4th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President took the chair at 3.38 p.m., and read prayers.
asked the Minister re. presenting the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are : -
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to - -
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Naval Defence Act 1910- 1911.
” Hansard “ Staff - Private Members’ Business - Conduct of Business.
– Before the Orders of the Day are called, I beg to move -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till Wednesday next.
My reason for submitting this motion may be fairly well known to some honorable senators. In another . place there has been a prolonged sitting, which is likely to continue, and we have only a limited number of Hansard reporters. I am sure that every honorable senator, and’ the members of another place, must acknowledge that the members of the Hansard staff have carried out their duties efficiently ever since the establishment of the Commonwealth, and are really experts in their: work. But continuous work such as they have had for the last twenty-four hours is> impossible for the physical strength of any) set of men to stand, and the reporters are.beginning to breakdown.
– They want relays.
– Of course,, the honorable senator will , recognise that to meet every emergency of that description the Hansard, staff would require to be doubled, and we should have to maintain that expenditure fur the whole year. I think that honorable senators will admit, if they scan the notice-paper of the Senate, that we have worked very well up to the present time, and that it would not be economical to double an efficient staff such as we have at present. The only serious objection that can be raised to the proposed adjournment is with respect to private business. I have already stated - and I think that it may be safely left to the future - that we may have a day or two to spare. I shall give a sufficient intimation to honorable senators when that time arrives to enable them to so arrange their business on the notice-paper that it may be taken in the daytime as well as in the evening. With that assurance I feel sure that those who have private business on the notice-paper will agree with me that it is only a humane act to submit this motion. I anticipate very little opposition, because it would be far better not to make such a proposal if time is to be taken up in discussing it. That would put a further burden upon those who have no chance of evading it. Honorable senators know that both in another place and here a member can go out when he chooses and have a spell, but a member of the Hansard staff must stick to his duty till- he drops. I am sure that no honorable senator or anybody else desires to make that burden so heavy that it would be an undue physical strain upon the men who are in the Service.
– I feel sure that the Senate has listened with both sympathy and interest to the reason advanced by the Vice-President of the Executive Council for the motion he has submitted. No one, . irrespective of the side on which he happens to sit, will at any time disregard an appeal which is made in the interests of, or as a matter of mere justice to, the Hansard staff. We also recognise, at any rate, those of us who have been in Parliament for any length of time, how extremely undesirable it would be to call in temporary hands for this work. It is work which I am sure it will be generally admitted requires special training and some experience to be discharged satisfactorily. We are then confronted with the difficulty which arises from the Government’s conduct of public business: I do not wish to say any more, except that they must take the responsibility for that.
– Hear. hear.
– It is not the responsibility of any one in this chamber, no matter on which side he may sit. We have nothing to do with it, but if the Senate should assent to the proposition of the Minister we have the right to ask that, later in the session, it shall not be penalized by falling in with his request.
– Keep us sitting until all hours.
– I think that the Senate is entitled to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council if, in its desire to assist the Government to carry on the business of the country, it assents to this proposal, that we shall not be forced to sit all night ; that we shall not have a number of measures thrown at us with the plain intimation that they will have to go through in so many hours ; that no attempt will be made to curtail the opportunities of fair discussion which this branch of the Legislature has a right to expect.
– No sittings after 11 o’clock.
Senator MILLEN. Knowing the temptations which sometimes present themselves to even orderly and well-mannered Govern-, ment supporters, I would not ask the Minister to tie his hands to that extent, but I do think that we are entitled to ask for, and to expect .from him, in view of the .time which the Senate is now about to give up for the reason advanced, a definite assurance that it will not be penalized, that its opportunities for considering public matters will not be curtailed, and that we shall not be expected to hurriedly pass a number of important measures. If that assurance is forthcoming I shall feel disposed, as I believe the . majority of the Senate will, in view of the special circumstances which have arisen, to accede to the proposition before the Chair.
