4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Australian Postal Electricians’ Union - Copy of plaint by, and answer thereto of the Postmaster-General and the Public Service Commissioner.
Excise Act - Cancellation of a Provisional Regulation re Payment of Overtime - Statutory Rules 191a, No. 138.
Land Tax Assessment Act - Section 50 - Summary of Remissions of Penalty granted up to the 30th June, 1912, in respect of Assessments for 1910-h.
Papua - Ordinance of 1912 - No. 3 - Supplementary Appropriation of 1911-12, No. 3.
Public Service Act (Postmaster-General’s Department) - Promotion of D. R. McLean to the position of clerk. 4th Class, Chief Accountant’s Branch, Central Staff.
Universal Training - Report of the Minister of Defence on the progress of Universal Training to 30th June, 191a.
– I have received the following letter from the Auditor-General, dated 19th inst. : -
I have the honour to point out that my figures with respect to the Gold Reserve on 14th November last have again been incorrectly printed. In my letter to yourself of the 13th inst., it was clearly shown that the surplus over statutory requirement was ^43,064. In -Hansard, page 791, this appears as ^£49,064. This error may again submit me to a charge of wrongly presenting the position of the account, and making an erroneous calculation.
I have been informed that the correction has been made in the second edition of
Hansard; but I think that, in fairness to the Auditor-General, tthis explanation should be given.
Commonwealth Woollen Mills - Cadets’ Fines
– Has the Government decided to erect woollen mills at Geelong? If so, is this to be done on the recommendation of Mr. Smail, and1 on what date was his report received?
– I cannot say when the report was received, but I am’ willing to lay it on the table for the perusal of thehonorable member.
– Has the Government decided to erect woollen mills at Geelong?
– That has been decided on.
–’ Will the Minister cause to be laid on the table Mr. Smail’s report, and any correspondence that may have passed between the Defence Department and local governing bodies?
– Mr. Smail’s report will be laid on the table, and I have no doubt that the Minister of Defence will be prepared to submit for the perusal of any honorable member any correspondence that may have passed between the Department and local councils in regard to this matter.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether it is not a fact that the declared policy of the Government as directed by the Caucus is to establish as many industries as possible within Federal territory, and why the Commonwealth Woollen Mills are to be established in opposition to that policy outside the Federal territory?
– If the honorable member will submit his question in proper form, omitting from it the intended insolence sought to be conveyed by the use of the words “as directed by the Caucus,” I may reply to it.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether, in view of the fact that the Government have decided to establish the Commonwealth Woollen Mills at Geelong, he still proposes to make the inquiries he promised to make, last week, as to the suitability of other sites for this factory.
– The honorable member is in error in asserting that I promised last week that further inquiries would be made. The only statement I made was Hat the manager, Mr. Smail, had completed his inquiries, and was then preparing his report.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he will inform the House whether he regards it as a matter of insolence to suggest that his party does, in its broad outlines, determine the policy of his Government.
– So far as questions of manners and good taste are concerned, I cannot suggest to the honorable member anything of which he is not himself aware.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister of Defence aware that on Friday last a letter was written to me stating, in connexion with an application made by local authorities for the inspection of a certain site by Mr. Smail, that further consideration would be given by the Government to the claims of that site.
– I am not aware of any such communication having been sent to the honorable member.
– I wish to know from the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether the latter will recommend to the Attorney-General the advisability of remitting the fines imposed on boys recently in Sydney for not putting in the full number of hours of drill ?
– Why only in Sydney?
– Well, everywhere.
– I understand that the Minister of Defence has already made certain recommendations respecting the reduction of the fines. There is before the Senate a Bill for the amendment of the Act in relation to this matter.
Allowance Offices - Overtime, Sydney
– Has the PostmasterGeneral yet come to an opinion regarding the need for increasing the remuneration paid to officers in allowance offices ?
– A committee of the inspectors of the States met in Melbourne some few weeks ago, and the decision has been arrived at to increase the remuneration paid to postmasters and postmistresses in allowance offices. The Treasurer, when delivering his Budget, will make known the details of what is proposed.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that in the Accounts Branch of the Sydney General Post Office men have been working back for some weeks past until 10 o’clock each night, and have been informed that these inordinately long hours must continue for another fortnight ?
– I am not aware that the facts are as stated, although I know that the work of that branch was in a very bad condition, and it has been found that, in the interests of the Department, extra hours must be worked to bring the accounts up to date. Every consideration will be given to those asked to work overtime by giving either time off or compensation.
– When does the Minister of Home Affairs think that he will receive the report of the Commissioners appointed to redistribute the electoral divisions of New South Wales?
– Almost any day now.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether, in placing before the House the reports of the Commissioners in regard to the redistribution of Federal electorates in Victoria and other States, he did or did not lay on the table any maps relating to them. If he did, will he say where they are?
– I ask my honorable friend to give notice of his question.
– As the consideration of the redistribution schemes is set down for to-day, it is impossible for me to give notice of my question for to-morrow.
– I can only say that the maps were all sent from the Department to the House to be laid on the table on the very day on which notice of motion was given. I think that they were placed on the table, but, for the moment, I cannot say positively whether they were or were not.
– Is this one of the regulations for the Commonwealth Savings Bank as approved by the Governor-General in Council? -
The officers of the Savings Bank shall diligently endeavour to prevent fraud, and to identify every depositor transacting business with the Savings Bank ; but in case any person presenting a depositor’s pass-book, and producing a withdrawal form purporting to bear the signature of the depositor, or stating himself to be the depositor named therein, shall unlawfully obtain any deposit or sum of money from the Savings Bank during the hours of business, the
Commonwealth Bank of Australia shall not.be responsible for the loss so sustained by such depositor, nor be liable to make good the same.
Is not that regulation in defiance of the will of Parliament, as expressed in the refusal of both Houses to agree to a provision in the Banking Bill which would have had the same effect?
– My answer to the first question is “Yes,” and to the second “ No.”
– Was not the following clause in the original Bill : -
Where a person fraudulently represents-
– The honorable member knows very well that the clause was in the Bill. He is reading it from the Bill.
– Then I shall frame my question in this way : Is the Prime Minister aware that there was in the Bill a clause providing that the Commonwealth should not be responsible for the fraudulent withdrawal of depositors’ money, and, if so, how does he reconcile the answer just given with the fact that when he invited this House to reject the Senate’s amendment omitting that clause we refused to do so, the clause being consequently omitted ?
– I think that the honorable member is not quite correct in his statement of what occurred. The question was never tested. For the sake of convenience, I asked the House, as the provision was not material, to agree to the Senate’s amendment omitting the clause.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the Commissioners of the Savings Bank of New South Wales have intimated that they will raise the rate of deposits to 3½ per cent., and is it the intention of the Commonwealth Savings Bank to enter into competition by raising its rate from 3 to 3½ per cent.?
– I have seen the statement in the press that the Commissioners of the Savings Bank of New South Wales propose to make their rate of interest 3½ per cent, for amounts not exceeding£300, and, I think, 3 per cent, for any excess. I rely on the ability of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank to hold his own in competition at his ordinary rates.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General whether it is the intention of his Department to debit the Commonwealth Bank for the use of postal buildings in connexion with that institution, and, if so, at what rate?
– The matter is now engaging the attention of the Government. As soon as a decision has been arrived at it will be made known to the House.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer a question in regard to a statement appearing in to-day’s newspapers to the effect that nearly 300 branches of the Commonwealth Savings Bank have been established. I wish to know whether he would object to a request for a statement showing the cost of the staffs of these 300 offices, so that the public may know what it is costing the people of Australia to thus duplicate the Savings Banks of the States.
– I shall communicate with the Governor of the Bank - who is perfectly independent with regard to the work to be done and as to how it shall be carried out - and endeavour to obtain information which will show, I think, that the expenditure is not excessive, and that we are not responsible for any duplication whatever.
– Would the PostmasterGeneral be good enough to state what allowance, if any, is being made to postmasters for their additional work in connexion with the Commonwealth Savings Bank.
– As I have already stated to another honorable member, the relation of the Postal Department to the Commonwealth Savings Bank is engaging the attention of the Government, and as soon as a decision has been arrived at, the information will be given to the House.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question relating to the examination of telephone attendants which is to take place next Saturday in the Wilson Hall. The building is so large that the examiners have to use a megaphone in order to make themselves heard, and I desire to ask that care shall be taken to give candidates an opportunity to hear the examiners, so that the pronunciation of the words used can be properly heard and the necessary punctuation determined by them.
– I shall certainly take care to bring the matter under the attention of the responsible officers. It is most essential that the examining officers should be heard distinctly by those submitting themselves for examination.
– On the last occasion the examiners could not be heard.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs yet received from Commander Brewis, the lighthouse expert, a report in regard to the lighting of the South Australian coast?
– The report is not yet to hand.
.- Mr. Speaker, in accordance with the notice I have given you, I desire to move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I have received from the honorable member for Perth the following letter - 22nd July,1912.
I desire to intimate that to-morrow I propose to move the adjournment of the House to call attention to a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The appointment of Mr. H. Chinn in connexion with the construction of the trans-Australian railway.”
Is the motion seconded?
Five honorable members having risen in theirplaces,
– I make no apology for the form in which I have introduced this matter to the House. The importance of the undertaking of constructing the trans-Australian railway is patent to every honorable member, as is also the importance of securing for that work ability of the very highest character. I am bringing forward this question at the earliest moment, because it was not until a previous debate had come to an. end that it was possible to refer to the papers. I think I shall be able to show from those papers the existence of a most astounding state of affairs. Let me refer, first of all, to the application made by Mr. Chinn to the Minister of Home Affairs, and dated from Perth, 20th June, 19 11 -
The Hon. King O’Malley, M.H.R.,
The knowledge that the Commonwealth Government intend making early preparation for the commencement of the construction of the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta, transcontinental railway induces me to place before you my application for the position of Constructing Engineer or Manager in connexion with this project.
For upwards of twenty-five years I have been engaged as contractor’s engineer on the construction of railways in almost all the different States of the Commonwealth ; and consequently have gained, by practical experience, the versatility demanded of an engineer, where saving in cost of construction and the making of profits are the chief consideration of a railway contractor.
My wide knowledge of the State of Western Australia, and its timber forests, and railways, would, I venture to think, be of great service from a business point of view, particularly where the supply of sleepers for this line is concerned, an item in itself that can be made the means of saving a huge sum of money to the Government, if managed by one as conversant with the detail of this industry as myself. Indeed, I might venture to suggest that steps should be taken in this direction without delay, for it has already been hinted that private enterprise is about to make a move towards obtaining a concession over vast areas of timber, reported upon by me some five years ago, and which would be of inestimable value to the Commonwealth Government if secured by them.
It might not be out of place here to make reference to the negotiations that have been recently conducted between your Government and myself regarding rail welding operations on the above railway, with the hope that full consideration will be given to my invention before anything definite is done by way of ordering supplies of rails and fastenings.
The accompanying testimonials, it will be observed, are some of those sent by me in support of my recent application for the position of Railway Commissioner in Tasmania, when, out of thirty-eight applications received from all parts, I was, I am informed, second to the successful applicant.
Trusting you will give my application your most favorable consideration,
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
That letter calls for one or two observations. There is a reference by Mr. Chinn to his experience of twenty-five years as a contractor’s engineer in the construction of railways in almost all the different States of the Commonwealth. Although this gentleman has so remarkable a record in connexion with railway construction in almost all parts of the Commonwealth, according to his own statement, not a single indication of it appears in the whole of this file of papers. There is not a single proof that he was ever engaged in any of the work which he indicates in so general a fashion.
– No. Mr. Chinn goes on to speak of his wide knowledge of the State of Western Australia, but it can only be a knowledge derived from not more than seven or eight years’ experience at the very most. Again, I wish to know where he has indicated the nature of the knowledge he boasts of in this general fashion. He speaks of a report on the timber areas of Western Australia. We all know that there are large and valuable timber areas in that State. Although I have made a considerable number of inquiries during the time at my disposal, I have found no evidence that such a report as Mr. Chinn claims to have made is in existence.
– Where is it?
– It is for the Government to produce it. The reference to this report is a rather important feature of Mr. Chinn’s application, and I call upon the Government to say something about this remarkable report, which the author of it appears to regard as of very considerable value. He speaks also of a railwelding invention, which he refers to as “my invention.” Here, again, I find nothing more in all these papers than this very passing reference to such an invention. I inquired also into this matter, and I found that Mr. Chinn certainly made an application some few years ago for a patent in connexion with the welding of rails or metals generally, but that that application was withdrawn. I found further that in the Equity Court in Sydney on 20th October, 1910, Mr. Justice Street found that this alleged invention of Mr. Henry Chinn was an infringement of an existing patent. So that his claim in connexion with an invention that he says would be of very considerable use and advantage in connexion with the construction of the transcontinental railway is shown to have no foundation beyond what may be in his own imagination. 1 do not wish for a moment to say that this gentleman has no testimonials at all. He has undoubtedly a considerable number of testimonials of a kind, and I intend to place them on record. There is a sort of appendix to his application, containing a number of testimonials sent to him by several leading citizens of Western Australia. They are of a general character, and most of the writers of them speak, I think, from hearsay. I have made inquiries from several of those who signed these testimonials, and they have explained that they were given to Mr. Chinn in connexion with an application he made for employment on the Tasmanian railways.
– As Commissioner of Railways in Tasmania.
– Yes, as Commissioner of Railways. He always aims pretty high apparently. These testimonials have been put in in support of Mr. Chinn’s application for employment on the transcontinental railway without consultation with, and without the consent of, those who wrote them for another application altogether. I take it that in the circumstances they will be regarded as entirely out of court, and consequently I do not intend to deal with them further. I admit that they are entirely harmless, but I wish to deal with other testimonials that are not harmless, but are highly objectionable, and should be placed upon record in connexion with the history of the present Government. I shall take them in the order in which they appear on the file. The first is from the Attorney-General’s Office, Perth, and is dated 6th November, 191 1. It is addressed to Senator Pearce in these terms -
Dear Mr. Pearce. - Mr. Chinn, I understand, is applying for position of Engineer in some capacity connected with the trans-Australian railway. I am not capable of judging of Mr. Chinn’s professional qualifications, but these you will be able to obtain from outside sources. All I desire is that, if Mr. Chinn’s qualifications in all other respects are satisfactory, then his services to our party in the recent elections should not be forgotten.
With kind regards,
The next is a letter from Perth, dated 7th November, 1911, and signed by Mr. P. Collier, who, I presume, is the Minister of this name in the present Labour Government of Western Australia. He writes -
– These letters were apparently sent to Senator Pearce, the Minister of Defence, and by him sent on to the Minister of Home Affairs -
Mr. H. Chinn, whom you met over here some time ago, is applying for the position of Engineerincharge of construction on the transcontinental railway. Mr. Chinn, I believe, is a very capable man. and has had charge of some large public works in different parts of Australia. He is, too, a member of our party, and rendered valuable assistance during the recent elections. I hope you will remember him when the appointment is being made.
Senator Pearce sent these two extraordinary letters to the Minister of Home Affairs in the following way -
Melbourne, 6th December, 1911.
Dear Mr. O’Malley, - I am forwarding for your consideration a further letter that I have received in connexion with the application of Mr. Chinn for a position as constructing engineer on the trans-Australian railway line.
There is another letter from Mr. Collier to the Postmaster-General to the same purport as the one I have just read, and the PostmasterGeneral also sent it on to the Minister of Home Affairs.
– Read it.
– Time is valuable, and as it is to exactly the same purport as the previous letter it is not necessary to read it. I have another, dated from the Trades Hall, Beaufort-street, Perth, 16th November, 1911, as follows : -
The Honorable the Minister of Home Affairs, Melbourne.
Sir, - I believe you have an application from Mr. H. Chinn, C.E., of Perth, for the position of engineer on the trans-Australian railway. I am desired by a number of gentlemen holding responsible positions in the Labour movement in this State to write you and say that they have known Mr. Chinn for a number of years, and that his competency and reliability is beyond question. His papers will demonstrate his previous record. I may also mention that Mr. Chinn materially assisted the party in the recent election.
Alex. McCallum, Secretary.
I come now to a letter sent by Mr. J. Scaddan, now Premier of Western Australia, and dated from the Premier’s Office, Perth, 7th November, 191 1 -
Sir,- I understand that Mr. H. E. Chinn, C.E., is making application for a post in connexion with the trans-Australian railway, I believe as constructing engineer for the Commonwealth Government. I have no hesitation in recommending Mr. Chinn for such a post. I believe he is a draughtsman as well as a railway engineer, and was for a considerable period attached to Mr. Teesdale Smith in connexion with the construction of railways in this State. I therefore commend him to your good offices, in the event of the Federal Government deciding to appoint a constructing engineer.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
The statement about Mr. Chinn being connected with Mr. Teesdale Smith in the construction of railways in Western Australia is not correct. That letter was also forwarded by the Postmaster-General to the Minister of Home Affairs.
– The letter says “in this State.” There is another letter sent by Mr. Scaddan to the Minister of Defence to the same purport as the one I have just read, and this also was sent on to the Minister of Home Affairs. These are sufficiently surprising, but there are some further developments which are equally interesting.
– But you have not got much up to now I
– We find that the various civil servants’ associations throughout Australia made a protest against this appointment having been made without a vacancy being advertised in the ordinary way. The following announcement was made in the West Australian of 24th February, 1912 : -
It is understood that Mr. H. Chinn has been appointed to carry out the duties of supervising engineer for the Western Australian section of the trans-Australian railway.
Up to that date there had been no advertisement that these positions were open. On the day following the notice in the West Australian, an article appeared in the Sunday Times - a very outspoken, popular, and widely-circulated newspaper in Western Australia - to this effect -
More Spoils for the Victors.
The announcement that Mr. Chinn, whose most eminent achievement to date is the inditing of long blatant screeds to Hackett’s organ, or any other accommodating journal, has been appointed to supervise the construction of the West Australian section of the transcontinental railway, will be received with amazement, not to say disgust, by every person in the country who. has any conception of the work and the man. Personally, we regard the result with fear and trembling. Such a great work, involving a maximum perfection of construction in a minimum of time, demands the brains of a masterful engineer, and we do not know that Mr. Chinn is master of anything but an interminableflow of language that does not conceal any thought.
Usually too much “ chin “ music disqualifies any man for an important post, but this Chinn seems to have made music that has caught the ear of King O’Malley or some other person of authority near the Labour throne. We understand that the Premier of Western Australia and his colleague, the Minister for Railways, were guilty of the indiscretion of recommending;
Chinn to the Commonwealth Cabinet, who personallycannot know very much about the flatulent ink-waster. It has been suggested that the local Ministers did so in order to get rid of an importunate pest. If that is the case, they did a very bad turn to the Commonwealth, and should warn Prime Minister Fisher of the enormous responsibility he has incurred in permitting this astounding appointment.
What has Chinn ever done to justify his selection for such an important position ? We don’t know. He tried to get the construction of the Hopetoun-Ravensthorpe railway stopped while the work was in progress. He got an appointment with Messrs. Smith and Timms, the well-known railway contractors, and shortly afterwards the partners had such an acute quarrel over him that they separated, but came together again, and Chinn had to resume his former occupation of writing to the papers.” He wrote numerous letters to the defunct Morning Herald - letters that were “agin the Government” - and, maybe, this is why the State Labour Premier foisted Chinn on to the Federal Labour Government, and why the latter were induced to select him.
But it is not fair to the transcontinental railway it is not fair to common sense ; and it is not fair to the many able engineers who never had an opportunity to apply. That is one of the peculiar features of this fishy business - no applications were called. The matter was fixed up in the dark, and nothing was known about it until Chinn’s senseless and objectionable appointment leaked out like a surreptitious fact that the principals were ashamed of. The whole thing can only be regarded as a job, a sop for a yapping Cerberus, the reward of a political helot.
That appeared before any public intimation was made to the Minister that these positions were open.
– Who wrote the article?
– We ought to know the name of the writer.
– I appeal to honorable members not to interrupt the honorable member for Perth. He has only a limited time to speak, and if honorable members interject they will deprive him of many minutes which are valuable to him.
– On the 6th February the Engineer-in-Chief, Mr. Deane, wrote a memorandum. I intend to read only the part which is of importance in this con- nexion. Mr. Deane says -
The Minister having decided to appoint Mr. H. Chinn as supervising engineer to take charge of the construction of the western end of the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta railway, I recommend that he be instructed - to do certain work. Here is evidence that the Minister had taken it upon himself to appoint Mr. Chinn as supervising engineer to take charge of the construction of the western end of the line.
– Read the other memorandum that Mr. Deane wrote.
