2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator DAWSON presented a petition from certain sugar-growers in the Herbert River district, North Queensland, praying that the sugar bounty be continued for ten years after 1906, and. for other purposes.
Petition received and read.
– Who are the signatories ?
– They are all presidents of associations.
– I should like, to know, sir, who are the signatories to this petition.
– The honorable senator cannot address the Senate unless there is a motion before the Chair.
Motion (by Senator Guthrie) proposed -
That the signatures to the petition be read.
– On a point of order, sir, I should like to ask whether it is in order for the petitioners, nomatter what their number or importance may be, to allege in the petition, as they’ do, that Queensland joined the Federation upon certain terms. We all know that it is only by an Act of Parliament that the State can speak, and I think that the greatest harm is likely to arise from the Senate receiving petitions stating, or seeking to make out, that a certain binding arrangement was made when the Federation was established.
– Is this a point of Order, sir?
-I understand that the point of order is, can a petition contain an allegation which is not correct?
– That is not my point of order. It is that these petitioners state what they believe to be.a fact, namely, that Queensland joined the Federation upon the understanding that the sugar industry was not to be interfered wth.
– Does not that come to this, that the petitioners make anallegation which the honorable and learned senator does not believe to be correct.
– No, sir. My allegation goes further than that, and it is that they affect to speak for the whole State, which is an impossibility.
– It comes to this, that the honorable and learned senator does not think that the statements of the petitioners are correct.
– I cannot make anything else of it. In the petition there is a statement to the effect that it was an understanding before Federation was entered into that so and so was to happen, and thepetitioners purport to speak for the whole of Queensland.
– The point is that they have no right to do that.
– That may or may not be thecase.
– But ought we to receive the petition?
– I think so. If we were to refuse to receive a petition because an honorable senator thought that certain allegations it contained were not correct, how could we receive any petition ? If that were the case, before any petition was received, there would be an argument as to whether or not the allegations it contained were correct. I rule that in that regard the petition is in order.
– Am I to under- I stand, sir, that if, in the course of a few days, the Senate is presented with a petition stating that Western Australia joined the Federation on the ground that the Commonwealth should build the transcontinental railway, it is to be received?
– . I think so, but whether or not the allegation is correct is another question.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Signatures read by the Clerk.
– I will certainly do all I can to get the matter expedited; but I can make no promise with regard to the matter. The Estimates will be under the control of the other branch of the Legislature, and until they have been dealt with there it is impossible for us to deal with them here.
-My horn orable friend his misunderstood my question. I am asking that the Senate shall have an opportunity of dealing with the Estimates at an early date after the delivery of the Budget speech.
– Of course I will arrange that honorable senators shall receive’ the Estimates at the earliest possible moment.
– And that we shall have an early opportunity after the Budget speech of dealing with them?
– I should like to ask the Minister of Defence a question without notice arising out of a statement which I made in the Senate on Friday last. My statement referred to a notice posted up on the Peninsular and Oriental steam-ship on which I travelled recently. An official statement has been published in the press to the effect that the notice which I quoted is not in accordance with the regulations. I wish to know whether the Governmentwill undertake to call the attention of the Peninsular and Oriental Company to the mistake into which it has fallen?
– What reason has our Government for calling the attention of the Peninsular and Oriental Company to a notice posted on board one of its ships ?
– I am not asking a question of any of the walking encyclopaedias opposite, but am asking whether the Government will direct the attention of the company to this matter.
– I cannot say whether the company has fallen into a mistake or not; but I see that it disputes the statement that the notice was ever posted on its steamers at all. Its officers absolutely dispute that. What I will do is this : I will call the attention of the Collector of Customs to the matter, and will request him to ascertain whether such a notice was posted on board a steamer, and if so, whether he will prevent a recurrence of such a thing.
– May I state by way of personal explanation that I copied the notice which I read to the Senate word for word as it was posted in the saloon of the steamer; and afterwards checked the copy which I had made.
– I should like to ask the Minister whether, when he is making; an inquiry with regard to the matter mentioned by Senator Millen, he will at thesame time inquire why it is that the ocean steam-ship companies now’ charge twice the ordinary rate for liquor consumed on their boats, and also why they give as a reason for so doing, the duties that are charged by the Commonwealth Government?
– I thought the honorable senator was a Good Templar?
– I may state that I am speaking not in my own interests, but in the interests’ of the consuming public.
– I know nothing of these matters; but will ask the honorable member to give notice of his question, whereupon inquiry will be made.
– I have a message here with regard to it.
– I was going to ask whether the Minister intends to deal with the subject to-day, or until the conference asked for by the other House has taken place?
– I understand that there is a message from the Crown approving of the expenditure of£20,000 for the purposes of the Bill. After that message has been dealt with in the other House, it will be sent up here.
– I have a message from the House of Representatives with respect to the suggested conference.
– But my question to my honorable friend the Minister of Defence was whether, in view of the action to which Mr. President has just referred, and as to which we are to receive a message, he intends to proceed with the motion on the paper as an order of the day, pending the holding of the conference, if it is to take place?
– I have heard nothing of a conference, and all I propose to do is to go on with the discussion of the question.
– Perhaps the best course will be to wait until the message has been announced, and the order of the day is called on. Then we can consider the whole question.
– I will ask my honorable and learned friend to give notice of that question. While I am speaking, I may as well take advantage of the opportunity to announce so far as concerns answers to questions in the Senate, that I propose to answer all questions with regard to my own Department, the Department of External Affairs, the Department of Trade and Customs, and the Treasury. My honorable friend, Senator Keating, will an swer all questions relating to the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, the Department of Home Affairs, and the Postmaster-General’s Department.
– I presume that the Minister of Defence will answer questions relating to the business of the Government as a whole?
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence, without notice -
– I am quite willing to lay the report on the table.
– I move -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable me to bring before the Senate a matter of urgent public importance, and to move a motion with regard to it.
I shall ask the Senate to come to a division on my motion, if necessary.
– Ought not the honorable and learned senator to give notice of his motion?.
– I understand that Senator Clemons wishes to submit a motion as a matter of urgency.
– I am aware that I am taking what is perhaps an unusual course, but I shall indicate why. I wish to bring under the; consideration of the Senate a recent decision of the Tariff Commission, to the effect that on Saturday next themembers of that Commission are to leave Melbourne1 and depart to various States, when those of them who are members of Parliament will be absent practically for the whole of the remainder of this session. I am aware that I might have moved the adjournment of the Senate, and secured consideration of the subject in that way. But I think honorable senators will see why I have not taken that course. It is very desirable - and I do not expect any opposition on that point - that the Senate should by division express its opinion as to whether the course proposed to be taken by the Tariff Commission shall be taken or permitted. If I merely moved the adjournment of the. Senate, I should arrive at no definite decision. Of course, I should not think of attempting to carry a motion for the adjournment, because the leader of the Senate would very properly take such a motion in a certain way. I have no desire that he should be put in such a position. My reason for moving the suspension of the Standing Orders is chiefly to enable me to move a motion, the purport of which I am prepared to’ indicate, in order to give the Senate an opportunity to express its opinion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania). - I now move -
That in the opinion of the Senate it is contrary to the practice of Parliament and the proper transaction of business that members should absent themselves from the Senate for the purpose of attending the sittings of a Royal Commission.
I have already indicated the reasons why 1 take this step. But I think it is desirable that I should to some extent elaborate those reasons. There are, of course, abundant opportunities for any member of the Senate to express an opinion as to the desirableness or otherwise of the course proposed to be taken by the Tariff Commission. I propose simply to state the facts, and to ask honorable senators to consider them, and to vote subsequently on my motion. The facts are that at the last meeting of the Tariff Commission a resolution was carried to the effect that on Saturday next the Com mission should proceed to Tasmania and hold its inquiry there; that it should continue to sit in’ Tasmania until the inquiry in that State had been finished ; that at the expiration of the inquiry in that State the Commission should proceed to Western Australia, and there pursue its investigations until the whole of the inquiry was complete. It was added that at the expiration of the inquiry in that State the Commission should proceed to South Australia and pursue a similar course, continuing to sit there until the inquiry was exhausted. I think I am right in saying that, subsequent to the inquiry in South Australia, the Commission was to proceed to Victoria j; but that is not very important, because the calculation was made - I believe it will be found to be approximately correct - that the time that would be consumed in holding the sittings in the three States of Tasmania, Western Australia, and South Australia, would just about coincide with the remainder ‘of the present session, assuming that the session is to end somewhere towards the end of this year. Trie position is obvious. The motion carried at the meeting of the Tariff Commission necessitates members of the Commission who are either members of the Senate or of the other House of Parliament, absenting themselves from their duty in this Parliament, practically speaking, for the whole of the remainder of this session.
– No. Four members of the Commission form a quorum.
– I shall come to that point. I admit that four members of the Commission form a quorum. My answer to that is that I object to any compulsion being put on me and the other members of the Commission, either to resign from the Commission or to absent ourselves from Parliament. I also object to allow a bare quorum to carry on the duties of the Commission, while I, with others, am absolutely prevented1 from- taking part in the discharge of those duties. If this were” a Select Committee the Standing Orders would forbid the members to hold any meetings while the Senate was sitting. Perhaps it is hardly necessary to remind the Senate of the remarks which you, Mr. President, made last session, as reported on page 3154 of Hansard for 1904, in dealing with a motion to suspend the Standing Orders, so as to enable a Select Committee to take evidence elsewhere than at the Seat of Government. I should, however, like to read an extract from that speech, always reminding the Senate that I am merelydealing now with a somewhat analogous case. The remarks which you made, Mr. President, were -
Before the motion is put, I think it devolves upon me, as President, to point out that, in my opinion, a most objectionable practice will be initiated if the motion is carried. We ought to consider all the circumstances under which we are sitting. The Senate consists of only thirty-six senators, while a Select Committee consists of seven senators. Australia is a very large place, certain parts of which - for instance, Western Australia and Northern Queensland - are difficult of access from this city. When that fact is considered, it will be seen that the taking away of seven senators to some very distant portion of the Continent may prevent the Senate from carrying on its business. Our theory is that we are here representing the people, elected by tlie people, and paid by the people for doing the legislative work of the Commonwealth and no senator ought ‘to absent himself from the service of the Senate for any inferior service. It is quite true that leave of absence to a senator is given, and most properly so - in fact, it cannot be helped - on account of sickness,” and also on the ground of urgent private affairs. The latter ground of absence may or may not be abused - I am not expressing an opinion - but if it is abused, that is no reason why we should initiate another system, which seems to me to be open to the gravest objection. We were nearly obliged to adjourn this afternoon from the want of a quorum, and if the members of Select Committees are allowed to absent themselves from the Senate for the purpose of carrying on its work in some distant part of the Continent, honorable senators may sometimes be brought here and find that during the sitting there is no quorum to carry on the business.
And so on. As to my own position in the matter, I feel - and I think that what I am about to say will be indorsed by every member of the Senate- that when I was asked to be one of the Tariff Commission I took the position on the clear understanding that the duties were to be in addition to, and not in substitution for, my parliamentary duties. I considered then, as I do now, that the electors of Tasmania have a prior claim to my services. I was elected a member of the Senate before I was appointed to the Tariff Commission, and I hold very strongly that I should fail to discharge my duty to those who returned me if I allowed this subsequent appointment to in any way interfere with the ordinary discharge of my parliamentary work. And there would be such an interference if I decided to absent myself from the Senate in order to attend the sittings of the Tariff Commission in another part of the Commonwealth. On the other hand. I feel that I am not obliged to take up the attitude I have indicated, Compelled as I am to decline to go away from Melbourne while Parliament is in session, I am not forced to send in my resignation as a member of the Tariff Commission. That sort of pressure ought not to be put on any parliamentary member of the Commission. When the Commission was appointed1, consisting of six members of this and another place, with two gentlemen who are not members of Parliament, it was never contemplated that our parliamentary duties should be held in abeyance for any part of the session, or, by the present proposal, for practically the whole of this session. The facts are exactly as I have stated them. I have made the motion wide, and specially avoided any reference to the particular Commission. An opportunity now presents itself to the Senate to express a definite opinion as to whether members of Parliament should be expected to absent themselves in order to discharge other duties imposed upon them since their election. Incidentally I may lay that in this case members of the Commission, who are not members of Parliament, have, by their voting, exercised a certain amount of compulsion on the latter. Without my going into details, honorable senators may easily understand what I mean. Two of the members of the Commission are not members of Parliament ; and, personally, I think it was invidious of them to vote on the question, seeing that the result could not affect them as it did their colleagues. While there may be no particular reason to prevent those two members from carrying on the duties of the Commission during the session, there is obviously a very strong reason why members of Parliament should not do so. However, I mention this merely incidentally, and I do not think the Senate ought necessarily to pay much attention to this particular point.
– I must ask the honorable and learned senator whether he will occupy much more time with his remarks, because His Excellency the GovernorGeneral has agreed to receive the Address-in-Reply this afternoon, and it will be necessary to suspend the sitting of the Senate for a time.
– All I desired to do was to state the facts, and I have done so. An opportunity will present itself to every senator to discuss the motion.
– I wish to announce that His Excellency the Governor-General has agreed to receive the Address-in-Reply to the speech in which he opened Parliament, at half-past three o’clock at Government House. Conveyances are ready, and I think the sitting ought now to be suspended.
Motion (by Senator Playford) agreed to-
That the Address-in-Reply be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General by the President and such senators as may desire to accompany him.
The Senate proceeded to Government House to present the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s speech, and being returned,
– I have to report to the Senate that, accompanied by honorable senators, I proceeded to Government House, and there presented the Address-in-Reply to
His Excellency the Governor-General’s speech, to which His Excellency was pleased to make the following answer: -
Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Senate,
On behalf of His Majesty, I have to thank you for your Address-in-Reply to my speech delivered on the opening of Parliament.
Debate on motion by Senator Clemons (vide page 423) resumed.
– Ministers took no exception to leave being given for the suspension of the Standing Orders in order to enable Senator Clemons to move a motion of urgency; but I would submit that the motion which has been moved by the honorable and learned senator is one which, in its terms, is so general as the expression of a principle to be affirmed by this Senate, that we might very properly have asked notice of it.
– The application is very urgent.
– I am speaking now, I hope, in the like terms and tone as did Senator Clemons with regard to the substance of this motion. The terms of the motion are so general as to amount to an affirmation of a principle on the part of the Senate, without relation to any particular instance, and for that reason alone, we might have been justified in opposing the suspension of the Standing Orders. In submitting the motion, Senator Clemons has pointed out that he had been, to some extent, motived by a decision recently arrived at by the Tariff Commission. Honorable senators will remember that the Tariff Commission was appointed some months ago by the late Government for the purpose of carrying out what was considered to be a work of considerable urgency. It was asked to review the present state of the Tariff, more particularly in regard to complaints which it *was alleged would be brought against it by persons who had directly felt the effects of its operation. When the Commission was appointed, it was considered, I think, by those who asked for it, and by those responsible for its appointment, that it would get to work immediately.
– Which it did not do.
– And during the term of its existence as a Commission, would deal with the matters submitted to it as urgently as possible ; would bring up reports as often as possible, or as often as the occasion demanded, for the consideration of Parliament, so that any individual member might, if necessary, take action in connexion with those reports, or the Government themselves, if the circumstances were of such a nature as to warrant them in doing so, might take such action. When the Commission was appointed, it was composed of gentlemen who were members of the Federal Parliament and of gentlemen who were not members of this Parliament. There was no obligation on the part of any honorable member of the Federal Parliament to accept a commission as one of the Royal Commissioners. The Government of the day was free to choose from whom it listed the gentlemen who were to compose the Commission. If I may say so, giving expression merely to my own feelings on the occasion, I was considerably surprised to find that the Government had drawn so largely from the ranks of parliamentarians for the personnel of the Commission. When the ex-Prime Minister intimated in another place his intention to give effect to the requests preferred for the appointment of such a Commission, we find that he said -
One of the great objections urged to what is proposed by the Government is that, although this Commission may bring to light the existence of some terrible state of things, their mouths would be closed, and that for months we should never have any report from them. I met that in this way : I said I had not the slightest objection to the Commission making progress reports as often as they pleased.
Later, in reply to an interjection by Mr. Isaacs, he said -
I think half the value of the Commission will consist in the fact that the public are enabled to know its proceedings from time to time through the press, and that they can hear grievances and take evidence in the open light of day.
Mr. Isaacs interjected, “ That is common ground,” and the ex-Prime Minister repl ied -
I am glad to hear that there is some daylight in which we all are. We are all in favour of that, and I am not against progress reports. I am quite prepared to give the Commission power to report at any time.