– - The Vice-President of the Executive Council made one remark which has a special interest to a few honorable senators who happen to have private business on the notice-paper. I hope that before the end of the session he will give these honorable senators an opportunity to get a vote on the questions - the opportunity which he has hinted at - by allowing on some occasions private business to be taken in the daytime, even if it be necessary to give to it more than one day. It is necessary to remind the Minister, and also honorable senators generally,- that in practically every session those who had notices of motion on the business-paper found themselves at the end of the session unable to get a vote thereon, and altogether in an unsatisfactory position. The Minister knows that no private senator puts a motion on the notice-paper unless he desires, in most cases at least, to have a vote taken. A number of honorable senators are hoping that he will keep his promise, and that we shall have ample time to discuss all the matters on the notice-paper, even if it be necessary to ask the Senate to sit on Tuesdays in addition to the present sitting days. I thought it was just as well to bring the matter before the Senate at this juncture, because we are nearing the end of the session.
– While I cordially agree with the purport of this motion, I wish to say a few words about an interjection I made.
– We might as well talk on business as on this motion to adjourn.
– What 1 am going to say is, I think, necessary. I made ‘‘an interjection that we ought to have relays of reporters, and the Vice-President of the Executive Council stated that it would not be advisable to have enough Hansard reporters to provide for emergencies such as that which has arisen in another place. Senator Millen also spoke of the undesirability of putting on temporary hands. With both of these sentiments I agree ; but I think that, in view of the ill-health which has overtaken more than one member of the Hansard staff during this and previous sessions, there should be, at any rate, an accession to their strength, so that when the normal work of the session is on they should not be unduly harassed and broken down in health.
– I wish to thank honorable senators for the kindly way in which they have shown their sympathy with the men who have to work so hard.
– I should like to get an assurance on the point I raised. I think that the Senate is entitled to one.
Senator Sayers__ We shall divide the
Senate on the motion.
– It was only through a desire to close the sitting on behalf of the Hansard reporters that I did not refer to that matter. I am certain that everything will be done to prevent any inconvenience. Honorable senators know that up to the present time the Senate has had to sit all night on only a very few occasions. I am sure that Senator Millen would be the last to object to sit the whole of a Thursday night if it were possible by doing that to finish the business, and to avoid being compelled to come back a week later to do what might have been done in a few hours.
– But I remember how you treated us last session.
– I wish to assure the honorable senator that with the exception of a case of that description everything will be done by the Government to make the conduct of business during the session as convenient as possible to honorable senators.
– Your own supporters are laughing at that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Compulsory Drill : Prosecutions at Hobart : Postal Employes - Electoral Divisions : New South Wales. Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I crave a few moments to bring under the notice of the Minister of Defence, a matter of the greatest importance. It is in connexion with our system of compulsory military training. Quite recently in Hobart there were eighty-eight prosecutions for non-attendance at compulsory drill, and a great many of these persons were employed in a Commonwealth Department. Evidence was tendered; in fact, the presiding magistrate had a letter sent to him to the effect that one of the cadets so charged was not given the necessary permission by the Postal authorities in Hobart to enable him to attend drill.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - That is very discreditable to the Government officials.
– It is very discreditable indeed, and it is because of its very urgency that I have taken this opportunity to bring the matter under the Minister’s notice. The following is the report of a statement made by the police magistrate -
He had received a letter from one of the cadets who was engaged in the Post Office, to the effect that he had been refused time oft to appear before the Court. This showed that the postal authorities had not only refused to allow him time to go to drill, but would not even allow him to obey a summons. And this was by a Federal Government Department.
A Cadet. - It is the same in my case, your Worship.
– Last week the Minister of Defence promised me, in reply to a question I asked, that he would call for a report.
– I was not aware that the honorable senator’s question had reference to the case in Hobart.
– It was just that case to which I referred.
– I think that the prosecutions to which I am referring are several weeks later than the one to which the honorable senator called attention. The circumstances are such as to warrant the widest publicity and the most searching investigation as to the truth of these allegations, notwithstanding the fact that the honorable senator has already questioned the Minister on. a similar subject. I ask honorable senators to listen to the concluding paragraph of the report of these prosecutions -
One of the lads, a letter-carrier, said the authorities .it the Post Office had on certain occasions refused to allow him to attend drills. He was also told that he could not attend the Court to answer the summnos. He was allowed t) come at n o’clock provided he had his dinner, and went straight back to work. He had had nothing to eat since 6 o’clock, and, as the case was late in coming on, he would have to go back immediately. It seemed to him that the Defence Department and the Postal Department were cutting each other’s throats.