– It appears, later, that the Minister had gone rather too far in making this appointment. He had not the power to act in the fashion in which he proposed at first, and accordingly we find the position modified. We find that Mr. Chinn is only appointed temporarily, and, instead of being supervising engineer, he is instructed that he is only to do certain preliminary work, and the Public Service Commissioner is approached, and permission is obtained for Mr. Chinn to be placed on the temporary list. Of course, he gets£750 a year, the same as the others. There is no question but that the intention of the Minister was to appoint Mr. Chinn to supervise the construction of the line as an engineer, and that as long as it was in process of construction he was to be there in that capacity. Now, strangely enough, an advertisement appeared in the Gazette of the 24th February, that is, weeks after the appointment had been made. It reads as follows : -
Department of Home Affairs,
Melbourne, 22nd February, 1912.
ENGINEERS FOR KALGOORLIE TO PORT AUGUSTA RAILWAY.
Applications are invited from Engineers (two required), under the Engineer-in-Chief of Commonwealth Railways, in connexion with the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway. Applications, to be addressed to the Secretary, Department of Home Affairs, Melbourne, will be received not later than Monday, the 18th March, 1912.
Minister of State for Home Affairs.
That is a most extraordinary state of affairs. Why did the advertisement appear at that late time of the day? Was it not because the Minister had been shown by some one that he had carried things on in an altogether improper fashion, and that the least he could do to save his face was to put in this belated advertisement, when, as a matter of fact, the principal position had already been filled? It may be said that only one Minister is responsible for this particular matter.
– Were any applications received in answer to the advertisement?
– That I do not know. None appears in connexion with this file. I am dealing with the appointment of Mr. Chinn. I find that on the 19th March there is a minute-paper by the VicePresident of the Executive Council, in which approval is given to the appointment of Mr. Chinn and another person, inconnexion with the construction of this branch of the transcontinental railway, and which is signed by Senator McGregor.
– Why does not the honorable member object to the other examiner appointed ?
– What other?
– Mr. Saunders.
– There is the appointment not only made by the Minister, but confirmed by the Government, so that it is more than a Ministerial appointment. It carries the indorsement of the Cabinet, and it is for them to meet the charge I am making, and to meet the country when the time comes for them to be charged by the people as well. There is included in the file a paper - I do not know why it comes here at all - which is supposed to give Mr. Chinn’s record. It says -
Qualified as civil engineer, Melbourne University, 18S3.
As a matter of fact, he is not qualified as a civil engineer at all.
– He is.
– I am informed by the University authorities that so far from having an engineering degree, Mr. Chinn has not so much as passed a single examination in any one of the subjects which it is necessary for a person to pass in connexion with engineering. There is more behind this, but I do not want to take up too much time. I say emphatically that the statement that Mr. Chinn qualified as a “ civil engineer, Melbourne University, in 1883,” is untrue, and wholly misleading. The record continues -
Engaged as engineer and contractor on all kinds of public works in almost all the States.
I dare say Mr. Chinn was employed in some capacity on these works ; but I want the Minister to say whether this is any evidence of engineering skill or capacity on the part of this man. If the Minister had made :the slightest investigation in this connexion he would have found such overwhelming evidence to the contrary as would of itself, I feel sure, have prevented the. appointment being made. It is recorded that he had a
Big practice for years in Melbourne.
That, again, is a figment of the imagination. The man has never had any practice in Melbourne at all. Lastly, there is the statement of - ability in Western Australia by finding better direct route from Kalgoorlie and site for workshops, saving 5 miles and over ^20,000.
The Minister cannot show that Mr. Chinn has, as alleged, made any improvement or saving at all. I have information from Western Australia that the statement is absolutely incorrect. I also want to know from the Minister whether he made any inquiries in regard to Mr. Chinn’s general character. In connexion with an important position of this kind, the character of a man counts for something. I trust, therefore, that the Minister will give us very satisfactory proofs that he has made inquiries regarding Mr. Chinn’s character, and that the replies are of a thoroughly satisfactory nature in all respects. I have no hesitation whatever in. saying that the man is totally unfit to occupy this position. I do not find from any paper in this file that the Minister and the Government behind him have satisfied themselves as to Fis ability, or capacity, or character. They appointed him solely and entirely on the strength of the letter sent to the Minister of Home Affairs by Labour supporters in Western Australia claiming their consideration for the man, because he had done good . service for them at the last election in the State. Surely that of itself was sufficient to condemn the whole thing ! Surely that is sufficient to justify me in bringing the matter forward in this way ! This is an action which the Government cannot justify. Putting it as mildly as I can, and not going beyond the limits of parliamentary language, it is an ugly and a discreditable transaction. I charge it, not alone on the Minister, but on the Government, and every member of the party that sits behind the Government in this House.
– - It is a well known fact that whenever an Indian deserts a tribe in America, and goes to another, he has to prove his fruitfulness, and that he is not sterile and unproductive. When one of the chiefs of the tribe to which the deserter went takes up the Pawnee maiden he leads her about and with pride points to the fact that they have made no mistake.
– Is the honorable mem- . ber answering the question?
– For the last two or three weeks the Pawnee maiden and the chief of the Chilkat tribe - the right honorable member for Swan - have been travelling round together, like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, and one has been pointing with pride to the other as one who was going to do great service to the newtribe; but, after all, what has been produced? A miserable, sulky, paralytic, one-legged, one-eyed muck-worm - a hybrid without pride of ancestry or hope of posterity - a cross between a city guineapig and a country blowfly. I ask my right honorable friend, the Prime Minister, if he will give a bonus to this kid? I do not believe he will. This slandering of Mr. Chinn is one of the most shameful things that ever happened in the House. It is most shameful that an honorable member should come down and challenge the Government - should malign the character of an innocent man, who cannot come here to defend himself, and, by innuendo and all sorts of suggestion, seek to deprive him of his method and means of making a living. Two years ago, at the close of the last Parliament, the Opposition had sixty-seven members - forty-six in this House and twenty-one in the Senate.
– Does the honorable member propose to connect his remarks with the question before the Chair?
– I am pointing out that we have a mandate from the country.
– Will the honorable member connect that with the question?
– I shall do so in a second. We have been asked to build this railway, and we have to look about and get the best men. Am I to be told that leading business men of Perth recommended Mr. Chinn for the office of Chief Commissioner of the Tasmanian railways if they did not mean what they said ?
– That has nothing to do with the work of construction.
– Has” it not? I ask my right honorable friend whether he knows the Honorable J. C. Foulkes? Does the right honorable member say that that man is a man who would sign his name to a letter if he did not mean what he said?
– He is a good Tory politician.
– Is the Honorable J. C. Foulkes a Labour man? Would he sign a recommendation if he did not think Mr. Chinn was qualified to be Commissioner of Railways for Tasmania?
– I do not think Mr. Foulkes is any judge of railway construction.
– Did he sign his name not believing what he said? Here is what he said -
The knowledge that you show of the proper system of running railways was most beneficial to the State, and many members of Parliament publicly acknowledged on several occasions that your intimate knowledge of railways systems, and your realization of the necessity of economical management, was the means of saving our State at least ^100,000 a year. I am off to England on Monday, and am sorry I shall not see you for some time.
Honorable members opposite know as much about business as does a child. A man before he can get to the top of the tree must learn his profession, and must have done something.
– Does Mr. Foulkes say that Mr. Chinn is an engineer?
– Does the right honorable member for Swan say that the Honorable W. J. Butcher is a fraud, or that he is a Labour man?
– He is the greatest Tory in Western Australia.
– At any rate, he says in a letter to Mr. .Chinn -
I have known you for many years, and am confident that, should the Tasmanian Government secure your services, they will have a gentleman who possesses the most intimate knowledge of railway management. It is well within my memory, when our Western Australian railway system had drifted into a state of chaos, and was actually a non-paying concern, owing to the system of reform which you so generously gave to this country through your criticism in the public press of this State, and which reforms were adopted by the Government, I have no hesitation in stating that it was the direct means of making our railways a most paying and profitable proposition, and saved the country at least £100,000 per annum. The people of this State are deeply indebted to you for the amount of detailed information you placed at their disposal, and which was so profitably used. I sincerely trust that, in the interests of the Tasmanian railways, you will be appointed.
That is a letter of the Honorable W. J. Butcher, of Western Australia, an absolute Tory. Should a Railway Commissioner know less than the man who builds the railway? Australian Governments have been brought into disrepute because men have been employed on railways who know nothing of the business. Then, is the Honorable M. 0L. Moss, exAttorneyGeneral of Western Australia, a Labour man?
– I think Mr. Moss was the Attorney-General of the right honorable member for Swan at one time.
– Ah !
– And a very good man.
– Ah ! Thank God for one admission !
– Does he say that Mr. Chinn knows anything about railway construction?
- Mr. Moss, in his letter to Mr. Chinn, says -
I am sure that if you were appointed as Commissioner you , will admirably fulfil the position. I am pleased to record the very valuable services you rendered some time ago in connexion with the criticism of Western Australian railway management-
It was mismanagement inherited from the time of my right honorable friend the honorable member for Swan - and the great aid your tabulated and comparative analysis of the figures relating to the working of the various Australian railway systems, were to me during the discussion in the Legislative Council of Western Australia on a motion dealing with the question. That discussion brought about an alteration in the management of the railways of Western Australia which effected enormous savings to the country, and you deserve Hie principal credit in this matter. I shall be glad to learn that you are successful with your application.
Let me ask whether the Honorable R. W. Pennefather is a Labour man. Does the right honorable member for Swan know Mr. Pennefather ?
– What has all this to do with railway construction?
– Does the honorable member for Perth say that Mr. Pennefather would sign a fraud?
– He came very nearly to signing a fraud.
– Mr. Pennefather, in his letter to Mr. Chinn, says -
It is now some thirty years since I first had the pleasure of making your acquaintance, and during that time you have been closely identified with railway construction and management. If proof of your knowledge were required, it will be amply shown in the letters which you contributed to the public press of this State some four years ago, when the railway management was severely criticised. Your experience and knowledge was amply borne out by the high eulogiums passed upon you by the various members of both Houses of Parliament. I know of no other person more qualified than you are 10 hold the position for which you have applied, and if your application be successful, the Government of Tasmania may be congratulated on their selection.
That is a letter from Mr. Pennefather, LL.B., K.C., M.L.C., ex-Judge of the Western Australian Supreme Court, and ex- Attorney- General in the Forrest Ministry. Did the right honorable mem ber for Swan ever hear of the Honorable W, T. Loton, Chairman of the Western Australian Bank?
– Yes, and a good man, too.
– Is he a fraud ?
– Good ! I ask the honorable member for Perth if he thinks Mr. Loton is a fraud ?
– He is a man who was “got at.”
– Ah ! Mr. Loton says in his letter -
In expressing a non-professional opinion, it appeared to me that your clear and practical criticism resulted in a considerable improvement being made in the system generally. I think that your ability, practical experience, and knowledge of the construction and working of railways amply qualifies you for the position of a Commissioner of Railways in any State of the Commonwealth.
– Did he get the appointment?
– The writer of this recommendation is the chairman of directors of the Western Australian Bank, ex-Mayor of Perth, and one of the most prominent citizens of Western Australia. Nobody said a word when Mr. Deane was appointed. Yet I appointed him. Nobody said a word against the appointment of Mr. Saunders. Yet I appointed him.
– On the” recommendation of the officers.
– Recommendation ? Rot ! When honorable members opposite are in office they are run by their officers. They consider it their business to do what they are told. But it is not so with us. Does the honorable member for Perth know Mr. J. W. Wright, of Western Australia? Is he all right? This is what he says about Mr. Chinn -
I feel it incumbent on me, as one who took a prominent part in the discussion in Parliament on the management of our railways, to place on record the very valuable services you rendered to this State by your detailed reports on the working of the system. These reports came at a time when little or no profits were being derived from the railways, and showed most conclusively that with proper management a handsome net return would accrue to the State. Subsequent events have verified in every way your contentions, for the net profits in the. past three years have reached the enormous figure of ^438,000, whilst the working expenses have been reduced in a similar ratio.
There can be no doubt that the vast knowledge displayed by you was the main factor in bringing about the desired alteration in the man,agement, and I am sure the greatest credit is due to you for the valuable services you rendered to Parliament and the public in ventilating the matter.
I am confident that if the Tasmanian Government realize the value of your services as we do here, there will be no hesitation on their part to appoint you as their Commissioner.
Wishing you every success,
Believe me, yours faithfully, (Sd.) J. W. Wright.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Is there no opportunity for me to finish this story? I ask leave to finish.
-Is it the pleasure of the House that the Minister of Home Affairs have leave to continue?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– I desire to point out that leave having been granted to the Minister to continue, I have no power to direct when he shall stop.
– I will not go far.
– I am- helpless. If the Minister desires to continue for an hour I am unable to stop him.
– I will be very brief. Let me ask the right honorable member for Swan another question. Has he ever heard of a man named G. Randall?
– What is the use of reading all these things?
– Because it is as well that honorable members should know what these people think about Mr. Chinn. Mr. Randall is an ex-Colonial Secretary, and ex-Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. He is a man of ability. This is what he said -
I was struck with the earnest and effective way in which you put the whole case for a thorough overhaul of the then methods of the Department.
Your criticism has, I fully believe, resulted in a radical change for the better and more economic working of the system, especially as regards the main lines.
I concur in the opinions expressed by the members of the Legislative Council and others on the subject, and as to your ability to effectively administer in a business way railway affairs.
I understand you are an applicant for the position of Railway Commissioner in Tasmania, and trust you will be successful in your application, and thus be able to demonstrate your ability to- the satisfaction of the Government of that State.
I am, yours faithfully, (Sd.) G. Randall.
That is the opinion of one of the outandout Tories of Western Australia, though he is an able man. I believe that he is a member of one of the “ six families.”
– Is he a Labour man?
– No fear! I wish also to quote from a testimonial by Mr. S. W. Copley, who wrote -
I have known him for a number of years, during which time he has earned and retained the good-will and respect of the people of this State.
He is a man of strong personality, and has conclusively proved that he thoroughly understands the business of railway management. Just about the time the Railway Department of this State had got into a most chaotic state, Mr. Chinn undertook the task of showing how bad matters really were, and how they could be put right. His articles in the press, extending over a large period, evidenced his grasp of the detail and intricacies of the business, and met with the success they deserved, for, on his reforms being adopted by the Government, the railways at once became a profit-earner to a degree hitherto unknown in their history.
I shall be pleased to hear of Mr. Chinn’s success wherever he may elect to reside.
Yours faithfully, (Sd.) S. W. Copley.
Does the honorable member for Perth know whether the writer of that is a Labour man ? Does he consider that the Honorable Charles Sommers, M.L.C., and ex- Minister of Mines, is a Labour man? Do you know, Mr. Speaker, I had a little doubt in my mind when I read all these testimonials from members of the party opposite. It put a bit of fear into me. I thought, “ Is this man so able as they say he* is?” I was willing to test him, but I always have some doubt when a man is recommended from the other side, because I know that my honorable friends are not business men. My experience since 1 have been in this House has taught me that.
– Then why read their cer- tificates?
– Because .1 want the House to know how these prominent persons have spoken about Mr. Chinn, and to prove that they would never have had a word to say against his ability if he had not been a Labour man. I say from my own experience that whenever a man departs from the boodleier’s class they follow him to the grave, and expectorate on him before the earth is covered over him. There is no hope for a man, unless he be rich, who leaves that side. They would murder him. They are like the Camoora and the Mafia associations in their vindictiveness.
– Order !
– I have good reasons for saying so. Let me now read what Mr. Charles Sommers has said.
– Will the honorable member give us his own arguments ?
– My honorable friend is as destitute of all knowledge of argument as a child is of the philosophy of salvation.
In the event of his becoming Commissioner, I have no hesitation in saying that the Government will have secured the services of one fitted in every way to manage and work their system to the greatest possible advantage. Mr. Chinn has been personally known to me for several years, during which time he has been closely associated with railways, and has proved himself to be a man of exceptional ability where economical working of such is of paramount importance.
The series of trenchant articles written by Mr. Chinn for the leading Western Australian paper, on the disregard of economy and good management of our Railway Department, gained for him the highest encomiums from members of both Houses of Parliament and the general public, and there can be no doubt that the vast improvement now shown in the profits from the railways is greatly due to the adoption of the reforms so strongly and ably advocated by him.
Yours very faithfully, (Sd.) Chas. Sommers.
I have not come here to-day to slander anybody, but I ask my honorable friend opposite would he have raised any extraordinary objections if I had appointed Mr. Anketell ?
– A very good man, I think.
– He has no diploma.
– Did he say that he had ?
– No j nor did Mr. Chinn say such a thing.
– Then how did it get on the papers ?
– Honorable members may ask themselves the question. In all their history, have they ever before known private letters to be placed on a public file?
– Who put private letters on a public file?
– Is the claim to a diploma a private matter?
– Honorable members ought to hang their heads in shame. Is Mr. John Andrew Muir an able man ?
– I think that he is a good man.
– He has no diploma. Mr. Chinn, notwithstanding what the honorable member for Perth has said, has already saved us from having to start a new town at Kurrimia. He has already discovered a route-
– A tremendous discovery.
– Which will enable us to bring the railway right into Kalgoorlie, where we shall have headquarters. He has enabled us to save the construction of 5 miles of line.
– Oh I
– I say yes; and I am the Minister.
– Let us see the plan.
– I am the responsible man ; it is not the Opposition who are responsible. Mr. Hardman spent $100,000,000 to shorten a line from Chicago to San Francisco by 40 or 50 miles. We were asked to build this’ line on a survey which was all right at the time it was made, but which, in my opinion, ‘can never stand, as it was never fit to build a road on.
– It was only a trial survey.
– Where does Mr. Deane come in ? Where is his responsibility ?
- Mr. Deane is in Melbourne. Honorable members had a flying survey made. I have no objection to that. I could have started on that survey, and created a big town, but I stopped that. Already we have saved hundreds of thousands of pounds to the people.
– Suppose I had attacked honorable members the other night when they brought up here the charge that I would not hand ,£20,000 of the people’s money to a few friends at Prahran ; would not that have been called ‘ bribery ? “ I did not say that, because I would not be guilty of such a charge; but I think that a blunder was made in that case. Under no circumstances shall we allow the Opposition to dictate ‘to us how this road shall or shall not be run. We are going to build it. The Opposition did not do anything but talk. They made many promises: but we are doing things.
– We had the survey and other arrangements completed before this Government came into power.
– I think that we may all congratulate ourselves that the painful exhibition just witnessed is over. The letters which the Minister has read were from very reputable people in Perth, but they all relate to an application for appointment to the position of Commissioner of Railways in Tasmania. It appears that Mr. Chinn wrote for the Western Australian press some articles on railway management, and so impressed many prominent persons there that they wrote letters saying that his articles had done an immense amount of good, and expressed the hope that he would get the position for which he was applying. We are all, from time to time, asked to give testimonials, and we comply with these requests, sometimes reluctantly, and at other times with pleasure.
– Are not those who wrote the letters reliable?
– They are very reliable gentlemen, but the letters were not written in support of an application for an engineering appointment. Sir Thomas Tait, who was at the head of the Victorian Railways was not an engineer, neither, I believe, is the New South Wales Chief Commissioner.
– Yes, he is.
– Well, he was appointed to manage, not to construct. Mr. Davies, who was imported from England by the Government of Western Australia to manage, and Mr. Smith, who went from Western Australia to Tasmania, were not engineers. All these gentlemen were appointed because of their business capacity, and the letters read by the Minister have relation to an application for a managing, not an engineering, position. The writers had no knowledge of Mr. Chinn’s qualifications as an engineer, not possessing engineering experience themselves. Not one of them would have vouched for Mr. Chinn’s qualifications as a railway constructing engineer. It is not very pleasant to have to deal with these personal matters, but the charge brought against the Minister and the Government is a grave one, and, in my opinion, well founded. The proposed railway will exceed 1,000 miles in length, and is the greatest project of the kind yet entered on in Australia. In the expenditure of the immense sum which it will cost, we should have the advice and the assistance of the best ability and experience obtainable. Does any one say that there has been any evidence whatever produced of Mr. Chinn’s knowledge and capacity which would prove that he was the best man obtainable for the position?
– If his qualifications prove that he is the best man, my case falls to the ground.
– There was not a single testimonial from any of his employers.
– In the letters put before us by the Minister there is not one testimonial from persons with whom Mr. Chinn has been associated, or for whom he has worked as an engineer.
– Apparently there is no constructive work that he has carried through.
