in every Federal Convention that has been held, and also in this Parliament since its commencement. I am sure that there is no honorable member who would be more missed.


– I hope that the honorable member for Wentworth will not be long away.


– The honorable member for Wentworth represents a class of thought which is not my own, and maintains conclusions with which I am unable to agree ; but we all admit that no representative of those opinions has done more faithful, loyal, and straightforward service for the cause in which he believes. I trust that his severance from Federal politics will not be of long duration, and that he will be here to express his opinions in the Parliament still occupying the position of deputy leader or leader of the Opposition, which he has filled so efficiently during this Parliament. May I acknowledge, on behalf of my late chief and his colleague, the very generous manner in which honorable members upon all sides of the House have been pleased to refer to their careers and qualifications. Needless to say, I reiterate those remarks, and if I refrain from adding to them, it is because we believe that by the appointments which have been made we have given the best testimony of our admiration and esteem for our late colleagues. With regard to the appointment which has been made to the office of Chief J Justice of the High Court, I propose to say nothing argumentative, but simply to urge upon this House and the country that, in making a selection for an office of that character, one consideration only should weigh with us, namely, a desire to secure the highest judicial qualifications and attainments. Honorable members upon the other side of the Chamber - notwithstanding their wide difference from the political opinions and many of the administrative acts of my late colleagues - have been generous enough to express their sense of the entire fitness of those colleagues for the positions which they will soon occupy. They have done this notwithstanding their deep differences from them upon other matters. Surely that is the right course. If there is any office which requires to be filled without regard to political opinions or a political past - so long as it is honorable - it is the judicial office. In filling such a position our one desire should be to obtain the highest judicial experience within the Commonwealth, especially when it is united to profound learning. I believe that in the appointment of Sir Samuel Griffith to the office of Chief Justice of the High Court we have been able to secure those qualifications. I have to express the acknowledgments of the Ministry - and especially my own - for the great generosity with which honorable members have welcomed us and our new colleague.


– I rise for the purpose of congratulating my honorable friend, the member for EdenMonaro, upon having been appointed to the position of Minister for Defence. As wasstated by the acting leader of the Opposition, the honorable member and myself havebeen closely associated in this House in the capacity of whip for the Ministry and Opposition respectively during the past twoand a half years. We have had some very difficult tasks to perform.


– Many a time he has- “ paired “ a dead head with the honorable member.


– I forgive the honorable member for Eden-Monaro every occasion upon which he was able to get the better of me. I repeat that we have been, closely associated in this House in the capacity to which I have referred for the past two and a half years, and we have always entertained the most friendly feelin’gs towards each other. We have never had any real difference. On the contrary, we have been able to arrange pairs, and tofix up party matters in a way which avoided the possibility of any unpleasantness ensuing.

Mr Watson:

– “Arrange” is significantly true.


– I congratulate the honorable member upon having been, appointed, to the office of Minister for Defence, because I hold that his services, to the Government are deserving of the recognition which has been accorded tothem.

Minister for Defence · EdenMonaro · Protectionist

– I desire to thank honorable members for their kind expressions of good-will. It is pleasing tothink that I enter upon the important duties which have been allotted to me witha manifestation of good feeling from all quarters of the House. In reply to the congratulations of honorable members, I can only assure them that in the future, asin the past, I shall endeavour to do my duty. Whilst I may have had many a. political fight in this House, and whilst I recognise that I have some political opponents, I have yet to learn that I have any political foes. I am exceedingly grateful to honorable members for their kind expressions of opinion, and I trust that nd act of mine will cause any change to take place in the cordial relations which exist between us.


– When the Prime Minister replies, I should like him to inform the Housethe extent to which the change thathas just been effected in the Ministry will affect the Federal Capital Sites question, the Patents Bill, and other matters.

Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat - Minister for External Affairs).- In answer to the honorable member for Canobolas, I desire to say that the change of Administration will not affect, in any degree whatever, the policy of the Government in regard to the matters which he has mentioned.

Mr Brown:

– What will be the order of business next week?


– Next week we shall go into Committee upon Ways and Means, the debate upon the second reading of the Patents Bill will be resumed, and that measure will be considered in Committee.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 2.56 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 September 1903, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.