The p6int 1 wish to present to the Minister is : How is it possible for one Department to make a success of this scheme of compulsory training when another Department is offering to that system all the antagonism of which it is capable? In ordinary circumstances attendance at drill is accompanied by sufficient unpleasantness without having added to it the possibility of dismissal from employment. I trust that by the next sitting the Minister will be able to inquire into the truth of these allegations, and make a statement to the Senate.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales)
J2.40]. - I should like to ask a question of you, Mr. President, as to who is responsible for communicating a piece of business transacted by the Senate to the Department concerned, in the following circumstances. On the 8th of the present month the Senate arrived at a certain determination with regard to the redistribution of New South Wales into electorates. The Minister in charge of that business gave the Senate an assurance that no time would be lost, and that the determination would be submitted through the proper channels to the New South Wales Commissioners. The answer given to a question to-day shows that the determination of the Senate remained in somebody’s hands until the I 2 th instant. That is to say, four days elapsed before anything was done to place the Department of Home Affairs officially in touch with what we did. I desire to know who was responsible for the delay. I presume that the Minister in charge of the business was responsible, and that he should have informed the Minister of Home Affairs for whom he acted j because the Minister in the Senate is, as I may put it, a locum tenens for the Minister of Home Affairs.. Deliberately, however, and, as it would appear, of set purpose, the Minister delayed the submission of this matter to the Minister of Home Affairs. A delay of four days occurred before the Department was placed in a position to refer the matter again to the New South Wales Commissioners. If Ministers were determined that there should be no proper opportunity of submitting the question to the Commissioners, and of their report being returned to us for consideration - if they were determined that the resolution of the Senate should remain in somebody’s pigeon-holes - we had better know it, in order that the public may understand the fraud that has been perpetrated upon the electors of New South Wales.
– Senator Millen has asked me a question. Resolutions carried by the Senate are forwarded by the Clerk to the Secretary to the Ministers in the Senate. After that, the responsibility of the Clerk ends.
– When was the communication in reference to this matter sent ?
– It was sent on Saturday last.
– With reference to the remarks of Senator Long, I have to state that Senator Millen raised the same point in the Senate a few days ago, regarding a lad who had been brought before the Police Court, in Hobart, for failing to attend compulsory drill. The matter was brought under the notice of the Post and Telegraph Department by the Secretary to the representatives of the Government in the Senate, and Mr. Oxenham, the Secretary of the Post Office, has forwarded the following reply -
With reference to the remarks recently made in the Senate by Senator Millen regarding a lad who was brought before the Police Court in Hobart for failing to attend compulsory drills (vide Hansard of the 1st instant), I am to inform you that the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Hobart, reports by telegram as follows in connexion with the matter, viz. : -
Re lad brought before Police Court. In case before magistrate, on 15th October, inquiry showed that officer had opportunities for attending number of drills required. Impossible to give definite information regarding recent cases at Police Court until time worked has been compared with parade hours for twelve months. This is now being done, and report will be forwarded as soon as possible.
You will be further advised on receipt of additional information.
– The prosecution to which I referred took place on the second of this month, hot on the 15th October.
– I am not disputing that. I am at present dealing with the case brought under notice by Senator Millen. I can only say, with regard to Senator Long’s remarks to-day, that I will have them inquired into. I know personally that the Postmaster-General, at my request, issued to the Deputy PostmastersGeneral throughout Australia an instruction that employes of the Post and Telegraph Department were to be given every opportunity to attend all compulsory parades to which they were summoned. I know that that instruction has gone out.
– The instruction has been given effect to.
– Except in Hobart.
– The facts indicated by Senator Long, if they be correct, would seem to indicate that in the case he has mentioned the instruction has not been given effect to. Of course, we must wait -until the facts have been inquired into. We have the reply of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral in reference to the previous case. We have only the statement of the lad in the later case.
– There is also the statement of the police magistrate.
– He based his statement, as Senator Long will see., on the allegations of the lad himself when he was charged. We have had many cases where lads have been given time off, and have never attended drills at all.
– That seems to be the trouble.
– There is a system in force now by which we can check the statements of lads made under such circumstances. We must have a check made of the number of parades the lad attended in this case, with the time off which was given to him, before we shall be able to say whether on the occasion referred to drills were evaded. The matter will not be allowed to rest. We shall find out who is to blame.
– The lad’s statement, also, was that he was denied time off to answer the summons.