That was before the actual appointment of the Commission, and I submit that any honorable member of this Parliament who accepted a commission to act as one of the Tariff Commissioners, must have done so with a full knowledge that honorable members of another place demanded, and the then Prime Minister, who was responsible for the appointment of the Commission, consented to give to that Commission, in view of the circumstances, the fullest possible power to report at an)’ time. Further on the then Prime Minister said -
We shall take the responsibility of the way in which its members are appointed, and give them perfect leave to send in reports to us at any moment on any industry which they think it necessary to bring under our notice, and it would be for the House later on to say whether our conduct is worthy of its support. That is a plain issue.
– That all has reference to the furnishing of reports from time to time.
– It has nothing to do with the point of this motion.
– I submit that the extracts which 1 have read show that the circumstances surrounding the appointment of the Commission point to the fact that it was empowered to report, on account of the urgency of the work with which it was charged, at any time, in session or out of session.
– Nobody is disputing that.
– In order to be able to do that effectively, the Commission should have the disposition, as it would have the power at law, to sit in session or out of session, and the implication is contained in the remarks of the ex-Prime Minister, to which I have referred, that the Commission would sit, in and out of session.
– That could not have been conceived.
– I am pointing out that, by implication, the remarks of the ex-Prime Minister show that if any single industry appeared to be hardly or unfairly dealt with by the Tariff, it was competent for the Commission, at any moment, to report its finding in that regard to the Government, whether or not Parliament had met, at the earliest possible opportunity.
– Will the honorable and learned senator say where Mr. Reid says that?
– That is the construction to be put on his remarks.
– That is the construction which the honorable and learned senator puts on them; but Mr. Reid never said that.
– This is hardly touching the point.
– This Commission was appointed some months ago, and I have been referring to some remarks which, were made by the right honorable gentleman responsible for its appointment, in answer to requests put to him, to show that the Commission was to be placed in a position to deal with the subjects submitted to it as matters of extreme urgency. That is the construction which I put upon the ex-Prime Minister’s remarks. If some honorable senators should differ from me, I am not responsible for that.
– Did Parliament mean that the Chairman of Committees of the Senate should be absent from his duties for three weeks, and at the same time be receiving two salaries for doing one class of work ?
– Parliament had nothing to do with the appointment of the. Chairman of Committees of the Senate to the Commission. Parliament did not know who the Commissioners would be.
– Parliament did know.
– At that moment?
– It was at the instance of Parliament that the whole thing was done.
– Parliament knew nothing of the -personnel of the Commission.
– Parliament knew a great deal about it, because Mr. Isaacs insisted that there should be a certain proportion of members of Parliament.
– The honorable and learned senator’s statement does not in any way meet the argument I was submitting to Senator Dobson. That honorable and learned senator asked me whether Parliament intended that the Chairman cf Committees of the Senate should be absent from hia duties?
– For weeks together.
– I am pointing out to the honorable and learned senator that, when the Commission was being arranged for, Parliament had not in mind the Chairman of Committees of the Senate or any other individual in the community. Mr. Isaacs or anybody else may have suggested to the then Prime Minister that in appointing a Royal Commission, he should draw certain proportions from the freetraders and from the protectionists in Parliament, but nothing had then been agreed to in that regard. Ultimately he took, as he says here for his Government, the responsibility of appointing the Royal Commission, and giving it the full powers which Parliament demanded that it should have. In the face of what then took place I submit that every person, whether in Parliament or out of it, who accepted a position on this Royal Commission, must have known the nature and extent of the work he was called upon to do, and must have had in contemplation the demands it would make upon his time. 1
– This is more a question of State representation than a personal question.
– My motion deals only with the general question.
– I think Senator Clemons will agree with me that, so far as interjections were concerned, he had1 no cause for complaint, either from my colleague or from myself, when he was speaking, but that we were prepared to listen to his arguments. I have now dealt with the circumstances surrounding the appointment of the Royal Commission and its personnel at its creation, for which Parliament is not in the least degree responsible, as it was an Executive act. Senator Clemons has referred to the case of a Select Committee, and has quoted some remarks by you, sir, as to the inadvisableness of the Senate consenting to Select Committees, so to speak, roaming the Continent during session.
– Meeting at all during sittings of the Senate.
– In my opinion there is no analogy between the two cases. A Select Committee is at once the creature of the Senate, charged with the duty of making an investigation and reporting upon certain matters. By the instructions of the Senate, its sittings and mode of procedure may be determined either by Standing Orders, or by such orders or rules as it may from time ito time make, but a Royal Commission is, as we all know, a very valuable adjunct to Governments in many instances. The Executive Government is enabled to appoint a body whose personnel may be confined entirely to parliamentarians, or be entirely non-parliamentarian, to investigate certain circumstances, and report the results of the investigation to the Government. Royal Commissions, as we know, have very extensive powers - powers far beyond those which are enjoyed by Select Committees. We are endeavouring even now, by means of a Bill, which is before this House, to place Select Committees in a position simi lar to that which is enjoyed in that regard! by Royal Commissions. Obviously the Government had some definite and distinct purpose in deciding that the inquiry concerning the Tariff should be made by a Royal Commission rather than a Select Committee. I submit that one of the main purposes was to enable that body to sit and’ take evidence out of session-
– - No.
– To sit and takeevidence at any time, and to report at any time.
– This motion gives no direction as to what a Royal Commissionshall do; it is merely an indication to honorable senators as to what the Senate expects from them.
– Decidedly not.
– We have a standingorder saying that a senator must not be absent beyond a certain time without leave.
– I have not got acopy of the terms of the Royal Commission, but it is empowered to inquire fully into and report upon certain matters in connexion with the Tariff.
– It is also “ required “ to report, and therefore all itsmembers must attend if the’v do their duty.
– The Tariff Commission was, as Senator Trenwith pointsout, not only charged with the responsibility of inquiring into and reporting upon certain circumstances, but also required tomake a report to the Governor-General. Senator Clemons says that he accepted his appointment on the understanding that the duties thereof would be in addition to and” not in substitution for his parliamentary duties.
– Most certainly
– It would’ seemthat the honorable and learned ‘senator considers that the work he is doing on the Tariff Commission is not work of a parliamentary character. But I submit that it is work of a very valuable and of a ve:v important parliamentary character.
– Who has submitted’ anything else?
– It is as important in its nature as the work in connexion withthe preparation of Bills and other matterswhich Ministers have to do outside Parliament. It is work upon which Parliament will be asked to act, or not to act, hereafter, in matters which affect the trade and industry of the whole of the Commonwealth. Are we to understand, from the arguments that, as a Royal commissioner, a parliamentarian occupies a different position, and that his duties are of a different quality or character from those of a fellowcommissioner, who i$ not a parliamentarian ? I certainly think not. I have a great deal of sympathy with the position of Senator Clemons.
– It is not a matter of sympathy, but a matter of right.
– I think not, as the motion is framed. Speaking with all sincerity, I have a considerable amount of sympathy with the position of Senator Clemons, who finds that the obligations which he incurred by accepting membership of a Royal” Commission are likely to bring his duties in that regard in conflict with what he looks upon as his prime duties as a member of this Senate. I feel perfectly certain that honorable senators on each side will be sorry if on many occasions - I shall not say on all occasions - the honorable and learned senator is absent from the Chamber, simply because he has to attend to duties elsewhere of a parliamentary character.
– What about the State he represents?
– That I consider was a matter for the honorable and learned senator to have considered before he ac- cepted the appointment.
– That would be so as regards all the members of Parliament on the Royal Commission.
– There is no obligation upon them to sit.
– There was no obligation upon them to accept .the appointment. I cannot speak as to the obligation to which my honorable friend refers, and I do not know if any member of the Senate other than a member of the Tariff Commission can. But from a statement which has come from Senator Clemons, it would appear that the Commission has decided to sit at certain times during the session. What its exact decision was -I do not know, but if in its wisdom it has thought it necessary to sit, I do not know whether Senator Mulcahy or myself is in a position to question the wisdom or unwisdom of the decision.
– The motion does not question it.
– No; but the interjection would suggest that Senator Mulcahy does. I-should-be very sorry to question the wisdom or unwisdom of the deci sion, without understanding all the arguments pro and con which were, I presume, used before it was arrived at. Senator Clemons has also said he does not consider that he should be subjected to any pressure which would cause him either to resign from the Tariff Commission or to abstain from attending to his parliamentary duties. Nothing which the Senate may do or omit to do, not even the rejection of his motion, could be construed into such pressure. If there is any pressure at all, to my mind, it would be the pressure which would in part result, perhaps, from the decision of the Tariff Commission. I do not say that it does result from that decision, but if there is any degree of pressure it could only result from that, coupled with his conception of his prime duty as a representative of Tasmania in the Senate. But the fact remains that he, in the light of everything which took place before his appointment to the Tariff Commission, chose to accept the position when it was offered. I submit that if the motion be carried the effect will be that it will restrict the appointment of Royal Commissions on any subject, practically, to non-parliamentarians.
-Col. Gould. - Not at all.
– That could not apply to a Royal Commission that held its meetings on days on which Parliament was not sitting.
– It would apply to all cases except where the whole of the work could be done when Parliament was not sitting. If the motion were carried, and its principle were to be undeviatingly followed, any member of the Senate, if asked to accept the position of Royal commissioner, would first of all have to satisfy himself that the whole ot the work could be done outside the session, or if he were not satisfied that it would be done in recess, he would have at the beginning of the session, if he wished to obey the spirit and letter of this motion, to resign from the body.
– Subject to the Senate granting him leave of absence.
– I submit that if we carry the motion in its present form we shall restrict the -personnel of Royal Commissions in the future to nonparliamentarians, subject to the possibility of the work of the Royal Commission being done outside the session, and subject to the further possibility that, if it is not so done, any Royal commissioner who happens to be a senator may get leave to absent himself from the sittings of the Senate for the purpose of attending to the work of the Royal Commission or resign his commission.
– Is that done in the case of States Parliaments?
– I am not in a position to speak as to what is done in the States Parliaments.
– Thev can sit in the mornings from 10 o’clock until the time when Parliament meets.
– I do not think that Senator Fraser quite understands Senator Clemons’ position. Senator Clemons objects to the Royal Commission holding its sittings in Tasmania, Western Australia, and South Australia during the currency of the present session, as he considers that to do so is, as a general principle, contrary to the practice of Parliament, and to the proper transaction of business. I submit that the motion, in its present form, is one that is not a matter of urgency, and that notice should ha.ve been given of it, so that honorable senators might have been properly equipped to consider it. With regard to the Commission under notice, I would say that the circumstances preceding its appointment, and the responsibilities that every honorable senator, and every member of the other Chamber, who is a member of the Commission undertook in joining it, were thoroughly understood. In view of all the circumstances, I hope that the motion will not be passed.
– I have received a telegram this morning which will cause my absence from the Senate from the 3rd August until about the 12th. I wish to explain that that absence will not be due to business in connexion with the Tariff Commission. I regret that I shall not be able to accompany the Commission. I think I should be wanting in due respect to the Senate if I neglected my parliamentary duties to attend to that work. But I cannot support Senator Clemons’ motion on the grounds set forth bv Senator Keating as to the causes which led to its appointment, and for other reasons. If we were to carry out Senator Clemons’ idea, a Royal Commission that was appointed, and had business to transact which lasted as long as did the first session of the first Parliament of the Commonwealth - some seventeen months - could not sit at all.
– It could sit. but not travel to the far ends of the continent.
– Does the honorable and learned senator say that a Commission might sit during the session in Melbourne?
– Undoubtedly. My position is that members of the Senate ought not to absent themselves from the Senate because they are members of a Royal Commission. That is the only limitation which I impose.
– When this Royal Commission was appointed it decided on a certain course of procedure, namely, that it should take the items in the Tariff as they stand in the Act, from No. 1 to No. 127. 1 did not agree with that view. As soonas I discovered how we were situated, I thought that we ought to takes a certainnumber of industries that were said to be suffering particularly under the present Tariff. But the majority of the membersof the Commission objected to that course. My view was that we ought to obtain a progress report upon certain industries ; but the majority thought that we should sit in Melbourne, and take sufficient evidence toenable us to decide as to which industries were suffering most.
– I must point out that Senator Clemons’ motion embodies, a general proposition. It is perfectly permissible to bring in a particular instance as a reason why the motion- should or should” not be passed, but I do not think that we ought to discuss the whole of the proceedings of the Tariff Commission.
– So much of the proceedings of the Tariff Commission have been brought in to support the motion, that I ought to be permitted, I think, to mentionthe arguments which Weighed with the members of the Commission in deciding togo to Tasmania, Western Australia, and South Australia.
– That does not touch the question, which is, what members of the Senate ought to do.
– I want to show why it may be necessary for members of the Senate to attend the sittings of a Royal’ Commission while Parliament is sitting.
– In WesternAustralia1?
– Perhaps in WesternAustralia
– Then why should not the honorable senator go withthe Commission on this occasion?
– I will explain later on why I think it is not necessary for me to go. We took certain evidence in Mel- bourne. Then we decided to go to Sydney, where we took other evidence. Then we went on to Brisbane. The Chairman of the Commission, upon whom devolves a very great deal of responsibility in connexion with the inquiry, came to the conclusion that if we were to have a progress report prepared before next session, the Commission ought to go first to Tasmania, then to Western Australia, taking the South Australian evidence on the return journey, and then, perhaps, sitting in Melbourne. I did not agree with that view. I urged the Commission to take evidence in Melbourne, sitting in the mornings of the days on which Parliament meets.
– Did the honorable senator differ from that view? What does he mean by saying that “ he did not agree with it “ ?
– I know what the honorable and learned senator means, and will come to that point later on. I did not agree with the proposal to go to other States at this stage, because I thought that, inasmuch as the Victorian evidence had to be taken at some time, it should be completed during the present session, and that to take it now would give members of Parliament who are members of the Commission, and who feel it to be their duty to attend the sittings of Parliament, a chance to attend the meetings of the Commission in the mornings.
– I do not think that that has anything to do with the question. The question is one of general principle.
– I will leave that particular point, and come to the consideration of the reasons which form the basis ot this motion by a senator who is a member of the Commission. I was appointed to the Commission, I believe, at the request of protectionists in the Federal Parliament. Knowing that there will bt; three protectionists on the Commission with three freetraders. I feel that the cause of protection will be put to no disadvantage bv my absence, and I propose to stay here. Other members of Parliament who are on the Commission, can also stay and attend to their duties whilst the Commission goes to Tasmania and Western Australia.
-‘Col. Gould. - Then it will be a mere sectional Commiss’ion.
– For my own part. I thought that too many members of Parliament were placed on the Commission. I believe that we could have done with four parliamentary members and two lay members. I do not think that the Commission will suffer from the absence of two members of Parliament. That is a point that honorable senators who are about to vote on this motion should consider. There is no hardship in certain members being absent from the Commission. Every case considered can be dealt’ with on its merits.
– The honorable senator’s remarks are not very flattering to Senator Clemons and himself.
– I am not concerned’ about that. I am concerned about the common-sense of the whole matter. There is no reason for trying to create great anxiety and alarm about a question of this kind. Exception has been taken to some of the details, brought forward in connexion with the Commission. Senator Clemons referred to the fact that the twolay members voted with the majority in favour of going to Western Australia and Tasmania. What is the suggestion ? What would be suggested to any ordinary man by the statement that the two lav members voted to go away? That they are unconsciously biased in favour of that course. I should like Senator Clemons to explain his meaning more clearly. I think that a certain amount of consideration ought to be given to those two lay members of the Commission. They had every right to vote on such a question.
– But they get consideration.
– I suppose that they get the consideration that the honorable senator was entitled to in connexion with certain lands transactions in New South Wales ; that is to say, clue payment for services rendered. But when I speak of consideration I do not mean that. They were entitled to consideration from the members of the Commission for particular reasons. One of the lay members is a surveyor. The other has a newspaper. Are they to be expected to hang up their business at the will and caprice of members of Parliament? Is it possible for a surveyor to hang up his business for a couple of months? He may have work to do which if done properly, would occupy him for twelve months. Except for the work of the Commission, he might be doing that work. Do honorable senators mean to say that a surveyor who accepts a commission is to remain away from Sydney, which is his home, for two or’ three months, and receive nothing for it; and that he is to come here whenever members of Parliament decide that it is desirable to hold a sitting? The same remarks apply to Mr. Wamsley, who conducts the Journal of Commerce.
-Col. Gould. - The honorable senator has pointed out that it is not possible for them to stay in Melbourne.
– I could ,get no support for my proposal, that the Commission should sit in Melbourne during the session of Parliament.
– The honorable senator never brought it forward.
– Senator Clemons’ remarks seem to be made in answer to those who said that the sittings should be held in Melbourne during the session. The very members who are objecting to the Commission travelling would have objected to the Commission sitting; in Melbourne during the session.
– Suppose they would, how does that affect the question?
– Because they are free-traders, and they do not want the thing to go on. ,
– This is disgraceful ! Senator Playford calls himself the leader of the Senate, and yet he makes a remark like that !
