6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m.) and read prayers.
– I have received from the Governor-General a communication conveying a certificate regarding the representation of Tasmania in the Senate, which I ask the Clerk to read.
Certificate read by the Clerk, a? follows: -
Commonwealth of Australia,
Melbourne, 1st March, 1917.
The Governor-General desires to inform the Honorable the President of the Senate that be has received the following telegram from His Excellency the Governor of Tasmania, dated Hobart, 1st March, 1917: - “ The House of Parliament of the State of Tasmania not being in session, I, ‘with the advice of my Executive Council, have appointed the Honorable John Earle to hold the place of Senator Ready, resigned, as provided in section 15 of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act. Governor Tasmania.”
The President of the Senate.
– Arising out of that communication, sir, may I ask a question concerning the privileges of the Senate? Seeing that the intimation states that Mr. John Earle has been elected a member of the Senate, that the intimation was received by the Governor-General by wire from the Governor of Tasmania, and that it has been obviously impossible for the Governor’s signature to have been attached to such a document and received here, I ask your ruling, sir, as to whether it is in accordance with the Constitution that Mr. John Earle should be allowed to take his seat until the written signature of the Governor of Tasmania has been received ?
– The point is provided for very plainly by the Constitution itself.
– And the Electoral Act.
– Order! The provision in the Constitution dealing with the question is contained in section 15 -
The name of any senator so chosen or appointed shall be certified by the Governor of the State to the Governor-General.
The Governor-General having sent his certificate to the Senate, we can take no further cognisance of the matter.
– As it is quite apparent to members of the Senate, sir, that no such certificate could have been received, I think that the Senate has rights in the matter.
– Order !
– I ask your ruling, sir, whether, in view of the fact that you yourself had not an intimation of the resignation until 6 o’clock yesterday afternoon, it is not an absolute physical impossibility for any certificate to have reached the Governor-General? I ask you to make haste slowly in this matter.
– They have had it rigged up all the time.
– Order !
– It was greased lightning.
– Order !
– It was greased lightning.
– Order ! I ask the honorable senator not to interject.
– Greased lightning !
– Order !
– All right ; go ahead.
– Order ! The honorable senator should not interject while the President is on his feet. The point raised by Senator Gardiner is abundantly provided for in the legislation of this Parliament,fully assented to by the Senate itself. In the Act which deals with the electoral representation of the countrv in the Senate, it is distinctly provided that everything which may be done by letter may also be done- by telegram. In Acts passed by this Legislature, there are similar provisions dealing with all matters of public utility. Therefore, as the point has been provided for by the Parliament itself, with the full knowledge and consent of the Senate, and as it is provided in the Electoral Act that everything which may be done by letter may be done by telegram, I have no option but to recognise the certificate of the Governor-General, whether the signature of the Governor of Tasmania was received by letter or by telegram. This Senate itself has already consented-
– Not this Senate.
– This Senate. It is the same Senate, no matter which Parliament it is.
– Are you sure that the message of the Governor did not come from the Prime Minister ?
– Therefore, I rule that the point of Senator Gardiner has no bearing on the matter.
– May I put to you, sir, without notice, this question: a.t what time was the resignation of Senator Ready received by you?
– Order! That information has already been conveyed to the Senate by myself.
– Will you, sir, be kind enough to wait until I have finished my series of questions. At what time was the resignation of Senator Ready received by you; at what hour of the evening or night did you communicate such resignation to the Governor of Tasmania; and at what hour last night or this morning did you receive a reply from the Governor of Tasmania ?
– I have already intimated to the Senate - I said so clearly and distinctly last night - that the moment I received the resignation of the then Senator Ready, now Mr. Ready, I indorsed upon it, in my own writing, and with my initials, the time at which it was received, and that time was one minute past 6 o’clock yesterday evening.
– And it was sent in before 3 o’clock.
– Order ! The moment after I indorsed the resignation, I instructed the Clerk to prepare a telegram to the Governor of Tasmania, in my name as President of the Senate, conveying the information to him, as I was required to do by section 21 of the Constitution. That was done.
– At what time?
– Immediately after I received the telegram, a-nd before the Senate adjourned for dinner.
– When was the telegram sent to Tasmania?
– That telegram was sent before the Senate adjourned for dinner. That ended my official duty in connexion with the matter. Everything was done entirely in accordance with the provision of the Constitution. Beyond that I have no responsibility. I have given honorable senators -and I did give them last night - the fullest information which was at my disposal. I made them fully acquainted with everything which I did in connexion with the matter.
– You have not told us, sir, at what time you received a reply from the Governor of Tasmania.
– I did not receive a reply from the Governor of Tasmania, nor is His Excellency required to send a reply to me. He is required by the Constitution to convey that information to the Governor-General. The information was conveyed to me by the Governor-General. I do not know at what particular time he did it. The information was received by me at about a quarter past. 10 o’clock. It was waiting for me on my table when I entered my room.
– The GovernorGeneral is in the bag, too !
– Order ! The honorable senator must know that it is distinctly contrary to the Standing Orders to make any reflection on the GovernorGeneral. I ask him to withdraw that statement.
– Yes; I withdraw it.
– Have I permission, sir, to make a personal explanation ?
– It will be quite in order afterwards for the honorable senator to make a personal explanation, but the proceedings may not be interrupted for that purpose. The new senator for Tasmania, I understand, is waiting to be introduced and sworn.
-Ide- sire to make a personal explanation in connexion with the vote which I unwittingly gave last night. I am put down in the division list as having given a vote against the party on this side, which was objecting to the adjournment of the Senate. It is not the first time that such an incident has happened, although that fact does not excuse me for’ having been a little slow. I went to the tableto write a telegram immediately after the announcement was made to the Senate that Senator Ready had resigned. As one who had taken a great part with him in the Labour organization of Tasmania, I thought it only right to acquaint the central executive by telegram with the fact that he had resigned. The chair on the left-hand side of the table was occupied, and so I went to the other side. I was absorbed in writing the telegram; in fact, sir, I had written a message, and was re-wording it, when it suddenly dawned upon me that a division was being taken. I got up to walk across the floor, as you, sir, know, but under the Standing Orders I was too late. You said that you had already appointed the tellers, and that I must stay where I was. Had I insisted upon crossing the floor, under the Standing Orders my vote would still have been claimed for the “Ayes.” This is not the first time that such a thing has occurred here. I know that on many occasions during the four years I occupied the chair at the table I did not see the senator crossing the floor when I knew which side hewanted to vote on, if he was moving to his place at the last second. I wish to explain, sir, that had I not been prevented by you from crossing the floor, my vote would have been given on this side with my party, because it is going to be recorded with my party on every occasion during this crisis; there need be no mistake about it.
Statement by Senator Watson.
– In view of the statement made by the President yesterday concerning the resignation of Senator Ready, I feel impelled to make a statement to this honorable House and to the country concerning certain conversations that I have had with the President of the Senate, Senator Pearce, and the Prime Minister, Mr. Hughes. I should have certainly regarded these matters as purely confidential and of a private character, but for the suspicion that has been created in my mind that an act of political treachery has been perpetrated for the purpose of allowing the present Government to continue in office and. to defeat the people in their determination to prevent the conscription of manhood for compulsory military service abroad. About three weeks ago I was asked by the messenger to meet the President of the Senate in his room, and I complied with the request. He began a conversation by asking me what I thought of my chances at the coming Senate election. I said that I did not know what was likely to occur. He said, “ I do not think that you have a hope of getting back here with Bowling and Rae as your colleagues.” I said, “ Well, we will have to take our chances.” He said, “ Now, I do nob want to influence you by asking you to vote for the Government, but I think, in your own interests, you would be well advised to vote for an extension of the life of Parliament. It would not be very nice for you to go back to the mines again.” I said, “ No; but you could not ask me to do anything like that, Tom.” However, I said, “ I would not determine on my own responsibility a matter which affected the whole of the party to which I belong.” He said, “ You think this matter over, and let me know what you think of it later on.” I told him that “whatever I did I certainly would consult the wishes of the men with whom I was associated.” A day or two after that we met again, and he asked’ me what I thought of the proposal. I said, “ Sink or swim, I will go with my mates, for you must know that if I were to act derogatively to the party’s interest I would deserve to be kicked out of the district of Newcastle.” On 15th February, just prior to my departure for Newcastle, I interviewed Senator Pearce in the Senate in connexion with some correspondence on military matters which had just come to hand, after which we entered into a conversation. During our talk, he asked me a similar question to that asked by Senator Givens in regard to the next Senate elections. In the course of the conversation, he told me I had not a million to one chance of winning with Bowling and Rae as my associates; to which I made no reply, as I had to’leave in order to catch my train. Upon my arrival home the following day, a telegram awaited me, which read as follows : -
Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, 19 1/3 sec. 95. 3.32 p. Dated Feb. 16, 1917.
