7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
-I ask the Leader of the Senate, without notice, whether the Conference called to deal with recruiting by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral has been called with the concurrence and approval of the present Government?
-The Government appreciate the effort of His Excellency in the direction mentioned, and will, so far as it lies in their power, do everything they can to make the Conference a success.
– The Minister’s answer is somewhat vague. I should like to know definitely whether the Conference is to take the shape of a new Parliament nominated by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, and whether that has the approval of the Government.
– The honorable senator will see that that is a question which only one person in this community can answer.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether his attention has been directed to a report of a meeting of the Historical Memorials Committee, which appeared in the press on Monday last, in which it was stated that the Committee had decided to spend £1,000, or over, in procuring the portraits of certain public men 1 If the report is correct, will the Government take steps to procure the cancellation of such orders until after the war?
– As I understand the position, it is that an Historic Memorials Committee was appointed, during the existence, I think, of the first Fisher Government, but it was to be an advisory committee only. I have gathered from the press reports to which Senator Earle has referred that the Committee has made, or is making, a recommendation in the terms indicated by the report. The Government has not yet considered that recommendation, but, in view of the question put by the honorable senator, I shall invite the attention of my colleagues to the matter, with a view of getting a Government pronouncement on the suggestion.
– Perhaps, as I am a member of the Historic Memorials Committee, Senator Earle’s question might more properly have been directed to me. First of all, I want to say that the reports which have appeared in the newspapers are not correct. No arrangements whatever have been made for the painting of any portraits. All that has been done has been to make a recommendation that a sketch should bo made of each of the individuals who were referred to in the report, so. that, if it were subsequently deemed advisable, portraits of those individuals might be painted. Honorable senators may be aware that one of the ideas which the Fisher Government had in creating the Historic Memorials Committee was to give some encouragement to Australian artists, as the portraits to be painted were to be entirely the work of Australian artists. Amongst the gentlemen whose portraits it is considered advisable to paint is His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, who, in the ordinary course of time, if his term of office is not renewed, will be leaving for England. If no sketch is made of him now, it will be impossible for an Australian artist to paint his portrait, except from a photograph. Another gentleman a sketch of whom it is suggested should be made is the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes, the Prime Minister. It is considered likely that he will depart for the Old Country in the near future, and in these times of danger in travelling it was deemed advisable that a sketch should be made of him before he departs, so that we might have something from which an Australian artist might paint an authentic portrait It is the same in the case of Mr. Joseph Cook. So far as the other gentlemen referred to in the report are concerned, it is only a matter of keeping faith with the artists of Australia. Personally, I have no ambition at all to decorate any canvas, in oils or otherwise. I make this explanation forthe information of honorable senators. With regard to the recommendation’ to place a sum of £100 on the Estimates for the purchase of Australian works of art: It was pointed out to the Historic Memorials Committee by the expert member of the Committee, the Director in charge of the National Art Gallery in Sydney, that if a small sum were placed on the Estimates it might very often foe found possible to pick up in Australia some exceedingly valuable Australian work of art, the purchase of which might, even from a commercial point of view, be highly desirable. That is the reason for proposing that £100 should be placed on the Estimates for such a purpose.
Report of the PublicWorks Committee on the erection of workshops, &c, at the sub-Base at Flinders presented by Senator Henderson.
– I ask the Minister controlling foodstuffs whether he is aware that at the present time there is such a very serious shortage of methylated spirits in’ Queensland that the article is almost unobtainable there, and, if so, have any steps been taken to overcome the shortage? Has any action been taken by the Government to compel distillers to make such quantities of methylated spirits as are necessary to meet public requirements?
– I called for a report in connexion with the shortage of methylated spirits, and I was told that the difficulty in the southern States was that they had no freight to bring the article from Queensland. I shall have further inquiries made and see what can be done in the matter.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation if it is the intention of the Government to print the document which constitutes the final report of the Repatriation Board of Trustees, and which was adopted at the final meeting of the Board on the 27th of last month.
– I have not yet seen the document referred to, but, without speaking finally and definitely on the matter, I assume that it will be printed.
Detention of Deferred Pay
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether he is in a position to enlighten the Senate in connexion with a statement coming to mo from Queensland, in general terms, to the effect that hundreds of returned soldiers in that State have not received a percentage of the deferred pay due to them? It would enlighten the public if the Minister could give one or two typical cases of the detention of pay, and could state whether it is the rule to retain a certain percentage of the deferred pay due to soldiers for a certain period after they have returned.
– The rule is that if there are fines, or deductions of that kind, against the soldier overseas they are deducted in the first place from whatever ordinary pay may be due to him, and after that from his deferred pay. The reason for withholding a certain portion of the soldier’s pay after his return is that it is necessary to wait until his papers are received from overseas, so that should there be any deductions charged against him overseas they may be deducted, and the balance is then paid to the soldier.
– I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council whether he is yet in a position to reply to the question which I put to him on the 11th January last in reference to the Commonwealth railways?
– As the honorable senator’s question was asked some time ago, I think I had better repeat it. It reads -
What is the total cost to date, and the estimated annual loss, on -
Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie railway?
Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway?
Northern Territory railway?
Motion to Dissent from Ruling.
– I desire to ask you, sir, why some of the questions of which I had given notice do not appear upon to-day’s business-paper ? One of those questions had reference to the Commonwealth Police Force, and another has also been deleted.
– One of a series of the honorable senator’s questions is missing from the business-paper, because, in accordance with the power conferred upon me by the Standing Orders, and the rule which I have invariably laid down, no question should contain any statement or argument, and should be asked purely for the purpose of eliciting information. The honorable senator’s question was disallowed because it contained statements and assertions, and, in my opinion, was not asked solely for the purpose of eliciting information.
– Why has the other question been left out?
– Only one question by the honorable senator has been excised.
– The questions were asked by me for the purpose of gaining information which I desired, and which would be of value to the community.
– I have nothing to add to what I have already said beyond stating that the honorable senator’s question contravened our Standing Orders. I tried to eliminate from it the statements which it contained, and to make sense of it, but was unable to do so.
– I submit that the Senate is entitled to know the nature of the statement eliminated by you, sir, in order that it may be in a position to determine whether or not Senator McDougall had complied with the Standing Orders, and whether your action was justified.
– The question can be easily determined by Senator McDougall submitting a motion of dissent from my ruling.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister, without notice -
Will the Government consider the advisability of placing the Federal Police Force on much needed Federal work -
Searching for the pilferers of the mail bags from Post Office Department in Sydney and other parts of New South Wales;
Searching for the owners of the large sums of money found in the official drawers of the Pay Office at the Victoria Barracks, Sydney, by the Commission?
– The honorable senator is now endeavouring to evade my ruling. That is the question which I disallowed. Honorable senators will see that it contains statements and assertions, and is not asked with a view to gaining information at all. At any rate, that is my view of the matter. Therefore I disallow it. Senator McDougall has not been treated exceptionally in having his question disallowed. Many honorable senators have had their questions treated in the same way in accordance with our Standing Orders.
– Will I be in order in moving a motion to dissent from your ruling?
The PRE SIDENT. - Under our Standing Orders, the motion must be put in writing.
– I will do that.
– I have received from Senator McDougall the following statement in writing: -
I beg to move - “ That the ruling of the President in disallowing questions by Senator McDougall be dissented from.”
Under our Standing Orders the debate upon the motion will stand over till tomorrow unless the Senate decides that it is urgent.
– May I point out that the motion does not set out the specific questions which have been disallowed. I would suggest to Senator McDougall that honorable senators who may wish to consider and discuss the motion, should be informed of the exact terms of the questions which have been disallowed.
– The motion has now been amended to read -
That the ruling of the President in disallowing the following questions by Senator McDougall: -
Would the Government consider the advisability of placing the Federal Police Force on much-needed Federal work -
Searching for the pilferers of mail bags from Post Office Department in Sydney and other parts of New South Wales;
Searching for the owners of the large sums of money found in the official drawers of the Pay Office at the Victoria Barracks, Sydney, be dissented from.
– On a point of order, I desire to ask whether - seeing that your ruling has been disagreed with - it is competent for the Senate to proceed with the discussion of that motion to-day. I understand that the standing order provides that the debate must stand over until the following day.
– The question will stand over automatically until to-morrow unless the Senate otherwise orders.
– I shall possibly be meeting the wishes of the Senate if I move -
That the question be regarded as urgent and dealt with forthwith.
Motion agreed to.