– The leader of the Senate ought to be ashamed of himself.
– The effect of the motion can only be a vote of censure on any senator or other member of Parliament who goes away with the Commission. Why have not honorable senators given some attention to members of this Chamber who have absented themselves, and not on public dutv? Take, for example, the case of an ex-senator, whose absences during the session ran up to ninety-one days, fourteen with leave and seventy-seven without leave. Honorable senators who go with the Tariff Commission will be absent on public business. I need not mention the names of honorable senators who, in our first Parliament, at any rate, were absent for months, sometimes with leave and sometimes without leave ; and yet nothing; was said as to their conduct. We, none of us, can expect to get our own way in everything, though some honorable senators seem to have a desire in that direction. If the majority of the Commission decide to take a certain course, they ought to be allowed to do so. The Commission is a very important one, with great work to do, and the members will have all their work cut out in order to present, by the end of June next year, a complete report concerning all the industries affected.
– I regret extremely that an issue of such importance should be presented to the Senate with so little notice.
– It could not be helped.
– On the spur of the moment I could quote quite a number of reasons why the motion should be carried, and on the other hand I can see a number of possible difficulties to which its adoption would give rise. I, therefore, feel that the question ought not to be presented at this juncture.
– Does the honorable senator know the urgency there is? Did he hear me say that the Commission proposed to gp away next Saturday.
– The motion will not have any effect on the Tariff Commission.
– Pardon me if 1 present the case as it appears to me. An extremely important issue has been raised, and, before it is decided, it ought to engage the best attention of honorable senators, with the fullest possible opportunity for inquiry. We are asked to say that certain procedure is contrary to the usages of Parliament. Some of us are tolerably old parliamentarians, and yet we cannot claim, on the spur of the moment, to be quite conversant with all the usages of Parliament. Whether the motion is desirable is also a question that requires some consideration. I can see how permitting members of Parliament to take dual public duties might be worked by a venal Government against the interests of the people, by giving, those members a responsibility which would be held as a sufficient excuse for their absence from critical divisions. But I am not prepared because of that to say off-hand that I shall vote for the motion. I urge Senator Clemons not to give up the idea - because this is an important question, which should be dealt with - but to withdraw the motion in its present form, and give notice of future action.
– I have not time.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the heavens will fall if the Tariff Commission sits elsewhere than in Victoria, and one or two members of the Senate are away?
– If we adopt the motion there will be no result; the Tariff Commission will pav no attention to it.
– If the motion is pressed now, I shall vote against it on the ground that there is not sufficient evidence before us, and that there has not been sufficient time for thought to justify us in establishing so important a proposition by the declaration of the Senate. It might be necessary to make such a declaration, and, after consideration, I might feel it my duty_, to give it my support. But I have not ““information enough now, and. having regard to the importance of the issue, and the great possibilities involved, I strongly urge Senator Clemons to withdraw the motion for the present. I make this suggestion, notwithstanding the fact that the Commission may sit on Saturday or Monday,, or for a week or a fortnight, in Tasmania; and because this is a question which we ought to hare time to carefully consider.
– But honorable senators who are members of the Commission would have to be absent the whole of the session if they attend all its sittings.
– I do not see how that follows.
– The honorable senator was not here when I introduced the motion.
– If the Tariff Commission go to Western Australia honorable senators could be back here in, at any rate, a couple of months. Suppose I am compelled on the spur of the moment to make a decision. I regard it as a less injury that two or more members of Parliament should have a divided allegiance in a double set of duties - both duties being important in the public interest - for a couple of months than that the Senate should rush to a decision upon an issue involving extremely important considerations. For those reasons I submit that it would be better, in the interests of Parliament, not to make a declaration such as that proposed, until we have had time for investigation. Without expressing an opinion definitely on the issue, I say that if the motion is forced to a division now I shall feel it my duty to vote against it.
– Excepting Senator Trenwith, none of the honorable senators who have spoken have really grappled with the point that Senator Clemons submitted. Senator Trenwith has undoubtedly directed attention to the great principle which underlies this motion, but I think that, in all probability, if the honorable senator had been here when Senator Clemons submitted the motion he would have seen strong reasons-
– That is why I say we should have notice of such a motion.
– I was only going to say that Senator Trenwith would then have seen strong reasons for the course Senator Clemons has taken, and, in the next place, I am quite certain that what Senator Clemons has said would not only have convinced Senator Trenwith that the former was right in what I may call the diagnosis of the principle of the motion, but would have induced him to give effect to the diagnosis bv his vote. Senators Higgs and Keating have altogether overlooked what the motion means. Senator Keating displayed most extraordinary facility for going all round the questionand discussing everything that was irrelevant - discussing some matters that have no bearing on the situation, and other matters that, if they have a bearing, it is in relation to ‘ the Tariff Commission itself and its objects and functions. As to the Tariff Commission itself, there is no word1 in the motion ; there is no inference to be drawnfrom the motion that it assails the Commission, or seeks to interfere with the execution, in the fullest possible way, of itsfunctions.
– The motion deals, not with the Tariff Commission, but with all Commissions.
– The motion meansthat an honorable senator must not absent himself under any circumstances.
– Nonsense !
– Wehave had shouts from the honorable sena”tor, who ought to be leading the Senate with something like dignity, as to freetraders and other irrelevant matters. Senator Playford knows that such remarks have no bearing on the motion, and it is time that he, from his experience, should have learnt that that kind of thing is altogether inappropriate from any honorable senator, and’ particularly from the man who professes to be leading the Senate on behalf of the Government. I was pointing out that themotion does not assail the Tariff Commission - that it does not interfere with thework of the Commission, nor with that on- which so much stress was laid by Senator Keating, namely, the power of the Commission to report every day of the week if it pleases, or whenever it is in a position to give the Executive, and Parliament through the Executive, the benefit of the inquiry.
– Where is the urgency ?
– If my honorable friend will exercise a little reticence, I shall answer his question in a moment. All the motion does is to” deal with the position of members of Parliament, and of the Senate in particular - because we can deal only with our own members - who happen to be members of Royal Commissions. The motion merely amounts to an intimation or expression of opinion from the Senate that, to change the phraseology for a moment, it is undesirable for honorable senators to be obliged to absent themselves from the duties they are sent here to discharge, in order to take part in the work of a Royal Commission in another State.
– The motion is not mandatory, and honorable senators who are members of the Commission may! refuse to comply with it.
– Certainly. A member of this Chamber cannot be absent unless he is granted leave ; and! is it not much better to have the matter dealt with on a motion of this kind than on a motion for leave of absence to such, senators as happen to be on a Royal Commission? Every honorable senator likes to have his leave of absence recorded, especially when he is absent in the discharge of what he regards as a public duty.
– The Constitution provides that a senator may be absent for two months without leave.
– That is the limit, after which an absent member forfeits his seat. It is the usual practice, though it is not always followed, for honorable senators to get their leave of absence recorded, in order to show that they have the permission of the Senate, and if they are absent on public duty that is a proper and) expedient course to take. Senator Higgs for himself says, “ I am going to remain in Melbourne, because the primary interests which have to be considered in my case are the interests of the Parliament, where my duty lies.” The honorable senator’s excuse is that there would be seven members left on the Commission, who would do the work quite as well without him. I do not know that that would be the case, but that is what Senator Higgs’ modesty leads him to say. But if the conscience of the other parliamentary members of the Tariff Commission were as sensitive as the conscience of Senator! Higgs-
– We would sit in Melbourne then ?
– If the conscience of the other members were as sensitive as that of the honorable senator they would say what he does, and would leave the work of this gigantic Commission, which is . to give such magnificent results in the interests of the country, to be discharged by the non-parliamentarian members, or without a quorum to transact it. Senator Higgs says that the Commission would then sit in Melbourne. Exactly, and that is the solution of the whole difficulty. I cannot understand the honorable senator. He says, I will vote against this motion because, although the Commission can use.fully employ its time in Melbourne without interference with the parliamentary duties of its members, when I proposed that I was defeated.”
– I gave way out of respect to Sir John Quick.
– I am very glad to hear it, and I think that respect ought to be shown to Sir John Quick. I thought there was a distinct motion, but of course I know nothing of the matter but from what my honorable friend has said. The honorable senator must see now, as the result of his argument, that there might be no quorum. To that the honorable senator says, “ The Commission could sit in Melbourne, then.” I say, exactly so. What is this motion? Some criticism was directed against it by Senator Keating, of a very shallow character, I am bound to say, to the effect that it is too general and vague.
– I said that it was so general and vague that notice of it should have been divert, and it should not have been treated as a matter of urgency
– The (honorable and learned senator [Criticised it because it was too general and vague.
– I beg the honorable and learned senator’s pardon, I did nothing of the kind. I contended that on account of its vagueness it was not a matter of urgency.
– But the honorable and learned senator said he would oppose it because it was expressed in this form.
– Does the honorable and learned senator deny that statement?
– I said I would oppose the motion because it was not sufficiently restricted. I would oppose it until honorable senators had an opportunity for reflection to make up their minds.
– Of what use is it to be dodging about the thing in this way ?
– I rise to a point of order. I remind honorable senators that at the conclusion of mv remarks-
– I object to this j the honorable and learned senator proposes to make a speech.
– As a matter of personal explanation.
– I object.
– If an honorable senator is misrepresented by another,- he is entitled - when the honorable senator who has misrepresented him resumes his seat - to ask leave to make a personal explanation, in order to inform the Senate of the way in which he has been misrepresented.
– I shall take that opportunity when Senator Symon has concluded his remarks.
– That will be a more convenient time. . It struck me as a very important point, if there was anything, in it. and the motion was vague and general. I ask honorable senators to consider the substance of the motion, lt seems to me that nothing could be better than the way in which it has been put. It is quite impersonal ; it does not refer to any individual or to any particular Commission. It is as tender of the Chairman of the Tariff Commission as it ought to be.
– Where does the urgency come in, then?
– My honorable friend will hear that in a minute. I propose to deal with that.
– Because the Tariff Commission proposes to go to Tasmania on Saturday next?
– Surely it would not be polite to Senator Keating to leave his argument about the vagueness of the motion unanswered ?
– Does not the honorable and learned senator think that the words “attending the sittings of a Royal Commission “ might bt left out?
– The first thing I point out is that the motion is so framed, as Senator Clemons has explained, as to wound nobody’s feelings. It is impersonal in every sense, and impersonal in so far as it makes no reference to the Tariff Commission at all. That is a very desirable thing. The honorable and learned senator has referred sufficiently to the occasion for bringing the motion forward. The crucial example, so to speak, is the proposed action of the Tariff Commission, as disclosed by what we have seen in the press. We have no disclosures as to what has taken place in the Commission beyond what , we have seen stated in the press. The motion has been framed in such a way as to keep out all manner of heat and reference to the discussions about file appointment of the Tariff Commission that took place in another House, a good deal of which would not” be profitable or instructive matter for debate now. Senator Clemons has stated facts showing the desirability of having this question settled at once. There is a divided duty. What is it ? The difference between the duty which a member of the Senate owes to the electors who have sent him here and those which he owes to another body appointed in the exercise of the Royal prerogative. I say that, as between the duty to a Royal Commission and the duty to this Senate, there is no comparison. The duty of an honorable senator to the Senate stands first. We are all here representing our constituents, and if there is any conflict between these two forms of duty, it is the duty of an’ honorable senator to be here. All that Senator Clemons says is. “ I am not going to have pressure put upon me to give up the duties I have undertaken on the Tariff Commission. They can be exercised perfectly consistently with my duties here. I invite an expression of opinion from the ‘ Senate as to whether it is proper for a member of the Senate to absent himself from his duties in this chamber as a representative of the people in order that he may discharge other duties under a commission issued by the Royal prerogative.” All that my honorable and learned friend seeks is an intimation of the opinion of the Senate. If the Senate says that it is his duty to absent himself from this chamber
– We should not necessarily say that by voting against the motion.
– Undoubtedly we should.
– Nothing of the kind.
– We should, for this reason : If the Tariff Commission is sitting, as Senator Higgs suggests, in Melbourne, it can sit in the morning, or even in the afternoon, so long as the presence of honorable senators who are members of it is available if required.
– That is often done.
– We know perfectly well that the Tariff Commission has not completed its labours in Melbourne. We know that from what has been said to-day, and from the fact that an intimation appears in the press this morning that a question is to be asked in another place as to whether the Commission has reported on particular items. We know that nothing has so far been concluded.
– And nothing can be concluded until the Commission visits the other States.
– That may be so. We know that certain industries in Victoria have no analogies, for instance, in Western Australia.
– But the imposition of duties in connexion with these industries »will affect consumers in other States.
– My honorable friend will see that this is a commission of inquiry to ascertain facts, and it can recommend nothing in the way of policy.
– It can recommmend anything it pleases.
– No, it cannot. My honorable friend is mistaken. There is great misapprehension about that. The Commission cannot recommend anything as to a matter of policy ; but I do not wish to discuss that subject.
– It can make any recommendations it chooses.
– The point is whether the Senate is going to sanction certain of its members absenting themselves in order to follow the wanderings of this Commission in other States, when they might be absent, as Senator Clemons has pointed out, and as we have seen in the press, for the whole of the session.
– It is a fact. ^ Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON.- If the Commission is not to be away for more than a day or two there is an end of the matter. But it is announced that it is going to Tasmania, then to Western Australia, and then to South Australia. These are the facts which have been made public, and which are now before us. T.he position is that Senator Clemons asks the Senate whether, in its opinion, it is a proper thing for members of the Senate to absent themselves in the way suggested.
– If the honorable and learned senator will excuse me, that statement removes the motion from the general and makes it particular.
– What statement ?
– The honorable and learned senator’s reference to the Tariff Commission, in this connexion, would make this motion particular and not general.
– My honorable friend will see that the occasion for the motion is a resolution of the Tariff Commission. There would be no absenting of honorable senators from their duty if the Commission were sitting here, and the motion would be inapplicable. It can only be applicable if the Commission goes away to some other State. Senator Keating made some reference to the proceedings of Select Committees, but the position under this motion is infinitely stronger than that which arises in connexion with a Select Committee. A Select Committee is chosen from amongst members of Parliament, and sits practically during a session, but notwithstanding the fact that it sits in the same building during the session there must be a resolution giving the permission of the House appointing the Select Committee to enable it to sit while that House is actually in session. What could be stronger than that? That is all that Senator Clemons’ motion amounts to. That that concession is granted only in exceptional circumstances is apparent from the ordinary practice of Parliament. That was laid down by the President in language which I think cannot be improved upon, and I shall therefore read the part of the passage to which reference has been made, which was not read before. The President said -
I do not say that in other parts of the world such leave has not been given.
That is leave to sit in another State.
In England leave is sometimes given to a Select Committee to sit while the House is sitting, but, so far as I can gather from May, who is not very explicit on the subject, that leave is only given to members of Select Committees to sit in London -
That is as it were in Melbourne, so that they might be summoned at a moment’s notice when there is a division in the House.
How much stronger must the position be in the case of a Royal Commission, which is not under the control of Parliament at all, but is appointed by the Royal prerogative. It is but an accident that members of Parliament happen to be members of the Tariff Commission. It was an accident brought about by the strong desire expressed elsewhere that members of Parliament should be on the Commission, that they might be available to express certain views if certain matters came up for discussion. A Royal Commission might be constituted entirely of persons who are not members of Parliament. But if there are members of Parliament appointed to a Royal Commission for any particular reason, such as it has been suggested existed in this particular case, then certainly they ought not to be absent from Parliament, in order to perform their duties on a prerogative body. Senator Playford intimated that the motion would have no effect if carried. Why not?.’ My belief is that such an intimation from the Senate would be respected by the- Commission.
– Hear, hear ! it ought to be.
– I think it would be. It would be an extraordinary Commission that would not respect such an intimation, especially if its duties could be performed successfully on the spot without interefering with the obligation which every honorable senator owes to those who sent him here. Surely it is a serious thing that three members of the Senate should absent themselves from their duties in this Chamber.
– Some honorable senators would be glad to be rid of us, I am sure. ‘
– No; unpleasant as my honorable friend sometimes is, I would not. All that this motion proposes is to obtain an expression of opinion from the Senate, which I am perfectly certain would be taken notice of and given effect to by the Commission. The
Commission, I am sure, would, in the circumstances, restrict the performance of its duties to Melbourne, as it might do successfully. When it had completed its duties here, other considerations might arise. At present it has not completed them. The information obtained by the Commission already is, I have no doubt, considerable, although the report it has presented does not amount” to much. But other reports we hope we shall have. This motion, if passed, would “not interfere with the Commission continuing the inquiry and making reports when it pleased. It would simply intimate the constitutional principle that the duty of a senator is to be in the Senate chamber in order to discharge his responsibilities to his State rand to his constituents.