Senator Watson. Commonwealth Offices, “Sydney.
Please call on Prime Minister Hughes in Sydney Monday or Tuesday next.
Senator Pearce. 4.11 p.
Two hours later, I received another wire over the telephone sent by Senator Pearce, stating that Mr. Hughes’ visit to Sydney had been cancelled, thus annulling the previous telegram. The following Wednesday, when I returned to the Senate, I met Senator Pearce, and he smilingly said, “I suppose you were a bit confused with the wires I sent you.” I said “No; I took in the situation, and did not think it necessary to reply.” He made no further comment at that time. Shortly afterwards, I had occasion to consult him concerning correspondence I had received’ on military matters, when the question of the wires was again mentioned. I asked him what Mr. Hughes wished to see me about. He said “He wishes to see you on important business.” I stated that I was at his disposal now if it were convenient for him. He then rang up Mr. Hughes, and statsd that I was available if he wished to see me. Mr. Hughes requested that I should come over straight away, which I did. I met Mr. Hughes in his Ministerial room at the Treasury. He began a conversation by stating that he knew the difficulties surrounding my position, as we had both come out of the one mould, referring of course to our long connexion -with the Labour movement. He then asked me what stood in the way of my coming over with them. I replied, “ The Labour movement.” He said, “Why m’ore you than myself, Chris. Watson, George Pearce, and others who are equally attached to the Labour movement?” I said I could not discriminate in that way, as it was within their rights to act as they thought fit. They had been resting for many years in the lap of the Labour movement, and had seen many years of public service ; whilst I stood at the threshhold of my public career. He asked me did money stand in my way, as I would lose nothing by coming over to them, and stated that he had never deserted any man who had stood to him. I replied that I had too much regard for the movement to act in any way in opposition to its interests, or betray its confidence.- I said, “ What would the men of Newcastle think of me were I to do anything contrary to the wishes of the party to which I belong?” He said, “If you don’t like to live in Newcastle, we can find you another place.” I knew then that Givens had told Hughes what I said. I replied, “ Oh, I could not think of that.” He then suggested that I should resign my seat and allow the vacancy to be filled, promising that a position would be found for me. I stated that I could not think of deserting the movement, and leave my mates in such a crisis, as I had always tried to act straightforwardly, and be able to look my associates in the face. He then referred to the qualities of the men who were leading the movement whose principles were not akin to mine. I said, “Whatever the ideas of these men were who were leading the movement, they were no different to what they were when he was the Leader of the party.” He replied by saying . that he thought I was acting foolishly, and that I would live to regret it, I replied by saying that I would not act in any other way, as my conscience would condemn me. This ended our interview ; and I left the room feeling stronger in my devotion to the movement with which I have been associated during the whole course of my life; and that no offer that Mr. Hughes, or any one else, would make could tempt me from the path of duty, or lead me to betray the interests of my party..
– The statement read by Senator Watson makes pointed reference to myself. I therefore claim the right to make a passing allusion to it. He has recounted an alleged conversation which occurred between himself and myself in my room. I was always under the impression - an impression which I hope will remain with me until I die - that everything said to me in my room by anybody was confidential and sacred, and that anything I said in the privacy of my home or room was sacred also. Senator Watson has not chosen to take a similar view of any conversation which occurred between him and me. The only comment I desire to make on his statement is that it is not a complete statement of the conversation, nor is it an accurate one. I cannot speak further on the matter, because the fact that Senator Watson does not recognise that there was any obliga- tion on him to regard the conversation as sacred or private, does not free me from the obligation to so regard it. Everything Senator Watson said to me in that room is sacred, and will remain sacred. I have nothing further to say on the matter.
- I have always held the opinion expressed by you, sir, in regard to personal conversations between senators, but perhaps in view of the fact that the interview that took place between Senator Watson and myself occurred on these benches in the Senate, it cannot claim that inviolability that you have put forward in regard to the conversation that took place in your room. I feel also that Senator Watson’s action in making the statement he has made to-day releases me from the pledge he then asked me to give that I would not reveal what he had said to me. . Speaking of myself, and not of anything that happened with the Prime Minister - a conversation of which I have no knowledge - Senator Watson’s account of the events leading up to the interview he had with the Prime Minister, and as to the telegrams, is perfectly accurate, except in one significant detail. That bears on what Senator Watson said to me in the Senate, to which I will refer later. When Senator Watson and myself had an interview on these benches I told him that, as one of the managers for our party, I knew what policy had been agreed to as the policy of. the Coalition Government if it was formed, and that, speaking to him as a
Labour man, I could assure him that there was nothing in that policy that he, as a Labour man, could not support. I told him that I felt sure from previous conversations that I had had with him that his heartwas not with the party with which he was now associated. I told him that when the announcement of policy was made, and the Coalition Government was formed, it would give him an opportunity to put himself right with his own conscience, and I advised him to seize that opportunity. I said that when he saw the programme and policy of the Government announced he would find it to be one that any Labour man could support in the present circumstances of war, and that he should seize the opportunity of breaking from the party with which he was now associated, and follow the dictates of his conscience by supporting a Government that was bringing in that policy. The part that Senator Watson has left out of his story is his reply, which was that he would like to be with us ; that he knew that he ought to be with us-
– That I deny.
– But that if he did come with us he could no longer live where he was living now, because they would make his life and the life of his family a hell.
– That is not correct.
– I said to him then, “ If that is the case why not go and live somewhere else?” I did send those telegrams to Senator Watson. They followed on the conversation we had had, and the significant thing which bears out my account of his reply is that he said in the statement he has just read that he came over on the Wednesday to attend the Senate. As a matter of fact, the Senate did not meet on the Wednesday of that week, and there was no occasion for Senator Watson to come over here on that day for that purpose. The Senate met on the Thursday. After receiving my telegrams Senator Watson left Sydney on the Tuesday in order to be here on the Wednesday, and it was here on that Wednesday that he had the interview with the Prime Minister.
– I came over for a party meeting.
– The honorable senator now thinks of a party meeting, but when he read his carefully-prepared statement he made no reference to a party meeting. All he said was that he was here on the Wednesday for the purpose of attending the meeting of the Senate. I think honorable senators will come to the same conclusion as I came to when I met Senator Watson here on the Wednesday, and asked him if he was prepared to meet the Prime Minister. I concluded that after receiving my telegrams the honorable senator had come over to give me an opportunity of putting him in touch with the Prime Minister. Acting on that impression, I at once got in touch with the Prime Minister, and arranged for the meeting. That is the part of theconversations and events which Senator Watson left out of his statement here to-day.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Is it the wish of the Senate that the honorable senator be granted leave to make a personal explanation?
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
– Senator Pearce stated this morning that Senator Watson, in his explanation just now, declared that he came over from New South Wales to attend a meeting of the Senate on the Wednesday, when as a matter of fact the Senate did not meet on that day. I wish to explain that-
– Order! That is not a personal explanation. A personal explanation must relate to something which personally concerns the honorable senator.
– I merely wanted to tell the Senate that I despatched the telegram to Senator Watson requesting him to come over here.
– In view of the statement made by Senator Watson, which constitutes the gravest charge ever levelled against a Prime Minister of this country, I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether he intends to proceed with the business of the Senate, and whether he intends to take any further steps to investigate the charge which has been made?
– I certainly intend to proceed with the business of this Chamber, but at the same time I am taking steps to have placed in the Prime Minister’s hands the Hansard report of what has taken place here.
– Has the Leader of the Government obtained replies to my questions of some days past respecting the prohibition placed on a Protectionist meeting at the Melbourne Town Hall ?
– The reply I have received from the Prime Minister is as follows : -
No instructions were issued by any officer of the Department to cancel the meeting referred to. The Prime Minister was not aware that such a meeting was to be held. The communication which the Lord Mayor referred to, which was by telephone, was entirely due to a misunderstanding by an officer of the Department.
– Arising out of the answer, may I ask if it is possible for the public to get a correct reason for the prohibition placed upon that meeting? First the Prime Minister says that neither he nor any one in his Department forbade it. The Lord Mayor of Melbourne has publicly stated that he received a telephonic communication from the Prime Minister’s office prohibiting the holding of that meeting for reasons of State.
– It is impossible for me or any other Minister to give an affirmative reply to the honorable senator’s question. The answer given previously shows that under a misapprehension some telephonic communication was made to the Lord Mayor. What action he took as the result of that communication I cannot say. I have endeavoured to satisfy the honorable senator’s laudable curiosity on this question, but it is impossible for me to do so.
– Will the VicePresident of the Executive Council be good enough to ascertain the name of the official in the Prime Minister’s Department who telephoned to the Lord Mayor that a prohibition had been placed on this meeting ?
