5th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Senator Maughan, by leave) agreed to -
That’ one month’s leave, of absence be granted to Senator Ferrickson account of urgent . private business. ‘
King Island - Mr. Swinburne’s Report
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General say if anything is being done, or is proposed to be done, to comply with the wishes of the residents of King Island for wireless communication with either the mainland or Tasmania? Honorable senators know that an application for some relief has frequently Been made to the Department under both the present Government and the previous one.
– Is this a question or a speech?
– Do the present Government propose to do anything in the way of giving these isolated people the relief which they have unsuccessfully sought for the past two or three years ?
– Ishall . be very glad to get the information for the honorable senator if he will give notice of a question. I have not the information at the present time.
– Has the report of Mr. Swinburne yet been presented to the Government; and, ifso, when is it likely to be made available to honorable senators J
– I understand that the report has been received; but, as a legal action is pending, clearly it is not desirable to make the report public
– Has the atten tion of the Minister of Defence been called to the following statement by the Prime Minister in the press? - “Admiral Patey “ said Mr. Cook, “is out here to develop the Fleet, and to make it an efficient instrument of war.” “ Anything he suggests in that direction will receive the fullest consideration, and I think,, in most cases, the approval of the Government.”
Does that mean that ‘Admiral Patey has full control of the disposition of the Australian Fleet; that he has the full right to officerthe Fleet, to get his officers from’ where he likes, and send the Fleet where he likes, without this Parliament being considered ?
– I desire to compliment the honorable senator on His extremely lively imagination. .:
– I want a replyto my question.
– For further reply I refer the honorable senator to a very full statement made by myself in the Senate a few weeks ago,- which indicated the attitude of the Government in regard to the matter now brought under review.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Minister of Defence to an article in the Age dealing with a series of important questions regarding naval administration. I only propose to quote the first part of one article -
Australia’s naval scheme is menaced by several grave dangers. One, and perhaps the most serious, ‘is an attempt on the part of a section of the Board of Naval ‘Administration, and of officers serving in the fleet itself, completely to Anglicise the institution by making the lives of Australian officers a “ hell upon earth.”
There can be no doubt that there is some foundation for the statement.
– The honorable senator must not argue the question.
– Will the Minister cause an investigation to be made into this serious statement, and report to the Senate as to its accuracy or otherwise)
– I do not see that an inquiry would be of any value to either the Fleet or the country. If there is any truth in the statement, at any time it makes itself manifest I shall regard it as the first duty of the Minister of Defence, myself or other person, to take prompt steps to put an end to it.
– Have the Government considered any claim for compensating the Cadets who were smashed up by a motor car in Sydney some months ago 1 Is it proposed to recompense the boys for the injuries they received while attempting to do their duty to their country under the guidance of their officers?
– The matter- referred to by the honorable senator is under reference now to the Crown Law officers.
– That is where it has been for twelve months, and the boys are dying.
– Will the Minister of Defence ascertain if the Prime’ Minister will communicate with Emperor Nicholas, the Czar of Russia, likewise with Tuan Shih-K’ai, the President of the Chinese’ Republic, and other advanced rulers, to learn the most effective way they have of dealing with political opponents, with a view to its adoption in this country, so that true Liberalism may secure a permanent foothold ?
– That is what it has in the Senate, is it not; what is the matter with it?
– If I thought that the Prime Minister would obtain the services of* my honorable friend to convey that message personally, I should be disposed to advise him to adopt the suggestion.
– I desire to draw the attention of the Minister representing the Prime Minister to the following statement which was made by the Treasurer, and reported in the press of Western Australia, on the 27.th May. -
The system they were following in finance was disastrous. ^10^,000,000 had gone into the Federal Treasury during the last two years, most of which should have gone into the State coffers. . . . The Federal Government was not giving the money back to the States, but was throwing it away in all directions.
In view of that statement, do the Government propose to repair the alleged injustice to the States by increasing the payments to them, or to withdraw their charge that the late Government committed an injustice to the State Treasuries ?
– I can hardly imagine that the honorable senator expects a question of that kind to be seriously taken. I have not seen the state-‘ ment referred to. I understand that it is of great age, almost antique. Further than that, a statement which I havenever had brought under my notice be-‘ fore is hardly one to which my honorable’ friend can expect me to make a reasonable reply at the present moment.