– As certain privileges of Parliament have been recently taken away, I contend that the privilege of placing questions of public interest on the business-paper should not be taken away from senators. No such question should be eliminated from the notice-paper, especially without any information being given to the senator responsible for it. I contend that the question of which I. gave notice is legitimate. It asks for information that I want. I wish to know what the Commonwealth Police Force is doing, and why they are not put on to work that they can do if they are still in existence. My intention in asking the question was to get that information, so that the Commonwealth Police Force should be placed in a position where they could, at all events, earn their money. I have a, legitimate right to ask such questions, and when that right is denied to me one of the privileges of Parliament is taken away from me coming here as I do as one of the representatives of New South Wales. ‘ Unfortunately you, sir, say that the question contains a statement. It contains the truth at all events, as has been clearly proved recently. Some time ago, in the Senate, I asked the Minister for Defence a question about the £10,000 found in a drawer at the Victoria Barracks, Sydney. His reply was that it was not a correct statement. It has been proved since that it is correct. If I had been given a proper answer then, there would perhaps have been no need for an outside body to go to the Victoria Barracks and find out the facts.
– Your statement has not been proved.
– It has been proved. The Royal Commission said that there was £10,000 in cheques and notes, regarding which the paymaster said that he did not know to whom it belonged. That is the very matter I asked twice about, and I was informed that my information was not correct.
– You said £10,000 in gold.
– That is only a quibble. There is not much gold in the country, except what is locked up. I was told a deliberate lie the other day by a Minister, in answer to a question by myself; and when we find the Government doing things of this description, it is time somebody stood up and said a word for the -privileges of members of Parliament. For these reasons, I have moved that your ruling be dissented from. On all occasions when an officer of the Senate takes it upon himself to interpret the Standing Orders, and eliminate any question from the businesssheet, or statements from Hansard, it is, at the very least, his duty to acquaint the senator concerned, who in good faith has put the question on the notice-paper, or made the speech.
.- Like other honorable senators, I feel that a very serious attack has been made upon the privileges of honorable senators by, your action, sir, in relation to the questions of Senator McDougall. This applies more particularly to that regarding the Commonwealth Police Force. You, sir,, have told us that certain words were eliminated by you because you believed that they were not fulfilling the functions of a question under the Standing Orders,namely, to seek information. What were* the’ words which you, of your own volition, removed from the question? The Senate is entitled to know what they were before it can be in the best position to judge whether you were acting within the authority conferred upon you by the Standing Orders, when you caused the Clerk of the Senate to remove that part of the question which an honorable senator on this side desired to put to a Minister. As a matter of fact, it is immaterial which side of the chamber the question comes from. The question submitted by Senator McDougall was one of high public importance, to which the Government of the day ought to give a straight and definite answer. I submit, without making any direct charge, or making any insinuation against yourself, sir, that it would appear as if you, by your action, endeavoured to relieve the Government from some unpleasant position created by the putting of the question. No doubt, you will inform the Senate of the exact words you caused to be excised.
– I have read them out already.
– I did not hear them. I am offering no specific opinion upon the matter on which you have ruled to-day; but I am taking particular exception to your action in disallowing a question submitted by a member of the Senate on behalf of the public of Australia, seeking information from a responsible Minister. I support the motion, for I cannot conceive of senators being called upon to defend a more sacred right than that now involved. If our questions, which are presented to Ministers” in pursuance of a public duty, are to be censored, so to speak, by you, sir, I want to know where we stand as public representatives. The Senate will be only adopting a course consistent with its own interests and dignity by agreeing to the motion.
– Before dealing with the motion now before the Senate, I should like to direct attention to Senator Long’s-, recent remark, which, in my judgment, isin the nature of a censure upon you, MrPresident, for the action you have taken. I venture to say that you would havebeen open to censure if you had not so carried out the Standing Orders, and I invite honorable senators to distinguish between the advisability or otherwise of the Standing Orders and the obligation placed upon you of interpreting them. Our Standing Orders are definite in the responsibility which they place upon the Presiding Officer to see that questions do not offend, and if they so offend, to prevent their appearing upon the noticepaper. I can quite understand that an honorable ‘senator should disagree with the Standing Orders, and think, perhaps, that it would be better if we abolished altogether all restrictions upon the idiosyncrasies of individual members in regard to questions; but I again point out that it is the duty of the Presiding Officer to see that questions do not offend against our Standing Orders. Standing order 99 reads as follows: -
Inputting any such question, no argument or opinion shall be offered, nor inference nor imputation made, nor any fact stated, except so far as may be necessary to explain such question, and the President may direct the Cleric to alter any question so as to conform with this order.
The question as to whether you are open to censure or not is in no way connected with the desire of an honorable senator to obtain information. Your conduct must be entirely governed by the Standing Orders. You have upon you the obligation to interpret them.
– Does the Minister say that there was any imputation in Senator McDougall ‘s question?
– I say that, in half-a-dozen ways, Senator McDougall’s questions contained imputations, and offended against the Standing Orders.
– Read the parts of the question to which the President takes exception.
– There is one other matter to which I desire to refer before I do that. It is quite far from the truth to say that the honorable senator has been prevented from obtaining information by the action which you, Mr. President, have taken in this instance.
– You are forgetting our rights and privileges.
– The action taken by the President does not in any way impair the rights and privileges of the Senate. It merely prevents the question referred to from being submitted in the form intended. There is nothing to prevent any honorable senator from saying all he may want to say on this subject at another stage of our proceedings.
– Why do you not accept the responsibility instead of trying to dodge the question?
– It is not a question of the Government accepting the responsibility at all, but a question of the proper interpretation of our Standing Orders.
– Yes, it is ; the Government merely want to get out of an awkward position.
– That is an assumption quite unworthy of any honorable senator, and I am confident that the honorable senator, in his cooler moments, will regret having made a statement of that kind here. In dealing with this question, I invite honorable senators to bear in mind what May, our most respected authority on parliamentary procedure, has to say on this subject -
The purpose of a question is to obtain information, and not to supply it to the House. A question may not contain statements of facts, unless they be necessary to make the question intelligible, and can be authenticated; nor should a question contain arguments, inferences, imputations, epithets,nor ironical expressions.
I particularly call the attention of honorable senators to this point, and I ask Senator Long, who has as keen an appreciation of both humour and irony as any other member in the Senate, if he does not think that the question asked by Senator McDougall was framed in an ironical spirit. Senator McDougall then desired to ask-
Would the Government consider the advisability of placing the Federal Police Force on much-needed Federal work?
Now, that is an assertion, and it offends both the Standing Orders and May, who states that assertions are prohibited when put in the form of questions.
– I said that they should be put on much-needed work.
– Senator McDougall, in his question, then went on to say that the Federal Police Force should be put on much-needed Federal work -
Now, I ask honorable senators to again consider this question, and to say if, outside of this chamber, and face to face with me as man to man, they would deny that this question was not intended, to be ironical. Senator McDougall himself would not, outside of this chamber, say that the question was submitted for the purpose of seeking information, because we all know what has been the attitude taken up by honorable senators opposite regarding the appointment of the Commonwealth Police Force - a matter which I admit is open for discussion. We all know perfectly well that this was merely Senator McDougall’s ironical way of giving publicity to this matter.
– I did not want to give it publicity. I wanted to give the Police Force some work to do.
– No. I think the honorable senator wanted to do them out of a job. I suggest that the honorable senator knows quite well that his question could be framed differently for the purpose of obtaining the information he seeks. It is quite obvious that the rights and privileges of this Chamber have not been impaired in the slightest degree by the action taken by the President, because Senator McDougall can submit his question in another form.
– It was not a question at all; it was a question of appointing the police.
– After such a frank expression of opinion from my honorable colleague, I do not think it is necessary to say any more on the subject.
– I do not think it possible that defence of the action taken by the President could have been more cleverly undertaken by any member of the Senate than by the Minister who has just spoken. Whether we gather in union meetings or in Parliament, there is always a reluctance on Hie part of members of any organization to differ from the ruling of presiding officers, who have been elected to their positions in a full conference of members.
– There would be no reluctance on my part if I thought I was right.
-Then I can hope to secure the support of the honorable senator, because I think I shall deal with this question in such a way as to show that the action taken by the President interferes with the rights and privileges of the Senate, though it is probable that this may have been due to rather a short-sighted view of the question, for I do not assume that you, Mr. President, deliberately and with malice aforethought, attempted to wipe out Senator McDougall’s question. We all know that a certain amount of ridicule is attached to the Commonwealth Police Force. The fact that the police were called into existence is almost a cause for laughter whenever mention is made of the appointment. One cannot mention the Commonwealth Police Force without being greeted with roars of laughter at the nature of the hen hatched from the Warwick egg. The question is, that the police force he put in the position of searching for the mail-bag thieves. Suppose I asked the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) if he would put a sufficient number of men on to home service so that they might be distributed along our coast to watch for the men who have been laying mines, would any one consider that as containing a statement of fact, and that it must, therefore, be ruled out of order? The very essence of this question is a plain statement of fact on the part of Senator McDougall. It is to the effect that, seeing that the Commonwealth Police Force, which has been called into existence, and for which, the taxpayers are paying, is not being put to sufficient employment, it should be given employment upon a very necessary work. I appeal to honorable senators to mark the difference in. the two questions - that which the honorable senator has put and that which I have indicated. If any honorable senator were to ask, in view of the fact that mines had been laid along our coast, whether the Minister for Defence would employ a sufficient body of guards to watch out coast line, in order to capture the men who had laid the mines, would the President rule that out of order? Would the Senate take that as a question that no honorable senator had a right to ask? Everything in this House, it seems to me, is done nowadays on. a party basis, with party bias. I agree with Senator Millen that this is irony. This Commonwealth Police Force is the most comical thing ever brought into existence, and the only tragedy about it is that just when money is wanted more than ever we should have to pay for its establishment.