– The fact having already been stated that the officer’ in question acted under a misapprehension, no good purpose would be served by making his name public.
– I ask the Vice-
President of the Executive Council what action is contemplated by the Government in connexion with the Gilchrist charges ?
– The honorable senator will recollect that a certain statement was made to him on this question by Senator Lynch when the latter wasMinister for Works and Railways. I would remind Senator Turley that a new Government has been formed since then. The matter has not been under the consideration of that Government, but within the next few days I will endeavour to get the matter finalized, and to place myself in a position to give the honorable senator a definite statement.
– I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council whether there is any truth in the statement published in the press last evening that definite and final arrangements are being made in connexion with the departure of Mr. Hughes, Sir William Irvine, and Sir John Forrest as Australian delegates to the Imperial War Conference, and, if so, whether they intend leaving the Commonwealth within a fortnight?
– I can only say that, naturally, I assume that what I may term the preliminary arrangements have been made. I know nothing; but I take it for granted that these gentlemen have not delayed making preliminary arrangements. But the question of whether they will go or not must necessarily depend largely on what takes place in Parliament itself.
– I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council whether it is correct that passages have been booked in the Euripides, one of the White Star liners, for the three delegates mentioned ; and, if it be true that the passages of a large number of attendants have also been booked by the same vessel? I also wish to know whether it is correct that the Euripides is a transport which, will leave next week, partially empty ?
– I am unable to answer the questions, and suggest that the honorable senator should give notice of them.
Senator EARLE entered the chamber supported by Senators Bakhap and Guthrie.
– I ask Senator Barker to immediately and unreservedly withdraw that statement.
– At your request, I withdraw it.
– The honorable senator must unreservedly withdraw it.
– I withdraw it unreservedly.
Senator EARLE made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.
– He ought to be faithful to King Boodle.
– As an old mate of the new senator, I must protest against these unseemly ejaculations. Senator Earle has been constitutionally elected-
– Shall I have the same privilege of speaking that is being extended to Senator Bakhap?
– I am not going to allow Senator Bakhap any privilege.
– One of the most tragic things that has ever happened in the history of the Commonwealth.
– In view of the happenings of the last few days, I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council what is the amount of secret service money at the disposal of the Government?
– I cannot speak definitely ; but I should say that it is a considerable percentage less than the secret service money of the Government of which the honorable senator was a member.
asked the Honorary Minister, upon notice -
What was the average price paid for wheat in Australia, per year, from 1907 to 1916, both inclusive?
– I understand the information asked for will be available during the day, and when it comes to hand I will communicate it.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– In order to answer this question it will be necessary to communicate with Mr. Griffin. That is being done, and a reply will be obtained at the earliest possible moment.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Government will immediately ascertainthe views of His Majesty’s Government, and communicate them promptly to Parliament.
asked the Vice-
President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– This matter, which was under the consideration of the previous Government, has not yet been dealt with by the present Government.
Statement of Policy
Debate resumed from 1st March (vide page 10779), on motion by Senator Millen -
That the paper be printed.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT
As the senator who moved the adjournment of this debate last night, I feel that the present is rather an inopportune time to proceed with a serious discussion of the policy of the Government in view of the statements that have been made this morning in regard to certain incidents which are alleged to have taken place. I have no desire to offer an opinion upon those statements; 1 prefer to hold my judgment in suspense until I have had a further opportunity of gauging their merits. lt is most regrettable that such charges should have been made on the floor of this Chamber. Honorable senators who make them incur a very great responsibility - the responsibility of justifying them.
SenatorDe Largie. - There is too much at stake.
– The other day Senator de Largie, addressing himself to this motion, and referring to honorable senators sitting on this side, made the somewhat sweeping assertion that they had crawled into the Labour movement. I do not know whether he meant that remark for any or all of the honorable senators on this side, but if he referred to me, I wish to say here and now that the statement is inaccurate in every detail. I could use stronger language, but if I did I would be in conflict with Senator de Largie and you, sir. I was practically born in the Labour movement: I was a half -member of the Durham Miners Association when I was twelve years of age, so that if the honorable senator included me in his sweeping assertion I hurl the insult back in his teeth. Senator Gould has just been referring to the Imperial Conference and our delegation. I have said here repeatedly that it is imperative that Australia should be represented at the War Conference in London. I have also said that this Parliament should know what subjects are going to be discussed there, and that the delegates who have been appointed should have instructions from this Parliament before they go. So far I have had no definite statement on the subject, and I can only gather from recent events that the delegates will go to London, and do as they please without this Parliament having been consulted or considered good, bad, or indifferent. I regret the position very much, and if there was any possible constitutional means “ to prevent these gentlemen from leaving our shores without instructions from this Parliament, I would be one to resort to such procedure. These gentlemen will not go to London representing Australian opinion. Not one of the three delegates to-day has the confidence of the people of Australia. But seeing that it is imperative that Australia should be represented at the Conference, and admitting that the Government of the day can appoint the delegates which they have done, I submit that in consideration to the people of this country their representatives should have something to say before the delegation leaves these shores. I come now to events which occurred about two months ago, and when the great betrayal took place - when the Hughes party coalesced with the Cook party. It is the greatest betrayal that the people of Australia have ever had, and I believe that . it will be the last one. Let us examine the company in which honorable senators on that side, who were recently my party colleagues, find themselves today. I will start with the right honorable Sir John Forrest. If ever there was a man in Australian politics who was condemned from Dan to Beersheba by Senators Pearce and de Largie on every opportunity they had on the platforms of Western Australia, and within this Parliament itself, it was Sir John Forrest. Yet to-day we find Senator Pearce sitting in the same Cabinet with Sir John Forrest, whose vote may be the casting vote, and Senator de Largie following the right honorable gentleman as Treasurer. During the recent campaign on the question of compulsory military service overseas, Senator Pearce gave a solemn assurance in the Town Hall at Kalgoorlie that the taxation proposals of the Government would be gone on with and carried out to the letter. Where are those taxation proposals now?
– The last shilling has not gone yet.
– No ; but the Government wanted to send the last man and keep the last shilling here Where is Senator Pearce’s assurance then given to the people of Western Australia, that the taxation proposals of the Government would be carried out to the letter ? We have heard the statement of Senator Millen, indicating the policy of the present hybrid Government. It is, he says, neither a rich man’s Government nor a poor man’s Government. It will not introduce domestic legislation, and it will not be reactionary; consequently, it is going to stand still. Following that statement by Senator Pearce, at Kalgoorlie, we find him now in the same Cabinet with Sir John Forrest, as Treasurer, who, during the recent agitation, was responsible, along with two others, for a circular being sent amongst the people of the Western State, which I intend to read, and then we will find out in what company these honorable gentlemen are now when they are going to carry out the taxation proposals of the Government of that day with Sir John Forrest, who is the Treasurer, and one of the three delegates to represent Australia at the most momentous period of her history. The history of this circular falling into the hands of a Labour member of the Western Australian Parliament is rather unique. Mr. Hudson, the honorable member for Yilgarn, happened to receive the circular. . It was simply addressed to “ Mr. Hudson,” at Claremont, where he lives. When he opened the cover later he found the words “Dear Hudson,” and ‘ naturally concluded that the circular was intended for him, but when he was reading it he found that it was. meant for some other Hudson. He read the circular in the Legislative Assembly of his State on the 27th September, 1916, and it is from the Hansard report that I intend to quote. Mr. Hudson said -
We will require to have fairly heavy taxation pretty soon. It should come almost immediately. The leading article in the West Australian this morning indicated that any time will do for it; and in the same journal prominence was given on Monday last to a letter by J. A. Brondson, in the course of which it was stated that “ after the war “ would be time enough for taxation. In my opinion, that will be too late. As the member for Bunbury (Mr. Thomas) has indicated, the Labour party passed a resolution in April last, as follows : - “ That this Council urges the Federal Government to exercise its powers, contained in the War Precautions Act, to conscribe all wealth for war purposes, seeing that money for the efficient equipping of troops is of greater importance to the Commonwealth than the welfare of the interests of owners of wealth.”
That. resolution was attached to the fol lowing circular, which has been sent throughout the State : -
That was signed by Sir John Forrest, Sept. Burt, and W. T. Loton. Those gentle- men have agreed to subscribe £100 each per annum for three years. What doesthe acting Leader of the Senate and those associated with him think of a man holding office in the present Government who would send such a circular as that round Western Australia, beseeching the assistance of the financial magnates of that State to defeat the .taxation proposals of the Government which Senator Pearce said in the Town Hall at Kalgoorlie would be carried out to the letter? The policy of these gentlemen is, “ Send the last man. but for God’s sake do not touch our pockets.”
– And the taxation proposals of the Labour party were designed to raise money for the repatriationof soldiers.