– Notwithstanding that the Minister may be a great man, I say that he is not competent to judge of the fitness of a person applying for a professional position as an engineer to control railway construction, because he does not possess professional qualifications. All over the world when the services of a man of particular fitness are required, recommendations are sought from persons qualified to judge of his professional abilities. Has not Mr. Chinn been forced on the country by the Minister of Home Affairs? It is clear that the Minister did not wait for a recommendation from the head of his engineering department. In a minute dealing with the names of five applicants, Mr. Deane wrote that he would certainly recommend Mr. ‘ Saunders for the Port Augusta end, and added that “ the Minister has already expressed his intention of appointing Mr. Henry Chinn at the Kalgoorlie end.” Mr. Deane did not say that he recommended Mr. Chinn’s appointment. It is clear that the appointment was made, not on the recommendation of Mr. Deane, but by the Minister himself, off his own bat. It is all very well for the Minister to say, “I am Minister of Home Affairs, and I am going to do this or that;” but we have to remember that this work is to be carried out, not at his expense, but with the money of the people. I have no desire to injure Mr. Chinn - I do not know him, and never heard of him before - nor do I desire to injure any one else. But in common with honorable members generally, I have a duty to perform. It is my duty to see that this great railway project is not injured by men like the Minister of Home Affairs, who will make appointments of this character for political or other purposes without being supported by the recommendation of any authority who has knowledge of the subject. In placing this great work in the hands of incompetent persons, or any save those who are most capable, the Minister is doing a great wrong, both to the project itself, and to the people of Australia. I am surprised that the Postmaster-General, who, I believe, has an acute mind, and is desirous of doing right, should allow the work to be injured in the way that it is being injured. He is very much interested, as the representative of Kalgoorlie, in the construction of this railway, and I am surprised that he should allow its success to be jeopardized by the appointment of an incompetent person. The work will not only be delayed very seriously, but will cost a great deal more than it would under competent management.
– The right honorable member has no right to make such a statement in view of the fact that he has proved no incompetency on the part of the person appointed. The only charge made against him is that he is a Labour man.
– It is very wrong to appoint a man solely because he is a Labour sympathizer. The papers do not show that Mr. .Chinn was recommended by any engineering authority by whom he had been employed. I am also surprised that the Prime Minister should allow his Government to be compromised, and the work to be prejudiced in this way. Surely there are in Australia men of undoubted repute and standing who should have been appointed to discharge these important duties. Surely it would be better to appoint such men than to employ people of whom we know nothing, and for whom no one has a good word to say. Nearly a year ago, when I expressed the hope that this railway would be constructed within three years, the Minister of Home Affairs said that it would be completed in less time than that. Does he still hold that view ?
– I do.
– Of that three years’ period nearly ten months have elapsed.
– Order ! The right honorable member is now going beyond the question before the Chair.
– I make the deliberate statement that those who inquire into this question must come to the conclusion that Mr. Chinn is not the best engineer available for this important work.
– I think he is.
– Those who inquire into the question must come to the conclusion that what led up to Mr. Chinn’s appointment was, not the letters of the gentlemen whom the Minister found it necessary to quote this afternoon in regard to his qualifications for managing the railways of Tasmania - gentlemen of the class whom he is always denouncing as having no business knowledge, as “boodleiers,” and whom he describes in other offensive ways - but the letters written by Mr. Collier and Mr. Walker, members of the Western Australian Government, stating that Mr. Chinn had rendered valuable assistance to the Labour party in that State. One can well imagine Mr. Deane inquiring of the Minister, “What are Mr. Chinn’s qualifications? What are his recommendations ? “ If such an inquiry were made of him, no doubt he replied in the words used by him in this House a few days ago, “ What -is the use of references? I have none, and I am Minister of Home Affairs. I am an American.” I wish that he had stayed in America. He might have done some good there. He certainly has done’ none here. It must be clear to any one reading the official papers that Mr. Deane did not favour Mr. Chinn’s appointment. I challenge the Minister to deny that statement. My knowledge of this case has been obtained only from a perusal of the papers, and from them it is clear that Mr. Deane not only did not favour the appointment, but had good reasons for not wanting Mr. Chinn to be appointed. To start with, he was unknown to him, and he had no testimonial from an engineering authority. Further than that, he had never given any satisfaction wherever he had been employed.
– How does the right honorable member know that?
– I know from several sources.
– Let the right honorable member give us the sources of his information.
– Let the Government give me the Select Committee for which I am going to ask to-morrow, and we shall have it all out. I think it has been proved that Mr. Chinn’s appointment was not justified by his career as an engineer ; that he has never won his spurs ; and that those for whom he has worked have not a good word to say for him. In conclusion, I say deliberately - and I believe it will be proved if the Select Committee, for which I intend to ask to-morrow, is appointed - that Mr. Chinn’s appointment is a gross piece of favoritism, a flagrant abuse of power for political purposes, and a grave reflection on the Government.
– After the two vigorous speeches to which we have just listened, I think it would not be out of place to endeavour to introduce into the scene of our deliberations a slightly calmer atmosphere. The attitude of the honorable member for Perth and the right honorable member for Swan has occasioned me considerable surprise in view of the fact that they repeatedly complained in this House that Western Australians have not been considered as eligible for appointments to Federal positions as are persons from other States. That has been a frequent, and, to some extent, a justifiable complaint on their part. Ye.t now that a Western Australian has been appointed to do Federal work in Western Australia, there is an immediate outcry on their part.
– Is Mr. Chinn a Western Australian? I never heard of his name before.
– The right honorable gentleman knows that he has been residing in Western Australia for many years. Now that a Western Australian has been appointed to a Federal position - and the position, by the way, is only a temporary one - these honorable members are endeavouring to make political capital out of it.
– That is not the reason as the honorable member should know.
– What I do know is that this appointment has been seized upon in a discreditable manner by certain politicians and certain newspapers. The Argus, for instance, was’ quite hysterical in its exaggeration, making a mountain out of a molehill. It may be that there has been some little irregularity in this case, but I am sure that it was no greater than has been the case in connexion with many appointments that have been made by various other Governments, and concerning which nothing whatever has been said. It has been stated that Mr. Chinn has not produced any testimonials from persons by whom he was employed.
– Hear ! hear.
– The right honorable gentleman has no right to draw from that circumstance a conclusion unfavorable to Mr. Chinn. There may be a perfectly innocent explanation of the fact that he has not sent in such testimonials with his application., and the right honorable member for Swan is not justified in concluding that he has no such testimonials, or that if he has them they do not bear testimony to his good character and qualifications.
– Does the honorable member not think that he would produce them if he had them?
– Has he not produced testimonials from gentlemen of the highest character in Western Australia? Were not some of these testimonials from men who had been colleagues of the right honorable member and members of his Government ?
– Only one, I think.
– 1 know that Mr. Pennefather was a colleague of the right honorable gentleman, and I believe that Mr. Loton was one of his particular personal friends.
– Does the honorable gentleman think it is worth bothering about that ?
– We have such truly representative gentlemen saying, not merely that Mr. Chinn would make a good manager of railways : but, and this is the important point, that he had experience in the construction of railways also. It is said that Mr. Chinn was appointed because he is a Labour man and for political services. I happen to be in a position to give that statement a flat denial. I may here say that I cannot understand how private and confidential letters have found their way on to a file of this kind. The writers of the letters to which I refer wrote only from their own personal point of view, and not on behalf of the Labour party in Western Australia. I am in a position to say that Mr. Chinn did not render any material service to the Labour party at the last elections.
– The writers of the letters say that he did.
– I say that he did not, and I was on the spot running a newspaper for the Labour party at the time. I know that the extent of Mr. Chinn’s services to the Labour party at the last elections was the writing of one article.
– The Trades Hall people do not say that.
– The letter from the Trades Hall is not an official one. I am able to say further that when the Trades Hall authorities were importuned to assist Mr. Chinn to secure this appointment they turned the application down. That is a fact which appeared in the public press.
– They had some conscience.
– That was not the reason. Their position was that, as they knew nothing of Mr. Chinn’s professional qualifications, they did not intend to interfere in the matter at all. I remind honorable members that the letter written by the secretary to the Trades Hall was apparently written in His private capacity. I think that there has been made a great storm about a very trifling matter. I know Mr. Chinn, and although he may not have high professional attainments, many men who have not such attainments are very successful in practical life. Mr. Chinn is a man who understands how to deal with men, and the right honorable member for Swan is aware that one of the chief requirements in the construction of a railway is a man who is able to hold his own amongst men, and see that they do what is right. I have no hesitation in saying that I think the appointment of Mr. Chinn a suitable one, and I conclude with the statement that if I had been in the position of the Minister of Home Affairs, and had before me the testimonials of Mr. Chinn, with my personal knowledge of him, I also should have given him the appointment.
.- It appears to me that many honorable members, including the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, are looking at this question from an exactly opposite point of view to that from which we require to regard it. It is not the business of the Opposition, who are not directly connected with this appointment, to prove that Mr. Chinn was not competent. The whole burden of proof to the contrary rests on the Minister of Home Affairs, and those associated with him. They have to prove not only to their own satisfaction, but to the satisfaction of Parliament, that at least this gentleman was in every way qualified for the position which he now holds, even if they do not attempt to show that he was the best person available. No effort has been made in either direction, and not one word has been said in either relation. There has been no discussion- of the re- lative efficiency of the applicants. The appointment has been discussed as if it was simply a question whether Mr. Chinn could do the work which he has been appointed to do. That is not the real question. This is whether Mr. Chinn is the man who can do the work best and most economically. There has been no evidence to show that his credentials and experience have been measured with the credentials and experience of other professional men in Australia who are available.
– Other men were given no chance to apply for the position, because the appointment was given to Mr. Chinn before it was advertised.
– Then that point is proved. I admit that the circumstances of the case, and the procedure, are calculated to raise a great deal of suspicion; but wish to keep to the simple questions of qualification and proof of qualification. I say distinctly that the Minister has not only not proved Mr. Chinn’s qualifications for this position, but he has not even attempted to prove them. If he. has proved anything, it is .that, on the testimony of certain Legislative Councillors and others in Western Australia, Mr. Chinn is a man who wrote some excellent letters to the Western Australian newspapers during a period of criticism of railway management in that State, and that amendments were afterwards made in connexion with the management of that Department which led to a saving, generally estimated at ^100,000 a year.
– That claim is absolutely absurd. ‘
– Possibly ; but granting everything claimed, my argument is sound and convincing. This argument is that even if Mr. Chinn be credited with that saving on the Western Austraiian railways, he has proved nothing except a faculty for detecting mistakes and blunders in existing methods of working, and to make suggestions which resulted in their great improvement. But these are all questions of railway management. They are connected in no way with railway construction.
The experience of Australia, as well as of English Railway Boards, has been - I know it has in New South Wales and Victoria - that it is wise to secure as Commissioners of Railways one member who is an expert in railway construction, and another member who is an expert in railway management - the latter is quite- a different branch. This is the only matter on which Mr. Chinn is alleged to have any qualification at all. There has usually been associated with these Commissioners a third., who is supposed to supervise the financial side of the railways and accounts, and generally to study their finances.
– You. are arguing as if he had been appointed chief engineer for the line. He is only an assistant.
– I am not arguing from that stand-point. The chief engineer is Mr. Deane. . For all I know to the contrary, Mr. Deane’s appointment may have been criticised in various parts of Australia ; but the fact remains that no one disputed, his fitness for the- post, and no one . disputes that he has behind him a long and distinguished career. This case is entirely different. Mr. Chinn- has not laid before this House a shred of paper relating to his experience in any capacity, even in the management of a railway, putting aside- the question of construction. He wrote letters to the papers. He made fertile suggestions. So may many other people who have an outside knowledge of railway business; but he does not show that, for a single day, in this country or any other-, he ever served even in the management of a railway.
– We have not had a word from the Minister in that regard tonight, or a tittle of evidence in any of the credentials that have been read. If there is anything in the papers, let it be added, and I shall make allowance for it; but, so far, in this debate there has not been a word to show that he has had’ the slightest practical experience as manager in- any positionof importance; on any railway, anywhere. Remember, again, that I am still arguing from the question of management, althoughit has next to nothing to do with the challenge to Mr. Chinn. The construction of the railway is under the control of Mr. Deane, a capable constructing engineer, who requires beneath him engineers, if not equally, at any rate largely, experienced in that kind of work. No one versed in railway management would think of employing, as- a chief officer of a constructing engineer, a manwhose experience of railways was limited to some minor employments of which we have yet to hear, and to; newspaper and other criticism. Until- this line is completed, there, is no room for- him as manager, ot for any. one else; since there is no railway management. The work to be done is wholly and solely railway construction. We are told that he is only temporarily appointed, but. we have not yet been shown, that, he was ever concerned with railway construction. He has had a long career in Australia,, and all, except the short period when he was criticising the Western. Aus.tralian railways, has been left a blank. We- know nothing of when he served, where he served,, how he served. We have no testimonials from his employers or his. superior officers. We- have no proof of his ordinary professional standing or university degree. We have, in. fact, no evidence to. justify his choice, except that a number; of competent business men, and a lawyer or two, who happened to be members of the Legislative Council of Western Australia, have been good enough to give him warm general, certificates of little value except for their goodwill.
– If he had been of yourbrand of politics, do you think there would have been this fuss?
– Yes. I have not alluded to that fact.
– I. am not referring to you ; but the right honorable member for Swan, raised the question.
– Others have- dealt with that fact; it comes into consideration only when it has been decided that Mr. Chinn could not have been chosen for his. professional qualifications-. The question for us to determine is : for what qualifications has Mr. Chinn been chosen? He has had no experience even in management or- in construction. The one otherthing that: he did, the achievement of a ife>time, of. which, the Minister of Home Affairs spoke, was an alteration whichis to save 4 miles in the length of a railway of which, as every one knows, there was only a- trial survey in existence. A trial survey is- intended to be corrected afterwards- in the light of further and completer knowledge before the rails are laid down. What he did is part of the ordinary every-da-y task of an engineer whoruns a trial survey, ‘ and then necessarily goes over it afterwards and corrects it before building a permanent route. Thus; the only testimony of practical efficiency with which we have been favoured is the ordinary correction of a trial survey, which had to be corrected like almost every other trial survey.
– And the country is flat all round.
– Yes. Some reference was made to the difficulties of approaching Kalgoorlie by railway, but I have never seen a town in any part of the world more easily approached. The country is level, and you can come into it at any angle, and at any spot.
– That argument is against you.
– Then- why did Mr. Deane suggest that we should go out 6 miles ?
– I leave Mr. Deane, who is a highly competent engineer, to answer that question, but undertake to say that there was a very good reason. Reference was made in a general way to Mr. Chinn’s successful dealing with the men under him. So far I have not heard a word of testimony even on that head, and yet in the particular work in which he is now engaged it will be a very important consideration, quite apart from professional qualifications, and one in which we have an interest, not to be satisfied by a simple assertion.
I submit that, taking the case put for this appointment at its very best, taking it without anything more than necessary qualifications and natural interpretations it must be admitted that, for a gigantic proposal such as this railway is, of enormous importance as it is to the people of Australia, the Government could not have appointed a man with more slender qualifications than are possessed by Mr. Chinn. Is there any member on the Ministerial side bold enough to deny that there are at least a score, if not scores, of men in Australia of longer experience and higher standing, with better testimonials from their employers, proving their absolute fitness for this class of work?
– And who never got a chance to apply for -the billet.
– Exactly. That is the final gravamen of the whole’ charge.
– Is it?
– The Minister does not, or will not, see it. Even if Mr. Chinn is all that he claimed - and he claimed very little, and put in evidence of very little-
– A great man !
– A great man, according to the honorable member’s stand-point, no doubt, but even in these circumstances he has not proved what the House and the country are entitled to have proved to them. This is that the Government has chosen the best man available for the post in Australia or out of it, so that we might rely with absolute confidence that this vast public work, one of the greatest ever undertaken in Australia, will be carried out in the most efficient manner. We ought to have been assured that we are not being exposed to unnecessary risk, nor those responsible for the work to unnecessary anxiety, by having associated with them a man apparently of the most imperfect qualifications, and certainly not comparable in his claim on the Government with many others outside, who were not favoured with the appointment. That is the last important consideration - the injustice that has been done to scores of able Australians, qualified by experience and by their university «qualifications-
– Mr. Chinn is an Australian.
– I do not deny it.
– It is only a one-man job, after all. Only one could get it.
– I object .to a “ job,”even in regard to one man. I object to the country having inferior service when superior service is available. It was quite possible for Ministers to carry out this undertaking by the aid of some man who had proved his standing and ability in Australia at this particular class of work. They have no excuse for offering us a man whose qualifications, whatever they are, are only in:dicated by a few non-professional people, who were never his employers in any sense of the term, and whose commendations, such as they were, related to another class of railway work altogether, and not to construction.
– I think that, during this session, we are establishing records, beyond a doubt. A charge has been levelled against the Government of having made a partisan appointment. I have listened carefully to most of the statements which have been made from the other side, but not one word has been levelled against the capacity of the man who is in charge of the construction of the Kalgoorlie section of the trans-Australian railway. The mover of this motion contented himself with reading statements from a number of Labour politicians - responsible men who are go,verning Western Australia - in favour of his appointment. Assuming that that is correct, are we to take up the attitude that each one of these men who have committed their names to paper in favour of this gentleman is incompetent to express an opinion, and that the honorable member for Perth and his supporters, who have never seen Mr. Chinn, who know nothing of his work-
– Will you tell us something of his work?
– Yes, if the honorable member will give me an opportunity. These honorable members, who have never been acquainted with any of Mr. Chinn’s work, say, “ Because Chinn has got the support of these Ministers from Western Australia, it must be a political job.” That is the extent of their argument. The Minister of Home Affairs has demonstrated that, within recent times - none of these letters is dated long ago - men on the opposite side have been profuse in their approval of Mr. Chinn’s qualifications in regard to railway matters - gentlemen who are recognised as the most absolute Tories in Western Australia. Then we get to this stage : that if it is a political job, honorable members on the other side are equally guilty with honorable members on this side.
– More so.
– I believe that more letters in support of Mr. Chinn have been received from honorable members who support the other side than from those who support this side.
– I do not think that that is fair.
– It is true.
– It is neither true nor fair.
– It is both true and fair. We will now assume that politics did not enter into the matter at all. Mr. Chinn was an applicant for the position of Commissioner of Railways in Tasmania, and, according to reliable information, he was second to another Western Australian, Mr. Smith, who was manager of the Midland Railway Company. Had it not been for Mr. Smith’s presence in the field, Mr. Chinn would have received the appointment.
– The Minister does not know that.
– The honorable member does not know that it was not so.
– Yes, I do.
– I do.
– The honorable gentleman does not know that, and I am not prepared to take the honorable member’s statement after he was guilty of stating the other day that loafers were sacked on certain Government works and reinstated on the receipt of a letter from honorable members on this side.
– Order !
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– However,I am not going to be side-tracked in my limited time by that sort of interjection. A man who is qualified sufficiently to be the Commissioner of Railways for a State-
– That is management.
– He must have a knowledge of business principles, traffic, and mechanical work in a general sense, and he must also be acquainted with the necessity for constructional work in the event of being called upon to fill the position. I have had some experience in connexion with the construction of railways.
– Oh !
Mr.FRAZER.- The honorable gentleman sat in the legislative halls in Perth, and I worked on the lines when they were being constructed. When my honorable friend says that there is no difficulty in getting into Kalgoorlie by any particular route, why did Mr. Deane, who, in the language of the Leader of the Opposition, is a “ highly competent engineer,” take the railway 6 miles out toKurrimia before he turned across to Bulong, and add 4 miles unnecessarily to the length of the line, a thing which Mr. Chinn corrected as soon as he had an opportunity to go there?
– When did he do that?
– As soon as the work of construction starts, the line will go straight from Kalgoorlie instead of going 6 miles along the Kanowna line.
– Will that save 5 miles ?
– It will save about 4 miles. Myhonorable friend talks about the qualifications. Evidently Mr. Chinn, inhis modesty, has not been prepared to put in all his qualifications.
– Yes, an unknown quantity with honorable gentlemen on the other side. From 1880 Mr. Chinn worked for five years with the chief engineer, Mr. Moriarty - who, I am informed, is a highly qualified man - in connexion with the Syd- tney water works, and for two years he worked as a licensed surveyor in New South Wales. He practised in Melbourne for fourteen years as a consulting engineer and licensed surveyor. He enjoyed a lucrative business, and was acting for railway and sewerage contractors as their engineer on all classes of engineering work, besides doing the surveys under the Transfer of Land Act for a great number of leading firms of solicitors in this city for that period.
– That was surveying, mostly.
– What date was that?
– He has been in that particular line since 1880.
– Fourteen years.
– It seems that, having these qualifications, he is an absolute incompetent, whereas the honorable members for Swan and Perth know all about the business. He was frequently engaged as an expert in big engineering law cases in the Supreme Court, ‘being well known and sought after during the period he was practising in Melbourne.
– In what year?
– It is easy to get his record. I told my honorable friend that Mr. Chinn started in 1880, and worked under one engineer in New South Wales for five years.
– The honorable member cannot produce a single testimonial with the record.
- Mr. Chinn was afterwards associated with Falkingham in the building of the Parkes to Condobolin railway, and with other contracts.
– The Minister cannot produce any certificates.
– We will get certificates if honorable members are very anxious to have them, and, what is more, give them the railway, if they will give us an opportunity to get on with its construction. Mr. Chinn made the engineering surveys for the Brisbane water supply. The honorable member for Darling Downs can easily ascertain if that statement is correct.
– I prefer the Government to furnish a certificate from the Board.