– Five thousand pounds has been paid to it to date. We should be proud of it.
– And that bonus of £900,000 to Tasmania, which is bigger irony.
– The only sensible vote you ever gave.
– There is alsothe huge sum of- money of which nobody appears to be the owner, and Senator McDougall very properly asks that these men, who have apparently nothing else to do, should be put on to the task of clearing the matter up. And they have nothing else to do. I have never seen one case of a member of the Commonwealth Police Force having to do any work at all yet.
– You should ,have been at Rockhampton with me.
– ‘If I had been there with the honorable senator, we two would have caused trouble.. The position is that there is a huge sum of money in a safe at the Defence Department, and nobody knows to whom it belongs or how it came there.-
– The trouble with a lot of you is, possibly, that you did not find it.
– Senator McDougall has asked that the Commonwealth police be used to trace this matter. Is it wrong to ask that those police be put on to the task of clearing up something in which even Senator McDougall and the Minister are at variance? If the force is not busily engaged in keeping order - and we know that it is not - then both the propositions contained in the question of ‘Senator McDougall are reasonable; for it is right that those police should be put upon a useful and necessary work for the Commonwealth. If such a statement can be ruled out by the President, then we are giving to him powers that some day we will regret.
– It is not the President; it is the Standing Orders.
– Standing order 99 makes provision as to what is the President’s duty, and I shall be very much surprised if there is anything in it that will justify the President in his action. It states that, “ In putting any such question, no argument or opinion shall be offered . . ..” Is there any argument or opinion offered in asking that these men shall be put on to search for the mail-bag thieves?
– Certainly. Surely you understand the English language.
– There is no argument in it. It is a fair and legiti-mate question; and, dealing with the other part of the question, namely, that the police force be asked to search for the owners of the money in the Defence Department, there is no argument there either.
– You should know how it came there. You were Assistant Minister for Defence.
– I know that at the time I was assisting the Minister I had a great deal to answer for, but there is nothing in my career that will give me more pleasure than that I am able to .say that I can answer in a way that will never bring a blush of shame to my face. If the President can rule a question out when an honorable senator is asking for information - because the Commonwealth Police Force is such a howling farce that every one must laugh at it, and every question about it is ironical, and awkward, and difficult for the Government - then what is going to happen in more serious times? In my earliest political days, when I first entered Parliament, a sage politician instilled into my mind that he had always fought in Parliament for the increasing of our liberties, and never for their curtailment. I refer to the late Sir Henry Parkes. I warn honorable senators not to give increased powers to the President to use the Standing Orders to suit what I may call his narrow view. The President has no right to assume that an honorable senator is joking, if he is in earnest- that an honorable senator ia ironical, if he maintains that he is serious in asking hia question. We have a rule that if an honorable senator denies an imputation we have a right to accept his denial. If honorable senators support the President in a ruling which for all time will curtail the powers of honorable senators in asking questions, and we give the President the power to strike matter out of a question, as he has done, and without the Senate condemning him, then there are very few questions that might not suffer the same fate. I know that we need not fear that that would be done. In my view the President has been misled in dealing with this question in the way he has done. We see the screaming farce of the Commonwealth Government having appointed a police force where there is no work for tha men to do, or, at any rate, not sufficient to be regarded as commensurate with their pay. We should read the standing order carefully. It is as follows: -
In putting any such question, no argument or opinion shall be offered, nor inference nor imputation made, nor any facts stated, except so far as may be necessary to explain such question; and the President may direct the Clerk to alter any question so as to conform with this order.
Senator McDougall desired to have the members of the Commonwealth Police Force put to the work of searching for the mail bag thieves, or finding the money that was said to be in the Defence Department. I do not think that honorable senators will be able to find anything in the standing order dealing with questions to justify the President in ruling out Senator McDougall’s question on those grounds. The standing order further provides -
The President may direct the Clerk to alter any question so as to conform with the Stand-
I recognise the difficulty of inducing honorable senators to vote against any ruling from the Chair, but I seriously ask them to preserve our privileges from the interference of any one man. The President is only like other honorable members of the Senate until he is elected to his position, and I say that we have already seen “too much of the curtailment of the privileges of members of Parliament. We have had too many of these little trespasses upon Parliament, which should stand supreme as the one fortress of liberty left. We should be most careful not to permit further infringements upon our rights. I feel that it is impossible to deal seriously with any matter referring to the shrieking farce of the Commonwealth Police Force, but I do appeal to honorable senators, and even to the President himself, to read Senator McDougall’s question and the standing order dealing with questions, and say whether they really think that the standing order has been infringed. It is not too late now for the President to withdraw the ruling he has given, and which I believe was, given because he ‘felt that any mention of the Commonwealth Police Force would be a cause of laughter, since there is nothing serious about it, and it is <a fair mark for every one who wishes to gibe at it. This is the place where we should ask for information, and I have not heard yet from any member of the Government the reason why the Commonwealth Police Force was called into existence. Each member of the Senate’ must bear in mind that he should be held responsible for the extent to which he assists in curtailing the liberties we possess by any vote that he gives. Honorable senators should not be regarded as a set of school children, or members of a debating club, to be kept in order by a master. I again ask honorable senators to read the question which has been disallowed, and if it can be set aside as something humorous which ought not to be taken in earnest, we may as well bid good-bye to any fair opportunity to ask questions which may embarrass the Government if we happen to have a President - and T am not imputing this to you, sir - who may ( desire to assist the Government out of an awkward position. I ask honorable senators not to view the motion as one of offence to the President, but from the point of view of whether our liberties and rights should or should not be curtailed. I have heard Senator McDougall say that he asked his questions in good faith. One of our standing orders provides that we must accept the denial of an honorable senator. Senator McDougall denies that he asked these questions ironically, and we are bound under the Standing Orders to accept that denial. Where serious questions are asked .we should not curtail any privileges which we now possess merely because some of us may. be in a humorous frame of mind.
– Before the debate proceeds any further I deem it my duty to put before the Senate the position as I see it. First of all I want to assure Senator Gardiner and the Senate that the consideration as to whether the question was jocose or ironical, since it referred to the Commonwealth Police- Force, had nothing at all to do with my decision to eliminate it.
– That removes the excuse of those who say that that was the reason for its elimination.
– I express no opinion on that point, but whether the question might or might not be regarded as ironical on that ground did not influence me in disallowing it. This must be patent to honorable senators when I remind them that a series of six questions was asked by Senator McDougall, and five of them dealing with the Commonwealth Police Force appear on the business-paper to-day. Therefore, the fact that the question disallowed referred to the Commonwealth Police Force had nothing to do with my decision that it was not in compliance with the Standing Orders. Every one of the five questions appearing on the business-paper to-day in the name of Senator McDougall refers to the Commonwealth Police Force.
– And Senator Needham repeats them.
– I do not repeat them.
– Order ! The honorable senator is not entitled to interrupt while the President is standing.
– This is another change of ruling.
– Will the honorable senator obey the Chair?
– Yes, and will you ask Senator de Largie to obey the Standing Orders?
– Order ! I ask Senator Needham to obey the Standing Orders.
– Then ask Senator de Largie to withdraw the statement he made.
– Whether you, sir, are on your feet or not, I should not be insulted from the other side.
– I ask Senator Needham to obey the Chair.
– Obey the Chair, be “ blowed “ - when a man is insulting me from the other side of the chamber.
– Before proceeding further, unless Senator Needham assures me that he will obey and respect the Chair it will be my duty to report him to the Senate. One of the recognised rules of this and every other House of Parliament is that a member shall remain silent while the President is on his feet. I ask Senators de Largie and Needham, who have been pretty nearly equally guilty, to obey that very salutary rule. I repeat that it must be obvious to honorable senators that the elimination of one of the questions which Senator McDougall desired to put had nothing at all to do with the fact that it related to the Commonwealth Police Force. That is clear, because each of the five questions which have been allowed, and which appear on the business-paper to-day, refer to the Commonwealth Police Force.
– Will you read the words which were eliminated?
– I have read them twice already in a loudvoice, and I shall not waste the time of the Senate by reading them again until I do so in the course of my explanation of the position.
– Would I be out of order in asking you to say in what way the words which have been eliminated contravene the standing order?