- Sir John Forrest did not offer £100 a year for three years to help to repatriate our sick and wounded men who were coming back from the front. That is loyalty of a kind that might not appeal to him, but still we hear from thebenches over yonder cries of loyalty, patriotism, save the Empire, and win the war. The circular I have read indicates that they were bothering not about winning the war, but saving their own banking accounts, and conserving the few shillings they had in their pockets.
– A few shillings !
– The few thousands, if the honorable senator likes. It has not been published in any newspaper that I know of that Sir John Forrest, or W. T. Loton, or Septimus Burt promised £100 per year for three years to help the sick and wounded men coming back after fighting the Empire’s battles on the fields of France. That circular seeking financial assistance to defeat the taxation proposals of the Labour party wassigned by the present Treasurer of the Commonwealth in order to save his own pocket, and now we find Senator Pearce, Senator Russell, Mr. Hughes, and two others who were in the late Government, in the same Cabinet with Sir John Forrest, who has control of the purse strings, and can direct the taxation proposals of the Government in regard to winning the war. A public debt of £130,000,000 stares us in the face. Where are we to get the money from? Notwithstanding the magnificent conditions of the loan, with 4j per cent, interest, and freedom from income taxation, the response has not been at all surprising. Because the old Labour party suggested a wealth tax Sir John Forrest, Burt, and others of that calibre made the appeal I have read. They say, “ Tax the worker all the time. Tax the poor man, but do not touch our wealth.” Sir John Forrest, during the last appeal to the people on the question of compulsory service overseas, recommended compulsion of men for service abroad, but when we proposed to touch his banking account he said, “ Hands off ! I will give £100 a year for three years to defeat the taxation proposals of the Labour party.” Yet that gentleman is to-day the Treasurer of the Commonwealth. Such is the history, such is the result of events.
– These events are very curious individuals !
– Some of them are curious; some of them are rather startling. An event occurred here to-day to which I could refer, but if I did so I would be out of order.
– You should be ashamed to be a member of the same party as the man who perpetrated that thing.
– I am not ashamed of any one with whom I am associated. I am not ashamed of myself, but I am ashamed of certain things that are happening to-day in Australia, which will not redound to the credit of this young nation. Compare the spineless proposals of this hybrid Government in their effort to win the war - and although they say that those of us who occupy the benches on this side do not desire to win the war, it makes no difference-
– I do not think they have said that.
– Perhaps the honorable senator has not listened to some of the speeches made during the last few days in this chamber. Members and supporters of the Government have said it. Let me compare their spineless proposals with Mr. Bonar Law’s straight-out declaration as Chancellor of the Exchequer in London a little while ago. When the last loan, which has been such a tremendous success, was proposed, Mr. Bonar Law made this very significant statement : “ If this loan is not a success, the next time we try to get money 5J per cent, interest will not be paid on it. There are other measures that we can adopt, and no interest will be payable.” This meant in effect that the British Government would conscript all wealth, and give anything that was left after the war was over to those who had owned it. We have in the Commonwealth to-day a Government without a policy of any class or description.
– They have a good policy - intrigue.
– That may be so, but I do not think it will improve the temper of the debate if those matters are referred to. To-day’s exhibition was sufficient indication to me that there is something going on. We on this side are told by the Government on every occasion that we are not anxious to win the war, but are hampering its conduct, that we have been associated with the Industrial Workers of the World, that we are Huns and pro-Germans, and that our hands are soiled with German gold. Notwithstanding those statements, they asked us to join them in the formation of a socalled National Administration. If they believed that our hands were soiled with. German gold ; if they believed that we were traitors to our country; why did they invite us to join them? Either their statements were true, or they were false. If true, why did they ask us to join them, and, if false, why were they uttered ? But when were we asked to join them ? Five weeks had elapsed in negotiations between the Prime Minister, Mr. Hughes, and the Leader of the Liberal party, Mr. Cook. Between these two gentlemen and the parties which they represent an earnest endeavour had been made to form a Coalition Government independently of the Australian Labour party.
– That is beclouding the thing entirely.
– My statement is absolutely true.
– It is true up to a point, but it lacks something.
– Will the honorable senator tell me what it lacks ?
– That the party to which the honorable senator belongs had an offer, and declined it, and that it now complains that it did not have the advantage of an offer.
– The honorable senator has not been listening to my speech, otherwise he would not make that statement. I repeat that at least five weeks passed in negotiations between Mr. Hughes and Mr. Cook in their endeavour to form a Coalition Governmentwithout my own party being considered in the matter at all. Is that right?
– I do not know how long elapsed. I am not sure as to the period of time.
– Even if I am a week out in my statement, there is the fact, which no honorable senator can deny, that only after the failure of these negotiations was our party invited to come in.
– That is not correct.
– Is the honorable senator calling me a liar in parliamentary language ?
– That is what the honorable senator is doing in a parliamentary way.
– The honorable senator’s statement is not correct.
– I say that it is correct, and I challenge the honorable senator to prove otherwise.
– As soon as the proposal was put to the Liberal party the Labour party was invited to come in.
– I have no knowledge of what was done at the meeting of the Hughes party, or at the meeting of the Liberal party, but I do know that it was only after those two parties had failed to come to an agreement that my own party was invited to discuss the matter of the formation of a National Government.
– That is not so.
– It is. The first intimation which the Australian Labour party received in relation to this matter took the form of an invitation to discuss the establishment of a National Administration. That invitation came not from Mr. Hughes, but from Mr. Joseph Cook. I was present when our Leader, Mr. Tudor, received the letter from Mr. Cook.
– That was some time before Parliament assembled.
– I know that. But it was only when the other two parties had failed to arrive atan agreement that we were invited to join in their negotiations.
– The honorable senator laid stress on the time just now. Why not lay stress on it here?
– I want to know who is making this speech - Senator Senior or Senator Shannon ? Those honorable senators are afraid of the truth.
– No. But I want the whole truth, and not a part of it.
– The invitation to form a National Government was received from Mr. Cook, and Mr. Tudor sent an acknowledgment to that gentleman on receipt of his letter. Shortly afterwards another communication came from Mr. Hughes in which the same question was asked as had been asked by Mr. Cook. Am I right there?
– I willaccept the honorable senator’s statement. Will he -now give me the reply ?
– The reply which has been published in the press was that Mr. Tudor would call a meeting of his party shortly before the assembling of Parliament to discuss the question.
– It was not important enough to warrant calling a meeting of the party straight away.
– How could Labour representatives in distant States be got together in Melbourne in three or four days ? Many of the members of our party were absent recruiting at the time. Mr. Page was one of them. But if it was so urgent that our party should be represented in the projected Government, why did not Mr. Hughes at once summon Parliament? That would have been better than to have allowed Sir John Forrest to wear a track between the Grand Hotel and Billy Hughes’ room in his anxiety to find out who would be Treasurer and who would be Minister for Defence in the new Government?
– Innuendoes are not arguments.
– Yesterday I listened to the honorable senator speaking for about three-quarters of an hour. Ever since I have known him he has been logical, but there was no statement made by him yesterday which could be called an argument, and very often his statements were not statements of fact.
– They were; and they were arguments. But if the honorable senator can dispute them he is now on his feet and has an opportunity to do so.
– They are scarcely worth disputing, because the statements were so puerile that it would be idle to waste time on them.
– Of course I do not expect anything else from the honorable senator.
– Thank you. There is a mutual recognition. If so much importance was attached to the necessity for having representatives of all three political parties in the Cabinet, why was so much time wasted in negotiations?
– The honorable senator must see that that is altogether beside the question.
– If there was a genuine desire on the part of Mr. Hughes and his party that our party should be represented in the Cabinet, effect could have been given to it within a week.
– If there had been a genuine desire on the part of the honors able senator’s party to join such a Cabinet effect could have been given to it immediately.
– There was no genuine desire to have our party represented in the Cabinet. But when Mr. Hughes and Mr. Cook could not agree they wanted to rope our party in. They realized that their political ship was sinking, and, in order to make it sink quicker, they said, “ We will endeavour to get the Tudor people in, too.”
– I accept that as the honorable senator’s opinion, but it is not my own.
– The honorable senator is free to accept anything he chooses. I was asked my- opinion of this proposed combination - this triple alliance, this Government comprised of the representatives of three parties - and I replied by asking the question, “ Have you ever read the fable of the spider and the fly?” The answer given was “ Yes.” “ Very good,” I said, “ then I will not be the fly, because I know the spider too well.” I refused to be a party to any such triangular alliance. Under no consideration would I be a party to it. The only importance which really attached to the question was whether or not the present Prime Minister would retain the Prime Ministership, and who would be given the different portfolios.
– No. They wanted to jockey Senator Pearce out of the Defence Department, and to put Senator Millen in it.