- Mr. Chinn practised for five years in Perth as an engineer and a surveyor, and I know from personal knowledge that during the time he had a fair share of the work in Western Australia. My honorable friends opposite say that
Mr. Deane had nothing to do with this appointment. Well, here is his certificate of the 14th February, 19 12 -
Memorandum to the Secretary, Department of Home Affairs.
The question of the selection of engineers in connexion with the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Fort Augusta railway has received my earnest consideration, and, after conference with the Minister, I recommend the following appointments : - Messrs. G. A. Hobler, F. W. T. Saunders, and H. Chinn, each with a salary at the rate of£750 per annum.
Engineer-in-Chief for Railways.
– After a conference with the Minister.
– Was there a conference previous to that?
– If the Minister was capable of appointing Mr. Deane, surely he was capable of discussing the appointment of the men who are to work under him.
– Was there a conference previous to that?
– Does my right honorable friend think that any appointment of this description is ever made by the head of a sub-department? Certainly that is not done in the Post and Telegraph Department. The head, or sub-head, confers with the Minister, and then he submits a recommendation which the Minister accepts or rejects. The Minister of Home Affairs has secured a man who is thoroughly qualified to get on with the job, and who ought to be protected from the slanders which, chiefly by innuendo, have been thrown at him to-day.
Debate interrupted under standing order.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Royal Commissions Act1902.
Bill presented and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Order of the Day be discharged.
I submit this motion in order that the Bill may be proceeded with in another place, where there is at present no further business.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Order of the Day discharged.
Debate resumed from 19th July (vide page 1 081) on motion by Mr. King O’Malley -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of Victoria into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs. R. C. Oldham, J. M. Reed, and J. Molloy, the Commissioners’ for the purpose of distributing the said State into Divisions, in their report laid before Parliament on the 19th day of June, 1912, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the report and indicated on the map referred to therein be adopted, except that the name “ Henty “ be substituted for “ Caulfield.”
.- I do not intend to say very much in regard to this motion. At the outset, I must express my agreement, to a very large extent, with the remarks made by the honorable member for Bendigo on Friday last to the effect that we seem to indulge too frequently in these redistribution schemes. Under the Constitution and our Electoral Acts we are compelled to redistribute the seats owing to variations of population which may, sometimes, prove to be only of a temporary character. If the responsibility for this lies, as the honorable member for Bendigo seems to think it does, with the Constitution, we should do well to make that instrument a little more elastic in that respect. It is a very serious matter to upset at frequent intervals the electoral arrangements of the various States. Of course, we should rejoice if we knew that the population was increasing in a greater degree in the rural districts than in the city areas. The Commissioners, I understand, first fix on a quota, from which they work, taking into consideration community or diversity of interests, physical features, and other circumstances. It has always seemed to me that our electoral system ought to be based on human beings, and not on areas. In Victoria, if we were to leave the representation as at present, we should have in the city of Melbourne 344,868 electors, with a quota of 38,318, and nine members ; while in the country, there would be 382,733 electors, with a quota of 31,894, and twelve members, or a difference of considerably over 6,000 electors in each electorate as between country and city. It is unfair, in my opinion, to have a quota of 38,318 electors within city boundaries, and only 31,894 in country districts. I sympathize largely with the honorable member for Wimmera and the honorable member for Bendigo in their regrets about the population drifting into the city, yet the Commissioners have to face the fact that nearly half the population of the State is within that area. If we enlarge the country electorates there can be no possible encroachments on the city areas, but there is a possibility of metropolitan areas touching on some country districts ; and that has been done. The Commissioners have, I think, carried out their arduous task in a manner that reflects considerable credit on them. It has been pointed out that in some country constituencies the quota is above that fixed for the whole State. It is impossible, of course, to get figures to tally exactly, and certain considerations have to be taken into account in forming or incorporating electorates. On the figures as they stand the Commissioners have, I believe, carried out their duties as well as could be expected. Personally, as representing Maribyrnong, I am not inclined to complain. I know that the quota has been reduced, but if one Radical section has been excised, another Radical section has been attached on the other side. In reply to the honorable member for Wimmera, who also, apparently, has no complaint to make, 1 have to say that it would be impossible to give country electors twelve members and the city only nine, with a difference of 6,000 electors in favour of the city; If I had any doubt whatever as to a mistake having been made, whether through an error of judgment or otherwise, or as to any injustice having been inflicted on any part of the State, or on the State as a whole, I should have no hesitation about referring this report back to the Commissioners in order that they might analyze it, and submit a fresh scheme to this House. The Electoral Act was wisely framed in this regard - that Parliament is the final arbiter, and that we have power to refer back to Electoral Commissioners any scheme submitted to us. As far, however, as I am personally concerned, I intend to vote for the recommendation.
.- I desire to say a word or two in regard to the number of electorates in the city portion of the State of Victoria in comparison with the number in the rural districts. I do not know what principle has been in operation in other States, but in Victoria it has always been held to be a proper thing that country electors should havea relatively smaller number of constituents allotted to them than city electors. The reason for that -is that in the rural districts there is a larger area to be covered, and consequently there is increased difficulty in securing effective representation. That principle has been departed from in this case. I think, therefore, that a mistake has been committed. If I had any influence 1 would cause the error to be rectified. I really think that the Minister of Home Affairs might take the matter into his very serious consideration, and if it is not too late to restore to Victoria one of the country constituencies which will be lost under the new scheme-
– I am afraid it is too late.
– I understand that nothing definite can be done until this House ratifies the recommendations of the Commissioners. If a fundamental error has been made, I consider that this House ought to rectify it. I submit to the Minister, therefore, the consideration whether there is any possibility of having this scheme amended to meet the views I have expressed.
Dr. CARTY SALMON (Laanecoorie)
IS-1 3l- - I wish first to express my regret that the Minister of Home Affairs by his own action deprived himself of the services of the most competent authority to advise him upon this question.
– To whom does the honorable member refer?
– I refer to the Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth. The Minister, in spite of the advice tendered to him by myself and other honorable members, persisted in appointing the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth as one of the Commissioners to divide the State of Victoria into electorates. In that I think he distinctly committed an error ; because in a matter of this sort, which, should always be dealt with apart from party considerations, and into the settlement of which’ party feeling should never be allowed to enter, the Minister should always be in a position to be able to consult an expert, authority as to any criticism which might be offered upon any redistribution scheme submitted. But the Minister wilfully deprived himself of that opportunity, and I, for one, very much regret that he did, because I feel that had the officer who occupies the very, high and responsible position to which I refer been allowed to remain free, and had’ the Commissioner who previously . divided the State of Vic toria, namely, Mr. Topp, been appointed,, the position would have been much more satisfactory. I understand that the Chief Electoral Officer was not anxious to be appointed, a Commissioner. On the other hand, Mr. Topp is a man. whose bona fides have never been challenged, and who, by reason of his personal knowledge of the State of Victoria, gained during- a very long public service, during part of. which he was Under-Secretary, was preeminently qualified for carrying out what all will agree is a most complicated: operation.
– Was it not Mr. Topp’s report that this House rejected in 1903?
– I am not sure whether Mr. Topp presented that report or not, but I feel perfectly satisfied that no charge was ever made against his capacity or integrity on that occasion.
– Hear, hear ; I grant that.
– The last speaker alluded to the fact, of which, of course, this House in its wisdom may refuse to take any cognisance, and to which it may decline to attach any weight, that in Victoria a certain principle has always been followed in regard to the proportionate representation of people in the’ city and those in the rural districts. As a supporter of the principle of adult suffrage I hold that, in an ideal state, the principle of one vote one value is a necessary corollary. But it is only in an ideal state that the second principle could be made to work in perfection. It is only when equal opportunities are given both to the electors and to those who desire to be elected that the principle of ‘/ one vote one value” can act perfectly. As. long as we have disparities ruling in social and geographical conditions there will be disparities between the values of the votes of different individuals in different parts of the country. The only way in which human wisdom, can endeavour to make up for the disparity which undoubtedly does exist is by acknowledging that, although it may be very much, to be desired, it is not expedient that we should have the principle of “ one vote one value “ carried out to the full in our elec.toral system.
– Our cities grow so fast that the proportion is soon thrown out of gear.
– The point which I wish to impress upon the House is this : It is not a fair thing to the country electors that they should be placed on exactly the same footing as regards representation as are the people in the towns. Neither is it a fair thing for the man who desires to be elected for a country constituency that he should be asked to cover enormous areas in order to meet with those who have a right to express their preferences on polling-day. One has only to look at the map and contemplate the size of some of the electorates which exist in Australia to realize the tremendous disparity between the operation of adult franchise in those immense country electorates, and its operation in the cities. Surely those of us who speak for rural districts are not asking too much when we ask this House to allow those who are less favorably situated to have removed a portion of the disparity which undoubtedly exists. The Commonwealth Parliament, in its wisdom, made provision that some allowance might be made for country electors. Vet we find that the Commissioners have almost totally ignored the provision embodied by Parliament in the Electoral Act. Parliament, in providing that there should be a quota, provided a maximum and a minimum number of electors for each division, the idea being that the minimum should be approached in those divisions which are far removed from the big centres of population, which cover a large area of country, and which are, from their lack of means of communication, difficult to traverse. In this instance, the maximum number of electors for any division would be 4.1,578, and the minimum 27,718; but the division to which has been allotted the smallest number of electors is within the metropolitan area. Surely that is not in accordance with either the spirit or the letter of the law. There appears to have been wilful avoidance of an evident duty. I have always looked upon the Minister as essentially fairminded, and am surprised that he recommends a scheme which shows its unfairness by the allotment of electors to the first division mentioned in it. He revels in figures and mathematical comparisons, and I wonder that he did not notice that Balaclava, which is within a few minutes of the General Post Office, will contain fewer electors than any other division in the State. In the middle portion of Victoria there is a large and important mining district, extending from Bendigo in the north to Ballarat in the south. It is there that the auriferous land of the State lies; but the Commissioners have been, so careless of the undoubted probabilities of -the development of that tract of country that they have wiped off the map two of the electoral divisions which were formerly situated there. With one of those divisions I have been associated in public life for nineteen years, having been born and having lived in lt, sothat I know how it is developing. Within a few months there may be’ thousands of additional voters there. No account of that probability has been taken by the Commissioners.
– This is a draughtsman’s distribution.
– The Commissioners have taken maps and returns, and, by processes of addition and subtraction, have evolved the scheme which we are now asked to accept; but, speaking impersonally, I think that this is not the way a redistribution of an electoral division should be made. The work should not be done purely by means of what I may call literary observations. It is the desire of Parliament, and of the people, that community of interest shall be one of the strongest considerations in ‘determining the boundaries of a division. There should not be a throwing together of persons not associated politically or in their ordinary avocations, and a severance of persons thus closely and intimately associated.
– Does the honorable member think that commercial interestsshould be considered?
– Every interest. It is not fair to put together mining and agricultural or pastoral districts.
– That could have been prevented without altering the scheme much.
– Undoubtedly ; because in Victoria, unlike Queensland, there are not enormous tracts of country to deal with. Unfortunately, Victoria must lose one member because at a certain date her population was below a certain number, although within a few months it had increased again ‘beyond that number. Had the computation been made six months later there would have been no loss of a member. In addition to that, the proposed distribution is faulty because it completely obliterates boundaries which have been long recognised by the people as satisfactory.
– Does the honorable member blame the Constitution, or the Electoral Act?
– Both. The law should have been more elastic. Just as there is a maximum and a minimum provided for divisions, there should have been a maximum and a minimum population for each State, so that Ministerial or parliamentary action could prevent such an injustice as has undoubtedly befallen Victoria. What is the case of Victoria to-day may be the case of New South Wales to-morrow ; and I am sure that honorable members desire to look at this matter, not from the stand-point of their State interest, but in the interest of the proper representation of every State. As to the manner in which the subdivision has been made, I think it only fair to say that I do not agree with those who have thought it necessary or advisable to completely obliterate from the map two adjoining electorates. The action taken is certainly most extraordinary. Those who have had parliamentary experience must view with wonder any redistribution, and especially one following another after a comparatively brief interval, which provides for the wiping out of two neighbouring electorates.
– Is it not always the centre of a State that suffers in such redistribution schemes?
– Why should the centre suffer ?
– Because the Commissioners cannot begin with the outside electorates.
– I have always thought that a great mistake is made in encroaching upon the centre of a State in these redistribution schemes. It would be better to start from the centre and work outwards. By the adoption of that course we should secure greater community of interest than is possible by encroaching on the centre of a State. Even if the honorable member for Gippsland’s idea is correct, I would point out that the electorates which have been obliterated are geographically in the centre of Victoria. It is more than unfortunate that the abolition of two neighbouring electorates should have been thought either necessary or advisable. I can see no justification or it. If one had been wiped out of existence, and used to make up the necessary quota for the surrounding electorates, I could have understood the action of the Commissioners; but the summary abolition of two neighbouring electorates, comprising nearly half the State, may have been chance, but I fear that there was a good deal of design in it. I am informed that a proposal was made - I do not know whether the Minister himself ever considered it- that one electorate should be abolished and that another further away to the west should be used to make up the necessary quota in the surrounding electorates. That proposition, however, was summarily disposed of.
– By whom?
– By the Commissioners.
– It never came before me. I did not look at the scheme. I simply laid it on the table of the House. It was a matter for the Commissioners. I had nothing to do with it.
– I hope that the honorable member does not always lay papers on the table without looking at them.
– Who made this proposition to which the honorable member refers ?
– It was made, but not by the Chief Commissioner. I understand, indeed, that, several propositions were made from time to time. The honorable member is aware no doubt that the Chief Commissioner’s map is that which! has been adopted.
– The honorable member suggested that some one had proposed to the Commissioners a different scheme of redistribution.
– A suggestion was made, butI cannot say whether it was made to the Chief Commissioner or to the Commissioners as a body.
– Not by the Minister?
– No; the Minister says that he had nothing whatever to do with the scheme; and as a matter of fact, the suggestion to which I refer would not have suited him.. Its adoption would have meant the abolition of a constituency at present represented by a member of the Ministerial party. I wish also to strenuously object to this practice of bringing into centres of population a larger number of electors than that to which they are entitled. If there is one thing more than another we have to deplore, it is the way in which our population is drifting into all the large centres. Instead of encouraging that tendency, we ought rather to discourage it by every means in our power.
– If better wages are paid in the country the population will remain there.
– I do not think it is a matter of wages. I believe that the honorable member agrees with me that a large number of people are prepared to “accept lower wages in large cities, in order to secure more amusement and greater comfort than are possible in rural districts. There is a class of people who are not much concerned about the wages they receive, as long as their employment gives them opportunities for amusement and the comforts and even luxuries, that town life affords.
– Does not the honorable member thinkthat people have been driven into the cities by the centralization policy of different Governments, and by land monopoly ?
– I believe that the centralization policy of past Governments of the State has had a lot to do with this tendency.
– And the railways.
– Quite so. We have, for instance, a port in the Western District of Victoria which ought to have been utilized, but of Which no advantage has been taken, simply because Government after Government have refused to give it the opportunity which it undoubtedly deserves. The same remark will apply to the position in New South Wales. There the trade of country districts has been diverted into Sydney, just as in Victoria it has been driven from the country districts into Melbourne. It is unfair that the country should be made to suffer in this way.I feel that honorable members who represent country constituencies, and who realize, from personal experience, the tremendous hardships that have to be endured both by the men who are seeking the suffrages of the electors as well as by men and women who have to record their votes, will allow that there must be some differentiation between town and country electorates. There must be some disparity - a disparity that we cannot logically defend - but which, for the sake of expediency, we are bound to allow to exist. That being so, the Government would have acted more fairly to the country districts of Victoria if they had provided that these two electorates should not be wrested from them. Those of us who live in the country, and who have not the advantages of those who live in the towns, are entitled to more consideration than we are obtaining in this regard. As to the result of this redistribution, and its effect on parties in the House, it is unfortunate that two members of the Opposition are being made to suffer. If a subdivision under which country districts would lose two representatives were found to be inevitable, it would have been far better to abolish an electorate represented by an Opposition member and an electorate represented by a member of the Ministerial party.
– The Opposition really lose only one member. The State itself had to lose one.
– I know that the State has to lose one representative ; but such a redistribution should have been made as would not disarrange to such an extent as does that now before us the position of parties in this House. The electorates that are to be obliterated are both represented by members of the Opposition.
– And comprise country districts.
– I have already dealt with that point, and am glad to learn, judging from the manner in which honorable members received my observations, that they have a certain measure of sympathy with ‘them, although I do not knowthat they will show any practical sympathy.
– How could the honorable member justify the consideration of party interests ?
– What are often described as party actions are not really party actions. This very redistribution, for instance, has been described as a party one. The Government, I think, have been charged, most unfairly, in this connexion.
– We had two big Victorian State officers on the Commission.
– That does not affect the question. I do not know whether the Minister in appointing them to the ‘Commission made any inquiry as to their political faith.
– Their faith is thai of the honorable member.
– Personally, I am not aware on which side of politics they are.
– The honorable member must know that Mr. Reed is not on our side, nor is Mr. Molloy.
– I do not wish to discuss that aspect of the matter. I feel that the Commissioners referred to did their best according to their lights, but we must realize that they were not responsible for the preparation of the map. It was prepared by the Chairman of the Commission.
– The SurveyorGeneral of Victoria would do that.
– No, the subid i vision was the work of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth. He came to the other Commissioners with certain propositions, and these with very slight modifications were adopted.
– Was not the SurveyorGeneral of Victoria placed on the Commission for the very purpose of fixing the boundaries ?
– The honorable member is losing sight of the difference between drawing lines on a map and making subdivisions to provide for the in- clusion of certain electors. Probably the Surveyor - General of Victoria was of use in ultimately marking the geographical lines for the subdivision, but I am not talking so much about that as about the division of the electors into particular subdivisions.
– The Commissioners are supposed to follow existing boundaries as far as possible.
– Of course, for the sake of convenience they follow as far as possible State and shire boundaries with which the people are familiar. The Minister has endeavoured to make it appear that honorable members on this side were specially favoured by the fact that two members of the Victorian State Ser- vice were members of the Commission. But there is nothing in that, because these gentlemen were not in that position as supporters of honorable members on this side. One was an electoral officer of the State of Victoria, and the other SurveyorGeneral of the State, and they were chosen, I presume, not because of their political colour, but because of their attainments and special knowledge. I wish to say that their special Knowledge and attainments had very little to do with the final settlement of this question, which was virtually decided by the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member thinks that he overruled the other two Commissioners.
– I think that he had most to do with it.
– That is a mere supposition.
– No, it is not merely supposition.
– What grounds has the honorable member for making that state: ment ?
– I think that the grounds are sufficiently evident. He occupies a position in the electoral branch of the Home Affairs Department, and the head of that Department is the Minister of Home Affairs. I do not think weneed have any more grounds than that.
– Surely Mr. Reed and Mr. Molloy were not dummies on the Commission?
– I dare say that the Minister or the honorable member for Maribyrnong may have particular knowledge on this point.
– From the way in which he is speaking it is evident that the honorable member has particular knowledge.
– I understand that I have not the same knowledge as has the honorable member for Maribyrnong. I do not know whether he knew anything of the subdivision before the matter was completed.
– The first I saw of it was in the newspapers.
– The first I saw of it also was in the newspapers.
– The newspapers’ got it even before the Minister.
– The secret appears to have been remarkably well kept, although I do not know that there was any need for secrecy. I do not know whether the Minister gave any instructions in the matter, and, so faras I can judge, the Act makes no provision for secrecy.
– I gave no instructions.
– I suppose that I was more interested in the matter than was anybody else, but I made no effort at all to bring any pressure to bear on any individual connected with it. I had no interview with the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth, or with any other person.
– Surely no one else had ?
– Does the honorable gentleman think so?
– I have no idea of any one else who could have done so.
– I do not know that there would have been any great harm if some persons had done so, but undoubtedly representations were made.
– From members?
– Yes, from members; there is no doubt about that.
– Why not be a little more definite ?
– Surely that is definite enough.
– Not at all; the honorable member has made a very serious charge.
– I do not know that it is a serious charge. I have studied the Act very carefully, and I see nothing in it to prevent any honorable member from going to the Commissioners and making any representation he pleases.
– The honorable member says that honorable members did so, and he should give us something definite.
– Who did it?
– I should not like to say that the Minister of Trade and Customs did so, because he has already said that he did not.
– I do not think that I should know two of the Commissioners.
– I am quite sure that I should not either.
– Why does not the honorable member be definite?
– I do not accuse the honorable member for Corangamite of making any representation. I do not know whether he did so or not.
– The honorable member may be sure that I did not.
– The honorable member must be accusing honorable members on his own side.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong may know more about the matter than I do.
– The honorable member evidently knows more about it than does any one else.
– I should say that the spirit of the Act is against any interference by members of Parliament.