– I ask the; Leader of the Government in this Chamber whether he will lay on the table. of the’ Senate the report and evidence of the. Royal Commission which inquired into the suspension of Mr: Henry Chinn during January and February last?
– I do not know whether that report is available or not.. If it. is, I see no. objection to making it 1 available to honorable, senators.. -
– I wish to ask Senator de Largie whether the £2 2s. per day expenses which have been paid to Mr. Chinn have been paid on the authority of the chairman only, or on the authority of the Select Committee as a whole?
– It has been paid on the full authority of the Committee, every member agreeing to the amount.
– I desire to ask the Leader of the Government whether they have been paying Mr. Starke £12 12s. per day to represent the EngineerinChief and the Government upon that inquiry.
– I am unable to answer that question.
– I call the attention of the Minister of Defence to a statement which appeared in the press one day last week, and which purported to emanate from the Honorary Minister in another place. The statement reads -
Therefore, whatever the report of this packed tribunal contains, it will not affect this Department one jot.
These remarks, I may explain, had reference to the Chinn Inquiry. The Honorary Minister in another place accused this Chamber of having constituted a packed inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Chinn’s dismissal. Does Senator Millen approve of the language used by his colleague, and will he say whether he believes that the Committee appointed by the Senate is a packed one?
– I am not aware that I am called upon to express an opinion on the utterances of my colleagues, or to state my belief in regard to any action for which a section of the Senate may be responsible.
– Then, will the Minister state, “off his own bat,” whether he believes the Select Committee appointed to inquire into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Chinn’s dismissal is a packed one?
– My reply is that I do not propose to answer that question.
– I ask the Min ister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs whether any money has yet’ been received by the Government under the Excise Tariff (Sugar) Act?’
– I am not in possession of the information which the honorable member desires, but I will obtain it for him.
– Has the Minister of Defence any objection to lay on the table of the Senate the recommendations of the Naval Board regarding increased accommodation for itself and its staff ?
– I am quite willing to lay any papers of that kind on the table of the Senate. At the present moment, however, I scarcely think that there are any such papers.
– I ask the Minister of Defence whether the Government have arrived at any determination in regard to the removal of the quarantine embargo which has been placed upon the city of Sydney . on account of the alleged small-pox epidemic?
– As honorable senators are aware, there has been a Conference of medical men sitting in this city during the last few days, but the report of that Conference has not yet reached the Government.
– Can the Minister of Defence say whether an individual named Ryrie, who was engaged in a fight with a man named Bourke, an account of which appeared in yesterday’s papers, is the same gentleman who threatened last week in another place to annihilate certain honorable members?
– The honorable senator does not expect an answerto that question.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs to the following paragraph, which appears in the report by Commander Brewis on the lighting of the western coast of Australia
The coast-line of Western Australia,; from Eucla to Wyndham, amounts to approximately 3,130 nautical miles. From Eucla to Fort Darwin is a distance of 3,300 miles, of which fully 3,400 miles must be considered imperfectly charted, and, in parts, entirely unexamined.
Accurate charts are obligatory for trade and navigation, and this is a most important coastal requirement. If two vessels proceeded steadily with this work, it would take at least fifteen years, and probably twenty years, to complete.
In view of the fact that only one vessel is engaged in the work, namely, H.M.S. Fantome, and that, according to Commander Brewis, she would require forty years to thoroughly examine the coastal waters of Western Australia, will the Government take into consideration the necessity for securing the services of another survey vessel, so that the work may be completed in a reasonable time? If we are to wait forty years for the present steamer to complete her work, it is difficult to say what damage may be done in the meantime.
– The matter is under consideration at the present moment.
– I ask the Honorary Minister whether it is because the Government realize that they have made a grave mistake that the Tasmanian mail contract has not yet been signed ?
– It is not, because the Government have not made a mistake.
– In view of the notice of motion which has been given by Senator Millen to-day in regard to giving precedence to Government business, which predicates the termination of the session, will the honorable gentleman say whether he proposes to employ the same methods to get business through this Senate which have been employed in the other branch of the Legislature ?
– I am hopeful that this Chamber will continue to maintain its traditional good behaviour, and that such methods will not be necessary.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Commonwealth Bank Act 1911. - Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1913, No. 140.,
Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902-1911 and Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act 1906- 1912. - Regulations amended, Sc. - Statutory Rules 1913 No.- 377.