-Yes. Two days were occupied in discussing whether the Defence portfolio should be transferred from the Senate to the House of Representatives. Had that been done, it would have been a vote of censure on
Senator Pearce and on his administration. Naturally he made a- struggle to retain his office, and he cannot be blamed for doing so. But it took the negotiating parties two days to decide that matter.
– That does not cut any ice.
– It shows that the only way in which the Fusion Government could be formed was by giving the Liberal .party six representatives in it as against five representatives of the Hughes party.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2. SO p.m.
– The cry just now is “Economy, and Win the war.” A day or two ago the people of Australia were under the impression that they would shortly be faced with an election for the Senate, in view of the fact that eighteen of the present members of the Senate must retire on the 30th June. The present Government brought forward a proposal in both Houses to extend the life of this Parliament until six months after the declaration of peace or until the 18th October, 1918, whichever should be the earlier date. If . that proposal were approved by both branches of this Legislature, the Imperial Parliament would be asked to extend the life of this Parliament for the period mentioned. It was known that in the Senate there was a majority of two against such a proposal. Within the last twenty-four hours developments have occurred which have temporarily transferred the majority in the Senate from this side to the Government side. When the Leader of the Senate again brings forward the motion which disappeared from our business-paper yesterday, as a result of a trial of strength between parties in this chamber, it will be carried by the temporary majority behind the Government, and the Imperial Parliament will be asked to interfere with our Constitution. The development to which I refer was extremely sudden, since whilst one member of the Senate resigned his seat at one minute past 6 o’clock yesterday evening, another senator from the State of Tasmania has taken the oath and his seat here to-day.
– Pretty quick work.
– It was greased lightning procedure. I believe that th9 new senator was in the gallery last night when the President announced the resignation of Senator Ready.
– Would the honorable senator be surprised to hear that Senator Earle was over here long before Senator Ready resigned ?
– Yes ; waiting for the job.- I am well aware of that. Had it not been for this sudden development, eighteen members of the Senate would have had to go to the country to secure the decision of the people. If as the result of the Senate election the majority had been wrested from this side, the Government would have gone on with their proposal for the extension of the life of the Parliament. Under existing circumstances this course will not be followed, as I understand that pairs are not to be given for Senators Long and Guy, who are absent through illness.
– Surely the new senator will give Senator Long a pair?
– No ; he will have to do what he is told. He is under the whip. Had the situation to which I have referred been created, the cry of economy would have gone by the board, because the Government would have proceeded to stake £100,000 of the people’s money in a political gamble to wrest the majority from honorable senators on this side by a vote of the people. They have a majority temporarily to-day, but if pairs are granted in the usual way, when the motion of which Senator Millen gave notice to-day is brought forward next week, it will be rejected. If, on the contrary, the Government will not grant pairs to the sick senators who are absent from this side, they will carry the motion by their temporary majority, and will then invoke the assistance of the Imperial Parliament to prolong the life of this Parliament.
– And dodge the people.
– “ And dodge the people,” as Senator Barnes rightly says. The people ought to be given an opportunity to say who has their confidence, and what Government should carry on the affairs, of the country.
– The honorable senator would not have an opportunity to consult the people at this juncture.
– Under the Constitution I am entitled to hold my seat for another period of three years, but I hope that Senator Story does not suggest that I favour a Senate election because T do not happen to be one of the retiring senators.
– Certainly not.
– In my opinion, the cry for economy is not genuine. There is only one constitutional way in which the present political position can be settled, and that is by leaving it to the decision of the people at the ballot-box. Now that they have a temporary majority in both Houses of this Parliament, I wonder what the Government will do with the Tariff. Will they bring down a revision of the Tariff ? Are the anomalies of the present Tariff to be removed ? Will the true incidence of Protection be provided for, or will the Government merely bring down a measure ratifying the collection of Customs duties at the rates now imposed ? Important as is the question of winning the war, I say that, so far as we are concerned in Australia, it is imperative that the Tariff should be revised at the earliest possible moment.
– Is it not imperative that we should provide for ourselves in Australia ?
– We shall do so much better if we revise the present Tariff and put an end to the useless waste of millions of money that is now going on. I believe that Senator Senior is a Protectionist, and, if so, he must realize the necessity for a revision of the Tariff.
– What goods are coming in now ?
– Under the present Tariff more revenue has been derived from Customs during the period of the war than was derived prior to the war.
– Since the present Government came into office the Customs revenue has commenced to decline.
– That is because the outside world and the people of Australia have no confidence in the present hybrid Government, and not because of the protective incidence of the present Tariff. I am wondering whether the Government intend to appoint a Committee to investigate Defence administration, Naval and Military. I believe such an investigation has been promised, and the sooner it takes place the better. We have had instances of leakages in certain directions which justify a strict inquiry into our Defence administration. As the cases of some men who have been charged with offences are still sub judice, I shall make no more detailed reference to the leakages that are said to have taken place, but without reflecting upon any Minister, I may say that honorable members on both sides in this Parliament are agreed that it is imperative that there should be a close investigation into the financial side of the Defence Department. I was very glad to hear Senator de Largie some time age refer to the action of the InterState shipping companies in refusing to issue return tickets to people travelling by the Inter-State boats. I believe that Senator Russell was in charge of the matter when Senator de Largie directed attention to it, and still has control of freights and rates. When Senator de Largie brought up the matter he pointed out that passengers by InterState boats were being charged much more by having to pay for single tickets, and Senator Russell admitted that it was practically highway robbery, and agreed to investigate the complaint. I hope that Senator de Largie will not lose sight of the fact that the travelling public are still suffering from this imposition by the Inter-State shipping companies, and will see that the present Government do not remain inactive in the matter. I have no more to say on the motion. I have expressed my opinion upon various matters that are confronting us at the present time. I very much regret the developments that have taken place and which have resulted in the transfer of the majority from this to the other side of the Senate. If the Government desire a fair and just trial of strength between the parties to determine whether there should be an election for the Senate or for both Houses they have only to give pairs to our sick, senators, Senators Long and Guy, and so enable the people of Australia to deal with the present situation.
Motion (by Senator Story) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Senator Gardiner) read a first time.
– I beg to move -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until 11 a.m. on Monday next.
– You are in a hurry now. You want to get the prolongation of the life of Parliament all right.
– A stranger to this chamber might assume that the honorable senators opposite are really a vitriolic and violent body of men, but if a stranger should entertain that opinion I should like to disabuse his mind at once. The pose of honorable senators opposite will not deceive anybody. They are really the mildest-mannered and most pleasant body of men we have ever met, and their appearance of ferocity, whilst it might prove useful for outside purposes, has no effect in this chamber at all. Now, I want to give the reasons for asking the Senate to take this somewhat unusual course. It is not at all usual for the Senate, save towards the end of the session, to meet on a Monday, and when it does so act it is because of the pressure of public business. Honorable senators know that it is contemplated to send from these shores a delegation to take part in the Imperial Conference.
– A nonrepresentative one.
– Honorable senators will have an opportunity of putting forward that view if they entertain it, but just now I am asking the Senate to consider a proposal that will provide that opportunity.
– Why not give the people outside that opportunity ?
Senator MILLEN..They may have that opportunity a little earlier than Senator Ferricks will appreciate.
– It cannot be too early for our party
– Judging from the difficulty I have in giving expression to my views, it does not. seem that Senator Ferricks desires that the people shall have the opportunity he speaks of. There is before the Senate a proposition for the specific purpose of enabling the Senate to take whatever action it thinks fit with regard to the delegation. Members of the delegation are in this ‘position : Time is a very important factor. The Conference is pressing. The circumstances are such as to brook of no delay. It is due, therefore, that Parliament should finalize this business at the earliest possible moment.. To my mind, it is inconceivable that any gentlemen appointed as the delegation would consent to proceed England until they knew that, having started on an important mission, they will be permitted to carry it through without any interruption by any adverse parliamentary action during their absence. In these circumstances, and time being an important factor, I am asking members of , the Senate to meet, possibly at great inconvenience to themselves, on Monday next for the purpose of dealing with the motion to provide for the prolongation of the life of Parliament. If this motion is adopted, it will leave the road perfectly clear for the delegation to proceed to England, but I am bound to say also - I want to put the facts frankly and clearly before honorable senators - that the Government and members of the delegation take the view that, until Parliament has pronounced itself upon this matter, it is not possible for them to proceed to that Conference. I have reason to hope, when the Government seek co operation of members in this matter that, in view of the big issues involved, such co-operation will be given. But if Parliament is unable to indorse the proposal of the Government, the only alternative is to remit the issue to the electors themselves. I have endeavoured to state the position as frankly as possible. The Government, through me, tell members of this Chamber that the delegates will not feel justified in going until they are assured that the road is absolutely clear. They cannot proceed upon that mission if there is any prospect of humiliation being heaped upon them in the middle of their deliberations.