– I shall come to that. With regard to the charge that I have assumed authority, and infringed the rights of honorable senators in doing so, I point out that that cannot be contended. I havenot assumed any authority, but have fulfilled an obligation imposed upon me by the Senate itself in passing the Standing Orders. I should be derelict in my duty if I failed to carry out the desire of the Senate as expressed in the Standing Orders. With regard to any infringement of the privileges of honorable senators, let me say that the more the Standing Orders and the procedure adopted in Parliament are studied the more clearly will it be seen that that procedure and theStanding Orders are devised for the protection of honorable senators. It is for the protection of the privileges of honorable senators that provision should be made to prevent the privilege of asking questions from being abused. It is the obvious purpose of the standing order dealing with the matter to confine questions to their proper purpose in order that the time of the Senate may not be wasted in the asking of questions which do not seek information, but which, on the contrary, make statements of fact and assertions, and include arguments or opinions. There is a proper time for the making of statements of fact and assertions, and for the expression of opinions and the offering of arguments. If honorable senators were permitted to do these things in the form of questions, the Senate would have no time to deal with anything else but questions.
– I think we can leave that to the good sense of honorable senators.
– Fortunately, Parliament did not think it desirable to do so, and that is why the standing order referred to was adopted. Senator Gardiner has himself completely answered his questions, because, after reading over the question which has been’ disallowed, he said, “ The very essence of the question is a plain statement of fact by Senator McDougall, which was disallowed by the President.” I took down the honorable senator’s words at the moment.
– Of a fact necessary to be stated under the standing order.
– No ; a statement of fact in contravention of the standing order.
– The standing order states that no fact may be stated except so far as is necessary to explain the question.
– The standing order provides that -
In putting any such question,’ no argument or opinion shall be offered, nor inference nor imputation made, nor any facts stated, except so far as may be necessary to explain such question.
– Hear, hear ! What part of Senator McDougall’s question goes beyond that?
– Further on, Senator Gardiner said, in alluding to the moneys alleged to be found in the Defence Department, that if a statement of that’ fact could be ruled out by the President, then the Senate was going to regret it. There, again, the honorable senator admitted that Senator McDougall made a statement of fact.
– A statement of a fact necessary to base his question upon.
– It has nothing at all to do with the question. In endeavouring to point out that by disallowing the question, I am infringing the privileges of honorable senators, Senator Gardiner admitted twice in the most emphatic language that Senator McDougall had acted contrary to the standing order.
– Will you, sir, take my word that I admit no such thing.
– The facts prove it, whether the honorable senator admits it or not.
– The Standing Orders provide that an honorable senator must accept the denial of another. . You are not setting, us a good example.
– If Senator Gardiner will say that he did not intend the admission, I will accept that statement. At page 243 of May’s Parliamentary Practice I find the statement made -
As the notice-paper is published by the authority of the House, a notice of motion or of a question to be put to a member, containing unbecoming expressions, infringing its rules, or otherwise irregular, may, under the Speaker’s authority, be corrected by the Clerk at the table. These alterations, if it be necessary, are submitted to the Speaker, or to the member who gave the notice.
– Senator McDougall’s question does not trespass on that.
– There is a number of references to this “matter in May. Let me quote this from page 249 -
The purpose of a question is to obtain information, and not to supply it to the House. A question may not contain statements of facts, unless they be necessary to make the question intelligible, and can be authenticated; nor should a question contain arguments, inferences, imputations, epithets, nor ironical expressions. Nor may a question refer to debates or answers to questions in the current session.
There is a whole host of precedents to show that it has always been regarded as the right of the Speaker to protect the privileges of members by preventing the asking of improper questions, and the time of the House being taken up by the putting of questions on subjects which are properly subjects for debate, and not for questions. I want to explain to Senator McDougall that it was not my fault that I did not acquaint him with the decision to disallow his question. The matter was not brought under my notice until late on Thursday evening, and I did not have an opportunity subsequently of seeing the honorable senator, as he left for Sydney the same evening. I looked into the club room twice to-day, but he was not there, or I should have acquainted him with the action I had taken, and my reason for taking it.
– I was about the House all day yesterday.
– I am very regular in my attendance at the House, when I am always at the disposal of honorable senators, but it happened that I was not here yesterday. Senator McDougall proposed to ask, as the sixth of his series of questions -
Would the Government consider the advisability of placing the Federal Police Force on much-needed Federal work -
There is an assertion straight away that the work referred to was much needed.
There is another statement of fact. It may be absolutely correct, but that has nothing to do with the matter.
– The question was whether the Government would consider the advisability of doing that.
– Whether it was necessary to search for the pilferer of mail bags or not, I do not know.
– But Senator McDougall does.
– Even if Senator McDougall says it is a fact, he has no right to embody it in a question, because that is contrary to our Standing Orders. Whether his statement is one of fact or not has nothing whatever to do with the position. The question at issue is - Is Senator McDougall to be allowed to contravene our Standing Orders by embodying assertions in a question?
– Show us where his question contravenes our Standing Orders.
– A statement of fact, or of opinion, or a mere assertion, is not admissible in a question. That is laid down by May, our most eminent authority upon parliamentary practice.
– But Senator McDougall ‘s statement of fact was necessary to make his question clear.
– It was not necessary. His question asked whether the Government would consider the advisability of placing the Federal Police Force on much-needed Federal work -
There is an assertion that there have been pilferers of mail bags. I do not know whether that is a fact or not. His question continued -
That is another plain assertion. I do not know whether it is a fact or not. But the question which I have to determine is whether the question conforms to our Standing Orders. No intelligent man can read those Standing Orders and say that such a question does not contravene them. I wish to assure Senator McDougall that I anxiously considered for some time how I could alter his question in such a way as to retain its sense, whilst making it comply with our Standing Orders. But I found it impossible to do so, and consequently I omitted it from the . business-paper. Personally, I have no feeling in this matter whatever. If honorable senators think that my ruling is wrong, they will not hurt my feelings by declaring that it is. I have merely acted strictly in accordance with our parliamentary practice, and I am content to. leave the matter entirely in their hands.
– Anybody who has watched the business-paper for some time must admit that, in the matter of asking questions, the greatest latitude is allowed to honorable senators. We have only to look at the business-paper any day to learn that there is unlimited latitude given in that direction.
– Over there.
– And over there, too. To-day’s business-paper is no exception to the rule. In this connexion I would direct Senator Barker’s attention to the second question asked by Senator McDougall.
– There is a plain statement of fact in that question.
– Order ! Senator de Largie is not entitled to anticipate the discussion of business which appears on the notice-paper.
– I do not intend to do so. , I am merely directing attention to the fact that to-day’s businesspaper amply proves my statement. There Senator McDougall asks whether it is a fact that 10,000 members of the Australian Imperial Force have been returned from England, and in another question he inquires, “ Who is to blame for these unfit men being sent away from Australia?” That is a mere assertion of a nature which is not permitted by our Standing Orders.
– The honorable senator must not discuss that matter beyond making a casual reference to it.
– That is precisely what I am doing.
– Does not the honorable senator think that that question contravenes our Standing Orders just as much as does the question which was disallowed ?
– Yes. But the fact that that question appears upon the business-paper shows that there is not a narrow interpretation put upon our Standing Orders.
– Only sometimes.
– I take the interjection of Senator Gardiner to mean that this is an inconvenient question. But that is not so, because the same question is asked in different forms on to-day’s business-paper. I do not wish to raise the ire of Senator Needham, who was called to order to-day-
– I think that the honorable senator was also called to order. He ought to be called to order more frequently than he is.
– There is no point in Senator Gardiner’s interjection, seeing that to-day the same question is put in two different forms. Senator Needham asks the number of arrests that have been made by the Commonwealth police. Every time I look at the honorable senator I think that that body could be better engaged than it is at the present time. In an exchange across the floor of the Senate, Senator McDougall contradicted the statement of Senator Pearce in regard to a question which he had put before. But when Senator McDougall previously submitted his question, he stated that it was sovereigns which were found in the official drawers of the Pay Office at the Victoria Barracks, Sydney, by the Commission which inquired into the business side of the Defence Department. As a matter of fact, the word “ sovereigns “ appears in the Hansard report of his question. Yet to-day the honorable senator affirmed that it was money in the form of cheques which were found in the drawers of the Pay Office at the Victoria Barracks, Sydney.
– Did not the Commission say that it was notes ?
– I do not know what the Commission said in that connexion. I am referring to what Senator McDougall said. Had a narrow interpretation been placed upon our Standing Orders the second question by Senator McDougall might fairly have been ruled out.
– It was not ruled out, because it did not refer to the Commonwealth police.
– What is the use of Senator Ferricks making that assertion, seeing that there are two questions on the business-paper to-day which refer to the same subject ? I am satisfied that you, sir, did not misuse your powers in suppressing Senator McDougall’s question, although it might have been well if you had been able to ‘interview the honorable senator and inform him of the position. You, sir, have explained that you endeavoured to do this, but found it impossible. Your attitude, therefore, was strictly in accordance with o.ur Standing Orders.