Lands. Acquisition Act 1906 - Land acquired: under, at -
Bayswater, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
East Perth, Western Australia–For Postal purposes.
Melbourne,, Victoria - For Postal purposes. Public Service Act 1902-1911. - Appointments, Promotions, &c. -
Department of Home Affairs -
Department of the Treasury -
Postmaster-General’s Department -
Report- (together with Appendices) of theUniform Gauge Conference, held at Melbourne, December, 1912, and April, 1913.
Seamen’s Compensation Act 191 1. - Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1913, No. 279.
Trade Marks Act 1905-1912. - Provisional Regulations. - Statutory Rules1913, No; 260.
Wood Pulp and Rock Phosphate Bounties Act: 1912. - Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1913, No. 278.
– I call attention to a. report appearing in the Sydney DailyTelegraph of Saturday last of a speech delivered by Senator Ready in support of the Labour candidate for Bathurst. I do so with a view of asking a question asto the intentions of the Government regarding it. The following is the report : -
The Speaker of the House of Representativescame in for some severe criticism at the handsof Senator Ready, of Tasmania, in the course of a speech in support of the Labour candidate for Bathurst last night. Senator Ready quoted thesubleader of The Daily Telegraph, condemning, the Government for their treatment of Mr. McGrath, and said that the editor of that great- journal had better look out or the Speaker would have him up before the Bar of the House.
For myself ,. proceeded the senator, let me stateemphatically and unmistakably, speaking as- one. of your legislators, clothed with my full responsibility as such, and here, publicly, that the-‘ Speaker -in his unparalleled course of action- has shown, himself to be a pitiable, -puny, party. puppet ; and he has degraded and prostituted the high office and the still higher traditions of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. I, for one, shall not be coerced, or my right to free speech denied, but I shall say so everywhere, and they can throw me out of the Senate if they dare when I return there on Wednesday next. They had to turn Mr. McGrath out on the casting vote of the Speaker. When it comes to the Senate, there are more than seven of us there, you know.
I wish to know whether the attention of the Government has been called to the report, and whether they intend to take any action in the matter?
– As far as I know, the attention of the Government has not been drawn to the statement which Senator Rae has quoted. Had it been, I venture to say that they would not have taken any notice of it.
– I wish to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate, without notice, whether, in view of the reasons given for the adjournment of the Senate on the 6th November, and considering that the disability then alleged still hangs over the head of the Government, it is their intention to proceed with business in the Senate.
– The presence of Ministers here to-day prepared to go on with the business is the best answer to that question.
– Then I move-
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent him moving that the Senate do now adjourn.
– It is not necessary to suspend the Standing Orders.
– I understand that the honorable senator desires to move the suspension of the Standing Orders in order to enable him to move the adjournment of the Senate in the ordinary way. If he had desired to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgent public importance he need not have taken this course. But the Standing Orders provide that only a Minister can move the adjournment of the Senate in the ordinary way. I assume that Senator McGregor does not intend to move the adjournment for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgent public business, because he has not given me written notice to that- effect; as required by the Standing Orders. Consequently, it is necessary for him to proceed as he has done to enable him to move that the Senate do now adjourn.
– There need be no pretended ignorance as to the purpose of this motion. It is evident thai Senator McGregor has submitted it with a view of closing the doors of the Senate, and preventing it from proceeding with the work which is before it to-day.
– Which you did a fortnight ago.
– Which we did with Senator de Largie’s assistance the other day.
– Not at. all.
– I wish to call the attention of the Senate - and I am not doing it with any desire to make party capital - to what this means. I ask the Senate, and especially an experienced and responsible leader like Senator McGregor, to consider carefully what the Senate is now asked to do. We are here to-day to do business. Whether the action taken by the Government in the past was defensible or otherwise is, no doubt, a matter for discussion. But I do ask the Senate to pause before deliberately closing these doors whilst business which is before us remains unfinished.
– You did that a fortnight ago.
– I did it following the customary procedure, which was condemned by Senator Gardiner. But I now take it, from his interjection, that he is prepared to support Senator McGregor in doing what he denounced as wrong a fortnight ago.
– Do not jump at conclusions.
– I am putting it in all seriousness to honorable senators opposite that they should pause before taking this action. I admit their power to do it if they like. But before they place the Senate before the country as deliberately, and wilfully, and for no just reason at all, refusing to do the business which is on the notice-paper to be done, they should reflect seriously. I do not propose to say any more. There is the position. I appeal to honorable senators opposite to hesitate before . they ask the Senate to take such a course.