– You mean they would bribe their way from Australia?
– We want an assurance that they shall not be humiliated by any parliamentary action during their absence. The Government, in putting the proposal before the Senate, invite support. If that support is not forthcoming, there is, as I have said, only one alternative which any self-respecting Government could take in the circumstances, namely, to remit the issue to the people themselves. I admit at once that much inconvenience will be caused to honorable senators. I have been too long in Parliament not to know that, from force of habit, members who live in distant cities are accustomed to make certain week-end engagements which this motion will interfere with; but, in the circumstances which I have outlined, I appeal to them to submit to the inconvenience in order that the greater public convenience may be served.
– Before speaking to the motion I would like to know from, the Leader of the Government if he can alter the time from 11 to half-past 2 o’clock in the afternoon, so as not to unduly inconvenience honorable senators.
– If the honorable senator can give me an assurance to complete the discussion, say, by noon, or lunch time-
– I give no.assurance at all. I am asking it the Government will consider the convenience of honorable senators. The only assurance I give is that the proposal will meet my utmost hostility. The Government are asking the Senate to do on Monday morning what we proposed to do yesterday, hut which the action of the Leader of the Government prevented us from doing. The proposal was on the notice-paper in the proper way, and it should have been submitted to the Senate, but the Leader of the Government refused to do that. He now asks us to meet at 11 o’clock on Monday morning.
– To send away as the representative of Australia a criminal.
– The Leader of the Government is asking us to meet on Monday morning to discuss a matter which the Senate, so far, has not had placed before it. No official statement has been made in this chamber that any delegation has been invited to proceed to England. Some days ago I asked the Leader of the Government if it were a fact that Mr. Hughes had received an invitation, and if it were a fact that others were included, and the Minister replied that, so far as the first part of the question was concerned, an invitation had been received, but that he was nob in a position to answer the second part of my question. If the Leader of the Government did not know the purport of that invitation, is it a fair thing to ask us to act, as it were, blindfolded in the Senate, by discussing something of which we know nothing officially?
– You said just now that you were prepared to discuss this matter yesterday, and, that being so, surely you should be prepared to discuss it on Monday.
– We were prepared to discuss it yesterday, because it was before the Senate in the usual way, but, if we had discussed it yesterday, I venture to say that the complaint I am now voicing would have been heard then, namely, that we had had no official intimation of an invitationto send delegates to the Imperial Conference. Are the public of Australia goingto put up with this kind of thing ? What happened yesterday ? I asked you, Mr. President, at twenty minutes past 6, if you had received Senator Ready’s resignation, and, with your usual courtesy, you did not answer my question.
– Chair !
– The honorable senator need not go looking for trouble when no trouble is meant. Shortly after I put my question to the President, Senator Barnes asked a similar question, in reply to which we were informed that the President knew how to put the business m its proper order before the Senate. When we met at 8 o’clock, after dinner, we learned officially of the resignation of a member of the Senate - a member living in a distant State, and with a stretch of water between the seat of Government and his State - and this morning’s papers recorded the fact that Mr. Earle had resigned his seat as a member of the Parliament of Tasmania, and was readv to take his place as a member of the Senate in Melbourne.
– Is that not quick enough for you ?
– There is no go-slow policy there.
– It is direct action.
– It is quite true that there was no go-slow policy with the Government in this matter, but I venture to say that there lias been nothing so degrading in the history of the Industrial Workers of the World. This action by the Government is the most disgraceful that the public of Australia has ever seen. It is the most discreditable thing that has ever been brought before the Australian Parliament. Let us look at the ‘ facts : The papers this morning informed us that Mr. Earle - now Senator Earle - had placed his resignation in the hands, T presume, of the Speaker in Tasmania. I would like to know from him when he handed his resignation to the Speaker.
– Do not be impatient.
– This is a time for impatience. Can one sit quietly by when everything points to a plot, planned in the cellars and in darkness, to handle the business of the Senate as if it was the property of a clique, of a junta, of the governing party that send a mysterious telegram to the Premier of another State to meet them? Yesterday I asked Senator Millen if he knew whether the visit of the Premier of Tasmania to Sydney was made on public or private business, and although he is the Leader of the Senate he did not know. I venture to say that we all know pretty well what that business was.
– I do not know. I attended a public function with him.
– Oh, you are in the “bag” with him.
– No; you are in the “bag” all the time.
– This report has appeared in print:
Some mystery surrounds the hurried departure of the Premier (Mr. Lee) for Sydney by the Moeraki early on Saturday morning. On
Friday an urgent message was received from the Prime Minister, asking Mr. Lee to meet him in Sydney on Monday morning. The Premier was at Swansea, completing his eastern tour, and the message was repeated to him there. He at once came on to Hobart, reaching the city at about 1 o’clock in the morning; and left at 10 o’clock for Sydney.
This, of course, is not public business.
– When was that report published?
– It appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph on Monday morning. What is a fair surmise of the business which was to be considered? It is that in’ their anxiety to win the war the Government were arranging for the retirement of an honorable senator who would not consent to a prolongation of the life of Parliament or to the departure of, shall I say, secret junta delegates - delegates not representing in Parliament the people, but representing the secret conclaves of two parties brought together by - what? The most desperate and despicable means ever attempted in the public life of this country. The arrangements were complete. A member of the Tasmanian Parliament handed in his resignation and came here, waiting on the doormat for the Senate to meet so that he might take his seat to play his discreditable part in this discreditable proceeding. I do not think that the Government will be able to persuade the people of the Commonwealth that all these things were coincidences. It resembles too much the undermining of the people’s liberties for them to stand much more of such proceedings.
– The undated resignations, for instance, held by Mr. Rosa, your boss in Sydney.
– That is a lie !
– The interjection from Senator Lynch is on a par with all his interjections. He said once in the Senate, by way of interjection, that I had refused a pair to him. A little while ago he did ask me for a pair, and I informed him that two members of our party, Senators Long and Guy, were ill, and that he could be paired with either of them. He thought that I was childish enough to say that while his party were allowing our members who were ill to go without pairs, I would give him a pair.
– A dead pair.
– I do not care whether the honorable senator calls it a dead pair or a live pair. If the business of our public life, even now, is to be lifted, particularly in the Senate, to a state of decency, I appeal to the new senator for Tasmania to give a pair to a colleague who is ill and unable to attend. If there is any justice in giving “pairs at all it lies in giving pairs to men who are physically unable to attend.
– Why did you not give a pair to Senator Henderson when he was sick?
– I think that the Miuister for Defence will agree with me that at that time I was with him. I was then occupying a seat on the Trear sury bench, so that he cannot blame me for that refusal.
– No, the pair was refused after the breakaway.
– You admit the incident, anyhow?
– I do not admit the incident, because I was sitting on. the Treasury bench side by side with Senator Pearce.
– At any rate if 1 was sitting on this side of the chamber I was never asked for a pair for Senator Henderson. Senator Pearce may shake his head as much as he likes, but the records of the Senate are available.
– We had to bring Senator Henderson here in a cab.
– If the honorable senator looks up the records he will find that on that occasion I was sitting side by side with him as a member of the Government. I want to know if Senator Bakhap, another Tasmanian senator, is going to give a pair to a colleague on this occasion.
– He is going to be here to vote on every question as he thinks fit.
– If the public life of this country is reaching that stage that when men are known to be ill the vindictiveness of party will not allow them to have a pair, that is one of the reasons why we should not go out of our way to meet the Government on Monday morning.
– Pairs for sick and absent senators have been refused here time and again.
– To my knowledge a pair has never been refused. The public ought to be made aware that the only way in which the Coalition party can get a majority even now is by refusing pairs to two honorable senators who are too unwell to come to Parliament.
– Can you guarantee how they would vote ?
– I. will guarantee that the two honorable senators who are ill and away would vote for their party.
– The Whip of your party has suddenly resigned.
– His resignation was astonishingly sudden.
– It was very astonishing to me.
– I think that we all share in the astonishment, the surprise, and - shall I add - the disgust at the rapidity with which the vacant., place has been filled.
– Do you charge him with a change of opinion?
– I am not going to make a charge against him at all.
– If he can change his opinion the two senators who are absent may change their opinions.
– Why do you not defend a sick man?
– I am not called upon either to accuse or defend, nor am I doing so. A man who can look facts squarely in the face and say that it will not take all the waters of the Pacific to wash away the stain of suspicion from a man who suddenly resigned his seat in order to give a majority to a party at a time like this-
– Do you imply that he has changed his opinions ? How do you know that the absent senators have not changed their opinions ?