– The Act contains no provision of that sort, but if that be the spirit of the Act it should be observed, and especially by those who hold that view. If honorable members opposite feel that their consciences are quite clear on the subject it is not for me to make charges against them, and I am not ‘ going to do so, though a great deal might be said.
– I wish the honorable member would say what he thinks he knows.
– As a country representative I express my disappointment that a Minister, who is himself the representative of a country district, should have, thought it necessary to accept the recommendation of the Commissioners without the slightest demur. I feel that he, above all, should have endeavoured to secure that fair deal for the country districts which they are entitled to expect from every Government.
– Had the Minister interfered, the honorable member would have been the first to object.
– I think not. Had the Minister carried out what I conceive to be his evident duty he would have said “ This is the Commissioners’ report. I feel that, in certain respects, it does not adequately meet the just demands of fair play in the State of Victoria, and in those circumstances I invite the House to criticiseit. Subsequently, as the Minister in charge of it, I shall express my opinion.” We should then have had an opportunity of getting probably a much fairer and squarer scheme than we have before us on the present occasion. I can understand honorable members opposite being perfectly satisfied. It gives them at once, before the election’ comes, a gain to which, speaking politically and from a party stand-point, they are not entitled. It also gives them, in the future, opportunities, by means of their more complete organization, of taking an advantageof those who are less favorably placed inthe great areas outside the centres of population.
– How does it give us that opportunity ?
– I have already said that the party opposite, by reason of their greater organization-
– Order ! Is the honorable member going to connect these remarks with the matter before the Chair?
– This is thematter of the -distribution.
– The honorable member is now going beyond the matter of distribution.
– I am talking purely about the results of the distributionproposed.
– The honorable mem- ber is talking of certain organizations.
– In answer toa very disorderly interjection, I did say something about an organization. This- scheme will, and does, give to the Government party a greater advantage than it gives to those who are sitting on this side of the House, and will undoubtedly result at the next election in giving them an opportunity - and this is probably why they are so unanimously in favour of it - of strengthening their position in places where they have undoubtedly beenweak. In these circumstances, it would have been better if the Minister of Home Affairs, exercising his own discretion, had advised the House with regard to these proposals in such a way as to indicate that he, as a country member, feels that there is at present, and must always be under existing circumstances, a difference in the value of the vote of the man in the country and the vote of the man who happens to be in the city.
– I somewhat regret that two names that have been applied to constituencies from the very first Federal Parliament are being wiped off the electoral map of Victoria. I should not have questioned the judgment of the three Commissioners if they had removed one name and retained the other. If I were in the position of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, I should certainly feel a little pain, because, no matter who comes back to this Chamber, the honorable member representing Laanecoorie, and another honorable member who represents Mernda, are in the position of the old gladiators who, saluting Caesar, told him that they were about to die. If this scheme is accepted, this House will never again, after the next election, know the honorable member for Mernda or the honorable member for Laanecoorie as such. They may come in here under another guise, but those of us who have been in political fights for many years know that it is always harder to fight a new fight in a new constituency than to contest an old one. Any member who has done a fair amount of work will always make lasting friendships, but in most cases a candidate who tries to force himself in against the sitting member has “ Buckley’s chance. “ In one way I regret that the honorable member for Maribyrnong is losing 7,000 splendid democratic voters who are coming my way ; but, on the other hand, I welcome back, in them, some of my oldest veterans who returned me in some of the fights we had in the State days. At that time they recorded a greater percentage of votes in that division than in any constituency in Australia, and honorable members will understand that I cannot feel many pangs of regret in seeing them added to my constituency. I do regret, however, the demise of two districts like Laanecoorie and Mernda. I would rather have retained one of their names, Laanecoorie for choice, instead of having a new name like Caulfield. Of course, if the Opposition are losing two seats, they must remember that Caulfield is considered a consistently Conservative constituency.
– Liberal, please.
– Conservative, surely! A good many people in it have, perhaps, anything but a kindly feeling towards the more advanced and progressive party who hare possession of the Ministerial benches in this Chamber. I want to make my protest here against the loss of population in Victoria, and in apportioning the blame I place my finger upon the ill-judged legislation which has come from the State Parliament. Any one who reads the columns of to-day’s paper, and notes how the captain of a vessel which has come into this port will speak of human beings who are to become Australian citizens, who are coming to a land-
– The honorable member is now going beyond the matter before the Chair.
– I regret the loss of our population, although the other States have gained it. We know that a country that does not lose its population progresses most, because, if the laws are not good, the people, in their increasing numbers, can bring pressure to bear on the Legislature to have been altered. I regret, also, that the number of representatives of Victoria in this Chamber is being reduced from twenty - two to twenty-one ; but no one is more willing than I am to recognise the great potentialities of Queensland, and, of course, the Victorian who goes to another State is still an Australian, and remains under the flag which we all appreciate. I firmly believe that each of the Commissioners has done his duty in this matter honestly and truly, according to the facts placed before him and the knowledge at his disposal ; nor do I think any member representing Victoria can hold a contrary opinion. At the same time, I think that, instead of introducing a new name, they could have kept one of the old names, and, if that constituency was short of population, have added to it by taking away from others. I do not suppose there will be any heated debate on this matter, and, in the circumstances,I must fully support the action of the Commissioners as indorsed by the Government.
.- Mr. Speaker-
– Another gladiator about to die !
– I do not feel like dying. I think, with the honorable member for Bendigo, that the primary difficulty arises from the provisions in the Constitution necessitating the re-arrangement of electoral districts, and which has occurred, I think, much more frequently than its framers ever anticipated. Therefore, to that extent we are tied. We must accept the Constitution, but it does draw public attention to the point that at some, period, not probably very remote, this provision will have to be. revised, by which the number of members of this House is fixed at double the number of members of the Senate, and which, I believe, was made at a time when there was considerable suspicion on the part of the smaller States with regard to the possible action of the larger States. In the light of our experience of twelve years we must see that it is utterly absurd thatthis House should, if it is to fairly represent the people of Australia, be tied down in this arbitrary fashion. The strength of the House cannot remain at seventy-five members if it is to meet the requirements of the people as the country advances. The last speaker alluded to Victoria losing population. The cruel thing about the present redistribution is that Victoria is not losing population. If the numbers had been made up at the proper time we should not be losing a seat ; in fact, there would have been no redistribution. We may be gaining population steadily in proportion to our area. If Queensland, with ten times, perhaps twenty times, the area, with any number of ports, each of which is a centre of population, and will lead to an increased population, goes ahead, as I trust it will, Victoria may lose more members, not because she has declined in population or prosperity or anything else, but merely because of the increased population in Queensland or some other State, perhaps Western Australia. This is really a matter which calls for attention, that is, if the House is to remain representative of the people of Australia as a whole. However, we cannot deal with that question at present.
– The small States may increase their representation.
– Yes, and take away representation from the other States. At the present time they enjoy an advantage under the Constitution, because they were allowed a minimum number of representatives - more than they were entitled to be allowed by reason of their population when the Act was framed. But by-and-by it is quite possible that they may come into the field and create still greater anomalies than we have.
– The only solution is to increase the number of members of the House.
– That will not be fair to the small States.
– The number of members must be in some relation to the population. In regard to this redistribution scheme, I have always thought that it was a mistake on the part of the Government to appoint public officers on a Commission of this kind. It would be far better to select three men who were outside the Public Service. I do not know the Chief Electoral Officer. I am not aware that I have ever seen him, but I think the present system puts him in an invidious position. I have nothing to complain of as far as his action is concerned. I know nothing of the reasons which induced the Commissioners to make this report and to propose this new arrangement, but I feel that they have not done their work well.
– The reasons are given in the report.
– Reasons are stated in the report, but there are other reasons not stated which weighed with them. I do not think that they have done their work well. They should have had some consideration for the fact that Victoria is the only State which has suffered in this way. Some years ago we lost a member, and now we are to lose another member. Instead of making a general redistribution the Commissioners have simply done as they did before. On the first occasion they took one electorate out of the centre, and on this occasion they have taken two electorates out of the centre with the result that the remaining country electorates are made geographically bigger. Looking at the question from a reasonable point of view I think that the Commissioners have not considered fully the effect which this method must have on the fair representation of the people, which after all ought to be the first consideration. A redistribution scheme should have nothing to do with the convenience of members or parties. The representation of the people should always be equitable and reasonable. As the first member for Mernda I had an immense addition to the area by the first redistribution when Colonel McCay’s seat was taken away, and I have had to work that district. It is not fair to the people, or to the member, whoever he is, that a district should be increased so enormously as the country electorates are likely to be through this plan of redistribution, because it is made absolutely impossible for a member to keep in touch with his constituents, and for them to keep in touch with him’. If a member has to travel, as I have had to do, over mountainous country extending 260 miles one way, and from 70 to 80 miles the other way, and containing an enormous number of centres, he cannot keep in touch with them. The plan is very unfair in that respect. I think some redistribution should have been arrived at, to the extent that the quota would permit of, on a different principle. With regard to the quota it is unfortunate for Victoria that it is to lose two members, but it is still more unfortunate for the country districts of Australia that they are to lose three country seats. Because, not only in Victoria, but elsewhere, the country districts are likely to be those to suffer. Victoria has already lost three country seats. As previous speakers have pointed out this all tends to that concentration of population which it ought to be the effort of every public man to prevent, but there it is. In my opinion, a redistribution could easily have been made which would have kept the country electorates down to the minimum number, and increased the city and suburban electorates to the highest number that the quota would admit of. That would have enabled us to carry out a principle which, I think, has been observed, not only in the State, but also in this Parliament; that is, to make the country districts, so far as the population is concerned, very considerably smaller than the city areas. We have, however, gone in the opposite direction, as the honorable member for Bendigo pointed out ; and the country districts have positively a larger electoral population than many of the suburban districts. I j do not think the position can be defended I on any principle; and if I had my way j I should refer the report back to the Com missioners with a view to seeing whether they could not make an arrangement fairer, not only in the interests of the electors, but in the interests of the country districts. I suppose, however, that the carrying of this motion is a foregone conclusion. I may say that the electors in my district are strongly opposed to the. alteration; they feel that the constituencies are being cut up in the most extraordinary way. For instance, the constituency of the honorable member for Flinders will stretch right over the mountains, and take in Healesville, Marysville, and Lilydale, while Corio will stretch out towards .Heidelberg, though it can have very little real connexion with such places as Yan Yean and Morang. In regard to my own electorate, the arrangement is, in my opinion, a most foolish one ; there is so little community of interests between one .part and another that some of the residents, when they journey to town, will come from the west, while others will come from the east and north-east. As to the name, ‘I do not see why “ Mernda “ should be altered to “ Caulfield “ or “: Henty.” In m’y judgment, “Caulfield “ is the better, but I think we ought to retain the name of “ Mernda.” The present name was chosen by the late Mr. William Shiels, who claimed that it was the most euphonious of all in Victoria. I do not know what the word “ Mernda “ means, but I think Mr. Shiels said it was a native name. ‘ I do not like the name ‘ Moorabbin ‘ ‘ ; and if we desire euphony we ought to adhere to “ Mernda,”
– “ Henty “ is a name connected with the early settlement of the State.
– Various names have been mentioned, and I merely refer to this matter by the way. I think that the change in the electorate has not met with the full consideration it should have, and that it might have been more skilfully accomplished. I have not been in communication with anybody on the matter, but if I had been asked I think I could have given the Commissioners some information and advice which would have proved useful and made the division fairer to all concerned. My suggestion is that the report be referred back for the consideration of the points raised by the honorable member for Bendigo and others. The honorable member I have just mentioned put the case very fairly, covering the whole ground ; and, that being so, I shall not detain honorable members longer.
– I have no desire to attack this proposed division, so far as the Commissioners are concerned, because I think they have acted according to their light, and perfectly fairly.. It is a division which might be indorsed by any one, and, therefore, we cannot impute any motives. I know the Commissioners to be thoroughly honorable men; and, so far as they are concerned, I desire my position to be clearly understood. I may say a word or two, however, on the political outlook which the proposed division opens up. According to the previous division, there were in the metropolitan districts three Liberal members and six Labour members, and in the other districts of the State nine Liberal members, three Labour members, and the honorable member for Gippsland, who, like Mahomet’s coffin, hangs between the two parties. Under the proposed division, two of the Liberal seats are completely wiped out, and there is one new seat carved out of the other seats. That one seat is undoubtedly Liberal ; I refer to the “Caulfield” or “Henty” constituency. Fawkner, according to the last electoral figures, would have been a Labour seat by about 208 votes, irrespective of the absent votes and postal votes, which are now abolished. We may, therefore, say that three Liberal seats are wiped out and one Liberal seat is added, leaving a net deficiency of two. This does not seem quite a fair division from a political point of view, a view which we are entitled to take, but which the Commissioners are not, except from the point of view of community of interest. “Community of interest” should, I think, cover political views; people in similar walks of life hold similar views.
– That is not the interpretation; “community of interest” means commercial interests.
– I should have thought that “ community or diversity of interest “ would refer to Liberal or Labour views.
– The idea is not at all political. ‘
– It means community of interest in farming, mining, and so forth.
– The farmers are all Liberals, and the miners are all Labour men.
– The remedy for that is to give the farmers less work and more time to study politics, and they will also be Labour men.
– I am afraid that my honorable friend could suggest a great many remedies.
– The intention is that there should be unity of commercial interest.
– Commercial interests largely embrace political interests, because the great questions debated in this Parliament are those affecting the classes to be taxed. In the last Parliament Victoria, had thirteen Liberal members, nine Labour members, and the honorable member for Gippsland. In the next Parliament the probability is that she will have about eleven Liberals.
– Thirteen is an unlucky number.
– We should like to make it fourteen. There ought to be fair play between parties. To take away three seats and give us only one is not fair play. Honorable members opposite ought to agree to wipe out one Labour seat.
– We could not do it; the distribution of population would not allow that.
– If I were allowed to have a try, I could manage to do it.
– The Commissioners are not influenced by the political views of those who represent particular seats.
– Inasmuch as we believe nowadays that every man and woman should have one vote, we should also establish the principle of equality of value for those votes. Whether it should be a numerical equality or an actual equality is an arguable proposition. I think there ought to be, as nearly as possible, an actual equality. Consequently, we ought to recognise that a man or woman living far away from the centres of population cannot exert the influence enjoyed by those in the metropolitan area. But what do we find under this scheme of redistribution? Balaclava is .to have 32,000 electors, whilst Wimmera is also to have 32,000. The Balaclava electors have no distance to go to the poll. Consequently, a far greater number of them will vote than will be the case in Wimmera. Again, Batman is to have 35,829 electors, and Wannon 33>758. I think that a fair division has not been thought out. . We ought to make conditions as favorable as possible to people living in the country. We hope that by extending irrigation facilities we shall be able to give people iri* the country some of the comforts of town life. We hope that those living in the country centres will have nice asphalted pavements and good schools for their children. At present, however, the country elector is at a disadvantage. Consequently, his vote ought to have slightly more weight. That principle has not been studied in this division. We all know how congested our cities have become, and we are now offering another inducement to people to live in town, fi is, I know, a small inducement, but we ought not to afford any extra facilities for people in the towns to exercise more political influence than they have at present. I am aware that the congestion of population in the cities is attributed to the fact that our railways are concentrated towards the metropolitan area. Every one of us would like to see our people more widely scattered throughout the country districts. I am sure that my honorable friend, the honorable member for Maranoa, wants to see many more good, sound, Labour electors in his constituency.
– We have plenty there now, and I should like to have more ot them.
– The honorable member is, no doubt, aware that many Victorians reside in Maranoa.
– There is a big Victorian element there.
– I am certain that the argument which I have been using appeals to all representatives of rural districts. We want also to have a “ fair go “ amongst parties. I hope that my honorable friends opposite will be sportsmen enough to insist upon a fair, square deal. The Commissioners, who, I am sure, are absolutely honorable men, should be asked to take a straightforward view of the situation. The country view is one which ought to have greater weight attached to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. King O’Malley) proposed -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of Queensland into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs. W. J. Gall and A. A. Spowers, a majority of the Commissioners for the purpose of distributing the said State into Divisions, in their report laid before Parliament on the 28th day of June, 1912, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the -report and indicated on the map referred to therein be adopted.
– I movie -
That the following words be added, “ with the exception that the proposed ‘ Landsborough ‘ Division be named ‘ Lilley.’ “
I propose this change because the name of Lilley is one of the most revered in Queensland, particularly by the democratic section of the community, Sir Charles Lilley being the man who introduced free education into the State. To name an electoral division after him is, perhaps, the best monument that we can erect to his memory.
.- I second the amendment with the greatest pleasure, because the name of Lilley is well known and revered by every democratic reader of past and current politics throughout the length and breadth of Australia. As the name of Charles Cameron Kingston stands out among those of the great ones of South Australia, and that of Higinbotham in Victoria, so does the name of Lilley in Queensland. I shall be proud to vote for the amendment, and am sure that, if a division be called for, honorable members opposite who hold kindly memories of the great man who bore the name will support the proposal of the honorable member for Maranoa.
.- In supporting the amendment, I wish to say that it is more than a coincidence that this is the second occasion upon which I have objected to a proposed redistribution of the electoral divisions of Queensland. In August, 1903, certain reports and maps were laid on the table.
– The honorable member must now confine himself to the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
.- In August, 1903, I objected to the redistribution of the electoral divisions of Queensland then proposed, and was fortunate in securing the support of the Minister of the day, the honorable member for Hume, who moved the rejection of the scheme. I intend on this occasion to move to refer the redistribution back to the Commissioners. When the redistribution was made the three Commissioners were, in the first place, unanimous regarding the divisions of Kennedy and Herbert, but Mr. Graham subsequently saw fit to disagree with his fellow Commissioners regarding some of the other divisions. The first redistribution made the borders of the division of Herbert those marked on the map which I hold in my hand, which I ask honorable members to compare with that hanging on the wall. In 1903 Mr. McDowall, who was then a Commissioner, sent to the Government a report and map showing the distribution which had been made ; but within fortyeight hours another distribution was made, and further maps were sent to Melbourne, showing an entire alteration of boundaries. I thereupon made a charge of gerrymandering against some person or persons unknown, with the result that the distribution was rejected, and a departmental Committee was appointed to inquire into the matter. Its verdict was “not proven.” The Committee did not say that I was wrong in my contention. There was not sufficient ‘evidence to show that the Commissioner -had been influenced in any way detrimental to my own interests, but there was such evidence of unfairness to myself that I had .the support of practically every honorable member of the House. The honorable member for Ballarat, who then adorned the Treasury bench just as he adorns any seat that he ‘occupies, thoroughly agreed with his own Minister that there was evidence, although not absolute proof, that something in the nature of gerrymandering had been attempted. Some sinister influence detrimental to myself Has, it would appear, in this case also been at work. I ask honorable members to carefully examine the map displayed on the wall, setting forth the redistribution scheme. Is it not significant that, although it is laid down that wherever possible State and Federal electoral boundaries shall be conterminous, in this case the electorate of Herbert has been so cut up as to throw the whole mining vote of Herbert into the electorate of Kennedy. If we are to consider community of interest, then it cannot be denied that the State electorate of Cook, a portion of which is now included in the northern part of the electorate of Herbert, should have been included in the electorate of Kennedy. There are practically no agricultural interests in Kennedy, and there are certainly none in the State electorate of Cook, so that if there is any force in the provision that, wherever possible, due regard should be paid to community of interest, then the electorate of Cook should have been included in the electorate of
Kennedy instead of being placed in that which I represent. Under this redistribution scheme the electorate of Herbert will comprise 33,364 electors, or 1,976 above the quota. On the other hand, the electorate of Kennedy under this scheme will comprise 27,177 electors, or 4,211 below the quota. If the whole of the State electorate of Cook had been added to Kennedy it would have increased by 1,693 *ne number of electors in that division, thus reducing Herbert to 31,671-, or only 283 above the quota, -and raising to 28,870 the number of electors in Kennedy, which would still be 2,578 below the quota. I desire now to refer to a matter which is really due to a weakness in the Act rather than to any fault on the part of the Commissioners. I do not blame the Commissioners at all for it, but the Act should be amended at the earliest opportunity in order to prevent its recurrence. This map, showing the redistribution of ‘Queensland into Federal electorates, together with the accompanying report of the Commissioners, was issued on 8fh April last, and copies of it had to be posted at every post-office in each electorate. At any time within thirty days from the date of its publication any suggestions or objections to the scheme may be sent in to the Commissioners, who, under section 18 of the Act, are entitled to take such suggestions or objections into consideration, and to make any alterations they may choose. TwentysEven days after the map had been posted a deputation, according to press reports, waited upon the Chairman of the Commissioners, and raised certain objections to the proposed redistribution of the electorate of Herbert. Why have we no information as to the character of those objections? I wish to know now who comprised that deputation, and what objections were raised by them. Following a question put to the Minister of Home Affairs a few days ago by the honorable member for Darling Downs, I asked the Minister if he would table the whole of the papers, and he replied that he would do so. I desire now to know what has become of those objections, and by whom they were launched. We know nothing about them, and cannot say whether or not they were lodged with the Commissioner’s before or after the prescribed date.