– I am very much obliged to the
Minister of Defence for the very wise and kindly counsel which he has given to as. But I think that if the honorable senator would take a few minutes to consider, he would come to the conclusion that the action of the Government in the past has given every reason for this course. In view of what has occurred, I am satisfied that the people of the country have a right to have some time given to them for the calm consideration of the position that has arisen. If any action of this kind was ever necessary, it is necessary now as a protest against the arbitrary conduct of the Government. Consequently, I hope that the people will take notice of the reason why we have adopted this course.
Question put. The Senate divided -
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That the Senate do now adjourn.
In submitting the motion, as the Leader of ‘the Government in the Senate may be desirous - as he was in connexion with the motion just carried - of obtaining some reason from us as to why this course of action is necessary, I wish to say that up to the present time honorable senators on this side have done everything they possibly could to assist the Government to carry on the business of the country. They have even gone so far as to assist the Government to adjourn the Senate whenthe representatives of the Government in this Chamber have thought it necessary. It has been stated by some one, and I am informed that the authority is the Prime Minister, that it was at my request that the last adjournment of the Senate was made. I emphatically deny that. I deny that at any time I have requested the representatives of the Government in- this Chamber to adjourn the Senate, although the Opposition have always been preparedto assist them to do so when they thought it was necessary.
– And this is all the thanks we get.
– We get only misrepresentation, because it is gross misrepresentation on the part of the PrimeMinister or of any other member of the Government to say that I or any honorable senator on this side has requested them at any time to adjourn the Senate. The Leader of the Government in theSenate knows very well the reason why it was adjourned on the 6th November. Healso knows that from the very inauguration of the Federal Parliament, when a motion of no-confidence in the Government has been submitted in another place, it has always been the practice to adjournthe Senate. That has become a precedent of the Senate, and a parliamentary practice that is almost as binding as any section of the Constitution. Senator Millen is aware that in every other Parliament in the world the same course is followed, and is in keeping with the recognised relations of all Upper Houses to the more popular Legislative Chambers in every country. A statement to this effect was made on the occasion of the last adjournment of the Senate by Senate Millen, although I understand that some of his colleagues have said that if the honorable senator had had more sense he would not have taken the course he did. I do not know . that any of the honorable senator’s present colleagues have one-half his sensed but that is the way in which the members of the present Government characterize each other when they are apart. What they, do when they are together’ is, of course, a matter of secrecy. The Leader of the Government in the Senate knows very well that what I have said is a . fact, and that time after time the Senate has been adjourned for the very same reason, as. that for which it was adjourned on Thursday week last. He is aware also that at ‘ the very beginning of this session the Senate was adjourned for some time for an exactly similar reason. I wish to remind honorable senators that the motion, because of which the last adjournment of the Senate was made, has not yet been decided. In view of the fact that the Government are prepared, in this Chamber and in another place, to go on with the business of the country whilst a motion of np-confidence is hanging over their heads, it is time that some action was taken in the Senate to show the people of Australia that -the true friends of constitutional government at the present time in this Parliament are the members of the Opposition. That is why I have submitted this motion.
– I do not propose to detain the Senate for more than a few minutes. I wish to refer to some of the extraordinary allegations of my honorable friend opposite. First, he has referred - and, metaphorically speaking, he seemed to pat himself, on the hack - to the fact that he and his friends have given evidence of a desire to assist in the transaction of public business.
– Have we not postponed our private business to allow your business to come on?
– Let the motion now submitted to the Senate speak on that point rather than honorable senators opposite. Here is an evidence of aD positive desire on the part of the Opposition here to frustrate the business of the country. They deliberately come here-
– “Why did the Senate adjourn for a fortnight?
– I shall deal with that matter directly. I want to furnish this motion as an evidence of a desire on the part of the Opposition not to help forward the business of the country, but to absolutely frustrate it, and bring it to a stand-still.
– It is submitted for the same reason as you submitted a motion ti fortnight ago.
– Another remark -of my honorable friend to which I desire to make a passing reference was the statement that he had not requested the adjournment to to-day. I do not ordinarily like ‘ to. traverse ‘ matters that have transpired in private! between myself and the Leader -of the Opposition, but as the matter has been challenged, may I remind him that he himself did suggest - I do not know that it was a request - that this day would suit him admirably. Further, that he thought that this was a desirable day to adjourn to was proved by the fact that when a division was called for he sat on this bench and voted with me.