– As soon as we are so informed we shall be prepared to change the pairs. There need be no haggling or quibbling on this matter. As soon as the absent senators say that they have changed their opinions they will no longer be members of our party, and no longer shall we seek pairs for them. But whilst they are members of the Labour party I am determined that if the Coali tion party will not grant pairs, at any rate the public shall know the means by which that party have got a majority to carry out what they are trying to carry out behind the backs of the people. This fact must be made known and driven home. Here is a Government confronted to-day with a statement which, I venture to say, would lead any decent Government to immediately close Parliament so that it might be sifted.
– What corroboration of the statement is there ?
– The corroborative evidence of Mr. Hughes nails the statement down as the truth. There is no getting away from the fact that a state. ment has been made here to-day–
– By whom ?
– By a member of the Senate.
– Nobody will believe him.
– Order ! I call upon Senator de Largie to refrain from interjecting.
– A statement has been made here to-day by a man whose word is unquestioned, and who not only now, but hitherto, has shown himself to be unpurchased and unpurchasable. No reputable Government would allow a minute to pass without announcing that they would investigate the statement immediately. How are the Government going to make an investigation.? By hurrying the chief of the accused persons away so that he may avoid an inquiry.
– Is that why the charge was launched - to keep him here ?
– No; it was launched because when the happenings of yesterday became known, Senator Watson could no longer keep the secret he had, for it was a secret so far as he was concerned, in confidence.
– In confidence ?
– There can be no confidence with criminality. As soon as a statement passes the stage of honest dealing and criminality creeps in, confidence ceases. Every decent man in the community will uphold that view.
– He took a long time to speak.
– He certainly did. If what was offered to him had not been shown to .be happening with others possibly he would not have spoken.
– What was offered to him!
– To resign from the Senate and make way for another man.
– I make the same offer to the honorable senator.
– He was offered a bribe.
Senator Millen. I ask that the remark of Senator Mullan be taken down.
– You can take the remark down. His own statement verifies it.
– I do not think that the Leader of the Senate need proceed so far as that. I think that when it is pointed out to Senator Mullan that his remark is not in accordance with the Standing Orders, he will withdraw it. Senator Mullan. - With all due respect to you, sir, I am only stating a fact which occurred.
– Order ! The honorable senator is aggravating the offence. Whether it is a fact or not, the remark is unparliamentary, as the honorable senator must know, and I ask him to withdraw it.
– I say that he was offered a bribe, sir.
– Order ! The honorable senator must not defy my ruling. He may believe, he might even go so far as to feel perfectly certain, that it is a fact, but the remark is unparliamentary, as he knows. I ask him to obey the rules of Parliament and withdraw the remark.
– Senator Watson made a statement this morning, and if what he said was not out of order, how can I be out or order?
- Senator Watson did not state that he was offered a bribe, otherwise I would have called him to order. I ask Senator Mullah, without any further attempt at debate, to obey my ruling.
– I believe that what I said is a fact, and I will not withdraw the remark.
– Does the honorable senator refuse to withdraw it?
– I have no other course left to me than to name the honorable senator.
– Before proceeding to take the course prescribed by the Standing Orders, I wish to make a personal ap peal to Senator Mullan to relieve me of the necessity of doing so. I know that words are flung across the chamber in the heat of debate, and probably I am an offender myself. But the honorable senator must see, whatever he thinks of the matter, that certain rules are necessary for the maintenance of good conduct in debate. I ask him to relieve me from what I assure him would be a painful duty.
– There is nothing undignified in withdrawing the remark.
– I realize that there is nothing undignified in a man withdrawing a remark if he thinks that he is wrong ; but I believe that I am right, and I am damned if I will withdraw the remark !
– Order ! The honorable senator must not use that language.
– Standing order 440 reads -
When any senator has been reported as having committed an offence, lie shall be called upon to stand up in his place and make any explanation or apology he may think fit, and afterwards a motion may be moved - “That such senator be suspended from the sitting of the Senate.” No amendment, adjournment, or debate shall be allowed on such motion, which shall be immediately put by the President.
Senator Mullan leaves me no alternative but to ask that the first portion of that standing order be put into effect in order that I may move the motion in con.formity with its second portion.
– I again appeal to Senator Mullan to withdraw the expression which he, from his long and varied parliamentary experience, must know is unparliamentary. It is in the interests of every honorable senator, no matter which side of the Senate he sits on, that the proceedings of the Senate shall be conducted in an orderly and proper way, and in accordance with established custom and precedent. Even if Senator Mullan is convinced that the statement he made is right, his method of describing the matter was couched in unparliamentary language. There are other ways in which all these things can be described in parliamentary language. I appeal to the honorable senator again, for the sake of the good name of the Senate and the orderly conduct of its business, not to persist in his present attitude, by which he forces’ the Leader of the Government and myself to take steps which we should much regret having to take.
– I believe what Senator Watson said. I only stated the fact, stated by him to-day, that he was offered a bribe, and I believe it.
– Senator Watson did not say that.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That Senator Mullan he suspended from the sitting of the Senate.
– Is the motion open to debate?
– Then this tyranny can go on unchecked ?
– There is no tyranny. I am bound by standing order 440 just as much as is any other honorable senator.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– As a senator from a State the illness of whose representatives in this Chamber has, unfortunately, precipitated this crisis, I feel impelled to utter my protest against the action of theVice-President of the Executive Council in asking the
Senate to meet on Monday morning. Is that proposal put forward because there is a possibility that an honorable senator who is known to be on a sick bed, may, at the risk of his life, manage to put in an appearance here by the middle of next week, and thus frustrate the politicalplot which has been hatched for the purpose of enabling certain gentlemen who do not represent the Democracy of Australia to proceed to England as our delegates to the forthcoming Imperial War Conference ? If Senator Guy is able to get here next week - and I am satisfied that he will get here at the risk of his life if he can - this plot will fail, because the numbers in this Senate will then be equal, and the proposal of theGovernment to prolong the life of this Parliament for the purpose of enabling Mr. Hughes, Sir William Irvine, and Sir John Forrest to represent Australia at that gathering will fall to the ground, as the question will then be resolved in the negative. If Senator Guy can get here before a division is taken upon that proposal we know that his vote will counteract the vote of Senator Earle.
– And the criminal would not go to England then.
– Senator Earle Was apparently sleeping on the door-mat of the Senate. By some strange coincidence he was waiting here to take his place to-day, although the vacancy in this Chamber only arose because of the sudden illness of another honorable senator the day previously.
– Sleeping seems to be a failing with Tasmanian senators.
– Senator Pearce will not find the Labour senators from Tasmania sleeping so long as he sits on the Treasury bench.
– One was sleeping last night.
-No, he was not. The Minister for Defence cannot get any of those cheap sneers off on. me.
– The honorable senator was caught napping.
– Many another honorable senator has been caught napping, and the presiding officer has conveniently forgotten to see him when he knew on which side of the Chamber he was going to record his vote. Last night when the division took place I was engaged in writing a telegram to the organization that was responsible for sending ex-Senator Ready here. I knew that its members would feel keenly the step that he had taken. I admit that I was not quite as sharp as men ought to be in these particular times. It will be a warning to every honorable senator not to incur any risks of that kind in the future, because we now see that the gloves are off.
– The honorable senator does not seem to profit by the experience.
– That remark cuts no ice, because my explanation this morning as to why my name appeared as voting with the Government last night was quite convincing.
– What about the vote to-day ?
– I did not vote. I was down the street on private business, and did not get back to the Senate until after the vote had been taken.
– The honorable senator always seems to be in the wrong place.
– I stand on seventeen years’ public career in the State of Tasmania, and the people there know where I am to be found.
– The honorable senator’s, party did not know that to-day.
– The party thought that it knew where Senator Earle was, but it did not. That gentleman to-day took the place of a man whose resignation was received only late yesterday. There has never been such a remarkable coincidence - such wonderful haste.
– Order ! These remarks would be quite in order on a motion for the adjournment of the Senate, but they are not in order on this motion.
– Then I will make them when. I shall be in order. I wish to record my protest against the proposal that the Senate shall meet on Monday morning, because, palpably, it is submitted for only one purpose, namely, to hurry through this Chamber a motion which might fail to be carried if a certain senator from Tasmania were given the opportunity of getting here. If the division on this important proposal were deferred till towards the end of next week it is just possible that Senator Guy might be able to be present. But as a senator of sixteen years’ standing I say that I have never refused to give a pair to any member of an Opposition party in case of illness, and I protest against the action of honorable senators opposite in declining to provide a pair for Senator Guy. They know perfectly well that it will not be very long before he will be able to be present.
– I hope he will.