– Is there no reference in the report to these objections?
– We have simply the statement that four objections were received, but the report does not state whether they were lodged by individuals or organizations, nor does it indicate the character of the objections. We ought to have all the papers laid on the table of the House. Why have they not been placed on the table? I am going to ask the Minister presently some further questions that may be inconvenient for him. I am not going to spare him j he has not spared me. The weakness of this part of the Act is that the Commissioners, having taken objections or suggestions into consideration after the thirty days’ period has elapsed, may make such alterations as they please, and that no one knows anything about them until their report is laid upon the table of the House. I did not know until a few days ago, when the Minister laid the second report on the table, what had been contemplated. This map, showing the proposed scheme of redistribution, has never been laid on the table, although it should have been.
– It is now on the wall of this chamber.
– Yes, but if Parliament was then in session it should have been there within seven days of its receipt.
– So it was.
– It has not yet been laid cn the table. Under the law as it exists, those who were perfectly satisfied with the first scheme of redistribution have had no opportunity whatever of objecting to the second redistribution. The same thing might apply to any other State. If a map were issued for a redistribution of Victoria on the day on which the report was laid upon the table, and too late for any objections to be entered, honorable members representing Victoria would say that that was unfair.
– Does the honorable member say that this map was not laid on the table ?
– I say that it has not been laid on the table at all. I asked the Minister a question on the subject this afternoon, and his answer was that he thought it had been. It was the duty of the Minister to lay these reports and maps on the table, and if he had done so he would be sure of it, and would not have to say that he thought they were laid on the table. I cannot too strongly emphasize my objection that no one is given an opportunity to Object to a subsequent redistribution after the first has been made, and .thirty days have been allowed for objections to ‘ it, though the second redistribution may be entirely different from the first. We have three reports on the redistribution of Queensland divisions - one from Messrs. Gall and Spowers, an’d two from Mr. Graham, the third Commissioner. The majority report from Messrs. Gall and Spowers is the one on which the Minister is acting.
– Under the Act it has only to be laid before Parliament, not on the table.
– Perhaps the honorable gentleman will say what is the meaning of “before Parliament.” Honorable members are aware that papers are often asked for which, because of the cost of printing and for other reasons, Ministers do not think it desirable to lay on the table of the House, and they lay them on the” table in the Library. I ask the honorable member for Darling Downs whether that is to be considered laying such papers “ before Parliament.” I say that those papers should be laid on the table, and submitted to Parliament as the Act provides. It is significant that when the first redistribution was made the three Commissioners were unanimous with regard to the two electorates of Kennedy and Herbert, and those were the only two divisions on which they were unanimous. Mr. Graham took exception to some of the other divisions proposed. We had subsequently a report from Mr. Graham, dated 3rd July, in which he says -
The Commissioners have caused a map with a description of the boundaries of each proposed Division to be exhibited at post-offices in the proposed Division, and public attention has been invited thereto by advertisement in the Gazette, dated Sth April, 1912.
These maps were not signed by the three Commissioners, but by the Chairman only. I declined to sign them because I did not consider the proposals to be the best, or even the least undesirable that could be submitted. Some of the proposals appear to me, from my own conception of Commonwealth electoral matters in this State, to be quite undesirable.
I have, therefore, now the honour to’ forward a report representing my individual opinions. This course was not decided upon without full consideration ; without fully advocating my ideas at the sittings of the Commission ; or without due recognition of the advisableness of, if possible, being in accord with the majority. To achieve this latter I tentatively gave way upon several points which I considered essential to the success of the redistribution, but ultimately the sum .of these became too great. Consequently, I submit a separate proposed distribution, together with maps (showing also the proposals of the majority where practicable) and technical descriptions of the boundaries of the Divisions as proposed by me. In the case of any proposed Division regarding which the three Commissioners are in accord, separate maps and technical descriptions are not included.
I ask honorable members to note clearly the statement that in the case of any proposed division regarding which the three Commissioners are in accord separate maps and technical descriptions have not been included. He sent no subsequent reports, and no further maps, regarding the two divisions of Kennedy and Herbert on which the three Commissioners were in unison on the first report. I now come to the quota, and its bearing upon the divisions of Herbert and Kennedy. I have here the second report of Mr. Graham, which is dated 18th July. It came to hand only on last Tuesday, and has been in the hands of the printers until to-day. Many honorable members have not seen this report, and I commend it to their attention.
– It has not yet been laid on the table.
– Possibly not; and that is one of the matters of which I complain as showing the unfairness with which I am being treated. In his second report Mr. Graham says -
The fact that Herbert and Kennedy jointly contain sufficient electors for two Divisions; that the former is approximately as much above the quota as the latter is below it; and that the two Divisions are geographically adjacent, affords opportunity for compromise in adjusting the irregularity of enrolment. The following table shows the alterations in enrolment on the Rolls for the existing Divisions of Herbert and Kennedy since the distribution of 1906 : -
It will be seen that the numbers were decreasing all the time in the Kennedy division, whilst they were increasing in the Herbert division. The natural inference, and the one to which Mr. Graham points, is that the decrease in the numbers in the Kennedy division was continual, and likely to remain so, and, therefore, the surplus existing in Herbert should be taken from that division and placed in the Kennedy division. I shall read what he has to say on this matter for the information of honorable members -
The figures above quoted indicate that during the six years (1906-1911 inclusive) the enrolment within the Division of Herbert has undergone a steady and consistent increase, while that of the Division of Kennedy has steadily decreased. The object to be attained, therefore, is to increase the number of electors allotted to Kennedy to such an extent as to provide that the increasing enrolment in other Divisions shall not cause the enrolment for Kennedy to fall below the minimum allowed by the law. The number of electors allotted by the majority of the Commission is - Herbert, 33,364 (or 4,302 below the maximum) ; Kennedy, 27,177 (or only 2,067 above the absolute minimum). The obvious course would be to withdraw from the surplus enrolment of Herbert a sufficiently large number of electors to raise the enrolment of Kennedy above the quota to such an extent that it will remain within the prescribed margin for a reasonable period, say, five years. In order to attain this object I propose to detach from the existing Division of Herbert and add to the proposed Division of Kennedy the whole of the Subdivisions of Bowen and Mackay, containing in the aggregate 11,520 electors, which number, added to the existing enrolment of 20,709, would have the effect of placing Kennedy in a practically unassailable position in relation to electoral strength - the total, 32,229, being reasonably near to the quota, and consequently affording a margin of approximately 6,000 for increase or decrease during the enduing five years, while Herbert, with 27,941 electors, which number will undoubtedly be rapidly increased, would be placed in a position which would allow of expansion without endangering its relation to the quota.
The Commissioner then deals with the questions of diversity of population and community of interest -
Within the existing Division of Herbert, community or diversity of interest presents a very difficult problem when making a redistribution of boundaries for a Division containing approximately 95,000 square miles of territory. The population is practically confined to the southern half of the Division, the northern half including a very large area of almost uninhabited country. The chief interest is the production of sugar. The principal centre thereof (Mackay Subdivision) is at the extreme south, small territorially, very densely populated, and entirely devoted to sugar-growing. Adjoining this Subdivision to the north and west is the Bowen Subdivision, sparsely populated, the interests including sugar production, but to a much less extent. Proceeding northward, sugargrowing country is rot again met with until the Ingham district, some 200 miles distant, is reached. Thence sugar-growing interests wax and wane in importance until the Douglas Subdivision is reached, approximately midway along the eastern coast. It will thus be seen there are two widely separated sugar districts in the Division.
Of the 20,709 electors in the existing Division of Kennedy, which is of vast territorial extent and in which the interests are entirely pastoral and mining, 8,570 are concentrated . within the very small area of the Charters Towers Goldfield, the next most populous Subdivision (Cloncurry) having only 1,988 electors. There is no way of satisfactorily adjusting the incidence of the electoral population without in a measure disregarding the provisions of section 16 (a), consequently it is proposed to transfer the Bowen and Mackay Subdivisions from Herbert to Kennedy.
I ask honorable members to note that Mr. Graham again suggests, after making the fullest investigation and giving it every consideration, that Bowen and Mackay should be added to the Kennedy electorate, as was done in the first redistribution. He says -
This course is recommended after mature consideration and with full recognition of the fact that a foreign interest will be introduced into Kennedy, and that portion of the sugar-growing interest will be detached from the coastal Division of Herbert. Exhaustive examination was made of all other practicable combinations without affording an adequate and satisfactory solution of the difficulty. Herbert. - The proposed Division comprises the existing Division of Herbert, less the Bowen and Mackay Subdivisions, which have been transferred to Kennedy ; enrolment, 27,941. Kennedy. - The proposed Division comprises the existing Division of Kennedy with the addition of the Bowen and Mackay Subdivisions of the existing Division of Herbert; enrolment, 32,229.
Those are the facts. In face of them I am justified in asking that the redistribution, as made by the Commissioners, be referred back to them for further consideration, and I believe honorable members will support me. I said a little while ago that I had asked that the whole of the papers be laid upon the table of the House. I ask the Minister of Home Affairs » now if all the papers were laid upon the table of the House. A report sent by the Chief Electoral Officer for Queensland to the Chief Commonwealth Electoral Officer, Mr. Oldham, regarding this matter, has never seen the light of day so far as this House is concerned.
– The Act requires only the report and the maps to be laid on the table.
– If the honorable member puts that contention forward, then I say that my objection regarding the maps should also have equal weight. When an officer of the Commonwealth, occupying such a high” and responsible position as Chief Electoral Officer for Queensland, sends a report to his chief in Melbourne, it must be written for a purpose. There may be confidential communications in it, but why does not the Minister tell us -
– The report to be laid before Parliament should not be confidential.
– A paper of that sort,, which is an official document to all intents, and purposes, should be laid upon the table for the information of honorable members. Does the Chief Electoral Officer for Queensland approve or disapprove of any of these maps or plans? The Minister of Home Affairs is an oyster; he is as silent as the tomb. If he were only as fluent now as he was this afternoon, upon another matter, we should, perhaps, get some valuable information from him. I ask him now, in. the first place : Is it correct that there is, a report of that nature? I say there is. Will the Minister deny it? He cannot deny it. The report exists, and it is the duty of the Minister to let us know the gist of it. What did the Chief Electoral Officer for Queensland say about this scheme? Why is there any mystery or secrecy about the matter ? We have a perfect right to demand that this official document shall be made available to the House. I am sure that if it contains any matter of a confidential nature the Minister can trust honorable members to treat such matter as confidential.. Has the report been submitted to the Cabinet? Not a word can I get from the Minister ! I think that there is a most fishy odour about the whole business, and that I have been treated most unfairly. In this case the Ministry - and there are only two of the Ministers here - are guilty of moral cowardice. They will not do what they know in their hearts to be right, becausethey are afraid of being accused of doing what is wrong. They are moral cowards in that respect. The Minister can takemy comment as he likes ;. there- is no hot milk about it. The second report of. MrGraham, I repeat, should be here.
– It is here now.
– Where is it?
– You have it here-
– There is only one copy here.
– The Clerk has copies here.
– No. The Minister was considerate enough to give me a copy of the report, and he has a copy for himself, but other members of the House have not been provided with copies. I am not responsible for the delay which has taken place. The report which has been handed to me is dated 3rd July, but I want the report of the 18th July to be also supplied to honorable members. Where is it? I have a copy of it, but I do not know whether the Minister has one.
– Yes, I have. The report is at the printing office ; they are very slow over there.
– In asking the House to approve of this motion, the Minister conies forward with this scant, or what I might call mutilated, information. Neither the report of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer of Queensland nor the second report of Mr. Graham is on the table of the House.
– Why not defer the consideration of the motion until we get these reports?
– I do not want to do that.
– Why was not the second report of Mr. Graham printed as well as the first one?
– Ask the oyster; I cannot extract any information from him ; he is as silent as the grave. I ask the Minister whether., if I move that the reports and the maps be referred back to the Commissioners for further consideration, he will accept the amendment? That is a very fair and reasonable proposal. Honorable members need not be alarmed regarding the shortness of time, because ten days ago, when I asked the Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth whether if any of the redistribution schemes were referred back to the Commissioners there would be time to bring forward fresh reports and maps and before the* close of this session, and to have new rolls compiled for the general elections, he told me that there would’ be ample time. In fact, that is what he told me twelve months ago. I then urged the Minister to have Commissioners appointed and the work of redistribution carried out in good time. I went to the Chief Electoral
Officer for the Commonwealth, and asked him whether, if the matter were allowed to stand over for this session, there would be ample time to complete the work for the next elections, and he replied that if the matter were treated properly there would be ample time for the purpose. The Minister knows that, too, because the officer answered my question in his presence.
– The whole thing could be done in two months.
– It could be done in three weeks. The Minister has said, “Hear, hear!” to my remark. It is about the first time that he has spoken.
– That will be owing to the activity of the officers.
– Where is any activity being shown by the officers regarding these reports? I take the strongest possible exception to this proposal. I desire to make a few observations now in regard to community of interest. A great deal of unnecessary importance is attached’ to this point. In the first report sent in by Messrs. Gall and Spowers, they referred to community of interest; but that was only from the agricultural point of view. They propose that the whole of the sugar districts should be confined in one electoral division - this, however, is quite- impossible: But- there are other interests to be served. The commercial interests, for instance, are entitled to quite as much consideration as are the agricultural interests. Then the means of communication is also entitled to a good deal of consideration. Regarding community of interest,, there is exhibited on the opposite wall a map showing the Flinders division in Victoria. It com. prises several interests - dairying, agricultural, mining, and, I believe, timbergetting - but no particular interest has special representation. There is not one of the interests in that division over which this Parliament has the slightest control. We have no control over mining or dairying or general agriculture or the timber industry. But will any elector in the division contend, for a moment, that, because his own industry is. not represented’ in this Parliament, his interests are, therefore, neglected.?’ The honorable member for Flinders is not here at present, but I feel quite certain that nobody will accuse him, any more than he could accuse me, of neglecting to represent any particular interest. Regarding, the Kennedy division, in- Queensland, in which the pastoral and mining inrdustries predominate, the Commissioners. put forward the plea that community of interest should be considered. We have no jurisdiction over the mining and pastoral industries in the division, and no one will accuse its representative of neglecting those industries. We cannot possibly have all interests represented in this Parliament ; and, if we had, it would resolve itself into a series of sections and cliques. We would have here a representative of the mining industry, a representative of the agricultural interest, and a representative of the dairying interest - of “course, all sitting on this side of the chamber. Therefore, there is no force in the argument that community of interest should be so specially considered. Regarding means of communication and commercial interests, I want to point out that the hinterland of Cairns, which is contained in the Herbert electorate at present, but which it is proposed to put in the Kennedy electorate, is commercially united with Cairns. The Commissioners have cut out the whole of that hinterland, which is connected by railway with Cairns, and has its commercial interests identified with Cairns. Why was no consideration given to the commercial interests? The Commissioners have given consideration to other interests over which we have no jurisdiction, but to those interests over which we have some jurisdiction, they have paid no attention. Means of communication should also be taken into consideration. It may be said that a candidate for Kennedy would have to pass through another electorate to get to portions of that which he was contesting. Granted ; but he would have to do that under the proposed redistribution, and the position often arises. For instance, the honorable member for Capricornia has to pass through my electorate to get to a portion of his own j and the honorable member for Mernda to-night told us of a similar state of affairs in Victoria.
– That applies to the Riverina constituency.
– I dare say it applies to dozens of electorates, so that that argument should have no weight whatever with honorable members. If this map had been the first issued I should have raised no objection. But when it is issued at the instance of a few people whom we do not know, it becomes another matter. We do not know what the objections were, or when they were lodged; and I have reason to think that some were lodged on the very day of proceedings, or immediately after the time had expired. I read in the press that a deputation waited on Mr. Gall twelve days after the period during which objections might be taken had elapsed. However, the officer has denied the statement to the Chief Electoral Officer; and I accept his denial. The press does not usually anticipate matters twelve days ahead, though it would appear to have done so on this occasion. The whole proceeding seems to savour of what is known as “ gerrymandering.”
– We have to hear the Minister yet, and he may be able to explain.
– He may be, but I doubt very much whether he can.
– Does the honorable member think that the Minister has given us all the information in his possession?
– If so, he has left us very much in the dark. I appeal to honorable members to give me a vote on this occasion, so that the reports and maps may be referred back to the Commissioner. I am only asking what is fair, seeing that opinion is so much divided on the matter. First we had three Commissioners unanimously agreed, and then Mr. “Graham disagreed with the majority and sent in two reports, one of which has not yet been tabled. Where is that report? The Minister will not deny that the document is in existence; and I ask why it is not placed on the table. Believing that I am being most ungenerously treated by the Minister, I move, as an amendment -
That the report be referred back to the Commissioners for further consideration.
.- In seconding the amendment I may say that, as member for a southern State, 1 take a most impartial view of the case before us. If the statement be true that all the reports of the Commissioners have not been distributed it shows, to my mind, a ridiculous way of carrying on parliamentary business. No one ‘would be louder in his condemnation than the Minister of Home Affairs himself if he were in Opposition, and a document of this kind were not forthcoming.
– It is over at the printing office.
– TEen “let us postpone this matter ‘ until the printing office supplies the report. The honorable member for Herbert has not been treated with’ that’ fairness which is the right of every honorable member on both sides cif the
House. I have not yet seen the report by the three Commissioners, but only had a glance at the report of the majority. I have seen a report by Mr. Graham, published on the 3rd July, and a second report by the same gentleman, published on the 18th July. The Minister of Home Affairs has just handed me another report; but the difficulty is that other honorable members have not the advantage of a like courtesy.
– I do not feel very keenly about this matter, and only point out that there is a great deal of difficulty in the House reviewing the Commissioners’ work. We have appointed three Commissioners, and we have received their report; and surely, if any body is able to arrive at what ought to be a just redistribution, it is the Board of Commissioners.
– If they are left to themselves !
– Are the Commissioners interfered with? Personally, I take it to be my duty not to oppose the Commissioners in any way, and I do not think any honorable member ought to approach them.
– I hope it is not done.
– The Leader of the Opposition has suggested, by an interjection, that it is done.
– I merely repeated the interjection made by the honorable member for South Sydney.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition indorse the remark?
– I repeated it, because it seemed to me to deserve an answer at your hands, and you did not appear inclined to answer.
– The first set of maps issued by the Commissioners in Queensland were sent to me, and were shown at several public places., I at once accepted their plan of redistribution, although it added some 60,000 square miles to my territory. I did not feel called upon to raise any objections, and I was very much surprised later on to find a fresh set of maps sent out. I looked up the Act and found that persons who had any objection to the plan of redistribution could notify that objection to the Commissioners. Some people did so, and the Commissioners, as a result, issued a fresh set of maps, on which neither myself nor any one else had an opportunity to make any suggestions whatever. That seems to be an anomaly.
– How would the honorable member correct it?
– The House may send the plan of redistribution back to the Commissioners for reconsideration. But my fear is that Queensland, which is entitled to another member, might - not get that member if the plan were sent back. The Commissioners might quarrel amongst themselves, and refuse to respond’ to the request for reconsideration. What position should we be in then? Suppose the Commissioners refused to act?
– Appoint fresh ones.
– Or suppose they did as certain Legislatures have been known to do in connexion with public documents - let them lie upon the table, and take no further action ? What would then be the position of Queensland, which desires to have the additional member to which she is entitled? I am not particularly concerned in the matter, but I hope that if the House does send back this report to the Commissioners they will adhere to their original plan, which, as far as I know, gave satisfaction in the majority of cases.
.. - I am sorry that I cannot support the proposal of the honorable member for Herbert to refer back this scheme of redistribution to the Commissioners, as I consider they are on a very fair and equitable basis. I feel, with the honorable member for Capricornia, that we should be endangering our position by doing so. Under the Representation Act, Queensland is entitled to an additional member. I fear that sending the report back will endanger that State getting its proper representation. Under the original Act we had but one Commissioner for this purpose. It was felt, however, that the power was too great to be left in the hands of one man, and that the result of so doing would probably be that matters would be continually referred back by Parliament to the Commissioner. In order, therefore, to obtain a judicial decision, and to insure that qualified persons should make a thorough investigation in which Parliament might have complete confidence, it was decided in 1909 to appoint three Commissioners, one of whom should be the SurveyorGeneral, of the State concerned, ot~ an officer in his Department. The object was that there should be upon the Commission at least one person possessing a full and detailed knowledge of the country to be divided up. In this instance, the three Commissioners appointed were instructed to subdivide Queensland into ten divisions. Honorable members have only to look at the map of Queensland to see how the population is scattered about in that enormous area. There is an immense diversity of interests. I do not suppose that any State in Australia has such a diversity of natural products as Queensland, due to varieties of climate and of geographical conditions. The Commissioners had a difficult task to perform. It must be remembered that this process of subdivision, though done under the authority of Parliament, is not simply for the convenience of the Queensland representatives. It is done with the object of allowing Australia to be represented equitably and justly, according to the different interests concerned. In this case the Commissioners went into their task thoroughly. As far as I know, they were three men in whom we were justified in having complete confidence. They were Mr. A. A. Spowers, the Surveyor-General ; Mr. W. J. Gall, a State officer who has a very full knowledge of Queensland ; and Mr. Graham, whom I confess I do not know except that I understand he is in the Commonwealth Electoral Office.