– After this debate has been terminated I think it will occur to you, sir, that if you had adopted a different course of action to-day’s discussion would have been avoided. I do not quarrel with the interpretation you have put upon standing order 99, but I would remind you that the latter portion of that standing order empowers you to allow Senator McDougall to put his question in a way that would have been strictly in accordance with parliamentary practice. Immediately you, sir, were asked by the honorable senator why his questions did not appear upon the business-paper, you replied tha’t they had been disallowed because they were not in accordance with our Standing Orders. Had you followed the course that has been pursued on former” occasions by intimating to Senator McDougall that his question had not been framed in a way that complied with our Standing Orders, and suggested to him the advisableness of asking it in a different form, the whole difficulty would have been obviated. Standing order 99 reads -
In putting any such question, no argument or opinion shall be offered, nor inference nor imputation made,’ nor any facts stated, except so far as may be necessary to explain such question.
Senator McDougall and his supporters say 1 that he made only such statements of fact as were necessary to explain his question. The standing order continues - and the President may direct the Clerk to alter any question so as to conform with this order.
It has been quite a common practice since 1901 to alter the wording of a question given notice of by any honorable senator, so as to make it conform strictly with our Standing Orders.
– Or to omit it.
– Undoubtedly. It has been a common practice either to omit the question entirely from the noticepaper or to ask the Clerk to alter it in such a way as ‘to make it comply with our Standing Orders. I submit, sir, that you, as the arbiter of justice in this chamber, ought to adopt the broadest possible interpretation that can be put upon the Standing Orders, especially in regard to any question relating to a matter of admitted public importance. The words “muchneeded Federal work “ do contain .an assertion, for it might be arguable whether the work upon which Senator McDougall says the Federal police might be employed is much needed or not. Many hundeds of thousands of people would probably back the honorable senator up in his opinion, but the Prime Minister, Senators Millen and Pearce, and other members of the Government might all regard the work as not “ much needed.”
– Then you admit that it is controversial?
– I said at the beginning that that part of the question was so controversial that you, Mr. President, were within your rights if you wished to abide by the strict technical interpretation of standing order 99 down to the point I have read, but I submit that you, sir, have not taken the right course in not assisting the honorable senator, or any other honorable senator, who wishes to ask a question, so far as you possibly could, to submit it in such a way as to bring it within the standing order. With all due deference^ I think you made a mistake in eliminating the question altogether, so that no reference was made to it at all until Senator McDougall asked you about it, and in not asking the Clerk to so alter it as to bring it into conformity with the standing order, while still retaining its sense, so that it might elicit the information which Senator McDougall sought for, and which, I believe, a large number of people would like to get. You said that you tried very hard to .do it, but that it was impossible. That is not at all my estimate of your ability. I cannot believe that the question could not have been put differently under instructions from you, so as to allow it to come within the standing order, and still effect Senator McDougall’s purpose. I feel, under the circumstances, that I am quite entitled to put the view that it would have been far better if you had taken a different course.
. - I should not have intruded into this debate but for the. fact that, so far as my memory goes, the exercise of this power by the President has never previously been called in question since the Senate was established. Nobody in the Senate would more jealously guard the interests of honorable senators and of the Senate itself in the fullest and freest approach to, and discussion of, any matter within its competence, than I would. No one would oppose more strongly or vehemently any encroachment upon those rights by the President or any other officer, but I fail to detect in this case any such encroachment. Senator O’Keefe himself does not question your competence to act as you have done, nor does he question the right of your action, but he has ventured to suggest that had you followed another course, the blow, if it may be so called, to Senator McDougall might have been considerably softened. In those circumstances, I .hardly think that he can support a motion to disagree with your ruling. The whole issue turns upon whether the question itself was, or was not, in compliance with the standing order, which says, “ In putting any such question, no argument or opinion shall be offered, nor inference nor imputation made, nor any facts stated except so far as may be necessary to explain such question.” There is no doubt that in this question an opinion is offered. The words “ much needed “ before “ Federal work “ offer an opinion to the Senate and to the Minister who is called upon to answer the question. An honorable senator is entitled to ask a Minister a question for the purpose of eliciting information, but not for the purpose of offering the Minister an opinion. The use of the words, “much needed” puts this question outside the requirements of the standing order. It has been so ruled on more than one occasion, and, so far as I remember, the Senate has never challenged the right or authority of the President in such cases. I have in my mind a case which occurred, at the opening of the sitting on the 31st October, 1913.. Although I was not present at the time, I remember reading of it. Senator Clemons was acting as Honorary Minister in the then Government, and immediately after the commencement of business Senator Rae asked without notice, ‘ Has the attention of the Acting Leader of the Senate been called to the scandalous and disgraceful conduct which took place in the city of Melbourne- V The then
President (Senator Givens) interposed, saying, “ Order ! The honorable senator is not entitled to use that sort of language in asking a question.” Senator Pearce interjected, “ That has nothing to do with Parliament.” Senator Rae replied, “ This took place in Melbourne last night, sir. Am I not in order in asking a question ? “ The President then gave the following ruling, which nobody cavilled at at the time, nor has anybody cavilled at it since, so far as I know: -
The honorable senator is entitled to ask a question, but he must not make any comment or express’ any opinion in doing so, nor must he apply any adjectives to alleged facts. He must confine himself to asking for information.
That set out the practice of the Senate, as I understand it since the commence-, ment. An honorable senator must not use any adjective as qualifying alleged facts. What are the alleged facts here? That there is Federal work for the -Federal police to do. As a matter of fact I agree with Senator McDougall that there is Federal work for it to do if it is to be maintained, but when he singles out some particular work which he designates as “ much - needed Federal work,” he is applying to alleged facts an adjective contrary to that ruling, and offering an opinion of the Minister, whom he should be addressing only for the purpose of eliciting information. In all the circumstances it cannot be contended that this question does not deviate from the standing order in that regard.
The second part of the standing order says, “and the President may direct the Clerk to alter any question so as to conform with this order.” It will be observed that no obligation is thrown upon the President to do it, but an obligation is thrown upon the senator when he hands in his question to see that it conforms with the standing order. If he does not he must take the consequences. He may rely upon the indulgence of the President, who has no obligation cast upon him, but who is given authority to have the question put in proper form. But he is not entitled in all the circumstances to claim or expect it. So far as I understand your statement, sir, you sought to have the question put in order, and were unable to communicate with Senator McDougall. It is not for myself or’ any other honorable senator to judge how far you sought to extend your assistance to Senator McDougall, but the fact remains that Senator McDougall himself in tendering the question did not discharge the obligation of seeing that it conformed with the standing order. So far as your action is concerned I can quite understand that, having seen that, the question did not so conform, you endeavoured to do what has been done by Presidents on so many previous occasions, to have it put into conformity with the standing order. Circumstances, however, were against you. You saw the question at the end of last week and did not see Senator McDougall in time to communicate with him before the sitting to-day. In the circumstances I can see nothing for it but to oppose the motion.
– One phase of -this question with regard to statements of fact has not yet been fully touched upon. A passing reference was made to it by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Millen) and by yourself, sir, when you read the question, and it was afterwards stressed by you in your statement from the chair. Almost any question must contain a statement of fact. For instance, I might put on the notice-paper a question running, “ Is the Minister for Defence aware that John Smith, who is employed in the Defence Department in Brisbane, is an unnaturalized alien?” The words ‘ who is employed in the Defence Department in Brisbane “ constitute a statement of fact.
– They may be necessary for identification.
– The same thing may apply to the words “ much needed,” which was the point stressed by you and Senator Millen.,
– To make your question parallel, it should read, “ who is unnecessarily employed in the Department.”
– As regards Senator Keating’s reference to the matter, if the inclusion of an adjective before a noun is out of place, according to a ruling given by President Baker in 1903, that is surely not a warrant for striking out the whole sentence. Surely the adjective, if it conflicts with the precedent established then, although not with the standing order, could be excised by the Clerk, at your direction. On this question of statement of fact, Senator de Largie rather blunderingly drew attention to a question standing in Senator McDougall’s name on the notice-paper today. What occurred was this : The basic principle of the question is farcical in itself, for any mention of the Commonwealth. Police Force and its creation is almost inseparable from frivolity or flippancy. One cannot hear it referred to in the street in any tone of seriousness. Everybody regards it as a Huge farce, and probably, when you noticed a question dealing with the Commonwealth Police Force, you naturally scanned it closely, looking for what you would . conceive to be frivolity. If Senator Keating’s contention is correct, that the words “ much needed “ are the obstacle, your action went far beyond what was necessary. Seeing what has occurred in recent times, Parliament House itself being raided, although the civil Court has now declared that there was no ground for that raiding, and seeing that the military raid in question has been indorsed by another branch of the Legislature, we should be very jealous of any attempt by anybody in authority to whittle away our privileges. The protest lodged here this afternoon will not be without its effect. May I suggest that, if on ‘ any future occasion there should be an obtrusive adjective in the way, that should not be regarded as a warrant or reason for striking out a whole question. Senator McDougall’s question dealt with a subject which, if it could be removed by any action of the Government, by criticism or ridicule heaped upon it in debate, by question or in any other way, would be fully justified. I hope that in future a little broader view will he taken of our Standing Orders; but if it is decided to keep to the letter of the Standing Orders, even to the dotting of the “i’s,” this should be done in every case, so as to avoid any glaring inconsistencies appearing on the business-paper as, by chance,’ appears in a notice under the name of Senator McDougall, to which . Senator de Largie has already drawn attention.