– As a matter of personal explanation, I wish to point out that my reference to the general terms of the motion was made with a view to pointing out that, as it was drafted, there was no necessity for it to be dealt wth as a matter of urgency. In my concluding remarks, I said that, as drawn, it would, in mv opinion, under certain circumstances which I indicated, restrict the selection of Royal commissioners in future to nonparliamentarians, and that for that and other reasons,. I thought that notice should have been given of it, in order that honorable senators might come to its discussion fully equipped.
– It is to be regretted that the floor of the Senate should be made the scene of the troubles of the Tariff Commission. It is quite evident from the reports we have heard from time to time that there are troubles amongst its members, but it is verv hard to’ understand why the scene should be shifted in this way. I could understand Senator Clemons objecting to the Tariff Commission meeting in other States, if he were in favour of its meeting in this building while Parliament was sitting. But I understand from the remarks of Senator Higgs that he is opposed to that.
– First of all, Senator Higgs bad no right to make the statement, and, secondly, the honorable senator has no right to make the inference he hai drawn from it.
– I made the inference from the remarks of Senator Higgs,, and I shall be pleased to know whether the honorable and learned senator is in favour of the Tariff Commission meeting in this building, if it can be conveniently done, as the Navigation Commission did. while Parliament was sitting.
– We have never considered that question.
– Why did not the honorable and learned senator support my motion for the Tariff Commission to sit in Melbourne?
– I never heard the motion.
– From Senator Higgs I now learn that a motion to sit in Melbourne was moved, and that Senator Clemons failed to support it.
– Apparently, I was not there.
– It is quite evident that, no matter where the Tariff Commission may meet, it will not suit the honorable and learned senator. The time of the Senate should not be taken up with a squabble which ought to be settled by that body; it should not be asked to express an opinion in this matter. With Senator Trenwith I quite see the danger in laying down a precedent, if it is only to satisfy the personal whim of a member of the Royal Commission. I think that the Senate would only be doing the right thing by disclaiming all responsibility in the matter. Senator Clemons has an easy escape from the responsibility which has been placed on his shoulders as a. Royal commissioner. If he does not wish to attend the meetings of the Tariff Commission, let him resign his commission. Why should the time of the Senate be taken up with the consideration of a matter with which it is not sufficiently conversant to deal ? . If Senator Clemons does not wish to attend the meetings of the Royal Commission, we have no power to censure him. If it were the case of a Select Committee, the Senate would have some control, and I could understand the honorable and learned senator seeking an expression of its opinion. I hold that the Senate ought to refuse to recognise his complaint. I do not regard it as a genuine one. The fact that he did not support a proposal to meet in Melbourne is the best argument which oan be advanced that he wishes the business of the Tariff Commission to be hung up for, as has been said outside, party reasons. We know that a party feeling exists on the Tariff Commission, and why should the differences prevailing between the free-traders and protectionists in its number be introduced here? It is very unseemly that it should be introduced, considering that we have very important matters to consider.
– Who introduced it?
– The leader of the Senate was the only one who brought it here.
– The Senate is not the place for ventilating these disputes.
– It is an absolute fact, though, that they exist.
– I think it is a matter of questionable taste on the part of Senator Clemons to introduce this matter, and I hope that the Senate will resent the motion’ being brought forward in this manner.
– I hope that Ave shall not allow any party feeling or prejudice to interfere with our consideration of a matter which really concerns the Senate as a body. The case involves not only a personal, but also a State aspect. The former concerns Senator Clemons, but at the same time it is one which deserves our consideraton. He was sent here to represent the people of Tasmania in this, the States House. He was honoured by the Governor-General, acting for the King, with a commission to discharge certain duties, which he believed he could carry out consistently with the duty he owed primarily to his constituents. It was a fair assumption on his part when he accepted the appointment that he would not be called upon to do any work which would interfere with his legislative duties. A position has arisen, however, which affects the interests of his State. He is called upon by a majority of the Tariff Commission to absent himself from the Senate for, according to the programme that has been made out, the remainder of the session. If he goes away, whether his interests or Tasmania’s1 interests require him to be present or not, he will not be able to attend the sittings of the Senate during the rest of this year. Where should he apply for relief but to those who are associated with him in the Senate? What are the rights of the people of Tasmania? The Tariff Commission has decided to leave next Saturday Tor Tasmania to hold sittings there. “ Many persons holding opposite opinions believe that it will be necessary for the representative of Tasmania to be present to look after her interests, and to see that information of importance to her is brought out.
– Surely they do not expect him to be in two places at once.
– I think there was only one gentleman who could see the possibility of a senator being in two places at once.
– Do they expect him to be in both places?
– Naturally when an important matter affecting largely the interests of Tasmania arises, and such a one is within reasonable prospect of being discussed, the electors expect Senator Clemons and other senators representing the State to be in their places here, and not on a Royal Commission. What are we asked to do? To make an affirmation which will have, or ought to have, the effect of causing a Royal. Commission to hold its sittings in Melbourne during a session of Parliament. Surely that is reasonable. I have not heard a solid argument against it, except one which was advanced by Senator Trenwith, who desires to act with caution.
– Senator Clemons did not support the motion of Senator Higgs.
– l t was never moved, ns I have told the honorable senator more than once. I never had a chance of supporting it.
– I hope that we shall hot be called upon to discuss that of which we 00 not know anything. Let the members of the Tariff Commission settle the point amongst themselves. If when the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill is being discussed a senator from Tasmania is absent, and by reason of his absence the points which that State has to urge against the proposal are not DrOperly submitted or dealt with, he will have to answer a very grave charge when he meets his constituents. If Senator de Largie were called upon to proceed to Tasmania when that Bill was being considered, would he consider that he was doing his duty to his State if he were not present in the Senate to advocate what he considers its interests ?
– The Senate is not sending Senator Clemons to Tasmania.
– We are virtually asked to afford the only possible relief which can be given to Senator Clemons by an expression of opinion, but there is a large principle underlying the motion, for it applies to all future Royal Commissions.
– That is the point from which it ought to be viewed.
– Yes. but I can not see that it would preclude a member of the Senate from being a member of a Royal Commission in the future. It merely affirms the principle that a Royal Commission should Fry to hold its meetings at convenient? periods and places, if it is comprised of politicians, as such bodies very largely are, so as to allow honorable senators to attend to their legislative duties.
– There is only one way, I think, of looking at this matter, and it appears to me to be very simple. At the earliest possible moment we ought to lay down some practice with regard to Ro, al commissioners who are also parliamentarians. As we have carefully provided by standing order that a Select Committee shall not sit while the Senate is sitting, so we ought to lay down a similar rule with regard to. a Royal Commission, where out of eight members six are parliamentarians. The reason for the standing order about Select Committees is obvious. The Senate rightly holds the view that the making of laws is a far more important duty on the part of a senator than the collection of evidence or the making of inquiries. Let us look at this matter from a constitutional standpoint. Here we have the representative of the King appointing certain gentlemen to act on a Royal Commission. Was it ever understood by those gentlemen when they accepted the appointment that the King’s representative was to some extent ordering them away from their primary duty of helping to carry on the government of the country? Such a thing is monstrous to my mind. Even if we pass the motion we ought at once to refer the matter lo the Standing Orders Committee.
– We ought to do that first.
– We ought to refer the matter immediately to the Standing Orders Committee, and lay down the rule that our paramount duty is to be here to help to carry out legislation.
– Supposing that Parliament found it necessary to appoint representatives in Great Britain to discuss some important constitutional question involving the interference of the ‘Commonwealth by the Imperial Parliament, what then ?
– The honorable senator has forgotten the meaning of the standing order, which goes on to forbid a Select Committee to sit when the Senate is sitting, except by leave. In any matter of importance leave would be granted as a matter of course. One cannot help referring to the remarks which Senator Clemons made in leading up to his motion. It is perfectly plain that those members of Parliament who belong to the Tariff Commission are expected to be absent from the Seat of- Government for three and a half months out of a period of four and a half months. I ask whether that is a right and proper thing for honorable senators to do, and for our Standing Orders to permit? I submit that it is absolutely wrong, arid that we have no business to permit it. Senator Keating did not go to the kernel of the matter. He laid it down that it was open to any honorable senator to refuse to serve on a Commission. I think that my) honorable and learned friend was wrong. He forgets that the House of Representatives unanimously ‘decided, not by resolution, but by the spirit of its discussion, that the bulk of the members of this Royal Commission /should be members of Parliament. That decision having been given, the Government of the day were charged with the duty of finding four members of another place, and two members of. the Senate, who would serve on the Commission. I venture to say that the members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate who accepted commissions, never dreamt for a moment that, having served the greater part of seven months while Parliament was out of session, they would be called upon to serve three months and a half out of the next five months. We cannot expect members of Parliament to ‘ neglect the performance of their duties for so long a period. A question which I asked, and which Senator Keating did not answer, is whether we are to do our business in such a slip-shod way that when a man like Senator Higgs, who is Chairman o’f Committees - and we know that he has been most attentive to his duties - becomes a member of a Royal Commission, he is to allow that Commission to take him away month by month?
– But I am not going.
– But the honorable senator can go. Senator Keating did not answer the point, whether such a man is to continue to draw his salary as Chairman of Committees, and from the ist of July his salary as a member of the Royal Commission, both at the same time.
– There is no salary for being a member of a Royal Commission.
– Are we to have members of Parliament flitting about and being paid two salaries in two capacities? As I understand, there is an allowance of 25s. per day for sitting on a Royal Commission. Is the present Government in favour of granting this allowance to a man. who is paid a salary for doing something else, and who, while dragged away fromParliament, would not be able to do the work for which he is paid ?
– I rise to order. I ask whether Senator Dobson is entitled to proceed on the assumption that I am going away with the Royal Commission when I distinctly stated that I am not?
– I quite understand that Senator Higgs said that he is not going. He has said so very clearly. I do not see how my honorable friend could have come to any other decision. I do not see how it would be possible for him to be Chairman of Committees, and to absent himself for three months. We ought not only to carry this motion, but to have astanding order regulating the .conduct of senators who are from time to time put upon Royal Commissions. I do not quiteagree with Senator Trenwith in thinkingthat this particular case is of such vast importance, because I believe that we shall not for a generation or two have a Royal Commission which will take up the time of itsmembers as this one has done. Therefore, the action which Senator Clemons has taken refers to this Commission only. But I hope we shall see the necessity of adopting some standing order which will compel honorable senators to be present unless they are granted leave of absence on account of ill health or urgent private affairs. Certainly they ought not to be absent on other public affairs,! because their first publicduty demands their presence in this Chamber.
– I am sorry that this motion has been brought forward, because, no matter how we may look at it, we cannot help seeing that the position isthat there is a member of this Senate whois a member of a Royal Commission, and who, because he cannot get his own way on the Commission-
– That is a nice way to put it !
– It looks very much like it. does it not?
– Suppose that is so ; what then?
– I only say that I am sorry that the motion has been brought forward, because it looks as if a member who is outvoted on the Commission has brought up the matter for the arbitrament of the Senate. I ask honorable senators to judge whether the Senate is the proper body to decide such a matter. When a Royal Commission has been appointed by the Government of the day it certainly ought to have the conduct of its business in its own hands, and should not be interfered with.
– We. are not interfering with it in any way
– Then why is the matter brought forward at all? I understand that it is brought forward because of a certain resolution which has been passed by the Commission. Therefore, it is an attempt to review the decision of the Commission.
– Absolutely nothing of the kind.
– The ‘honorable and learned senator said, only a short time ago, that he had not the slightest doubt that the Commission would bow ito the views of the Senate on this matter, and go on with its business in Melbourne, instead -of visiting Tasmania, Western Australia, and South Australia. Does not that imply that we are doing something to induce the Commission to alter its decision? Of course we are. Why should we do so? Why should we assume that members of that Commission who are members of Parliament are likely to neglect the interests of their constituents by absenting themselves from Parliament for a length of time? I was formerly a member of the Commission, and I told my fellow commissioners that my first duty was to my constituents, and not to the Commission.
– Mine is not, I supnose?
– The honorable and learned senator need not go.
– What ought I to do? Resign my membership of the Commission ?
– Special provision is made in the commission that four members shall be a quorum,, and shall be able to take evidence and conduct the business. In my opinion, it is a great pity that commissions are not fewer in number. If that were the case, it would lead to a shortening of the cross-examinations which prolong the proceedings. But shall we be doing right in passing a motion which casts a slur on this Senate, by saying that there are members who would neglect the duty they owe to their constituents because a Commission has resolved’ to sit in other States whilst Parliament is sitting?
– This motion will relieve them from the obligation.
– They owe no obligation of the kind to the Commission. They need not attend unless they like; and unless the Commission can get’ a quorum to carry on business, it cannot take evidence.
– Does the honorable senator apply that argument to all the members of Parliament on the Commission ?
– Yes, I do.
– Then the Commission certainly could not get a quorum.
– Of course, it could not get a quorum if members of Parliament did not attend. Then I suppose it would have to meet in Melbourne. But why pass a motion which implies that there are members of the Senate who would be guilty of neglecting the interests of their constituents because, by going on a Commission, they might get certain emoluments? That is the idea which I have heard passing round the chamber. Why does the motion refer simply to “a Royal Commission ? “ I admit that I agree with the spirit of what is proposed. Of course, I can quite understand that if at a particular time there is not much business before Parliament, or not much business of importance, a member can readily get a pair ; and under those circumstances he might go away with a Royal Commission for a week or two. lj am certain that Senator Clemons’ constituents would not suffer if he went away with this Commission for a week or two under such circumstances.
– The honorable senator’s affairs are not mine, and he is not an elector of Tasmania.
– No, I am not.
– Then let the honorable senator leave my affairs alone. »
– Why should I be insulted in this way ?
– Because the honorable senator cannot speak without gross insinuations.
– I agree with the motion so far as its principle is concerned, but we have no right to put at the head of it the declaration that certain senators are about to absent themselves from the Senate for the purpose of attending the sittings of a RoyalCommission. Why is the objection confined to Royal Commissions? If we are to pass a motion, why not make its terms general ? Why should we not prevent a senator from absenting himself to attend to his private affairs? Yet we constantly pass motions giving senators leave of absence on account of urgent private business. If we pass such a motion at all, we should make it apply to those who neglectpublic business to attend to private business. But why pass such a motion at all ? It will have no effect upon the Tariff Commission. The Commission is not bound by anything that this Senate does.
– The motion does not try to bind it.
– The argument has been used that no doubt the Commission will pay great attention to the motion.
– Probably it will.
– If there is a standing order in both Houses, Commissions will have to be bound by it.
– Even a standing order would not bind a Royal Commission. If the honorable and learned senator will amend his motion I shall be inclined to vote for it. In the first place, the motion states that the absence of senators is “ contrary to the practice of Parliament.” I do not see that it is. I quite agree that it is contrary to the proper transaction of business that senators should absent themselves.
– The honorable senator agrees with the motion, but he thinks it ought to be more comprehensive ?
– It should be a genera] motion, in the first place.
– One thing at a time.
– Tosay that for members to absent themselves is “ contrary to the practice of Parliament “ is not correct.
– Oh, yes.
– But it is not. A Royal Commission is an outside body altogether. If Senator Clemons will agree to strike out the latter part of the motion
– No, I will not.
– Then I shall vote against it.
– The honorable senator can vote as he likes.
– It is unfortunate that this debate has taken place at this particular time. No matter how honorable senators may protest, it is evident that this motion can refer only to the present position of the Tariff Commission. It would be nonsense to think otherwise, and I trust honorable senators will not too hastily come to a conclusion, but will pay some heed to the advice tendered by Senator Trenwith. What is a Royal Commission appointed for? In dealingwith this matter, I shall, as far as possible, refrain from any allusion to the Tariff Commission. A Royal Commission is appointed to inquire into some matter of great importance and urgency to the community. Is that not the object of every Royal Commission ? Who appoints Royal Commissions? So far as I understand, Royal Commissions are appointed by the Crown.
– That is a fiction in connexion with Royal Commissions.
– I am speaking of Royal Commissions which are appointed by the Governor-General, as the representative of the Crown.
– The GovernorGeneral is advised by. the Executive of Parliament.