– I will cause a copy of Senator Long’s remarks to be forwarded to the Secretary of the Post and Telegraph Department, and the whole question as raised by him will be inquired into. With regard to the New South Wales redistribution scheme, which has been mentioned by Senator Millen, the honorable senator asserted that “ deliberately, apparently, and of set purpose, the Minister had delayed the sending forward of the resolution of the Senate.” That was a nice charge to make before the honorable senator had taken any trouble to inquire into the facts ! I took no action whatever with a view of delaying the matter. I am sure that honorable senators will give me credit for not taking any such action, because I gave a promise that the redistribution scheme would be sent back to the New South Wales Commissioners, and would be dealt with in the ordinary course, as all other schemes have been dealt with, immediately. The facts are these : The motion for the adoption of the scheme of redistribution was rejected by the Senate on Friday, the 8th of the present month. It was the duty of the officers of the Senate to notify the Secretary to the Minister of that rejection. That was done. The letter announcing the result of the division was written on Saturday, the 9th. On the evening of Friday, 8th, however, the Secretary to Ministers left Melbourne, in company with the Vice-President of the Executive Council, for Adelaide. The 9th, on which the letter to the Clerk of the Senate was written, was a half-day at Parliament House. Sunday intervened. The secretary to Ministers returned from Adelaide on Tuesday, the 12th. He found the letter ‘ awaiting him, and immediately sent it on to the Minister of Home Affairs, who, as stated in the’ answer to-day, immediately took action thereon. Those are the facts of the case, and if upon them Senator Millen can . form a charge that I, of set purpose and deliberately, delayed the forwarding of the determination of the Senate to the Department of Home Affairs, he is welcome to all the satisfaction he can get.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [2.59].- We have all read about the Circumlocution Office as it was conducted in the old days. Communications had to go through channel after channel, until, after long delay, they reached their ultimate destination. Here we have a set of facts which show that the methods of the Circumlocution Office are being adopted by our own Ministers.
– Long-established practice was followed. Does the honorable senator want to depart from that?
– I certainly want to depart from circumlocution. The Minister of Defence . represented the Minister of Home Affairs in the Senate in regard to the redistribution business. The position was exactly tha same, as far as we are concerned, as if the Minister of Home Affairs had been personally in the chamber. If all this circumlocution was required in order to communicate the determination of the Senate to the Minister of Home Affairs, very grave reasons are afforded for crediting the complaints, about the way in which the matter has been dealt with..
– The communication ‘ had to go through the officers of the Senate.
– There was no difficulty whatever about the Minister himself communicating with the Minister of Home Affairs. He could have informed his colleague that the scheme had been rejected by the Senate; and that it was considered urgent that the matter should be dealt with at once.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the Minister of Defence should have run over himself and communicated the resolution of the Senate to the Minister of Home Affairs?
.- It would have been a good thing if the honorable member who interjects had done that, instead of objecting to the scheme of distribution as submitted. Both Senator Millen and myself, when we realized that the scheme would be rejected, were ‘ careful to impress upon the Minister the necessity of dealing with the matter promptly and expeditiously. Surely the Minister should have made an effort to deal with the subject at once. He said that it would be dealt with in the ordinary way.
– In the same way as other matters.
– I say that the Minister, knowing full well the necessity of using urgency, might very well have moved out of the ordinary groove in which the members of this Government are so fond of remaining when it suits their purposes. We are all perfectly well aware that the session will end shortly. There is a great deal of business to be transacted before the prorogation. There ought to be a fair and honest determination that the new schemeof the Commissioners should be submitted to the Parliament and dealt with by Doth. Houses. It may be the intention of Ministers to do that, but, judging from certain remarks which I saw in a newspaper with regard to the attitude of the Minister of Home Affairs, I am afraid that he regardsthe business as a huge joke, and as a thing: to be put on one side, and treated as of very little importance. If so, the schememay not come before us again during the present session. I hope we shall not allow such a condition of affairs to remain in NewSouth Wales as we find at present, where there are 49,000 electors in one constituency, and only 22,000 electors in another- I earnestly protest against this circumlocution, and against the red-tape system which is being followed by Ministers. They ought to realize that we want to close the session as early as possible. There is important business to be dealt with, and, if we are to have a satisfactory election nextyear, and one that will give an honest representation to the people of New South Wales, it is absolutely necessary that the new scheme of distribution should he brought before us in good time. I trust that the Minister responsible will move himself out of the rut in which he is, and will show more expedition than has been displayed up to the present.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 November 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1912/19121114_senate_4_68/>.