– I take it that we are not discussing a question whether the Commonwealth police ought to have been appointed or not - up to the present I have not heard, any adequate reason for their appointment - but a question involving an interpretation of the Standing Orders. I think your ruling, Mr. President, is correct, and I do not believe it has anything to do with an attempt to prevent the asking of a question that might in any way harass the Government. When I had been a member of the Senate for only three or four weeks, I asked a question without notice, but had only proceeded to frame it when you, Mr. President, intervened by saying-
Order! The honorable senator is going outside the limits of a question, and is making statements. The rule has been laid down here that questions must only be asked for the purpose of obtaining information, and that the replies must be couched so as to give information only. Following that rule, it is not permissible for the honorable senator to make a statement of fact, or alleged facts, or anything else, but simply to ask for information.
I then asked if I would be permitted to finish reading the question, and you, sir, said that I could do so if it did not transgress your ruling. Apparently the, question did not transgress your ruling, for I finished reading it, and Senator Millen then asked me to give notice. At this stage Senator Keating said -
With regard to the question by Senator Thomas, I know that the Standing Orders do not permit an honorable senator, in asking a question, to put forward arguable matter; therefore I ask, sir, that before this question is allowed to appear on the notice-paper, you will censor it, so that there shall be nothing going forward which may not be replied to by somebody else.
In your reply you said -
That is always done. No question which does not comply with the Standing Orders is allowed to go on the notice-paper.
– Will the honorable senator show that Senator McDougall’s question does not comply with the Standing Orders?
– The President has ruled that it contains statements which ought not to go on the notice-paper, and in a matter like this I would give the President the benefit of the doubt. Senator Gardiner remarked a little while ago that members of any deliberative body always hesitated to vote against the decision of its presiding officer. I certainly would hesitate to vote against a ruling given by a presiding officer, but I say quite frankly that in this matter I do not regard the position of the President so much as the position of the Senate itself, its honour, its functions, and its privileges.
– Is not this view lately acquired ?
– The question asked by Senator McDougall is on exactly the same lines as my question. At that time I was a novice, young to the Senate, and as no one rose to rescue me; I came to the conclusion that the President was right.
– But the honorable senator took it for granted, before he asked that question, that he was right?
– I cannot say that I did, because in another House I had heard questions on similar lines and had heard them ruled out of order, consequently I was not very much surprised at the President’s . ruling, although my question was not such as to cause embarrassment to the Government. Our Standing Orders may be bad, and I think that in another place I expressed the opinion, on one occasion, that the Standing Orders of the Senate should be like the Standing Orders of the House of Lords, where, I understand, there are none, and consequently everybody would have a free hand about anything. But that is not so. We have framed Standing Orders, and as long as they are in force, I take it for granted that it is the duty of the President to see that they are carried out.
– And of all senators also.
– It is the duty of all senators to support the President when he is right, but not necessarily when he is wrong. In this case I think the President is right. Senator Keating gave an instance of Senator Rae having been ruled out of order some years ago, and my own question, to which I have just referred, was of more recent date, and was on similar lines to the question asked by Senator McDougall.
– I am perfectly satisfied, Mr. President, that you did not attempt to strain the interpretation of our Standing Orders; but ‘I thought that, as on previous occasions, an opportunity would have been given to me to amend my question. The very lucid interpretation of the standing order by Senator Keating shows that the question could have been amended to comply with the standing order. Senator Keating himself has differed from you on this subject ; and when, on such matters as the interpretation of our laws, legal minds differ, those who are directing the law work of the Commonwealth seem to be very much lacking in their knowledge, because every case re cently tested has been lost. If my question offended against Standing Orders, all I can say is that Senator Earle’s question to-day also offended. I always understood, however, that a certain amount of leniency was shown in these matters, and that it was not customary to adhere strictly to the interpretation of , our Standing Orders. I nope now this .will be done in all cases in future. I am satisfied that you had no intention of trying to shield the Government, because I do not know that there was anything to shield them from. I believe now that you merely struck my question out because, in your opinion, it offended against the Standing Orders.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister if he will now answer a question I put to him on Thursday last when, in his reply, he said that he would give the information sought in the course of a Ministerial statement he was about to make. I asked the Minister then if Australia would be represented at the forthcoming Imperial Conference, and, if so, would he give the name of the delegate or delegates, and would this Parliament have an opportunity of discussing the questions to be submitted at the Imperial Conference, prior, to the departure of the delegates.
– If the honorable senator will turn to the statement which I read last week, tie will find reference to the subject mentioned. I regret I am not in a position to say more.
– I perused the statement, but did not find an answer to the question as I put it. Am I to understand now that there is no further information for the Senate 1
– I regret it is my unfortunate habit to not infrequently fail to answer questions in the way they are put; but I can assure the honorable senator that I am not in a position to communicate to the Senate anything further than is contained in the statement I read last week.
– Is it a fact, as reported in some papers, that Commonwealth police are to be taken to England with the delegation which is going there to represent this Commonwealth?
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act 1906. - Land acquired at Caboolture, Queensland - For Postal purposes.
High Court Procedure Act 1903 and Judiciary Act 1903-1910-
High CourtRules - Statutory Rules 1918, Nos. 51 and 52.
War Precautions Act 1914-1916.- Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1918, Nos. 28, 36, 39, 44, 56, 74, 76, 77, 81, and 85.
Unfit Members: Pensions and Separation Allowances
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
– Arising out of that question, is it a fact that the cost to the Commonwealth of each of those men is £200 ?
– Obviously, I cannot answer that, for the reason given in the answer which I have just read, namely, that we cannot readily ascertain what the men have cost.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Defence Act 1903-1917.
Motion (by Senator Millen) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1917.
Senator GARDINER (New South
Wales) [4.57]. - I move -
That Statutory Rule No. 314 of 1917 (Regulation under the War Precautions Act 1914- 16) be disallowed.
Honorable senators may have some difficulty in following the exact meaning of that part of the clause of the regulation against which I wish the Senate to vote. I find that regulation 42 of theWar Precautions Act is amended by adding at the end the following sub-regulation: -
In any proceedings for an offence against this regulation -
the averment of the prosecutor that the defendant is the person who made or authorized to be made the statement in respect of which the proceedings have been instituted, or was the printer, publisher, or distributor of the adver- tisement, notice, handbill, pamphlet, or card contained in the statement, shall be deemed to be proved in the absence of proof to the contrary; and
the production of a paper purporting to be printed, published, or authorized by any person shall be prima facie evidence that the paper was printed or published, or that the statements contained in the paper were authorized, as the case may be, by that person.
Following that up, that regulation was again amended, and the portion of the amendment to which this particular regulation calls attention reads -
Regulation 42 of the War Precautions (Military Service Referendum) Regulations 1917 is amended by omitting from sub-regulation (2) thereof the words “ shall, notwithstanding any provisions of State law, be not more than forty-eight hours “ and inserting in their stead the words “ may, notwithstanding any provisions of State law, be any time not less than twenty-four hours.”
That is with regard to the calling of witnesses. To make myself clear, I desire to say that during the conduct of the recent referendum public speakers, particularly those of the party to which I belong, found themselves harassed to a degree quite incompatible with any idea of fair play by the fact that any public speaker could on the most flimsy pretext be thrown out of the referendum campaign, dragged before a magistrate, and, according to that regulation, on the averment of the prosecutor, be put in the position of having to prove himself innocent. I want honorable senators to dissociate themselves from the fact that we are two parties, fighting each other politically. We are public men whose reputations may be taken to stand high in the eyes of the public, or we would not have been sent into this Chamber to represent them. We suddenly find ourselves, as did Senator McDougall, haled from our country tour to Sydney. ‘ Senator McDougall had to meet a charge which he was able to defend in such a way that the magistrate dismissed it with costs against the Commonwealth. As far as our public contests are concerned, they will be better conducted without regulations of this character, which not only make an offence of an individual saying that which he believes to be true, but can cause him to be put in the position of having to prove the truth of his statement. All these motions deal with the same pernicious regulation. That is the one which has made the greatest inroad yet known upon the rights of public speakers. There has been for centuries in Great Britain a marked respect for the rights of the general public at public meetings;” and, providing that a speaker is not trespassing on the rights of any one else, the Courts of England, time out of number, have given very serious regard to the rights of public speakers, and to their rights in public meetings. But here we had a referendum on possibly the most important question the public will ever be asked , to decide. Suddenly regulations are issued, so promptly and viciously that the bearings of the machine turning them out were reported to have got hot. In issuing them - and this part in particular - there was a most serious infringement of the liberties of the persons charged. Take the case of Premier Ryan. - The recent elections in Queensland show that no man stands higher than he. He has conducted the affairs of that State for some years, and is a big, broadminded, loyal Australian. He was told by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that if he dared to say outside of Parliament what he had said within it he would be dragged before a magistrate. He did so, and he
Was dragged before a magistrate. Here comes the pernicious part of this section of the regulations. When Mr. Ryan required for his proper defence the attendance of such witnesses’ as the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) that gentleman at once “scooted” out of Adelaide for Western Australia.