– If the Commissioners made a mistake, the honorable member would not object to sending a report back to them ?
Mr.GROOM. - No, of course not.
– Why did the Commissioners go back from their original report ?
– The report has to be examined to find a reason for that action. The Commissioners made their investigation, and posted their conclusions throughout Queensland. I do not quite agree with the honorable member for Capricornia as to the right of a member of Parliament to take objection. It seems to me that a member of Parliament has just as much right as any member of the public to enter his protest and give his reasons for so doing.
– I should do so if I saw fit.
– I think any honorable member is warranted in taking such action, and that it is his duty to do so.
– Hear, hear; there is too much rot talked about this political business.
– I am not suggesting that a member of Parliament should take objection for partisan reasons, or that he should do anything wrong ; but on broad grounds there is no objection to a member of Parliament voicing his protest like any other member of the public. He can sign his name to his protest, and give his reasons why particular action should be taken.
– If my little village were touched I should do so.
– I am sure that the honorable member would not do anything that was not in the public interest. . His very presence here is probably in the public interest. These reports, as I have said, were circulated throughout Queensland, and objections were filed in due course. The objections were noticed and fully considered by the Commissioners.
– What were the objections, and by whom were they made?
– Objections were received, among others, from the citizens of Mackay and from the Farmers and Cane-growers’ Association of Proserpine, in which it was urged that the sugar districts of Mackay, Bowen, and Proserpine should not be added to a pastoral and mining district such as Kennedy. It was also objected that the Commissioners had cut the sugar industry quite in half, leaving one-half in Herbert, and tacking the other on to the Kennedy electorate.
– It would be impossible to have the whole sugar industry in one electorate.
– The honorable member is quite right; but the persons affected had a right to protest.
– Have they suffered in their representation in this Parliament?
– No; on the contrary, the honorable member has been a most active exponent of their interests. The Commissioners reconsidered the matter in a judicial manner, and then decided upon the report and the plans which are now before us. They are signed by a majority of the
Commissioners. Mr. Graham, the minority Commissioner, originally concurred in the report of the majority with respect to the Herbert and Kennedy divisions, but in a report which he sent in then, he filed another report, which has been presented to us, and which has been distributed to-day. In this document he goes back upon his previous position. He says -
There is no way of satisfactorily adjusting the incidence of the electoral populationwithout, in a measure, disregarding the provisions of section. 16 (a), consequently it is proposed to transfer the Bowen and Mackay Subdivisions from Herbert to Kennedy.
He wants to go back to the original proposal.
This course is recommended after mature consideration, and with full recognition of the fact that a foreign interest will be introduced into Kennedy, and that portion of the sugar-growing interest will be detached from the coastal Division of Herbert. Exhaustive examination was made of all other practical combinations without affording an adequate and satisfactory solution of the difficulty.
The Commissioners very fully and fairly weighed and considered all the objections which were made, met some of them, and. put aside others. On the whole, they have made a very fair distribution. The question for us to determine now is, whether their scheme shall be accepted. The quota on which they worked was 31,388, and they have allotted the electors as follows : -
They have obeyed the instruction of the Act in endeavouring to make the electors in the various divisions, as far as possible, numerically equal, they have paid attention to the special features required, and, at the same time, have given attention to the peculiar conditions of large electorates like Maranoa and Kennedy. If we try to improve on their scheme by moving part of a division to another, we shall put it all out of joint, because the adjustment of these difficulties’ in a big State like Queensland is exceed ingly complicated and awkward. If we send back the scheme to the Commissioners for reconsideration, the public will be unable to offer objections to any other proposal, because, under the law as amended last session, it will be returned direct to us for acceptance or rejection. The general intention of the Electoral Act is that this matter shall be decided, not by Parliament but by independent Commissioners after a judicial investigation of all the circumstances, and I think that we cannot do other than accept their proposals. It should be referred back only in exceptional cases.
.- I cannot support the amendment. As the proposed distribution is so little out of joint, it would be a pity to endanger it by referring it back to the Commissioners, in whom, personally, and in whose knowledge of Queensland, I have the utmost confidence. They spent a lot of time on their work, and went to very great trouble in the endeavour to meet the requirements of the State. The objection of the honorable member for Herbert seems to be that the quota is not in accordance with the total enrolment. He appeared to lay little stress on the importance of studying community of interest. The Commissioners report that -
Objections were received from the citizens of Mackay and from the Farmers and Canegrowers’ Association of Proserpine, in which it was urged that the sugar districts of Mackay, Bowen,. and Proserpine should not be added to a pastoral and mining district, such as Kennedy.
The electoral law provides for the distribution of plans to enable the making of objections by the public, with a view to the rectification of mistakes by the Commissioners, and there now seems to be so little wrong with their scheme that it would be a pity to refer it back to them. I was surprised to hear from the honorable member for Herbert that there was a report from Mr. Allars. If that be so, honorable members should know what he said. As for the second report of Mr. Graham, I have only just seen it. Perhaps there is reason for postponing this matter until we have had time to read Mr. Graham’s second report and Mr. Allars’ report, if he made one; but it cannot be said that the Commissioners have not tried to consider the interests of the sugargrowers as well as the very important shipping interest. In making their distribution they have certainly endeavoured to have regard to community of interest.
Question - That the report be referred pack to the Commissioners for further consideration - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. King O’Malley) proposed -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of Western Australia into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs. E. G. Stenberg-, H. F. Johnston, and A. W. Piesse, the Commissioners for the purpose of distributing the said State into Divisions, in their report laid before Parliament on the 19th day of June, 1912, and that the Divisions referred to in the report and indicated on the map as A, B, C, D, and E, be named as follows : -
– The Minister has not even informed the House whether or not the Government are in favour of this proposed redistribution.
– The Government are in favour of it.
– Are we to have a repetition of the vote on the last division? Is this a put-up job on the part of honorable members opposite? Are the Government merely to formally submit this motion, and every one of their supporters to vote against it? Is this responsible Government ?
– Does the honorable member remember the occasion when fie voted against a scheme submitted by one of his own colleagues - the honorable member for Illawarra - when he held office as Minister of Home Affairs?
– Did we do that?
– Of course you did.
– I suppose that we gave reasons for our action.
– The honorable member did not open his mouth.
– There is an absolute conspiracy of silence on the part of the Government and their supporters.
– I ask the honorable member to discuss the question before the Chair.
– I am entitled to ask the Government for a declaration of their intentions in regard to this proposed redistribution.
– I have moved its adoption.
– Does the honorable member’s duty end there? Is this responsible Government, or what is it?
– Aye ! What is it?
– It is a farce.
.- It would be very much better if matters affecting the representation of the people were dealt with apart from party politics. The House ought to be prepared to consider a proposal involving the future representation of the people in a nonpartisan spirit. I regret very much that the vote given by the Opposition and the remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta appear to give the treatment of these matters a party colour, which ought to be avoided. The honorable member for Parramatta was very unfortunate in referring to the fact that Government supporters voted a.gainst the Government, because when the Government of which he was himself a member submitted proposals-
– Order ! The honorable member must not refer to that matter.
– On a previous occasion a somewhat similar incident occurred.
– Order ! The honorable member is now discussing a matter which the House has already decided.
– I am referring to it ‘ only by way of illustration of my argument in reply to the honorable member for Parramatta.
– Order ! I ruled the honorable member for Parramatta out of order, and would not permit him to refer to the same matter.
– Well, it is sufficient to say that the Government have not given this question a party complexion. They have brought down the reports of the Commissioners, and have left the House, their own supporters included, absolutely free to do what it believes to be best and right in the interests of the future representation of the people in this Chamber.
– Does not the honorable member think that the Minister might express his own opinion when submitting a motion like this?
– I am not here to judge the conduct of the Minister. He may have his own reasons for what he has said, and I do not care to inquire into them. I should like to direct the attention of honorable members to the imperfect nature of the map of the new divisions for Western Australia which is exhibited in the corridor. It is impossible for any one who has not intimate local knowledge to discover from that map, except by very close scrutiny, what the boundaries of the new divisions really are. That being so, I ask permission to display a map delimiting the new boundaries in a manner which honorable members will be easily able to perceive. A glance at this map will enable honorable members to grasp the. extraordinary nature of the division of electorates which has been made in Western Australia. I say that the division made is extraordinary without intending any reflection upon the impartiality or competency of the gentlemen concerned. But it is clear from their report that the Commissioners have misinterpreted the instructions contained in the Act. From the second paragraph of their report it is evident that the Commissioners did not realize the imperative nature of the mandate in section 1 6 of the Electoral Act. They ignore altogether the paramount considerations of community or diversity of interest, means of communication, and so on, and write as if they were free to do what they pleased so long as they kept within the margin of allowance provided for. But they were not free to do as they pleased. They were bound, before having resort to the margin of allowance, to give full and due consideration to the conditions which Parliament considered to be of paramount importance; that is to say, community or diversity of interest, means of communication, physical features, State boundaries, and so on. These, I say, were the primary considerations to which they should have given attention, because it is “ subject “ to these conditions that the quota becomes “the basis for the distribution into divisions.” The law distinctly lays it down that the margin of allowance from the quota is to be used only “ whenever necessary.” These words must be taken as restrictive as well as permissive, and they have a significance which the Commissioners for Western Australia appear to have overlooked. They mean that the quota may be varied only in the last extremity, because the underlying principle of our law is that, so far as practicable, the divisions shall be constituted of an equal number of electors. This is the predominant consideration which Parliament intended should influence the Commissioners in fashioning electorates. Every other- factor is subsidiary to this. As a matter of fact, the margin of allowance was a legislative afterthought. It extends latitude to the Commissioners in dealing with exceptional and difficult situations, but it does not contemplate the licence of a general application, because a situation might often be found - and this is the true explanation of it - where contiguous districts have adverse interests, and the purpose of the margin of allowance was that those districts might be grouped with other communities having greater community of interest with them, even if in so doing a departure was made from the quota. But the Commissioners in this case have not attempted to group in one division all having a community of interest. For instance, they describe in paragraph 5 of their report a division as a “ Gold-fields Division,” but they have excluded from that division one of the most important gold-fields of the State which lies contiguous to the division, and have excluded also another gold-field containing a great many miners, placing both in a district which may be said to be purely farming and pastoral.
– To what districts does the honorable member refer?
– I refer to the district of North Murchison, which has for its centre Meekatharra, one of the biggest mining towns outside Kalgoorlie.
– It is a pastoral district also.
– To a very slight extent only. There is only a handful of pastoral leases in the Murchison district. The other gold-field to which I refer is the Pilbarra gold-field.
– They could not help that.
– Then they should not make the pretence that they have studied community of interest.
– The honorable member might take the same objection with regard to Forrest and Collie.
– I do not altogether approve of Forrest and Collie being placed in “ C “ division.
– They could not help it.
– That is a matter of opinion, and I think they could help it. The Commissioners have in this matter utterly ignored community of interest, and have relied upon the margin of allowance alone. They have professed to comply with the Electoral Act, but, as a matter of fact, have violated its spirit. They have not made this distribution of electorates on the existing enrolment as they were required by law to do, but have projected themselves into the future, and on statistics compiled at the end of 191 1, they have distributed the divisions on what they assume will be the electoral condition in Western Australia in April or May, 191 3. To show the House how loosely these gentlemen have gone about their work, I have only to read one or two extracts from their report. Making an explanation about the Perth and Fremantle divisions, they say -
Cognisance should be taken of, and due weight given to, available official returns bearing upon the tendency towards increase or decrease of electoral enrolment during the past few years within the proposed Divisions, whilst consideration would also have to be given to the probable effects of the present outlook -
What are the probable effects of the present outlook?” Now, what does that mean? The phrase is certainly very obscure - in order to insure that the actual enrolment in the proposed Divisions, at the time of the general election due next year, shall be as near to the then existing quota as it is possible to’ provide so early in advance.
That is an admission of the charge I have just made : that they have distributed the divisions, not on the existing enrolment, as they were required by law to do-
– Oh, yes ; they have a certain margin.
– If the right honorable member had listened, he would have heard me show that the margin of allowance is not to be used except where necessary, and subject to due consideration having been given to those elements which Parliament regarded as paramount.
– They have full discretion, I think.
– I differ from the right honorable member.
– Read the Act, then.
– I have read it very carefully. The Commissioners are bound by law to make the quota on the existing enrolment, but here is a clear and plain admission that they have made the distribution on what they conjecture will be the enrolment eighteen months later. To show that I am not misinterpreting them, I refer honorable members to the following paragraph in their report -
The Commissioners are of opinion that their first and foremost duty is to submit such recommendations as will secure in each of the proposed Divisions the nearest approach to the quota of enrolment at thetime of the impending general elections in 1912.
I am not aware of any general election in 191 2. I suppose there will be one in 1913, but that reference shows that it was a future quota, not a present one, which influenced the Commissioners. They assume that Parliament has given them power to peer into the future, and to distribute the divisions on a prophecy, or estimate, or conjecture. Then they say -
The Commissioners also consider themselves justified in assuming that the provision contained in the Commonwealth Electoral Act for the creation of Divisions of equal electoral strength - or as near thereto as circumstances will admit - indicates an underlying principle and a desire on the part of the Legislature of giving to all votes, as far as possible, an equal value, an object that, in the opinion of the Commissioners, can only be effectively achieved by securing to each Division at the time of an impending election an enrolment as near to the quota as is practicable.
That clearly shows that the Commissioners have gone outside the functions delegated to them by Parliament, and have formed the divisions, not on the figures supplied to them by the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth, but on what they imagine will be the quota in 1913. They write about the desire of the Legislature to give all votes as far as possible an equal value. I cordially indorse that sentiment, but instead of giving each vote the same value throughout the divisions of Western Australia, they have placed in one division nearly 5,000 electors more than they place in each of the other four, and, in order to give that increase, they make this extraordinarily shaped division. They have included in it districts that have always been in communication with the port of Geraldton, and which have no communication or community of interest whatever, except common citizenship, with the distant region to which it is proposed to join them.
– I think that is the milk in the cocoanut.
– I believe it is, but that does not affect the question. I think the right honorable member will admit that, when he originally formed the division, he placed the Murchison country in with Gerald ton.
– The numbers have changed since then. We had to do it.
– That may be, but the numbers have not changed so fundamentally as to give to one division 5,000 electors more than each of the others, and, in order to do so, to make this extraordinary addition to a district which has always been connected with the port of Geraldton.
– Kalgoorlie is not complaining.
– But the Murchison people have complained, and are complaining. I do not know that Kalgoorlie should complain. Kalgoorlie will always have the biggest end of the stick. I should like to deal with the reasons why these gentlemen have put 5,000 more voters into one division than they have into the others.
– I hope you will, deal with all the divisions, and not only with one. We should like to have your views on the others.
– I am not aware that any serious objection is taken to the others, but if the right honorable gentleman has any objection to offer, I presume we shall hear from him later. I hope the House will insist as far as possible on having an equal number of electors in the divisions, because the fundamental idea of our government is one man one vote. That is the bedrock principle of parliamentary representation, and a necessary corollary to that is that, one vote shall have one value, that every unit of the community shall exercise the full power of every other unit in the election of a representative to Parliament. Whether this principle be right or wrong, at any rate, it has been fought for over many years, and having triumphed it ought to be observed in the spirit as well as in the letter. Whenever we fashion electorates unequal in the number of their constituents we sap this basic principle. We may extenuate it by arguments such as the honorable member for Bendigo used ‘the other night, that a country electorate should have a smaller quota than a city one, because of the greater area and the difficulties which voters have in getting to the poll. But when all this is admitted the fact remains that we are departing from a vital principle of democratic government if we sanction such a variation between two electorates as 5,000 votes. Now, the Commissioners say that Division “D “ shows a decreasing enrolment. . It has shown a slightly decreasing enrolment.
– A very large one.
– Not a very large one.
– I will show you by-and-by.
– Will the right honorable member deny that Division “ D “ contains the bulk of the auriferous area of Western Australia, that a new gold-field may be found there at any time, and that a new gold-field would within a few weeks attract thousands of adults to that spot?
– Do you think that we must act on that principle?
– It is quite as reasonable for me to estimate that a new gold-field will be found, and that the population will increase, as it is for the Commissioners to assume that the population will decrease. Furthermore, let me remind the right honorable gentleman that ninetenths of the work of the transcontinental railway, so far as Western Australia is concerned, will be done in and around Kalgoorlie or within the Kalgoorlie division. That work will attract between 2,000 and 3,000 persons, including the workers and their families, and those who will cater for their wants, so that the probabilities are, not that Division “ D “ will decrease in enrolment, but that it will increase. I would like to point out also that, in the matter of community of interest and means of communication, the Commissioners absolutely ignored those primary and elementary considerations in fashioning these divisions. Suppose that a miner at Nannine wanted to go for any electoral purpose to the centre of the electorate of Kalgoorlie. He would have to travel a journey of 990 miles, or a total distance of 1,980 miles. The Commissioners themselves admit that there is no direct means of communication.
– The distance cannot be 990 miles.
– I will give the right honorable gentleman the figures. From Nannine to Geraldton the distance is 390 miles.
– Oh, by that way ! That is not the direct route.
– What is the direct route - across country such as the right honorable gentleman travelled on an exploring expedition ?
– You mean the distance by rail.
– The right honorable gentleman knows quite well that there is no population in a great part of the intervening country, and that a man would take his. life in his hands who travelled through there in certain seasons of the year. I shall give the distances.
– I am quite content. I thought that you meant the distance by the direct route.
– No, I said the distance by rail, and that is the only means which a man would have of going. He would have to travel a distance of 1,980 miles.
– You might as well put in the figures.
– From Nannine to Geraldton the distance is 390 miles, from Geraldton to Perth 294 miles, and from Perth to Kalgoorlie 375 miles.
– For what purpose would a man want to go there?
– He might require to go there for an electoral purpose.
– Is not Nannine in the north division?
– I am aware of that. I am speaking of a man at Nannine who is enrolled in Division “ D.”
– Is Nannine in that division?
– Will the right honorable member for Swan cease these interjections ?
Sir John Forrest. - I am not interjecting, sir, but asking for information.
– Yes ; Nannine is placed in “ D “ division. We have this Murchison country united to other country which has no community of interest, and which the Commissioners admit has no direct means of communication by rail. The Commissioners evidently felt that the inclusion of this territory, which has always been in the other electorate since Federation, required a good deal of buttressing. They obviously felt that their action in this regard was extremely vulnerable, and therefore much of the report is devoted to an attempt to justify the inclusion of this territory with Kalgoorlie. The House will be amazed at the extraordinary statements which they make in the report under the head of community of interest. On page 10 they say -
The Commissioners fully appreciated the nature of the “community of interest” existing between the Murchison gold-fields and the coastal districts round Geraldton -
I should think so, because from the earliest days these electorates, both under the State and under the Commonwealth, have been associated with the port of Geraldton - and have given due consideration to these before including the Cue and Mr Magnet Electoral Districts in the proposed Division “ D.”
If they had given due consideration to “it I must say that, their reasons in support do not appear in this document.
It has also been noted that no means of communication by rail exist between the Eastern and Murchison Gold-fields, and that presumably therefore, these arguments might be used in favour of including the Murchison Gold-fields with Division “ E “ -
These gentlemen are bound by law to give paramount consideration to means of communication, but here they actually admit that there is no means of communication by rail between the districts they have linked together. principally on account of what may be alleged to be “ community of interest.”
The requirement of “ community of interest ‘ ‘ also goes overboard -
The Commissioners, however, are of the opinion that “ community of interest,” when applied to a large industry like the gold-mining industry of Western Australia, would not be correctly interpreted if based upon geographical considerations only. “ Community of interest “ is not necessarily linked with geographical considerations, which is a matter to which the Commissioners were required to give separate consideration and weight -
Whilst admitting that the geographical position should be given all the consideration which is due to it -
There is no evidence in the report that the geographical position was given any consideration - the Commissioners hold the view that a much wider interpretation should be given to the term.
Now we will see what the wide interpretation is -
There are many interests of paramount importance to all gold-fields, such as the general trend of mining legislation governing the conduct of mining operations, the statutory regulation of labour on mines, the inspection of machinery, the railway rates for gold-fields’ supplies, and other important items of consideration which the Commissioners claim should receive prior consideration to purely geographical points of advantage or disadvantage.