– But the VicePresident of the Executive Council desires to rush this proposal through before he can get here, fearing that otherwise it will not be carried. We know very well that Senator Guy has recently undergone a couple of operations, that, though he has been at death’s door, he is now recovering, and has every chance of being here within a week or so. Yet the party opposite refuse to give him a pair. If they will grant him a pair I shall be very pleased, because we shall then get the full voting strength of the Senate recorded on this question, as it would have beenrecorded a few weeks ago, and as it would be recorded a few weeks hence. If our friends opposite refuse toextend to a senator who is absent through illness the ordinary courtesies of political life, I can only come to the conclusion that they are prepared to adopt any course to carry their proposal.
– What about the refusal to give pairs on the Referendum Bill?
– I do not know anything about pairs having been asked for in connexion with that Bill. Certainly I have never refused a jpair during my seventeen years’ parliamentary experience.
– We have members absent, as well as the honorable senator’s party.
– I am quite prepared to stay in Melbourne for the purpose of being present when the Senate reassembles either at 9 o’clock, 10 o’clock, or 11 o’clock on Monday morning; but in view of the fact that a number of honorable senators have booked their berths for other States to-night, I say that it is most unusual to launch a proposal of this character at the last moment. The VicePresident of the Executive Council has pointed out that the. business with which he desires us to deal is particularly urgent, owing to the fact that our delegates to the Imperial War Conference must leave our shores almost immediately.
But his plea for urgency was very well answered by Senator Gardiner, who pointed out that the Government were not anxious to proceed with the proposal yesterday. Before the Senate adjourns another motion will have to be submitted, and upon that motion honorable senators may properly discuss other matters, which I understand they are desirous of ventilating.
– I am anxious, if it is possible to do so, to meet the convenience of honorable senators, but I must have some regard for the business of the Senate as it is viewed by the Government. Some honorable senators, it appears, desire that we should not meet until after lunch on Monday. I believe that was a suggestion made by Senator Gardiner; and I am quite willing, if the motion to meet at 11 o’clock on Monday be carried, to agree that the division on the motion of which I have given notice shall not be taken until after lunch on Monday.
– The honorable senator need not worry about that, because there are two or three matters of public importance the discussion of which will take up till 1 o’clock on Monday.
– If I need not worry in offering suggestions to meet the convenience of honorable senators, it is difficult to know how I should proceed. If the motion now before the Senate is carried, I am prepared to undertake that a division on the other motion to which I have referred will not be called for before 3 o’clock in the afternoon of Monday. This would meet the convenience of honorable senators who do not desire to return to Melbourne until mid-day on Monday, since it . would enable them to participate in the debate on the motion and to record their votes. There is another thing that I am prepared to do. If Senator Gardiner, speaking for his party, will enter into an understanding with the Government that a division on the motion of which I have given notice will be taken not later than 3 o’clock on Tuesday, I am prepared to amend the motion now before the Senate, and fix the meeting of the Senate on Monday for 3 o’clock.
– The honorable senator will get to a division more quickly by treating honorable senators on this side with courtesy. We shall give the Government a division whenever they want it if they will give us pairs.
-We will give the honorable senator a pair if he wants one.
– I will take a pair for Senator Long.
– No; we will give the honorable senator a pair for Senator. Guy.
– I have made two suggestions to meet the convenience of honorable senators, and that is as far as I cango.If those suggestions are not acceptable to my honorable friends opposite, there is no other course open to me. than to leave the matter to be decided by the Senate on the motion’ now before us.
Question - That the Senate adjourn until Monday - put. The Senate divided.
Majority .. ..2
Question so’ resolved in the affirmative.
Prosecution op Mr. Coombe, M.H.A.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– During the week I asked a question of Senator Pearce, and in doing so quoted from a newspaper report showing that a legislator of Australia had been fined £10, and £5 5s. costs, for’ having uttered these words -
The injustice of having certain votes earmarked, and that was done to intimidate the people.
Senator Pearce immediately replied that there was something else said besides those words. I then asked the honorable senator whether, if those words were the only words uttered, the Government would remit the fine. I was asked to give notice of the question, and did so. The reply given to the question on notice shows that a member of one of the State Parliaments of Australia was fined £10, with £5 5s. costs, and that the Crown Solicitor of the Commonwealth had advised that Mr. Coombe should be taken before a Court for using the words I have just quoted. In’ answering my question, Senator Pearce quoted the advice given by the Crown Solicitor in the following terms: -
In my opinion the statement as to the injustice of ear-marking voteB, and that it was done to intimidate the people, was an attempt’ to cause disaffection among the civilian population at Tanunda, which is largely German, and would justify proceedings for contravention of regulation 43 of the War Precautions Regulations.
Here we have a citizen of Australia, holding a prominent position in our public life, who has had to suffer the indignity of a fine for saying -
The injustice of having certain votes ear marked, and that was done to intimidate the people.
I venture to say that I have said worse than that in this chamber.
– The honorable senator did not say it outside, where he could be caught.
– I am prepared to say it outside, and I invite the Government to catch me. Have we reached such a stage in the public life of this country that a public man can be fined £10 for criticising a procedure that was most distasteful to many people in the community] I ask Senator Pearce whether he thinks we would have had any chance of putting the War Precautions Act on the statute-book if, when we were dealing with it here, we had told the people that a public speaker criticising a political arrangement might be dragged before a magistrate and fined. I venture to say that there is no member of the Senate who would knowingly have been prepared to give powers of that kind to the Government. I go further, and say that when the War Precautions Act was passed, promises were made that it was to protect the people of Australia, and not to tyrannize over them.
– I ask Senator Gardiner to consider the people to whom Mr. Coombe was speaking.
- Senator Senior may desire to cloud the issue in that way, but it is my contention that there is nothing in the words that were used to cause disaffection amongst the people.
– If there were, Senator Turley should have been given six months without the option.
– Senator Turley is not disputing that statement?
– I spoke plainly enough.
– I say that the result of this prosecution, must come as a shock and surprise to the liberty-loving section of the people of Australia. In answering my question, Senator Pearce made it plain that the Government did not propose to intervene when the matter was brought under their notice. I say that the War Precautions Act has been used for a purpose for which it was never intended. As one who is as much responsible for the passing of the Act as is any member of the Senate, I say that I would never have supported it if I had thought for a moment that a public man, discussing a public question, and in a very moderate way, might be brought before a magistrate and fined. Senator Pearce told me that some words other than those which I have quoted were said, but there was no evidence to back up the other charge.
– There was evidence for and against Mr. Coombe on that charge.
– There was no evidence to secure a conviction
– Mr. Coombe was acquitted on that charge.
– Then we must accept the verdict of the Court to indicate that there was no evidence to support it. Here we have a man fined £10, with £5 58. costs, for saying that to earmark certain votes was to intimidate the people.
– He was telling an assemblage of Germans that.
-It has been my lot as a public speaker in’ my own
State toaddress many public meetings, and. I say that it is rarely that one finds a large number of one section of the people at a meeting.
– That is nob the case at Tanunda.
– Of course, I am aware that there are fewer Germans in New South Wales than in South Australia, and that is why the “ No “ vote was so large there. In proportion to population, there are fewer Germans in New South Wales than in any other State of the Commonwealth.
– Except Western Australia.
– Senator Pearce is always saying that, but he never gives me the figures. I remind honorable senators that Mr. Hughes made a statement that the Government were going to have another ear-marking Bill, not for Germans, but for Australians. When Bpeaking at Albury and. Wagga, he said, “ These young men will get the surprise of their lives.” That was done to intimidate the people, and it did intimidate them.
– Mr. Hughes would have been perfectly justified in what he did on that occasion if he had carried it out.
– I know that the tyrant from the East believes in tyranny.
– No, I do not.
– My honorable friend does believe in tyranny, though he may think he does npt.
– I believe in treating army deserters as deserters.
– The honorable senator is game to advocate tyranny openly. There is that to be said for him.
– At the time Mr. Hughes made the statement I have quoted, the Statistician estimated that there were 176,000 men to report under the proclamation. When he made that statement 179,000 had reported, so there was no reason to anticipate deserters.
– The intention was only to intimidate deserters.
– What was done under the provisions of the Military Service Referendum Act in the case of persons suspected of being of German or enemy nationality? I venture to say that every person whose name might suggest that be was of German origin was prevented from voting if be desired to vote “No.”
– You passed an Act here to challenge the vote of an Australian of supposedly alien extraction, and yet you think it a terrible thing to prevent a man who would not report under the Proclamation from going to the polling booth.
– Yes, I helped to pass the War Precautions Act, and I think it a terrible thing that a man should be fined £10 under that Act for an expression of opinion. In my innocence I did not think it would ever be used for that purpose.
– Order! Under the Sessional Orders, I must put the motion, “ That the Senate do now adjourn,” without further discussion. If the Senate thinks fit to continue the debate, the motion can be negatived.
Question put, and resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.1 pin
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 March 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1917/19170302_SENATE_6_81/>.