– Except on very few occasions, Parliament has taken very little account of who are appointed Royal commissioners, and yet the motion before us affirms that certain procedure is contrary to the practice of Parliament. The legal members of this Chamber who have already spoken ought to know a little more about the practice of Parliament before they begin to talk about the matter. We all remember the Drayton Grange Royal Commission, appointed in consequence of an occurrence which involved the sacrifice of the lives of a number of individuals. The Executive imagined, or were made aware, that if a Royal Commission was not appointed to make an inquiry, Parliament and the public would call them to account. A Royal Commission was appointed while Parliament was sitting, and it was found necessary for the members, amongst whom were parliamentary representatives, to visit Sydney and other places for the purpose of hearing evidence while the session was in progress. I was a member of that Commission, and it was the only occasion . on which I have ever absented myself from my parliamentary duties, whether in the State or under the Commonwealth. Did any honorable senator take exception to what was clone iti the case of the Drayton Grange Commission? Why. was not the practice then nipped in the bud ? I suppose there was no necessity for any action at that time. But there may be a similar accident or incident to make a Royal ‘Commission absolutely necessary. If Parliament was sitting, and the Governor-General, on the advice of the Executive Council, appointed two or three members of the Senate as members of a Royal Commission, can it be thought that a motion of this kind would stand in the way ? Certainly not ; and that is why I agree with Senator Trenwith that we should consider what the ultimate effect of such a motion may be. Having devoted that consideration to the subject, we could calmly come to a; conclusion and vote accordingly, but we ought not to arrive at a decision after a heated discussion of this description, having regard to possible vital consequences. Senator Dobson and several other honorable senators spoke of the official position of honorable members of this Senate, and described Senator Higgs as likely to draw two salaries. It would seem that the legal mind can never be raised above fees, and that the habit is strong even in this Chamber. Both in South Australia and under the Commonwealth it has been the practice to appoint members of Parliament as members of Royal Commissions, and no objection has been raised ; and it is absurd to speak of such a procedure as contrary to the practice^ of Parliament. When I was elected to the Federal Parliament, I knew that Royal Commissions would be appointed, and I was -fully prepared to take what work of the kind might fall to my share. We are responsible, first to our constituents, and then to the Government, His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, or His Majesty himself, in connexion with Royal Commissions. I am prepared to meet my, constituents under all the circumstances which have been described, and no honorable senator is asked to do more, no matter whether he goes with a Royal Commission to Timbuctoo or anywhere else. So far as concerns the Government in relation to Royal Commissions, every honorable senator can please himself, but he has to answer to his constituents with regard to his attendance, in this Chamber. If this motion be carried, honorable senators and members of another place will in the future hesitate very seriously before taking a seat on a Royal ‘Commission of any description, and I do not think that would be a desirable result.
– Does the honorable senator express any opinion as to whether members of Parliament should be members of Royal Commissions ?
– The answer to that question all depends on circumstances. After the Governor-General has appointed a. Royal Commission, it is not within the province of the Senate or the House of Representatives to dictate the way in which it shall transact its business. After their appointment, the members of a Commission meet together and review the urgency of the case, and, having come to the conclusion that a certain course of action would be best in the interests of the inquiry, they carry out their duty to the best of their ability. That is my opinion ; if there are honorable senators who hold a contrary opinion, well, they may express it.
– How generous !
– I have put the position as it appears to me, and whether honorable members regard the motion as affecting the present position of the Tariff Commission, or any Commission, they mav have in- view, they ought to consider well before taking action which may be fraught with results so serious.
– It would appear that honorable senators, who are members of the Tariff Commission, are regarded as very important members of this Chamber. It is quite clear to me that the motion refers to the Tariff Commission, and not, for instance, to the Old-age Pensions Commission, of which I have the honour to be a member. What a difference there seems to be in the value of a single member now as compared to twelve months ago, when a Select Committee appointed by this Chamber was ordered to pursue its inquiries in Brisbane, although Parliament was in session at the time.
– The Select Committee was not ordered to go to Brisbane, but got leave to go there.
– Leave was given, by motion of the Senate, and that action was taken in order to save expense.
– The motion was carried, with a strong animadversion from the President.
– Now we are told that it is contrary to parliamentary practice for one honorable senator to be absent on such a duty.
– There would be three honorable senators absent.
– All need nol: go with the Royal Commission. In the case of the Old-age Pensions Commission, there are seven members, but the- whole of them do not travel, four being a quorum. As to our duty to our constituents, the case has been well put by my friend, the leader of the Labour Party. That is a matter for the consideration of every member himself. I urge, with all respect, that it is not for the Senate to say where a member of the Chamber may or may not go; and, moreover, under the Constitution we may absent ourselves for two months without forfeiting our seats. But it is one little matter which more particularly causes me to address the Chamber. I allude to the not very nice reference by Senator Dobson to Senator Higgs, our Chairman of Committees, who, he said, desired to go away with the Tariff Commission in order that he might draw two salaries.
– Senator Dobson did not say that.
– Senator Dobson said that it would not be desirable that the Chairman of Committees should go away.
– I may not have caught the words correctly, but my impression was that Senator Dobson insinuated that Senator Higgs was quite willing to go away and draw two salaries.
– Senator Dobson implied quite the opposite.
– But Senator Dobson mentioned two salaries.
– Senator Dobson said that that might be the result.
– When such remarks are made bv an honorable senator like Senator Dobson, who knows that the suggestion is without foundation, is it any wonder that people outside are continually “ rubbing it in “ to us about drawing salaries as members of Royal Commissions or Select Committees, in addition to salary as members? We all know that we could not draw a “ salary “ without losing our seats, and Senator Dobson is aware that members of Parliament are not paid as members of Royal ‘Commissions under the Commonwealth, though they are in some of the States. Similar insinuations were made during the visit of the Old-age Pensions Commission to Western Australia by one of the newspapers. I understand that it is the practice in Western Australia to pay members of Royal Commissions £2 as. a day and expenses, and this gave rise to a wrong impression, which was only dissipated when the Chairman of the Old-age Pensions Commission made a public denial. Senator Dobson has not yet contradicted the wrong impression he conveyed. I am at one with Senators Trenwith and McGregor in urging that we have not had sufficient time in which to consider this motion. What will be the effect of the motion if it be passed? Is it intended that it shall apply to all Royal Commissions? How does the mover, and those who support him, arrive at the conclusion that such a motion is necessary to this or any other Royal Commission? Of course, Senator Clemons is shaking his head in that superior manner with which we have become familiar, when the honorable senator knows that he is play.ing a losing game. Such a device may be ivery well before a jury, but is ineffective in a Chamber of this kind. As I said before, I take the motion to apply only to the (Tariff Commission, although the wording is so wide as to embrace all Royal Commissions.
– Does the honorable senator know the wording of the motion ?
– I have heard it read, and I should have been glad if Senator Clemons could have seen his way to postpone the matter, that we might thrash it out properly when some of us are a little cooler. The matter dealt with is of such vital importance that we would do well to think it over. If the motion is forced to a division now I shall have to vote against it, whatever course I” may be led to adopt afterwards. If appears to me to be absolutely…unnecessary at present, and if it applies’ at all, it applies only to one Royal Commission.
– There is some contradiction in the arguments addressed to the Senate by honorable senators who have spoken from the opposite benches. Senator McGregor, if I gather the purport of his remarks, has affirmed that it is desirable that members of the Senate, who are appointed to Royal Commissions, should attend first to the duties of those Commissions, while Senator Higgs, on the other hand, makes an equally definite affirmation that it is undesirable that they should do so. The honorable senator even went so far as to say that he would not absent himself from the sittings of the Senate.
– I said that members of the Senate who are members of a Royal Commission should suit themselves.
– Does the honorable senator propose to follow the Tariff Commission in all its travels? The honorable senator is discreetly silent.
– It all depends on what is proposed.
– I believe I am stating the views put forward by Senator McGregor. I take it that his attitude was that an honorable senator appointed to a Royal Commission should absent himself from the Senate in order to carry out his other duties.
– I said nothing of the kind.
– Although he knew the duties which appertain to a parliamentary position, and when elected was prepared to carry them out. Senator Higgs, on the other hand, expressed the opinion that an honorable senator ought not to do what Senator McGregor has suggested. He said, “ I do not intend to- do that, because I think I should be wanting in respect to the Senate if I absented myself.” There is a curious contradiction there.
– No; Senator Higgs is Chairman of Committees of the Senate, and Senator McGregor occupies no such position.
– What has that to do with it?
- Senator Higgs did not speak as Chairman of Committees of the Senate.
– The honorable senator clearly referred to his position as Chairman.
– If honorable senators wish to exempt Senator Higgs from the comparison^ let me mention the Minister of Defence. That honorable senator will serve my purpose equally well. He absolutely affirms that he told a member of the Tariff Commission that, in his opinion, his parliamentary duties came first. Where there is so great a difference of opinion on the part of honorable senators called upon to act as members of a Royal Commission, it is extremely desirable that the Senate should give an intimation of its opinion as to what the conduct of honorable senators in such circumstances ought to be. I will now touch on the point raised by Senator Trenwith and others, that this matter is not urgent. If any argument were necessary on that point, it has been presented by the statement made by Senator McGregor, that, on a previous occasion, he was a member of a Commission, and absented himself from the Senate, and no notice was taken of it. On Saturday next I assume that certain honorable senators will seek to be absent in the same way, and before they go they should know that they place themselves in the position of having to come to the Senate later on to ask for leave of absence.
– Thev may be away for two months without leave.
– The trip organized by the Tariff Commission will take more than two months.
– We have no official knowledge that any trip has been organized.
– I am not dealing with official knowledge; I am taking the facts as presented by the mover of the motion. If honorable senators choose to deny them they can do so, but, so far, they have not done so. In view of the trip out- lined this afternoon, the honorable senators who take part in it will have to come here to ask for leave of absence, or forfeit their membership of the Senate.
– What makes the honorable senator think so?
– Because I have a thinking machine.
– Then it has gone wrong.
– There is no power greater than the Constitution, and it provides that if members of the Senate are absent for more than two months without leave they shall forfeit their seats. It is impossible for the Tariff Commission to make the visits to the other States proposed, deal with the work to be performed there, and be back in two months.
– They could be’ back three times in the time.
– The result will be that if honorable senators go away without an expression of opinion from the Senate on the subject, they will have a perfect right to say afterwards that we indorsed their action, and condoned their absence.
– I take Senator McGregor’s statement for it. The honorable senator says that he went away, with a Royal Commission ; no one objected to his absence, and the practice was not nipped in the bud then. This is the first time my notice was drawn to the matter.
– The honorable senator could not have nipped it in ti–j bud then, and he cannot do so now.
– I propose to do so, if I can, so far as my vote is concerned. The interjection reminds me of another argument, that the motion will have no effect. I venture to say that it will be absolutely effective. Honorable senators who have used this argument seem to think that this matter affects only the Royal Commission. It has nothing, vo do with the Royal Commission. It will not prevent the Commission from going to other States, and it will not compel it to alter its movements.
– Nor will it stop honorable senators from going with the Commission.
– I think it will.
– They can certainly go if they like ; they can be away for two months.
– I venture to say that if the Senate expresses the opinion contained in the motion they will not. And I venture to say, further, that if such an opinion had been previously expressed members of the -Senate, who are also members of the Tariff Commission, out of respect to the Senate, would have made such strong representations to other members of the Commission that the result would have been that the programme at present adopted would have been altered. Whether that be so or not, the motion, if passed, will place us in such a position that if subsequently honorable senators ask for leave of absence we shall be able, without any discourtesy to them, to decline to give it. Reference has been made more than once to the duty which a member of the Senate owes to his electors, and to that which he owes to a Royal Commission to which he has been appointed, but insufficient reference has been made to the duty which an honorable senator owes to the Senate. That has been pointed out very clearly, however, in the remarks made by the President and quoted by previous speakers. If it is correct that one member of the Senate should absent himself to attend the meetings of a Royal Commission., it must be equally correct for twenty to do sc.. We might have a Royal Commission composed of ten, fifteen, or twenty members of the Senate, and what would be the. effect if the views expressed by Senator McGregor were to be adopted?
– The honorable senator is a master at building stacks of straw men.
– It is only by following the matter out in this way that we can get at the logic of it. If one honorable senator may absent himself in the way proposed, without interfering with his duties to the Senate, twenty might absent themselves in the same way, and the effect of such a doctrine might be that the action of a Royal Commission would bring the work of the Senate to a stand-still. I wish to refer to one matter, which I at once admit is not very relevant to the motion under discussion. I wish to explain an interjection which I made while Senator Higgs was speaking, and which might be misunderstood. The honorable senator referred to the two non-political members of the Tariff Commission, and asked for consideration for them. I interjected, “ But , they get consideration.” I fully expected that Senator Higgs would have replied that whilst they might receive ample consideration for continuous sittings of the Commission, it would not be sufficient for intermittent sittings. I wish to say that the correct thing to do in the circumstances would be to make them a more ample allowance rather than to deal with the matter in another way by dragging six members of Parliament away from their duty. I make that explanation, because I do not desire that it should be thought for a moment that I have any quarrel with any arrangement made with those two gentlemen. I regret as much as any one can that this matter has not been dealt with in the extremely calm spirit in which Senator Clemons introduced it. No one could have brought the matter forward more impersonally, or in a quieter way. The honorable and learned senator’s speech was absolutely free from any reference that could have excited personal or party feeling. If the debate has wandered from the direction so admirably given to it by Senator Clemons, the sole responsibility for that must rest with the honorable senator who, above all others, should have been careful to keep it within proper channels, and that is the Minister of Defence.
– I intend to vote against the motion, because I think it is entirely outside the province of the Senate, and it would be a very bad precedent to establish for Parliament to attempt to interfere with and dictate to a
Royal Commission once it has been, appointed. That would be subversive of every good principle which should guide the appointment and1 management of Royal Commissions. How is a Royal Commission to exercise an independent judgment or make an independent inquiry if expressions of opinion regarding its working are to be continually given in Parliament ? It was altogether wrong to bring this matter before the Senate at the present juncture. I take it that the Tariff Commission is perfectly competent to manage its own business. Its members were chosen by the late Government, after careful consideration, as gentlemen competent to carry out the work of inquiry into the operation of the Tariff, which was intrusted to it. It is for them to say whether the action they propose is right or not, and they must reconcile their .action only with their own consciences. They will not come to us for authority to decide whether members of the Senate, who are also members of the Commission, should place first their duty to attend the meetings of the Senate or the meetings of the Commission. That is a matter which I submit cannot be decided by us for them. Honorable senators who have spoken in favour of the motion have become suddenly virtuous. They say that undoubtedly a member of the Senate owes his first duty to his constituents. His place is in this Chamber, and he ought to be here, when it is a question of whether he shall be here or attend the sittings of a Royal Commission. But I never knew such virtue to actuate some of those honorable senators when the question was one affecting their private convenience. In such circumstances, they have absented themselves from this chamber times out of number. During the time I have been a member of the Senate, there have been occasions on which it has been difficult to form a quorum owing to the absence of honorable senators whom no public duty called away. Why all this sudden accession of virtue, and this assumption of high and lofty motives?
– Because honorable senators mav be away for three months.
– We have no official knowledge as to how long members of the Senate will be away, or whether they are going away at all or not. It would be much more becoming to permit the Tariff Commission to decide this matter for themselves. That would be better than that honorable senators, perhaps after having a squabble over the matter in private, ‘should bring it before the Senate to be settled. We cannot settle it for them. I altogether object to the position assumed by Senator Symon, when he said that honorable senators, by voting against the motion, would be practically indorsing the action of any honorable senator who is a member of the Tariff Commission, and chooses to stay away. We shall be doing nothing of the kind.. Byvoting against the motion, we shall be refusing to interfere with the Tariff Commission in the conduct of its business, after it has been appointed. That is what I propose to do by the vote I shall give in the matter. An attempt has been made to suggest an analogy between a Select Committee and a Royal Commission in this connexion. There is no such analogy. A Select Committee is appointed by the Senate to carry out certain work for the Senate, and in such a case we certainly have the right to laydown the conditions under which it shall perform its duties. A Royal Commission, on the other hand, is not appointed by the Senate, and the Senate has no shadow of justification for attempting to say under what conditions it shall perform its work. Senator Millen has argued that if we oppose the motion, honorable senators who are members of ‘the Tariff Commission will have the right, if they absent themselves from the Senate, to say that we indorse their action. They will not have that right. I altogether repudiate an idea of that kind, because those senators must be the judges as to whether their action is justifiable or not.
– But they have to come to the Senate for leave of absence.
– If they come we shall consider every application on its merits, I am sure. And I’ feel certain that no reasonable request will ever be refused. It is not necessary, however, for an honorable senator to ask for leave1 of absence, unless he is going to be absent for two months or more. He can be absent from the meetings of the Senate for sixty consecutive days without forfeiting any right. Frequently honorable senators are absent for the full term on private concerns, but they become suddenly virtuous when it is a matter of performing a public duty. It is very easy to see what the whole trouble is in regard to the Tariff Commission. The ex-Prime Minister has stated that he did not anticipate that any report from the Royal Commission would be laid upon the table of either House for a very considerable time, and no doubt the wish was father to the thought, because he knew that it might embarrass him and weaken his political position. The more difficulties that are placed in the way of the Royal Commission fulfilling the object for which it was created, the longer the production of that report will be delayed, and the less chance there will be of embarrassing Mr. Reid. I do not know why we should have any tender feelings for the right honorable member. I do not know why we should study him or his requirements. If it was right for his Government* to appoint a Royal Commission - and I agree with its appointment - we should place no impediment in its way. It would appear that this matter came up for discussion by the members of the Royal Commission, and that they had a fight as to whether they should do this thing, or that thing, or the other thing. We know nothing of the merits of any dispute which they may have had, but it appears to me that, because certain honorable senators failed to carry out their ideas there, they immediately come to the Senate and ask for relief . Why should we grant them any such relief? Why should we interfere with any squabbles amongst these Royal commissioners? And, above all, I ask, why should the votes of the two unofficial members of this body - I mean the two gentlemen who are not, members of Parliament - be challenged on the floor of the Senate? It was exceedingly bad taste, I think, to bring forward this matter at all. The unofficial members of the Tariff Commission have a right to feel aggrieved, because they have not an opportunity of defending themselves here, or explaining their action. Their action should not be challenged here.