– At any rate he disappeared from Adelaide when Premier Ryan was impertinently challenged by the Prime Minister. And when Mr. Ryan required as his chief witness the Minister for Defence, that gentleman immediately bolted from Adelaide and “scooted” to Western Australia.
– That is your way of putting it.
– Well, I will say that in carrying out the arrangements which he had already made for the referendum campaign the Minister-,vent away to Western Australia so as to fulfil his obligations. I sincerely trust that that way of putting it will suit the Minister. The point is that he knew he was wanted in a Court of justice.
– I knew that I was wanted, but I knew that I was not needed.
– The Minister is not a good judge of whether he was needed or not
– Subsequent events showed that I was not.
– That tyrannical attack upon a high-minded and public man was one of the riskiest things that has yet been done in this country. I happened to be sitting in the Court while the case was being tried, and here is the picture. A public man, beyond suspicion and beyond reproach, was being cross-examined hour after hour by an opposition lawyer. He was simply put upon his defence. And when he had finished defending himself there was the one result that always follows the decisions of the Crown Prosecutor of this Government - the Government was defeated. There was, however, the fact that Senator Pearce could keep out of the way for 48 hours, and then there was this amendment, which compelled the magistrate to grant only one adjournment; and it caused this position to be brought about, namely, that the case could last not more than another 24 hours. If we are going to say that men may be dragged before the magistrates of this country, why should we make it impossible for those men, within the period prescribed by the regulation, to secure witnesses to prove their innocence? This regulation practically , says to reputable public men, “ Provided that we make a charge against you, upon your shoulders will rest the responsibility of proving your innocence, and if important witnesses choose to hide themselves for forty-eight hours, the case must be concluded.” I ask the Senate to express its disapproval of the regulation by disallowing it. If honorable senators opposite uphold it, they will have to share the responsibility which now rests upon the Government. Senator McDougall advised those persons who thought that they were entitled to vote at the recent referendum, to go before the Returning Officers, and demand their votes. For so doing, the charge was laid against him that, contrary to the law, he had urged German residents in our midst to vote. Upon that occasion the authorities called a German reporter as a witness against him. The honorable senator proved that he had advised all persons who thought that their names* were upon the Toll to go before the Returning Officers, and demand their votes. What was wrong with that ? Surely that is not an offence in this country?
– I had written instructions from the Returning Officer to do that.
– The proof that the honorable senator had tho’se instructions is to be found in’ the fact that the magistrate dismissed the case, with costs against the Commonwealth. Then there is the case of ex-Senator Rae. He used figures published by the Commonwealth Statistician, which showed that there were 152,800 single men in this country. He took those figures, and deducted from them the number of single men who had enlisted, and the number who were necessary to keep the primary industries of Australia going, and. thus arrived at the conclusion that there were not more than 60,000 single men in this country available for military service overseas. For so doing he was haled before a magistrate. Yet all he had done was to put, in his own logical way, an argument which any man was entitled to use. Then the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Ryan, made a statement that somewhere in Britain there were between 80,000 and 100,000 reinforcements. His statement was based upon the figures of the Defence Department. Yet he was prosecuted for making it. When the case came on for .hearing the magistrate refused to find that any false statement had been made by Mr. Ryan, v and awarded 12 guineas costs against the Commonwealth. It is all very well to say that the Government are entitled to issue regulations of this character. But there is a grave danger in permitting the issue of regulations which interfere with individual liberty. As one who was personally responsible for the introduction of the War Precautions Act, I have no hesitation in saying that I believed that legislation was intended to be used purely for defence purposes and in cases of emergency. But when regulations under that Act are used to deprive people of their individual liberty, I say that its primary purpose is being flagrantly abused. How could the statement made by Mr. Ryan either help the enemy or injure the Allies ? How could Senator McDougall’s statement or ex-Senator Rae’s statement have that effect? Consequently, I ask honorable senators to vote against this regulation, and to refuse to uphold the Government in doing something with which in their hearts they do not agree. I know the gentleman who runs the present Ministry. I know that lie is out to win on the merest detail as well as on the greatest principle. But regulations of this kind put reputable public men in an entirely false position. We all know that Mr. James Mathews, a member of the other branch of the Legislature, was prosecuted in Victoria, as was also Mr. Catts in New South Wales.
– And Miss Pankhurst.
– Yes. It is a remarkable thing that all these prosecutions appear to have been directed against individuals who had crossed the Prime Minister’s path politically.
– No fear.
– What about Mr. Ryan, of Queensland, who was deliberately brought before a Police Court because he had crossed the Prime Minister’s path in Brisbane, and because he had maintained the rights of his State against an attempted encroachment by the Commonwealth ? Similarly, Mr. Catts has been malignantly pursued merely because he has been a source of trouble in another place, where he has insisted upon asking questions that the Government did not wish to have asked, and on making speeches of which they did not approve. In his particular case the magistrate said that by no stretch of imagination could Mr. Catts’ speeches be held to have the effect which was alleged against them. If during a political campaign the governing power can stifle the voice of its opponents, a most serious -position must arise. I am very glad to know that in every prosecution instituted thus far the Government have failed. Surely we are not going to permit a regulation to be enforced which threatens the liberties of the individual, and which provides that the prosecution must finish within a prescribed time, even if within that period it is impossible to secure the attendance of most important witnesses. If the prosecution of Mr. Ryan were sufficiently serious to warrant proceedings being instituted against him, it was sufficiently serious for Senator Pearce to attend as a witness. Had he given evidence he must have testified that the figures used by Mr. Ryan had been obtained from the Defence Department. Of course, I am aware that Major-General Legge gave evidence an that occasion as a witness from the Defence Department, but, strange to say, his figures were quite contrary to those supplied by Senator Pearce.
– He said that Senator Pearce should have been prosecuted.
– He said that Senator Pearce should have been prosecuted for misleading the electors. Then I would remind honorable senators that when an appeal was made to the Government to put upon their trial persons on the other side who had made wild statements, they refused to listen to it. The Prime Minister was asked to prosecute certain men who had misstated the position, but he declined to do so. I was all through the referendum campaign, and so indignant was I at this regulation that on every platform from which I spoke 1 took the risk of being arrested. The liberty that is enjoyed in other parts of the Empire is such that a man can conduct a parliamentary election campaign as a Sinn Feiner, be returned, and take his seat in the House of Commons. Yet, in Australia, if he dares to call himself a Sinn Feiner he may be arrested. Evidently the strain of conducting the business of this country during the recent troublous times has got upon the nerves of Ministers. As a result, instead of being able to see things in their proper perspective, they approve of a regulation which absolutely imperils the liberties of men who desire to express their opinions upon a public platform. The Government seek to make the laws of the Commonwealth reflect merely the will of the Prime Minister. I understand that it has been found more profitable to give the Crown Solicitor his expenses and a trip to England than to continue to conduct prosecutions in which costs have to be paid by the Commonwealth. That is the position. I appeal to honorable senators to recognise that a halt must be called somewhere. If we are going to allow any Government by means of a regulation of this character to shorten the time allowed for an adjournment of -the proceedings in any prosecution initiated by the Government, and to limit the period within which the accused is able to prove his innocence, I shall be sorry for the future of the Commonwealth.
– I would like to supplement what Senator gardiner has said in regard to the seriousness of the position which was created in Brisbane when the prosecution against Mr. Ryan was pending. Upon my return to that city I had it impressed upon me by friends that a very high state of tension existed amongst the populace at that particular time. Some persons said, ‘ ‘ We had a . pretty stormy time during the continuance of the general strike in 1912. There were angry crowds in the streets on that occasion. The atmosphere was electrical, and anything might have happened, but the tension which then existed was not a circumstance to that experienced during the days when the prosecution of Mr. Ryan was pending.” I say that on such occasions it is a positive danger to the Commonwealth to have regulations of this nature enforced on the impulse of the moment, as they have been dm-ing the past eighteen months or two years. The spectacle of a public man being summarily called upon to answer any imaginary charge which may be launched against him on any edict may create a very troubled atmosphere. I happened to be travelling to Brisbane when Major - General Legge was on his way to that city to lead off the prosecution, and I had it impressed on me then what a domi-nance the military rule was getting over “the population of Australia even without conscription. Major-General Legge went so far as to ask a returned soldier with whom I was travelling, and myself, to go a bit further along the train, where we could get another smoking carriage. ‘ I told him I thought that smoking carriage was good enough for us. Apparently, he was talcing up that domineering attitude because he knew he had behind him a Government that would support him, right or wrong, but I gave him to understand that although these regulations were in vogue, I knew* just about as much of the conditions operating in Queensland as he did, and was not going to accept direction at his hands. That gentleman and others of his ilk have been buttressed up with the knowledge that drastic regulations of this nature are in force, and liable to be put into operation at any moment. We hear a lot about Prussian militarism, but ever since the agitation for conscription and military dominance in Australia began, I have always taken up the attitude that militarism, whether Prussian or Australian, was the same all over the world. If that isi the extent to which they can go here without conscription, what might we expect under actual military rule?