– What about the length of the adjournment?
– Let me deal with the reason for the adjournment then, and the position which exists to-day. As I told the Senate a fortnight ago, and as Senator McGregor has just reiterated, it has been the custom here, as I believe it is with every second Chamber in a bicameral Legislature, to adjourn when the Government is challenged in another branch. Following that practice, I did move a motion to adjourn the Senate, and I submit that I was entirely right in doing so. Here comes the point to which I desire to direct attention. The Government has itself to judge when it will accept a motion as one of challenge.
– Why did you accept it?
– All right; I am trying to explain the matter, if the honorable senator will allow me to do so. The Government is not bound to accept every motion as one of challenge.
– Did they accept this one?
– The Government is not bound to allow a motion , to be indefinitely debated. In this particular case the Government took action under a standing order, which, I am free to admit, is a new one to me, which, in the interests of public business-
– I, at any rate, am candid enough to admit that there are some things in this world which I do not claim to know. I understand that Senators Russell and Needham know everything which ever was or ever will be.
– I am admiring your new virtue - candour.
– I admit at once that I was not aware of the existence of the standing order. I only wish that there were more of such Standing Orders that we might fall back upon. The position remains that the Government, in the interest of business proceeding, took action which it had a perfect right to take, and thereupon went on with business in the other House. Just as we cease to do business here when they do, seeing the action the Government have taken there, we are entitled now to proceed to the discharge of public business. Honorable senators opposite are those who to-day are frustrating that effort, who are deliberately drawing a log across the track of public work. Here is the work now prepared to go on with, and honorable senators opposite must take the responsibility of deliberately and openly attempting to prevent business from being done. The Leader of the Opposition made a reference to the true friends of constitutional government. Search the history of constitutional government, and find a case where action has been taken like that which is being taken here to-day. I welcome it. There need be no doubt about the fact that the whole purpose of the Opposition since Parliament has met has been to frustrate public business.
– That is not true.
– It is true.
– Not in this Chamber, at any rate.
– It is perfectly right. The endeavour of the Opposition since Parliament has met has been to prevent public business from being put through.
– If any proof is wanted, you have only to turn to last Saturday’s issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph to find that Mr. Hughes, a paid scribe for that journal, boasts that during the time we have been assembled the Opposition have prevented us from doing any business. While that is their tactics in the other House, there is no need for similar tactics here, because the Government have not presented any serious business to the Senate until to-day. Now we are confronted with two serious propositions by the Government. The Opposition, carrying on in this Chamber, no doubt, the deliberate efforts, of their confreres in the other Chamber, seek to block public business. Confronted with the. question as to whether or not it will- suit the pros posals of the Government, the Opposition turn round and say that, instead, they will close these doers to prevent any public business from being done at all. I welcome the action of my honorable friends. It is the clearest evidence that- we can have to put before the country that the Opposition, not allowed to rule, are determined that no other party shall. Whilst I regret, in the interests of the public, that this has taken place, I am perfectly pleased, speaking from a party point of view, that my honorable friendshave committed this tremendous outrage upon parliamentary procedure.
– I am really amused at the course of action which the Leader of the Government here has taken. I am surprised that he does not do the same thing: as is done in another place. If the Government suspend a few of the senatorsthey can still have a quorum, and carryon the business they desire to deal with,, whether it is in the interests of the country or not. The Leader of the Senate, need not call the attention of the membersof the Opposition to anything that the Government have done anywhere. The members of the Opposition, both here and in another place, are well aware of everything that the Government have done. I am sure that the great majority of the people of Australia are taking notice of the things that the Government are doing; and attempting to do. There is no necessity for the Government to delay for morethan five minutes the -business of the country, either in one section of Parliament-, or in another. All that the Government have to do is to carry out their practice- for the last few weeks ; they can deal with the no-confidence motion, put on theclosure, and defeat the motion in less than five minutes. If Ministers want to carry on the business of the country, they will’ take my advice, and do something of that description. But we, as members of the Opposition, have a right to call public attention to the conditions existing, and this is the only way in which we can. do so.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority- . . … 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.53 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 November 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1913/19131119_senate_5_72/>.