– And nobody else would be allowed to.
– I do not know anything about the squabbles, or disputes, or arguments which may have taken place. I look at the matter entirely from an outsider’s point of view. “ I consider that it was altogether uncalled for to drag in the two unofficial members, and make them partly responsible for the vote which presumably was given. I agree with the proposition that the electors have a prior claim upon the time and services of honorable senators. I think that every argument which has been adduced in favour of that statement is unanswerable. But we cannot set up ourselves as censors as to what is or is not the duty of a senator to his electors. It is for each individual senator to define what is his duty to his constituents, and if he should fail to do a fair thing, I dare say that they will deal with him. It is not our business to do so. I do not think that any member of Parliament should place his private convenience before the performance of any public duty which he may have undertaken to do. I have frequently known honorable senators to be absent for a long time without suffering any qualms of conscience; when they had no public duty to perform - when they were consulting their private convenience, or, perhaps, their business ends. The sudden acquisition of virtue which lias been displayed on the other side this afternoon can be viewed with a great deal of suspicion. I protest against the statement that, by voting against this motion, we shall be responsible if any honorable senators are absent discharging their duties as Royal commissioners. That is a matter entirely for themselves to consider. The vote I intend to give is simply to emphasize my view that any interference with the working of a Royal Commission by the Senate would form a very bad precedent, and I believe would be utterly pernicious in its effect.
– I intend to vote against the motion. I had not the good fortune to hear the speech of Senator Clemons, and I verv much regret that 1 did not, because I am curious to know by what kind of argument he could support such an unheard-of motion as this one. This is the first attempt that has been made in any Parliament of which I have heard, to interfere with the movements of its members. What right have we to say to honorable senators whether they shall come here or whether they shall refrain from coming here? That is a matter with which their constituents and the Constitution alone can deal. What right have we to interfere when it is provided in the Constitution that if a senator be absent from the Senate for two months consecutively, without obtaining leave of absence, he forfeits his seat? As Senator Givens has very forcibly pointed out, honorable senators absent themselves continually. I have obtained leave of absence on more than one occasion, not to fulfil any public duty, but principally, I suppose, because I thought there was nothing of verv much consequence going on here. Some honorable senators have even gone to the old country, and obtained leave of absence from that end of the world. Other honorable senators have put in an appearance here very casually, and given up nearly the whole of their time to the practice of their profession in other States, and no one here has ever attempted to interfere with them; indeed, no one ever considered that he had any right to interfere. Why should we say to a member of the Senate, “You shall not do this or that business while the Senate is sitting” ? The thing seems to me so absurd that I wonder that a gentleman of such parliamentary experience and general capacity as Senator Clemons should propose it. If we have no control over the movements of the members of the Senate, whatcontrol have we over the movements of a Royal Commission? None whatever. We cannot say to a Royal Commission, “ If Members of Parliament are also members of your Commission, you shall not sit whilst Parliament is in session.” That is a matter entirely for the Royal Commission to consider. If Senator Clemons puts the business of the Tariff Commission before . the business of the Senate, or vice versa., that is his look-out. If he absents himself from the Senate for more than two months without getting leave of absence, he will lose his seat; but I have no fear that he will do anything of that kind. He will be very careful before the period has expired to apply for leave of absence, and I am sure that a majority will, at any time, give him extended leave of absence. I do not know whether it would be unfair to refer to the real reason which underlies the motion. To my mind, it is simply a stalking horse covering an altogether different intention. The Tariff Commission was appointed because the Executive Government, with the concurrence of Parliament, had come to the conclusion that an inquiry into the working of the Tariff was urgently necessary. If that reason held good when the appointment was made, does it not hold good now? Some persons stated that our industries were languishing because of anomalies in the Tariff.
– Does the honorable senator think that that has anything to do with the question?
– Other senators strayed into that aspect of the question, and I thought that I might do so, but if it is out of order I shall desist. In any case I think that whatever its purpose is this is an attempt to stop the work of the Tariff Commission. I do not think we have a right to say to any honorable senators, “You shall not attend the meetings of the Royal Commission while Parliament is sitting.”
– The motion does not say that. It says that, in our opinion, honorable senators ought not to absent themselves from the meetings of the Senate.
– I do not wish to be offensive ; but I can remember a time when the honorable and learned senator was very often absent from the meetings of the Senate to our loss and to his gain, for I am sure that I would much prefer to see his distinguished capacity displayed in the Senate, although it might not be so profitable to himself, than in a Court of law anywhere.
– What has that to do with the point at issue?
– Nothing. What right, I repeat, have we to pass a motion that honorable senators ought not to absent themselves from the meetings of the Senate?
– It is simply to settle the question as to whether they are to go to Western Australia.
– That is a matter between themselves, their consciences - fff they have such things - and their constituents. There is no need to labour the point. We have no right to interfere, and ought not to interfere. I shall vote against the motion.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). Senator Stewart has just asked what right we have to interfere in this matter. I think I can make it quite clear that we have an absolute right to interfere to the extent of passing Senator Clemons’ motion. That motion merely asks us to affirm that with the choice of two possible public duties an honorable senator owes his first duty to the Senate. That is the sole scope of the motion. It is very unfortunate that during the debate,for the purpose of illustration only, allusion has been made to the Tariff Commission.
– That is the foundation of the whole matter.
– That may be the ground upon which action has been taken, but the fact remains that the Tariff Commission was introduced into this debate for the purpose of illustration. It arose in this way - that a certain Commission had been appointed, and it had been deemed essential that members of Parliament should be upon that Commission.
Some members of Parliament who, I assume, were anxious to do their duty to the country in the capacity of commissioners accepted their commissions believing that they would be able to attend probably every meeting of the Commission. But they are suddenly met with this position - that certain members of the Commission, who apparently had not the same high sense of their duty to Parliament that other members had, proposed to go away for a term of months on a trip round the country. It is perfectly clear that those members of the Commission who are also members of Parliament, could not do both things. They could not attend both to their duties as commissioners and their duties as members of the Senate. What happens? Dealing with the matter in general terms, and laying down a precedent affecting our proceedings in the future, Senator Clemons brings forward a motion which affirms that the first duty of a senator is to be in attendance in the Senate. When he has to choose between two conflicting sets of duties his choice should be to do his duty here. It is simply that. I wish to use another illustration. I will take the case of Senator Higgs. Suppose he happened to be a member of a Royal Commission which proposed to take an extended trip for three months through the Commonwealth of Australia, or to China, or anywhere. Senator Higgs is our Chairman of Committees. Unless we pass such a motion as that proposed bv Senator Clemons, Senator Higgs would be perfectly entitled to come to. us, and to apply in the ordinary course for leave of absence.
– Senator Best is in England, and he did the same thing.
– I wish to hang on to my illustration and to carry it to a conclusion. Senator Higgs would be absolutely entitled to expect us to grant him that leave of absence. We could not possibly refuse it. He would be asking for leave of absence in pursuance of a public duty, which he had accepted at the instance of the Governor-General.
– He would be appointed with the consent of Parliament - a Royal Commission cannot be appointed without the consent of Parliament.
– The issues raised by Senator Guthrie are quite apart from my point. We absolutely require the presence of Senator Higgs in the Senate, and we pay him a very satisfactory salary for attending to certain duties here.
– We could appoint another Chairman.
– But we pay this senator a salary, which he fairly earns, to act as our Chairman of Committees. We are, as a Senate, retaining him as an officer. We are therefore entitled to retain his services in this Chamber, and that is a right which he has always fully recognised.
– We appoint two deputy chairmen.
– We pay them nothing. They hold honorary positions in order that they may sit in the chair when, through illness or any other unavoidable cause, the Chairman of Committees is absent. He would be within his rights in asking for, and we should be within our rights in granting to him, a year’s leave of absence to go anywhere. I think the Senate must see, with that illustration before it, the absurdity of the position which honorable senators opposite advocate.
– It is ridiculous !
- Senator McGregor cannot deny the proof placed before them, and yet he endeavours to make out that I am ridiculous in calling attention to it. The fact is, the honorable senator does not wish to see the proof, and there is no person who can be so blind as one who wishes to remain blind. Another point has been raised. Senator Keating has twice repeated what he claims to be a fact - that if this motion is carried, it will be impossible in the future for any honorable senator to become a member of a Royal Commission. I hold that the passing of the motion will have exactly the opposite effect. If the motion is not passed, it will be impossible for any, senator to accept a seat on a Royal Commission with the experience of the honorable senator whose case has been quoted to-day within his mind. Any honorable senator who accepts such a seat will know that he is liable to have a majority of the members of that Commission removing its meetings outside of Melbourne, while Parliament is sitting here. Obviously they will feel bound to refuse seats on Royal Commissions under such circumstances. Whereas if we pass this motion in the general terms put before us, it is quite clear that no Royal Commission would ever dream of absenting itself from the Seat of Government, while the Commonwealth Parliament was sitting. They could not do it, because it would be obviously absurd.
– There is another alternative - that of bringing all witnesses to Melbourne.
– The honorable senator helps my argument by saying that a Royal Commission could do what this Royal Commission’ has refused to do. That only shows that we ought not to encourage a Royal Commission to go away while Parliament is sitting. I hope I have made my attitude clear. I shall support the motion.
– It is generally admitted that this matter can be approached without any party colouring. It ought to be absolutely free from any party aspect. Consequently every honorable senator will feel at liberty in expressing his opinions, and in voting. I have no objection to give a general assent to the principle of Senator Clemons’ motion. In its general application it must be a principle in which we all concur. As a matter of fact, the Senate has already given its- adherence to the principle in standing order 288, which provides that no sitting of a Select Committee of the “Senate shall take place while the “Senate is sitting. But we must consider that this Royal Commission does not consist entirely of members of Parliament. It consists of eight members, two of whom are non-parliamentarians. The Commission has decided to take a certain course of action. Personally, I think it was a very foolish course for the Commission to take. It is of no use to say that we have to consider the question quite apart from whether the motion refers to the Tariff Commission or not. We are not so innocent as that. We know that it is the Tariff Commission that is in question. I think that Senator Clemons, or any other member of Parliament who is a member of the Commission, and who wants to attend the sittings of Parliament, and to be in his place, in view of the very important business that is likely to come before us, but who, at the same time, desires to attend his duties on the Commission, is to be sympathized with in regard to the action the Commission has taken. Nevertheless, I do not consider myself to be at liberty to censure the Commission. I do not consider that I am at liberty to censure the action of the majority of the eight members who “have decided upon a course with which some members of the Commission do not agree. I -do not suppose that it will matter very much -if the Commission does not proceed to Tas mania or Western Australia until the next recess. That, at any rate, is my personal opinion. I think that the whole time of Parliament this session is going to be occupied, and the Tariff Commission might very well be engaged in taking evidence in Melbourne when the House of Representatives and the Senate are not sitting. It is generally admitted that the Commission is not likely to complete its work this year. Consequently, if the Commission has enough work to keep it going in Melbourne during the remainder of the session - and probably that is the case - it will have, during the next recess, time in which to take evidence in the other States, when the parliamentary members have not’ their parliamentary duties to attend to.
– We have nothing to do with that.
– Exactly ; but the matter has been mentioned, and I think that any one of us is justified in referring to it. It is a matter for the Commission to decide, and, as there are six members of Parliament on the Commission, as against two non-parliamentarians, I cannot understand how the six- parliamentarians should have been outvoted by the two others.
– It was not decided by a majority.
– Then there ought to have been a full meeting.
– There are only two members of the Commission, apart from the members of Parliament.
– There was a full meeting.
– I have said that it is inconceivable to me that a Commission consisting of six members of Parliament and two other gentlemen should take an action which would necessitate the absence of the parliamentary members from their duties here for three or four months, except, of course, under (circumstances of; special urgency and necessity. From what I have been able to gather of the work already done, and the work proposed to be done, by the Commission, my personal opinion is that it is not likely there will be any important report for some months to come. If that be so, it is unlikely to be necessary for the Commission to sit in any place outside Melbourne for more than two or three days at a time. Of course, if the members of the Commission choose to go to Tasmania, that might not necessitate their absence from Parliament for more than two or three days.
– That is not the proposition.
– The remarks of Senator Clemons were to the effect that the proposal of the Royal Commission would necessitate the absence of honorable senators until practically the end of the session. Seeing that there are six members of Parliament on the Commission, it seems very strange that a decision should have been arrived at which would necessitate such a prolonged absence.
– I can say that the majority of the parliamentary members were against “the proposed trips.
– Then there is something mysterious in the matter.
– No; “I can explain the whole thing, and I shall do so when I reply
– I am glad that my remark will afford Senator Clemons the opportunity to make an explanation. I do not know that I am called on to judge as to what should be the attitude of a member of Parliament in relation to his duty to his constituent’s and his duty to a Royal Commission. If six members of Parliament, or the majority of the parliamentary members on this Royal Commission, have come to a conclusion, which seems a most peculiar one, to be absent from Parliament for the next four or five months, I am forced to the inference that there must be some very special reason which we have not yet heard. In my opinion, the members of the Royal Commission ought to be able to settle such a question without asking honorable senators, or members in another place, to intervene. It is verv difficult to keep the question free from the suspicion of party colouring. I do not see why party feeling should enter into the matter, but, judging from the heat displayed by some honorable senators, we have approached very nearly to a party debate.
– A full-dress debate.
– Yes ; and I should not have been surprised if the debate had turned on th- respective merits of protection and free .-trade. This is a most important motion to ask us to pass without notice. We are practical Iv asked to say whether we are justified in intervening in the quarrels of the Royal Commission.
– The membership of the Royal Commission is divided into four free-traders and four protectionists.
– The Commission wasnot so divided on this matter.
– The Commission is divided as I ‘have indicated, and the course which has been taken appears to me, asI am sure it does to a number of other honorable senators, to be rather remarkable.
– I do not think the honorable senator is in order in discussing the proceedings of the Royal Commission, except in so far as they bear on the abstract question, and I do not see that the question of free-trade or protection does so.
– In obedience to your ruling, sir, I shall not pursue that argument further. I do not feel justified in intervening to the extent of taking oneside or the other in this dispute, which appears to have arisen in the Royal Commission itself. After this debate, which has resulted in various expressions of opinion, the Royal Commission might welt reconsider their decision; but. after all, that is a matter for the members of the Royal Commission themselves. We cannot too often emphasize the fact that the Commission consists of six members of Parliament and two other gentlemen, and we must take it for granted that each of the six parliamentary members owes his allegiance first to Parliament. If the parliamentary members do not take that view, but think they owe allegiance to the Royal Commission or to other business which will’ take them away during the session, that must be a matter between themselves and” their electors. We have not hitherto felt called upon to say that it is contrary toparliamentary practice for an honorable senator to neglect his parliamentary duties for several weeks at a time in pursuance of his own business, or, it ma)’ be, his pleasure. I should not have objected had we taken such an extreme course as that. When gentlemen are returned to this Parliament their first duty is to their electors, and they ought to be here, except in urgent cases of sickness or of private business. Wehave never expressed the opinion that members ought not to go away on private business, or for any other purpose ; and themotion makes a rather invidious distinction, if we decide that honorable senators shall not absent themselves for the purpose of attending the sittings of a Royal Commission. As I have said, I regard this asa question which can be settled only bv the Royal Commission itself, and if a division be taken I am afraid I shall be compelled” to vote against the motion.