In other words, they place their opinion before the mandate of Parliament. Now, every single one” of the questions they set out here to establish a community of interest is a question not under the jurisdiction of this Parliament, but entirely under the jurisdiction of the State Parliament. What do we mean when we place in our Electoral Act the requirement of community of interest? We mean, of course, that the people who are called upon to elect a member of this House shall have common interests allied to the work which they have in hand of returning a representative. Well, every one of the items which the Commissioners relied upon to show community of interest between this very remote region and Kalgoorlie is a question entirely outside the scope of this Parliament. It is clear from the admissions in the report that the Commissioners, however valuable their work has otherwise been, have not, in the spirit of the law, carried out the duty which this House imposed on them. I contend that the words “ quota of electors,” in section 16, clearly means electors actually enrolled when the quota was ascertained. They cannot mean electors to be enrolled, as obviously no one can foretell the number existing at a future time. The Commissioners are, therefore, required by law to form the divisions from the existing rolls of electors ; and this they have not done. What they have done is to anticipate from statistics compiled in 191 1 what the total enrolment will be in April, 1913, and define the new devisions in accordance with the anticipated enrolment. The . Commissioners were entitled to adopt a one-fifth margin of allowance to be used “ whenever necessary,” but this was contingent on their giving due consideration to requirements which Parliament regarded as paramount, namely, “ community or diversity of interest,” “means of communication,” and so forth. The onus, therefore, lies on the Commissioners to show - first, that due weight was given to the above statutory requirements; and, second, that it was “necessary” to adopt such “margin of allowance “ as gives one division nearly 5,000 more votes than any of the other four divisions.
– It is not 5,000?
– Very nearly ; the exact number is 4,792.
– That is not above the quota.
– That does not affect the’ matter; there are 4,792 more votes in one division than in others, and I say that that is not according to the spirit of the law, which provides for equal electorates. They attempt no justification for forming divisions in anticipation of future enrolment, contenting themselves with the vague statement that “ consideration would also have to be given to the probable effects of the present outlook,” ami “ that the shortage of the quota would be more than made up by increasing enrolment between December, 191 1, and next year’s Federal election.”’ Again, in paragraph 33, they state that they “consider themselves justified in as’suming “ the intention of Parliament, and so forth. In forming divisions on “ assump-tions “ and on “ anticipations “ of estimates of future enrolment, their intention may be excellent, but their action is outside their authority. In paragraph 23 the Commissioners admit that they have disregarded the statutory requirement in respect of “ means of communication “ between Cue, and Mount Magnet district, and Kal,goorlie. They also appear to have ignored’ the mandate to preserve “ community of interest,” although their reasoning as to this is somewhat unintelligible. I shall not dwell further on that point, but merely deal with the point of the excess number of electors placed in one division. The grounds on which “ D “ division is given nearly 5,000 excess electors are entirely speculative. No one can attempt. to forecast with accuracy the movements of population, especially in a mining country like Western Australia. Division “ D “ includes vast auriferous areas, in which a rich discovery of gold may at any time occur. In the past such a discovery has drawn to a new field from 3,000 to 4,000 adults within a month. Division “ D “ also embraces about five-sixths of the Western Australian area, through which the transcontinental railway will pass. This work calls for an army of men, who, with their dependents and those who cater for their wants, may add from 2,000 to 3,000 voters to the “ D “ division roll. If estimates are to be considered at all, then it is more reasonable to expect that by election time “ D “ division will have some 40,000 voters - about 11,000 in excess of any other division - than that its electoral strength will relatively decline. I do not think I need detain the House any further on that point, but I should like to recur to the question of the legality of the action of the Commissioners in distributing the electorates, not on a quota of the enrolled electors, but on what they assume will be the quota some months hence.
– I do not think they have done that.
– They have distributed the divisions on what they assume the quota will be eighteen months hence. This matter has been submitted for the consideration of an eminent barrister whose opinion the Commonwealth Government continually take on constitutional questions. I allude to Mr. Frank Duffy, K.C., who had before him the Commissioners’ report, and all the documents necessary to form an opinion ; and the following are the questions submitted to him, and his answers to the same -
– Who is this legal luminary ?
– Mr. Frank Gavan Duffy, K.C., one of the leaders of the Victorian Bar, and a counsel employed in nearly all big cases by the Federal Government.
– I am very glad to know that.
– His opinion is that the Commissioners have exceeded their powers. The fourth question was -
In what respect have the Commissioners acted illegally, and in what respect is the report illegal and without jurisdiction?
In departing from the prescribed “quota” on the hypothesis of a change expected to take place in the number of electors in the various districts by the time of the next general election.
Mr. Duffy adds that, in his opinion, Parliament should be asked to invalidate the proposed distribution and should send it back to the Commissioners for them to make a fresh one. In conclusion, I repeat that I cast no reflection upon the Commissioners.
– The honorable member has been doing so all the while, though.
– That is a very ungenerous inference. I have criticised the work of the Commissioners very freely, but I do not think that I have impugned their motives or intentions. I cast no reflection upon them in any way. Nor do I think that the House, by returning this plan of distribution to the Commissioners, will be casting any reflection upon them. They are fallible human beings, liable to err, as we all are; and I presume that the most that can be said is that they have committed an error of judgment in this case. I confidently appeal to the House, on the grounds I have mentioned, not to sanction the scheme. If we were to establish a precedent, and to allow the (Commissioners in Western Australia to distribute the electorates according to what they expect will be the conditions existing eighteen months in advance, there is no reason in the world why other Commissioners should not distribute divisions according to what they think will be the conditions four or five years in advance.
– They do not exceed the maximum in any case.
– I have dealt very fully with that point, and established my case. The right honorable member will have some difficulty in rebutting the arguments used. I think that a mere error of judgment has been committed, and that it will be no reflection upon the Commissioners to return the scheme to them, with an intimation that the House considers that, as far as practicable - and it is eminently workable in this case - there should be equal electorates. The State of Western Australia should be cut up into five equal divisions, and this House should intimate that it does not sanction the action of the Commissioners in speculating as to what the enrolment will be in the future; but that they should confine themselves to the strict letter of the law, and make their distribution on the existing enrolment of electors.
-Do I understand that the honorable member moves an amendment ?
– No. sir;Ithink it will be sufficient to vote for the rejection of the scheme.
.- The honorable member for Coolgardie has fought his case pretty hard, but I should like to point out to him that he has not dealt with thedistribution of electorates generally, but only with the electorate which he represents. We must take what he says cum gram salis, inasmuch as he has not taken the least notice of the boundaries of any other electorate than his own. I should like to point out, also, that I do not know what procedure would be adopted if this scheme is sent back to the Commissioners, because, to my own knowledge, one of the Commissioners is away in Europe. I do not think it would be proper or legal to appoint a new Commissioner. Probably those who remain in the State would have to decide the matter. It appears to me that you cannot bring a fresh Judge into a cause, and ask him to decide upon an issue that has been half tried. To my own knowledge, Mr. Stenberg, one of the Commissioners, is not in Western Australia’ at present. I think he ought to have been asked to stay until this matter was dealt with. Unfortunately, the procedure that is being adopted to-day is not unknown to this House. We have had the same sort of thing previously.
– In the last Parliament, for instance.
– Yes, I very much regret that the habit seems to be to refuse approval to electoral schemes submitted by the Commissioners.
– The right honorable member commenced the habit two years ago.
– I do not take all the responsibility for that. Moreover, we have three Commissioners now, whereas we had only one previously. That is an important difference. If this scheme is returned to the Commissioners for Western Australia, and they take some time to re consider their position - as they must do - the chances are that the old arrangement will prevail at the next election. For my own part - looking at the matter from a selfish point of view - the existing arrangement suits me. But the present procedure shows, I think, how unsuitable is the plan of returning these electoral schemes to Parliament for a final decision. I am sure that no one will think that I wish to cast a reflection upon any honorable member, but it must be evident that very few of us - I might almost say none - are competent to express an opinion about the subdivision of any other State than our own. I have perhaps had more experience than most honorable members in the matter of arranging electorates, and being a professional man myself, may be expected to know something about work of this kind. But I confess that I have not taken the trouble to gain any personal knowledge about what are suitable arrangements for Queensland or even Victoria. But I am asked here to give my vote as to whether arrangements proposed by expert Commissioners appointed by the Crown for other States than my own are good, and should be adopted or rejected. I am competent to give an opinion upon the work done in Western Australia, because I have an intimate knowledge of the subject. That illustrates how unsuitable a tribunal this House is for settling such a matter. I hope that the Government will take the subject into their consideration so that we may adopt a better system in future. Whatever is done should be final, and such schemes should not be referred to this House, in which three-fourths of the members know nothing about the subject upon which they are called upon to vote. The present Prime Minister, on the 23rd November, 1909 - when sitting in Opposition - expressed a very sound, opinion which we might very well follow.
– And which the right honorable member did not follow then.
– I am supporting the Government this time. The Minister of Trade and Customs seems to wish to drive me on to the other side.
– I am merely speaking the truth.
– I did not take the action to which the honorable gentleman refers from motives of self-interest, because the arrangement against which I voted suited me personally.
– But the right honorable member by his vote saved the seat of a Fusion member.
– The arrangement I voted against was a bad one, although it suited me personally. No one who knows anything about Western Australia would say that it was a good one. The Prime Minister, speaking on the 23rd November, 1909, said -
An attempt to manipulate electorates and to take the work of electoral redistribution out of the hands of a responsible officer appointed for the purpose, is about the nearest possible approach to political corruption.
That is pretty strong language ; I quote it for the information of honorable members. This attempt by the honorable member for Coolgardie to upset the present distribution should, I think, show what an unsatisfactory tribunal Parliament is to determine a matter of this kind. I do not say it to give offence, but it is my opinion that seventy members of the House know nothing about the merits of the scheme under discussion.
– They have read the report.
– I question even that. They have no geographical knowledge of the localities mentioned. Of the five representatives of Western Australia who make up the rest of the House, four are not taking any action against the adoption of this scheme. The honorable member for Coolgardie alone, and that for personal reasons, because the proposed new electorate will not suit him, is trying to get the Commissioners’ scheme upset. He has sent a circular to every member of the House, urging honorable members to help him.
– Nothing of the kind. I rise to make a personal explanation.
– It is irregular to rise in the middle of a speech.
– What I sent to honorable members was merely a plain statement of the case.
– The honorable member asked for support.
– There is not a word about support in my statement.
– If the honorable member had no intention of seeking support, I withdraw what I said. I have an intimate knowledge of the districts of Western Australia, and am satisfied that the Commissioners, who have had a very difficult task, have done their work well, and with credit to themselves. Had I had the doing of it, I should have found it very difficult to make any improvement.
– When the right honorable member had a similar task, he did not do it in the same way.
– Circumstances were very different then. The population was smaller. We had to put the agricultural and pastoral districts of Greenough, Geraldton, and the north-west in with the Murchison gold-fields.
– In the first subdivision, Geraldton was in the Swan electorate; but, although the right honorable member represented the place for six years, he did not visit it during that time.
– The honorable member’s memory may be better than mine. I thought that Geraldton was in another division. Perhaps it was unnecessary to go, because I was not opposed, and knew that I had the confidence of the electors. Lest it may be thought that, because I support the present arrangement, it is a good one from the point of view of my party, let me say that it is not so. For instance, if you pay regard to the voting in October last, it is not certain that our party will be successful in the Perth electorate, or in the Fremantle electorate. In the Lower Swan, the southern half of my electorate,, the position is also difficult, and the Kalgoorlie seat appears to be a safe one for the Labour party. I admit that the Coolgardie seat does not seem too good for the present member, but in four of the five divisions our opponents have a chance. I hope, of course, that we shall be able, notwithstanding, to win nearly alt the seats. We think that the tide is turning, and that the people have changed their views. Judging by the voting last October
– The right honorable member is now going beyond the motion.
– Then I shall merely add that I am not actuated by personal interests when I say that the Commissioners have done well. The arguments they use are difficult to gainsay, and they are men of good repute and of high standing. There is the Surveyor-General. I have known him all my life. He is an excellent and reliable man, of good ability and sound judgment. Then there is the Electoral Registrar, Mr. A. W. Piesse, a man of ability and unblemished reputation. ‘ I do not know the third Commissioner so well, but I have always heard him well spoken of, and he is very able and competent.
– Was not Mr. Fraser, who made the distribution in 1909 a man of excellent repute?
– Yes, he was a man of high character and ability.
– Yet the right honorable member voted against his scheme.
– I was careful to say that I considered him to be a man of the highest integrity.
– Yet the right honorable member voted against his scheme.
– Because I thought he had committed an error of judgment.
– That is all we say has occurred in this case.
– But this scheme is submitted by three Commissioners, and “ in a multitude of counsellors there is safety.” Although an interjection that I made might, possibly, have conveyed a suggestion to the contrary, I believe that the honorable member for Coolgardie considers that the Commissioners in this case are men of unblemished and unassailable character. No doubt they are. I desire now to point out that the number of electors on the rolls for the Murchison goldfields has greatly diminished during the last two and a half years. The number of electors in Cue has diminished by 1,660; in Lenora - which is not in the Murchison gold-fields, but is now included in the electorate of Kalgoorlie - the number has diminished by 1,018; in Mount Magnet, by 1,347 ; in Menzies, by 1,211 ; and in Mount Margaret, by 1,123. Thus, in those five districts, which are now in the electorate of Coolgardie, but, under this scheme, will be transferred to the electorate of Kalgoorlie, there has been, during the last two and a half years, a diminution of 6,359inthe number of electors on the roll. Then, again, the electorate of Kalgoorlie has now only 20,255 voters, or 10,136 below the quota; and Coolgardie has only 24,177, or 6,214 below the quota. During the same two and a half years’ period the adjoining agricultural and pastoral district of Swan, however, has made an increase of 7,921 electors. It now comprises 48,997 electors, or no less than 18,606 above the quota. It is therefore clear, I think, that it would not be justifiable to give the electorate of Dampier, as it is now to be called, a number of electors above the quota, and to have the number of electors in a district that is diminishing, below the quota. It is curious that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, who, under this scheme, will have in his electorate 3,640 voters above the quota, is not complaining of this increase.
– If the right honorable member had a potential majority of 14,000 he would not complain.
– That is immaterial. Three thousand six hundred and forty miners in Cue and Mount Magnet will now be within the electorate of Kalgoorlie, and we find that the honorable member who represents that electorate, instead of complaining, is supporting the new arrangement. The honorable member for Coolgardie, on the other hand, evidently wishes to nullify the agricultural and pastoral votes in the proposed new electorate of Dampier by adding the miners’ votes of Mount Magnet and Cue to the number. He wishes to mix mining votes with agricultural and pastoral votes, thus destroying the principle of “community of interests.”
– Are not the miners’ votes already mixed with agricultural votes?
– The honorable member knows that miners and agriculturists do not generally share the same political opinions. As the hour is getting late, I ask leave, Mr. Speaker, to continue my remarks to-morrow.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether he has received any letters during the last fortnight from the Chief Engineer, Mr. Deane, or his assistant engineers, in regard to the appointment of Mr. Chinn, and, if so, whether he will place them on the table of the House ?
.- I wish to make a personal explanation. The right honorable member for Swan made the statement a few minutes ago that I had addressed to honorable members of the Opposition a letter asking support of my action against the adoption of the report of the Commissioners appointed to distribute the State of Western Australia into Federal electorates. That statement is absolutely incorrect. As honorable members are necessarily unacquainted with local conditions in Western Australia, and with the flaw points involved in the action of the Commissioners, what I did was to prepare a letter, which I addressed to certain honorable members, setting forth the actual facts. I did not ask that they should vote either in one direction or the other.
– Why did I not receive a copy of that letter?
– The right honorable member may receive one in due course. Possibly the letters were not all posted simultaneously.
– When the House met this afternoon, I asked the Treasurer a question in reference to a regulation that has been embodied in the notices to those doing business with the Commonwealth Bank. This regulation warns depositors that the bank will not be responsible for any fraudulent withdrawal of money, and I asked the Treasurer whether such a regulation was not in defiance of the will of the Parliament as expressed in the refusal of both Houses to agree to the insertion of such a provision in the Commonwealth Bank Bill. The Treasurer replied in the negative. He further used words to the effect that I was not quite correct in my statement of what occurred, and that the question was never tested. I wish to direct attention to the fact that this clause was in the. original Bill, and that the effect of it is identical with the clause now embodied in the regulations of the bank, which the Treasurer said was not so. This is the clause to which I refer -
Where a person fraudulently represents himself to be a depositor and presents the depositor’s pass-book, and complies with the rules of the bank, and thereby obtains any money belonging to the depositor deposited with the bank by way of Savings Bank deposit, the bank shall not be responsible for the loss sustained.
That was in the Bill when it was sent up to the Senate. The Senate sent the Bill back with an amendment omitting that clause. When the Senate’s amendment came before the House, the Treasurer moved M That the amendment be disagreed to.” The record of this will be found at page 4530 of Hansard for the 15th December, 1911. Then, on the 19th December, after several honor able members on both sides had pointed out the iniquity of this provision, and how unjust it was to depositors that the Commonwealth should shirk its responsibility, the Treasurer receded from his former attitude and asked the leave of the House to withdraw his motion. It was only on the leave of the House to withdraw the motion being granted that the right honorable gentleman moved that the Senate’s amendment omitting the clause should be agreed to. It will, therefore, be seen that, in his answers to my questions this afternoon, the right honorable gentleman was absolutely misleading.
– -All the liters I received from Mr. Deane I laid on the table of the House. I should like to know from the right honorable member for Swan whether he is in constant communication with the officers of my Department.
– I have had no communication with them.
– The strangest thing of all is that private and confidential letters should come to the knowledge of honorable members opposite. I should like to know whether such a thing ever happened to them in their lives. For days before there were tit-bits going around the House that we were about to get something. The right honorable member for Swan also launched a question about the Chief Electoral Officer. I am going to look into this thing. The time may have arrived when, if these officers intend to be on the other side, it may be necessary that they should join the other side.
– What does all this mean?
– It means that honorable members opposite are not playing the game.
– In what way?
– It seems, from the questions they ask in this House, that my officers and themselves are constantly in communication. There appears to be nothing but a conspiracy, and I intend to see if it is so.
– Then the Minister should discharge his officers at once.
– That is all very fine, but I cannot overlook the fact that confidential letters have been laid on the table of this House. The time has come when I want to know what this means. That is all.
– I intend to ask questions.
– The right honorable gentleman may ask as many as he pleases.
– The Minister of Home Affairs has said either too much or too little. If he is aware that his officers have any communication with honorable members on this side in a way detrimental or injurious to him as Minister in charge of a Department, it is his duty to require those officers instantly to cease that communication. If he knows that they are not loyal to their Minister, he should get rid of them at the earliest possible moment. That is my statement about the matter. But I say that, before the honorable gentleman does that, or talks about his officers in this House, he should be very sure of his facts.
– Private and confidential letters !
– What does the honorable gentleman refer to?
– The honorable gentleman knows well what I refer to.
– I know absolutely nothing of what the Minister refers to. If I did, I should say so.
– I think there was never such a disgrace in parliamentary history.
– As those letters getting on the file? Does the honorable gentleman mean that? I confess that it is a little awkward for my honorable friend.
– Not a bit.
– I confess that it is a little unusual.
– It is dirty.
– Order !
– I confess that it is a little unusual for letters addressed “ Dear George “-
– The honorable member must not go into that now.
– I tell the honorable gentleman frankly that I think Ministers have acted like children over that matter. It is evident that some of the letters referred to were private communications. How did they come to be on the file at all?
– How do honorable members opposite come to know everything that is happening in my Department ?
– I know nothing of what is happening in the honorablegentleman’s Department. He is barking up the wrong tree. He is drawing upon a disordered and discoloured imagination in making such statements. I know nothing of what is transpiring in his Department. Moreover, I do not wish to know anything; that transpires there, except through legitimate channels. I have made no inquiries about the case, and if other honorable members did so they can speak for themselves. But I say here and now that the Minister of Home Affairs ought not to come here and make these insinuations against officers of his Department without the slightest tittle of justification for doing so. I repeat that the honorable gentleman has said either too much or too little. If he knows that they are not loyal to him, the sooner he deals with such officers the better.
– Does the honorable gentleman know it?
– I do not ; and I should not come here and try by innuendo to traduce responsible officers of a Department who have spent their lives in the Public. Service of this country, and have been loyal to every Minister. That is the complaint I have to make against the honorable gentleman. If he has been made the victim of any tricks of this kind in his Department, I sympathize with him to that extent. Above all else, officers should be loyal to their Minister. That is their first duty; but the honorable gentleman ought not to impugn their loyalty without the strongest possible grounds.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I should like to say, in reply to what the Minister has said-
– Order; the honorable member must not reply.
– I wish, by way of personal explanation, to say that, neither directly nor indirectly, had I any communication with any of the honorable gentleman’s officers.
– Would the right honorable gentleman mind saying what prompted his questions?
– It appeared to be probable that this matter was being very much talked about. I thought there might be some letters, and if there were, I asked that Ishould see them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.35p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 July 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120723_reps_4_64/>.