– I quite agree with Senator 0; Keefe that this is a question which ought to be discussed altogether apart from party considerations, and I do not know why the latter should Lave been introduced. Neither can I understand that we shall be delaying the work of the Tariff Commission by expressing our opinion in regard to this matter. We have had it stated here by members of the Royal Commission that there is plenty of work which could be done if the Commission sat in’ Melbourne; and if that be so, there seems to be no reason why the work of the Commission need be delayed for one hour. It appears to me that we should be doing much more to weaken the effect of the labours of the Royal Commission if we expressed the opinion that the members should attend to the work of the Commission in preference to the work of the parliamentary session. Honorable senators have already declared that they place their duty to Parliament before the duty which they owe to ani Royal Commission ; and if the number of members who attend the meetings of a Royal Commission are reduced, the efficiency of the work is impaired, with the result that the report when presented loses the weight it ought to carry. When a Royal Commission is appointed, every member is supposed to be necessary to making the work effective, and if the number of members be reduced by one-half, the work of the Commission must suffer. I have had some little experience in Queensland of Royal Commissions generally, and I remember an instance in which the members of one of those bodies objected that the notice sent to them of the meetings did not reach them in sufficient time to enable them to first attend to their own business. The opinion expressed by the members of that Commission was that, when they were appointed, it was their duty, just as it would be under other circumstances, to attend to the work expected of them. Two or three suggestions have been thrown out in respect to this motion. Some honorable senators say that they would vote for the motion if it did not go so far or was not so general - that, if it was confined to the particular Royal Commission in connexion with which the question has been raised they would be prepared to support it. I should be prepared to vote for the motion from that stand-point.
– From the standpoint of the Tariff Commission alone?
– Yes; I should be prepared to support a motion with that object. I can’ easily understand that circumstances might arise under which, in the opinion of the Senate, it would be absolutely necessary for some honorable senators to go away on Royal Commission duty when there was very little business before Parliament.
– Who is to be the judge t
– Honorable senators themselves, I suppose. If the position was ta.ken up by all the members of the Commission that their allegiance was due more to Parliament than to the Commission, the latter simply could not go on, because members would decline to travel, believing that they ought to attend to their business here.
– The Commission would then probably rescind the resolution at which they have arrived.
– That is ia different matter. We are not now dealing with the work the Commission have done; in fact, we are not supposed to know what the Commission have decided. We do not know what actuated the members of the Royal Commission, or how their votes were cast. We have also honorable senators who say that the motion is not general enough and that if it were widened so as to include all Commissions and similar bodies, they would be prepared to vote for it. Other honorable senators, again, say that the motion should be applied to all business, and that honorable senators should be in their places the whole of the session to attend to the parliamentary affairs of the country. I am prepared to vote for either of those motions, and I intend to vote for the motion now before the Senate, because I believe that the first duty which honorable senators owe to the States from which thev come, is to be in their places here to attend to the business of the Commonwealth. I remember an occasion on which complaints were made about certain business having been done bv the Senate in the absence of some honorable senators who were away with a Royal Commission.
– Hear, hear ; the Navigation Commission.
– And the Select Committee in the case of Major Carroll.
– Objection was raised to the passage of the Sea Carriage of Goods Bill.
– While certain honorable senators were away with the Navigation Commission, business was brought on in the Senate which, in their opinion, should not have been taken while they were absent attending to the work of the Commission. The first and second readings of the Sea Carriage of Goods Bill had been passed before those honorable senators came back, and they complained that if they had known that that business would be brought on, they would have preferred to remain to look after the business done in the Senate. When the third reading of the Bill came on, those honorable senators voted against it as a protest against the consideration of the measure during their absence with the Navigation Commission. We can easily understand that if members of the Senate, who are also members of the Tariff Commission, are absent from the Senate for two or three months, important business may be brought forward on which they will have no opportunity of expressing an opinion, or recording a vote. It has been said that there is sufficient work to be done by the Tariff Commission in Melbourne to warrant it continuing its sittings here and thus enabling its members, who are also members of the Senate, to take their part in the business of. the Senate and record their votes. I shall vote for the motion, because it proposes what I have always advocated in connexion with Parliament.
Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia’).T. thoroughly approve of members of the Senate being present in their places in this chamber at every meeting of the Senate, and not only at every meeting, but from the time the President takes the chair until he leaves it. With the object of giving effect to that view, I move -
That the following words be added - “ or for private business.”
The motion would then read -
That, in the opinion of the Senate, it is contrary to the practice of Parliament, and the proper transaction of business, that members of the Senate should absent themselves from the Senate for the purpose of attending the sittings of a Royal Commission or for private business.
If there is a single argument in support of the contention that honorable senators should be present in this chamber during sittings of the Senate, rather than in attendance on Royal Commissions, it applies with equal force to attendance on private business.
– It applies more strongly.”
– Why not strike out the words, “ for the purpose of attending the sittings of a Royal Commis-sion ‘r?
– If that were done, the motion would not excuse the absence of an honorable senator through sickness. We have honorable senators repeatedly rising in. their places to move that a month’s leave of absence be granted to some other honorablesenator “ on account of urgent private business.” If the practice of the Senate permits honorable senators to be absent to attend to private business, surely we are not. going to decide that they shall not be permitted to be absent in order to attend topublic business?
– The honorable senator appears to be overlooking the whole point.
– I do not overlook, it. For what reason has this motion been; brought before the Senate at this juncture?’ Last year the members of a Select Committee of the Senate, appointed to inquireinto the case of Major Carroll, absentedthemselves from the sittings of the Senate,, and also took with them certain officers of” the Senate. We were placed in such a position that we had to adjourn, because therewere no officers to carry on the work. Did the honorable and learned senator whomoved this motion raise his voice against, that? No, he enjoyed the holiday.
– Against what?
– Against the Senate having to adjourn on that occasion.
– What could I do, if the representative of the Government in the Senate wished to adjourn ?
– The honorable and learned senator could have raised his voice against it, but he did not do so.
– I have no desire ta raise my voice in a futile way.
– Honorable senators were all one then ; they are a divided family now.
– We were not allone. Senator Symon was then a member’ of the Senate,, and he was not one with us.
– It was Mr. Watson’s Government that could not keepthe Senate employed
– The Major Carroll Select Committee was- not appointed by. the Watson Government.
– I am speaking of the time when the members of that Committee were away from Melbourne.
– It makes no difference whether Mr. Watson or Senator Symon were in power.
– Not a bit ; I merely mention that honorable senators opposite were all in favour of the motion then.
– I am in favour of it to-day.
– To adjourn for a month to go to Western Australia ?
– No; but that members of the Senate should be present at every sitting of the Senate, and that leave of absence should be granted only in case of ill-health.
– Did the honorable senator, as a matter of fact, object on the occasion to which he refers?
– I did not object because it suited me not to object. I ask, why the honorable and learned senator, who raises this question now, did not raise it then?
– -Why did not Senator Guthrie raise it ?
– Senator Guthrie is not raising it now.
– It has , been sprung upon us without notice, and 6y the suspension of the Standing Orders.
– Does the honorable senator agree with it?
– Yes ; but I desire to go further. I propose to add to the motion the words “or for private business.”
– Does the honorable senator seriously move that?
– Yes, absolutely: and I hope it will be carried. I hope Senator Symon will vote for it. Will the honorable and learned senator do so?
– Wait until it is put.
– Why is Senator Clemons moving this motion? Is it not in order that the business of the Senate shall be carried on without interruption?
– What then is the honorable and learned senator’s motive?
– That every honorable senator may have an equal opportunity of attending to the work of the Senate.
– The honorable and learned senator is a Socialist.
– Is Senator Clemons also of opinion that no member of the Senate should be absent unless there are strong reasons for keeping him away ?
– The honorable senator will get an expression of opinion when his amendment is put.
– I feel as strongly as does- Senator Clemons on the absence of members of the Senate, in connexion with the work of Royal Commissions. Senate: Symon has pointed out that on the same grounds to which objection is taken to-day. members of the Senate were absent at the end of last session attending to the work of the Navigation: Commission. No House of Parliament is able to guard itself against this kind of thing, because Royal Commissions, as a rule, are composed of members of both branches of the Legislature. On the Tariff Commission there are also’ persons who are not members of either branch of the Federal Parliament.
– On the occasion referred to, we did not object to the Senate doing business in our absence with the Navigation Commission, but that certain business should have been done by the Senate at all.
– Honorable senators were very indignant.
– Because we contended that the matter dealt with had been handed over to the* Navigation Commission.
– Honorable senators deprecated our going through with the Bill.
– As Senator de Largie has said, we did not take objection to the Senate dealing with the matter in 0111 absence, but we objected to the measure being introduced into the Senate when the subject with which it dealt had been referred to the Navigation Commission, which was then taking evidence on that subject. We voted against the third reading of the Sea Carriage of Goods Bill as a protest against the introduction by the Government of a Bill, the subject of which had already/ been referred to the Navigation Commission for report.
– It was introduced before the Navigation Commission went to Tasmania.
– It was not, and we objected that it was not introduced until we had left.
– It was suddenly rushed through.
– It was. Though I made application for it, I could not even obtain a copy of the Bill before I left Melbourne, and I knew nothing of its contents until we had returned from Tasmania. I have, again, to say that the practice of allowing members of the Senate to absent themselves from its sittings is a bad practice. I should be very sorry to interfere in any way with the proceedings of a Royal Commission. I think that Royal Commissions should have the freest possible hand in laying down their own procedure, because that found suitable for one might not be suitable for another!
– But they should not be able to tie Parliament up.
– I am quite with the honorable senator, but I also propose that members of the Senate should not be able to tie Parliament up in order that they might attend to their private business. If he says that Parliament has no right to be tied up by Royal Commissions doing public work, he must vote against private senators tying Parliament > up when they are merely absent on private affairs. There is a good standing order which, I think, obtains in most Houses of Parliament, and that is that no Select Committee shall, without leave, sit while the House is sitting. That rule might very well be applied to Royal Commissions, and I think with much benefit.
– Substitute the words “ Royal Commissions “ for the words “ Select Committees “ and then it will be all right.
– There is no reference to Select Committees in the motion.
– The standing order would have to be altered by a separate motion. We have an absolute right, I think, to demand that honorable senators shall be in their places here.
– It is of no use to pass a resolution which is in conflict with a standing order.
– If the motion be carried, will it not be an instruction to the Standing Orders Committee to frame a standing order to give effect thereto? I hope that the amendment will be agreed to.
Senator CROFT (Western Australia).When the terms of this motion were first read I was inclined to favour its adoption, because it embodied a principle in which I think we all believe. Those honorable senators who have spoken are to be commended for the manner in which they have stuck up for the observance of that principle. Senator Guthrie has gone so far as to suggest an alteration of the Constitution, or at all events a vital alteration of the standing order. While following the speakers on different sides, I noticed that the gun is a double-barrelled one, and is pretty heavily loaded. In his speech Senator Clemons distinctly referred to some quarrels which have been going on, or to differences of opinion at the meetings of the Tariff Commission.
– The honorable and learned senator used these words : -
Two members of the Commission, who arc not members of Parliament, exercised great influence upon the Commission by their votes.
– Is that a quarrel? It is merely a statement of facts.
– That is just according to the way in which it is taken.
– I did not use the words “ great influence,” anyhow.
– If the honorable and learned senator thought it so necessary to come to the Senate for protection-
– I never said that either.
– That was said by Senator Mulcahy.
– An honorable senator asked, “to whom should the honorable and learned senator go for protection but to the Senate” ? We have had the assurance of several honorable senators that it is not intended that this motion shall interfere with the Tariff Commission. But during his speech Senator Symon said : -
I believe that this Commission will respect the Senate’s opinion as expressed in the morton, indeed it would be an extraordinary Commission if it did not.
I object to any interference by the Senate with a Royal Commission. I do not believe in members of Parliament being on Royal Commissions ; but the Tariff Commission has been created, and has very important duties to perform. I believe that the people of the Commonwealth are anxiously waiting ‘for a progress report. The passing of this motion will delay its production. Senator Higgs, a member of the Royal Commission, has pointed out that if it does not get to work and keep at work it will not be able to present a progress report before the end of this Parliament. I should object to that lengthy delay, and
I am not speaking now either as a freetrader or as a protectionist. I can quite understand, and it has been suggested that some free-traders wish to delay the inquiry and that some protectionists desire to unduly press for the production of a progress report. I consider that the inquiry should be proceeded with, and that a report should be presented as quickly as possible. I believe that in some quarters there is an objection - and I do not suggest that it is shared by Senator Clemons, because he has given me an assurance that it is not - to the Tariff Commission going to Western Australia. So far as it lies in my power, I shall urge that it shall go there.
– The honorable senator can rely upon me doing all in my power to make them go, for I wish to go badly.
– No progress report would be nearly perfect, or in accordance with facts unless a visit were paid to Western Australia, Tasmania, and South Australia to find out what the local people think, not only in respect to their own manufactures, but also in respect to an increase of duties in favour of manufactures which are carried on in this State, and whose products are used in the Western State. It would be unwise to pass this motion at the present time, because, in my opinion, it would have the effect of interfering with the inquiry, and the production of an early progress report ; consequently, I shall vote against the motion. I think that the suggestion to refer the matter to the Standing Orders Committee for a report for future guidance is a very good one, andI am prepared to support an amendment in that direction.
– I wish to point . out very briefly the wide difference there is between the motion and the amendment, which, I suppose, can hardly be taken seriously in view of facts that are known to us all. According to Hansard, on the first day of this session the Senate sat for just thirty minutes. We all knew very well that there would not be anything very important to be clone on that day. We also knew, in whatever part of Australia we were, that at its next meeting it would not transact any business, and Hansard shows that on that , day the 5th July, it rose at thirty-nine minutes past two o’clock. It was a purely formal meeting, lasting only nine minutes. Would it not be the height of absurdity for, say, Senator McGregor to be brought all the way from Adelaide to be here for nine minutes when he knew thatnothing was to be done ?
– He was here.
– Yet Senator Guthrie proposes that whether there is any business before the Senate or not. every honorable senator shall be here. The motion of Senator Clemons, however, is aimed against proposals which will compel honorable senators to be away, whether business of a public character or business specially affecting their own States is before the Senate or not. That is a state of things to which I, for one, object.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - It seems to me that it would be ridiculous for us to say that it is not in accordance with the practice of the Senate for honorable senators to be absent from its sittings on private business, because, as a matter of fact, that is the practice.
– The motion says that it is “contrary to the practice of Parliament.”
– I can imagine cases in which a very great hardship would arise if we were to determine that no honorable senator should be absent from the Senate on any occasion except in case of illness. The Constitution gives every honorable senator the right to be away if he chooses for nearly two consecutive months, and if any honorable senators abuse that privilege, they will be answerable to their constituents. I think that that provision in the Constitution meets the case. If Senator Guthrie wishes to move a practical amendment, he will move that honorable senators shall not attend meetings of Royal Commissions when the Senate is sitting without permission, and if he does that I shall be prepared to support him.
– I shall now put the amendment.
– Before you do. sir, I wish toreply.
– According to a new standing order, I must put the amendment before the honorable and learned senator replies. He will have the right of reply afterwards.
– If the amendment is carried?
– Yes; I think that the noes have it.
– Does the honorable senator call for a division?
– May I ask, sir, that you will intimate at what stage I shall be able to reply.
– The honorable and learned senator will see that, according to the provision in standing order No. 393, an amendment must be put before the mover of the original motion replies. I admit thatto me it is an entirely new standing order. It was in force in the Parliament of New South Wales, and was adopted by the Senate some time ago. There must be a division on the amendment now.
– Is it in order, sir, for an honorable senator to call for a division if he was not in the chamber when the question was put? Senator Guthrie was not: in the chamber at that time.
– I do not thinkit is ; but Senator Guthrie called for a division before I had given a decision.
– I was under the impression, sir, that he called for a division after you had given a decision, but no doubt he will be able to tell us whether or not he was in the chamber when the question was put.
– I was.
– I accept the statement of the honorable senator.
– There had better, be a division, I think.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added- put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Senator CLEMONS (‘Tasmania). - I regret - I think I may be permitted to say this - the existence of a standing order which compels me to reply, after the amendment on my original motion has been carried. But I recognise that I have to put up with this inconvenience, the effect of which I think every one will appreciate.
Senator Clemons. - When?
Question - That the motion, as amended, be agreed to - put. The Senate divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
If he will cause to be laid on the table, without undue delay, all correspondence between the Government and the High Court referring to the question of expenses and the places where the Court shall hold sessions?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
This correspondence, which is the subject of a ‘notice of motion on the notice-paper of theHouse of Representatives, and is very voluminous, is at present under consideration by the Attorney-General, who will be glad if the honorable senator will again postpone the question for a week.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows : -
A Bill dealing with this matter will be submitted shortly.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
4 and 5. In January last the Secretary of State for the Colonies was asked when the strength of the squadron might be expected to be completed, and a satisfactory reply was received.
The whole question will be submitted to Parliament shortly.
I may add that the sloops have, upon examination, been condemned as unfit for service, and absolutely useless.
– Then the answer to the third question should really be “ Yes,” should it not?
– If the honorable senator will put the question again clearly. I shall obtain all the information I can. I am giving the best information I can get on the subject. The reply received to the question asked of the Secretary of State for the Colonies shows that the Imperial authorities are prepared to vary the ships.
They are prepared to give us a stronger squadron, doing away with the sloops, which are practically useless, and the variation referred to will be brought before Parliament for its ratification.
– Are we to have the additional second-class cruiser provided for in the agreement?
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : - 1, 2, and 3. No.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
-The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Reserves are being enrolled as fast as men present themselves and can be drilled.
These replies have been obtained by wire from the Naval Commander in Chief, as the information was not available in the Department.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : - 1, 2, and 3. These questions will be considered when the information which has been asked for, supplemented as may be necessary during the next eighteen months, has been obtained. A classification of those Pacific Island labourers who desire to remain after 1906 will be prepared, and then (4) the framing of regulations will be undertaken.
Whether he will take steps to lay on the table the papers and correspondence relating to the appointment of Mr. Justice O’Connor as President of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration?
Whether he will take steps to lay on the table the papers and correspondence relating to the charge of neglect of duty publicly made by the Chief Justice of the High Court from the Bench against the Principal Registrar, Mr. Castle, on the 5th May?
– I have to announce the receipt of the following message from the House of Representatives : -
The House of Representatives requests the concurrence of the Senate in the following resolution, which was agreed to by the House of Representatives on the 1st instant, viz. : -
That it is desirable that the Standing Orders of the Senate and House of Representatives, relating to lapsed Bills be referred to a joint meeting of the Standing Orders Committee for consideration and report, and that’ a message be sent to the Senate seeking their concurrence in this course.
House of Representatives,
Melbourne, 2nd August, 1905.
Motion(by Senator Playford) proposed -
That the message be printed and taken into consideration to-morrow.
– On this motion, I would ask Senator Playford whether, in view of the message receivedfrom the House of Representatives, the order of the day dealing with the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill will not be postponed ?
– I am in the hands of the Senate, and I shall be prepared to go on with that question if honorable senators are prepared to sit a little later.
– Surely not, in the face of the message which has just been read?
– The message has not the slightest reference to the Bill referred to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Repre sentatives, and (on motion by Senator Keating) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Keating) read a first time.
Senator PLAYFORD laid upon the table the following paper : -
Notification of the acquisition of land for Defence purposes at North Fremantle, Western. Australia.
The Clerk of Parliaments laid upon the table : -
Return to an order of the Senate dated 26th July, 1905, relating to the case of Mr. Mcintosh.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from 27th July (vide page 193), on motion by Senator Playford -
That, in accordance with Standing Order No. 234, the proceedings on the Bill intituled “ A Bill for an Act to authorize the Survey of Route for a Railway to connect Kalgoorlie, in the State of Western Australia, with Port Augusta, in the State of South Australia,” which were interrupted by the prorogation of the Parliament on Thursday, the . 15th day of December, 1904, be resumed at the stage then reached in connexion with the said Bill ; and that the adjourned debate on the second reading be resumed on Wednesday next.
– Mr. President–
– I would ask the Minister of Defence whether it is advisable to go on with this question in the face of the message which has been received from the House of Representatives?
– I propose to go on.
– I have been called on by the President, and I move -
That the debate be further adjourned.
– That motion will be carried.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
– After the positive refusal of the Minister of Defence to postpone the consideration of the order of the day ! This is beautiful.
– The Minister gives way at once to Senator McGregor.
– It is a case of “ Yes, Senator McGregor,” now.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
So far as length is concerned, the measure is a very small one. Its main object is to make a Government monopoly of wireless telegraphy in the Commonwealth. The provisions of the Post and Telegraph Act of 1 901 make telegraphy, as then understood, the sole business of the Postmaster-
General. In section 80 of the Act, it is set forth that-
The Postmaster-General shall have the exclusive privilege of erecting and maintaining telegraph lines and of transmitting telegrams or other communications by telegraph within the Commonwealth, and performing all the incidental services of receiving, collecting, or delivering such telegrams or communications, except as provided by this Act or the regulations.
It might be argued, on the construction of those words, and in view of the developments which have taken place in connexion with the science or art of telegraphy, that wireless telegraphy would also be included within the purview of the section. But later on in the section we find this proviso: -
Provided also that nothing in this section shall be taken to prevent any person from maintaining and using any telegraph line heretofore erected by him or from erecting, maintaining, and using any telegraph line - [a) which is wholly within and upon land whereof he is the proprietor or occupier, and solely for his own purposes, &c.
Even where there is an actual physical connexion by means of a wire, so long as the wire and all the appliances and instruments in connexion therewith are upon private property, a private individual can use the ordinary telegraph, notwithstanding the provision that is made for giving the PostmasterGeneral exclusive rights in respect to telegraphs. The appliances and apparatus which are used for the practice of wireless telegraphy do not necessitate the use of any connexion wires at all, but are simply terminal apparatus, which may be used and may be confined at either end absolutely to any person’s land. I do not say that that proviso would put out of the enacting part of the section a system of wireless telegraphy. But, as it stands, it is sufficient to throw some doubt on the question as to whether a system of wireless telegraphy does come properly within the section, because it is perfectly understandable that all the appliances which would be required for a transmitting station could be comprised within the private property of an individual, and that all the appliances and apparatus which would be required for a receiving station could also be comprised within the boundaries of the private property of that, or some other individual, and communication could be established without the aid of wires at all by the new system. It is quite possible that in that way it might be argued, and argued successfully, that the Act, as framed in 1901, had not in contemplation such a system of communication as wireless telegraphy. Under these circumstances, it is deemed desirable to set at rest any such doubt as that. That is the object of the Bill. It is set forth in clause 4, that the Postmaster-General shall have the exclusive privilege of transmitting messages by wireless telegraphy in Australia, of transmitting them to any place or ship outside Australia, and of receiving them from any place or ship outside Australia. Of course, it might be argued that it is not desirable that he should have that power. Where legislation has been submitted, as in the case of Great Britain, provision has been made to protect persons who are working apparatus for the purpose of carrying out a. system of wireless telegraphy for scientific or experimental purposes, and to enable them to do so. But in order to get over any such difficulty as that, provision is made in this Bill that the PostmasterGeneral may by licence enable persons to carry out any such system, either for that Or any other purpose he may think desirable. Appropriate penalties are provided in the case of any person who contravenes the Act, by attempting to establish, erect, maintain, or use any station, to transmit or to receive messages by means of this method.
– Would it apply to semaphore or other signals?
– I think not, from the following definition in clause 2 : - “ Wireless telegraphy “ includes all systems of transmitting and receiving telegraph messages by means of electricity, without a continuous metallic connexion between the transmitter and the receiver.
The definition in the English measure goes a little further than that, and it is thought that by limiting its application to messages transmitted by electricity, anybody who chooses to carry out a system of telegraphy by means of semaphores will not commit a breach of the provisions of the Act. Then, of course, there is provision made for the case of ships which come into the ports of the Commonwealth, fitted with appliances and apparatus for wireless telegraphy. As honorable senators know, these appliances and apparatus are to be found fairly frequently now on many of the large ships. Therefore, provision is made that, so long as the ships are in the ports of the Commonwealth, the appliances and apparatus shall be subject to the control of the Postmaster- General. They may (be used, of course, by the owners or by those in control of the vessels, but subject to such regulations as may be framed foi such purpose.
– And to such charges ?
– That will be a matter of regulation. At present the Bill simply provides that these instruments shall be subject to the control of the PostmasterGeneral, and shall only be used by his authority or as authorized by the regulations. I have no doubt that if it is deemed desirable that charges should be made for the use of them, the regulations will provide for proper and fair charges to be made. Provision is also made for the forfeiture of any such apparatus or instrument which may be used by any person contrary to the provisions of the Act, And in cases where it is suspected that appliances are toeing used in contravention nf the Act, proper provision is made to enable the necessary search warrants to be issued, authorizing persons to make searches, and to take possession of such instruments.
– Have any private persons been working this system in Australia?
– Not that I know of, unless it has been done as a matter of experiment. During the last few years the successive Governments of the Commonwealth have had brought under their notice several different systems, including, amongst others, the following: - Marconi, Professor Slaby’s, Slaby-Arco, Lodge-Muirhead, T. E. Clark, Heincke, De Forest, Telefunken, and Shoemaker. It is eminently desirable that if there is any system’ of wireless telegraphy established in Australia for the transmission, on behalf of the public, of messages, we should have a system that would be, as far as possible, similar to whatever system may be adopted by the United Kingdom and its warships, so that communications which would pass between them and the United Kingdom when at sea, or between them and Australia or other British Possessions, would be as far as possible in accordance with one particular system. Representations to that effect have passed between the Governments of the Commonwealth and the Home Government, and it is thought desirable that neither party should yet adopt any particular system or grant concessions, rights, or privileges to any particular syndicate, or to any promoters, to carry out a system in Australia or elsewhere which would make it difficult for the Governments afterwards to have a system on a proper and uniform basis as far as possible throughout the Empire. I think I have now indicated most of the main provisions of the Bill which, though it may seem very small, is an important one, and one which I think should be passed into law as early as possible. The ninth, or concluding clause, enables the Governor-General to make such regulations as may be necessary from time to time for giving effect to the principles of the Act. In conclusion, I might mention, as I have already indicated, that many ships- more particularly the ships of war of the different nations - are fitted up with wireless telegraphy transmitters and receivers. Provision is therefore made in clause 3 that -
This Act shall not apply to ships belonging to the King’s Navy.
As honorable senators will see, it would be desirable and advisable that so long as the ships of the King’s Navy are in the ports of the Commonwealth, they should not be prevented from carrying on wireless telegraphy between themselves or with elsewhere, as they are frequently doing, for experimental purposes, I understand.
– What about foreign warships ?
– Foreign warships will come within sub-clause 2 of clause 6. Their instruments and appliances will be subject to the control of the Postmaster - General, and usable subject to regulations which will be framed.
– What about colonial warships ?
– They are part of the King’s Navy.
– If the honorable senator wishes to make certain of that, probably he will suggest the addition of a few words to provide that the vessels of the Commonwealth Navy shall not come within the provisions of the measure.
– Does the Minister think that foreign nations would permit the Postmaster-General to send on board officers to take charge of their instruments?
– I do not suppose that any of our officers would take charge of the instruments. That would be a matter for arrangement, in accordance with international comity. The like provisions willapply to foreign warships visiting our portsas apply to British warships visiting foreign ports. No express provision has been made in the Bill in that regard, but should they not come within subclause 2 of clause 6 I have not the slightest doubt that, under some proper and effective regulations, the control of their wireless telegraphy will be on all fours with the control which they themselves exercise in their own ports in respect of visiting warships.
– Can the Minister tell us whether any experiments have been carried out by the electrical branch of the Post and Telegraph Department, or any of its officers?
– I am not in a position tosay that there have been any experiments carried out. The electricians of that Department have been called upon to report upon certain systems which have been taken into consideration by the Government, but whether, in order to bring up their report,they have conducted any experiments or not I do not know.
– They have been experimenting for a long time.
– Perhaps they have been experimenting in Queensland; at short distances.
– In other States as well. Debate (on motion by Senator Pulsford) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Playford) proposed -
ThattheSenate do now adjourn.
– I have reason to complain, and I think members of the Senate have reason to complain, of the way in which answers are given to some questions here. I asked some questions relating to a matter of great public importance at the present time - one that has been the subject of a large deputation to-day - and I got a reply so bare and uninformative that it practically amounts to discourtesy.
– Which question: was that ?
– The question as to the New Hebrides.
– I do not remember a Question relating to the New Hebrides to-day.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.That shows how much the Minister knows about the questions which he answers. I am referring, to question No. 5. I do not blame the Minister of External Affairs. There is no more courteous gentleman in this Parliament than he is. Nor do I blame the leader of the Senate. But I do say that the answers sometimes supplied to him are not couched in the terms which should be employed, and do not give the information to which we are entitled. What is more, they are sometimes absolutely incorrect. That is the case with my question to-day. I asked -
Have any steps been taken to carry out the provisions of ‘the ‘^Anglo-French Agreement, signed on the 8th April, 1904, so far as they relate to the New Hebrides?
The answer bracketed as to that and the next two questions was “ No.” That is not correct. I know that steps have been taken. What those steps are I do not know precisely. The- only thing that i know Ls that up to the present steps have been taken without any result. I know that inquiries have passed. Why should that information be kept from us? If it is true that no steps of any kind have been taken, it is a scandalous thing that an agreement signed on the 8th April, 1904, should have had its provisions flouted. But it is not correct, and we are entitled -as representatives of the people when we ask questions of this kind, to get some /information (with regard to them. While I do not blame the leader of the Senate, who simply reads the replies tq questions given to him, I do blame the clerks of the departments, who prepare these answers in such a bare and uninformative manner. I hope that the Minister will see that when questions are asked on matters of great public importance, we are at least treated to a courteous reply giving some information. With regard to the second question which I asked to-day, and with regard to Senator Matheson ‘s question, I may remark that the whole subject of the Naval Agreement is most unsatisfactory. We now find that after the Naval Agreement has been in force for a considerable time the very ships that were stipulated for have not been afforded to us. The second class cruiser, which was promised, is not on the station. The agreement has been varied without the consent of Parliament, although it was a parliamentary Act which ratified the subsidy of the naval squadron. When we come to the question of the officers and men we find that, instead of our having 1,333 m«n, as according to the agreement we should have-
– There is not a word in the agreement about the number of men.
– I am taking the assertion of the then Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, when he proposed the agreement. He pledged himself that there would be so many .officers and men engaged, and so many ships on the station.
– I have read his words.
-.- The. Naval Agreement has not been carried out, and the number of men as to which the then Prime Minister pledged himself, when he introduced the Bill, have not been engaged.-
– He did not pledge himself ; he simply said that 1,600 odd men, or thereabouts, would be provided for.
– There was to be a proportion of fivetwelfths belonging to the Commonwealth and one-twelfth to New Zealand. That would make our proportion of the 1,600 men 1,333. Instead of that number, we have a paltry 62’8. The Naval Agreement has not been carried out. The promises made by the Imperial Government have not been carried out. The number of Australians that were to be employed on this tribute navy have never been employed. This is an- important matter, especially at thepresent time, when we are discussing pur defences. We ought to make it clear that the position with regard to this Naval’. Agreement with Great Britain”, and as to the Squadron, is regarded by us as unsatisfactory.
– I wish to make a personal explanation with respect, to my attitude towards the adjournment of the debate on the motion relating to the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill. This afternoon, I asked the Clerk of the Senate, Mr. Blackmore, whether I had spoken on that question prior to the prorogation. I was not certain about it. Mr. Blackmore brought along a paper and said that I had not spoken, but that I had moved the adjournment. Afterwards, in discussing the subject with Senator Pearce, I said that I was prepared to po oh. The question relating fo the Standing Orders arose last week, and I was not certain whether I was down to resume the debate on the constitutional question or on the Bill. When the matter was called on I was not prepared to speak, and, as I was down to resume the debate, the only course open to ma was to ask for a further adjournment. I am quite sure that the leader of the Senate had no idea that it was my intention to put him or. the Government or any one else in a hole. I was entirely to blame in not properly recognising the position I was In when I said that I was prepared to do what I could in the matter.
– In regard to the statement just made by Senator McGregor, I may mv that when I intimated that I was quite willing to go on with the Bill in question, or to have the debate adjourned, it was quite immaterial to the Government what course was adopted. But I was informed that the majority wished to go on, and I was therefore surprised to find that my honorable friend got up and moved the adjournment of the debate. I did not wish to go against him, because I. was prepared to take either course. With respect, to answers to honorable senators’ questions, referred to by Senator Smith, of Course, as he knows, I have nothing to do with their preparation. They are handed to me, and I have no personal knowledge of them. I do not know whether they are correct or not. He says that one answer which T read to-day was incorrect. I am sorry that any carelessness has occurred, and I will make due inquiries into the facts. With regard to the Naval Agreement, although I am Minister of Defence, it does not happen that that matter is under my control. The agreement in connexion with the squadron which we have in our waters is under the control of the Minister of External Affairs, who has to get his information from the Admiral. The information which the Admiral gave was, it appears, that, so far as concerned the shortage of men, it was necessary, in the first place, to train a certain number of men tip to a certain standard, and then to place them on board ship. Gradually the Admiralty expect to have the full complement of men. I know what Sir Edmund Barton said on the occasion of the introduction of the Naval Agreement in another place. I know that, as between the Commonwealth and New Zealand., there were to be something like 1,600 men in training, But there was nothing in the agreement with regard to the number, lt simply provided that the Admiralty should provide training for men. As to the number, either of officers or of men, nothing was said.
– The agreement was varied as to the number of ships.
– The proposal of the Admiralty ia, as I am informed, to give us a far better fleet than we have now for fighting purposes. We shall not have so many ships, but they will be better armed. The four sloops, which were absolutely useless, will be replaced by second-class cruisers. Therefore, pur squadron will be a better one for real fighting purposes than that provided for under the Agreement. The Imperial Government are making these proposals to us, and I expect we shall accept them, but Parliament will have to ratify any arrangement that may be suggested, and when that stage is reached, every information will be afforded.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 9.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 August 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1905/19050802_senate_2_25/>.