– Were you ordered out of the carriage?
– I was asked to go a little further along the train where there was another smoker.
– Did he say why ?
– He told me that that carriage was reserved for parlour-car smokers. As a matter of fact it was, under one of the regulations of’ the Queensland railways, but I was just aa much entitled to go into that carriage as he was.
– Did he know who you were?
– I did not take the trouble to tell him, but I asked him in pretty plain language, “Who the hell, are you?” for I thought it was time to take exception to his attitude. We realize the extent of the menace to the well-being of the Commonwealth created by these regulations and dozens of others of the same nature. They are not put into operation by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), although nominally they are supposed to be. They are given direction and issue by the military authorities, who, we know, often have to act without the cognisance of the Minister for Defence. The Defence Department is a big concern, . and the Minister cannot be. or does not want to be, or will not be, consulted on every emergency that arises, with the result that these men take it upon themselves to govern the Commonwealth. That is why the Government have shown such anxiety to get into recess as soon as they can. That is why, out of the last thirtyone months, Parliament has been in recess for twenty-four months, and in session . only seven months. In the interval the Commonwealth in a time of war has been governed by regulation only. Some departmental officers who know these regulations are in vogue, sometimes make the paths of those who are representing different parts of the Commonwealth as difficult as possible in the interests of the Government. They realize that the freedom of .the Commonwealth has been grossly invaded, and that while such a state of affairs obtains nothing can be too domineering for them to carry into effect. Can the Minister for Defence offer any justification or reason for the hauling off, at a moment’s notice, of public men and others for making statements which the Government in their wisdom or haste construe into being against the order and good government of the Commonwealth? If these regulations are a sample of the Win-the-war policy, will the Minister tell us what effect they have had on the war? Have they been another bomb thrown into the ranks of the Kaiser’s soldiers? Has it disturbed the German legions to know that public men in Australia are prosecuted and followed all over the different States? I sincerely trust that Senator Gardiner will push his motion to a division, and let all those people who support the Government take the onus of their action. Not one of them, although the Minister will probably attempt it, can justify the imposition, or keeping in force, of drastic regulations of this nature; and if they cannot do that, they have no right to vote for their continuance.
– It is fairly obvious that Senator Gardiner is not much concerned about the existence of these regulations, and is moving the motion,-not so much with a view to repealing them, as to enable himself and his colleagues to vent their grievances as to certain past acts of administration which were done under them.
– Have those regulations any operative effect now?
– No ; and therefore Senator Gardiner is flogging a dead horse, except so far as regards past administration under them. So far as I am able to see, they deal entirely with the question of the referendum. Senator Gardiner very cleverly wove into them some other regulations which he is not moving to repeal. I do not know whether he did that for the purpose of making honorable senators believe that they would be repealing them. For instance, he referred to the regulation by which the averment of the prosecutor is taken to be a fact in the absence of proof to the contrary. Even if Senator Gardiner’s motion were carried, it would not repeal that regulation. I do not know whether he is aware of that fact.
– I am glad . you told me. I thought one of these regulations did that. If my motion does not disallow it, I shall add another motion to the business-paper, so that it may be disallowed.
– I simply want the honorable senator and others to know, when they are voting, that they are not repealing that regulation. The following is the advice furnished to me by the Crown Law officers as to the scope of what Senator Gardiner is seeking to repeal : -
Statutory Rules 1917, No. 304, as amended by Statutory Rules 1917, Nos. 308 and 314.
Regulation 11 of this Statutory Rule adds regulation 42 to the War Precautions (Military Service) Regulations.
Sub-regulation (1) of this regulation makes it an offence to wilfully make or publish any false statement of fact of a kind likely to affect the judgment of electors in relation to their votes.
It is also provided that, in case a defendant proves he has reasonable cause to believe the statement to be true, the magistrate may find specially that the statement is a false statement.
Sub-regulations (2) and (3) of the regulation are procedual.
Sub-regulation (4) prohibits any false statement being repeated.
This Statutory Rule adds Regulations 43-45 to the War Precautions (Military Service) Regulations.
Regulation 43 makes it an offence to destroy or injure any poster, proclamation, &c., relating to the referendum which is printed by the Government Printer or issued by the authority of the Chief Electoral Officer.
Regulation 44 provides that disturbance of a public meeting held in relation to the referendum is an offence, and that any person disturbing such a meeting may be removed by any police constable.
Regulation 45 authorizes the arrest of any person offending against the two last-mentioned regulations.
The operation of all these regulations is now practically exhausted, and nothing is, therefore, to be gained by their cancellation.
Senator Gardiner practically accused the Government of the partial application of these regulations in their administration, and quoted as proof the fact that more persons were prosecuted who happened to be speaking in opposition to the Government’s referendum proposals than those who were speaking in support. Anybody who looks back over that contest will see a very good reason for that. It was the people who were opposing the referendum that were making the false statements.
– Then, why did not the Government, when they were asked to do so, prosecute Parkhill and Hunter in Sydney for making false statements?
– On that point the Crown Law officers advise -
As regards regulations dealing with the making of false statements, it is true that there were no prosecutions of persons who. spoke or wrote in support of the Government’s proposal, but, although prosecutions could have been instituted with the consent of the AttorneyGeneral, only two applications for that consent were obtained. Of these two applications, one was granted -
That application was granted, but no prosecution was lodged by our friends opposite - and the other was not dealt with, and, consequently, not’ pressed, as the referendum had been held before it could be given consideration.
– Then, generally speaking, you say that no false statements were made by those in favour of the referendum ?
– I did not say anything of the sort. I said the great bulk of the false statements were made by those opposing it. My honorable friends opposite had the opportunity at any time to apply to the Attorney-General for consent to prosecute. They applied in only two cases, one of them after the referendum had been taken. Therefore, in the only effective case consent was given, and they failed to avail themselves of it.
– Was the consent given before polling day?
– Yes, L am informed that it was. I am sure that Senator Gardiner does not really wish to repeal these regulations, for ‘ he does not object to persons being fined who tear down posters issued by the Government Printer, nor does he want to protect the man who goes to a public meeting, and tries to break it up by creating a disturbance. Yet he is moving to repeal a regulation which would punish that gentleman. He is really only moving the motion in order to get an opportunity to resurrect a lot of things that he and those associated with him have been saying from time to time in respect of the last referendum. I do not wish to resurrect all the bad feeling of that time. It would be wise to drop it and forget it. But the honorable senator has made statements here, to which, if I did not reply, he would go out, and say that there was, and could be, no reply. He has dragged up a number of cases in which prosecutions were instituted, some of which failed and some of which succeeded, and says that in all those cases the Government prosecuted solely and wholly because those concerned happened to be members of the Opposition party, and that the Government had no good case. He hopes thereby to raise a debate on the merits or demerits of those cases. He wants all this dirty linen to be again dragged out and washed before the public. Does he think that this is a time to do that?
– This is a time that you could well meet us by offering to repeal the regulation. If you d6, I am prepared to meet you in a friendly spirit.
– The honorable senator desires to repeal a lot of regulations which have nothing to do with the cases he speaks of. Therefore, it appears that the honorable senator is not aiming so much at the regulation as endeavouring to put into Hansard, and send out to the public, his views on the number of prosecutions that has been instituted. I am going to refer to one of those prosecutions. The honorable senator’s remarks make it necessary that I should do so, because he referred to one of the most recent prosecutions, namely, that against Mr. Catts, a member in another place.
– Under these regulations ?
– No; under other regulations. The honorable senator knows that quite well.
-“-Order ! If the Minister intends to refer to other regulations, I am afraid I cannot allow him to do so at this juncture.
– I think, Mr. President, you allowed Senator Gardiner to refer to them.
– But I was referring to the previous Catts prosecution.
– Then I will also refer to the previous prosecution of Mr. Catts, and for the purpose of argument we will assume it was conducted under these regulations. .Mr. Catts was prosecuted for making statements most offensive to one of our Allies - an Ally which, at the present moment, is assisting in guarding our coasts, and which, from time to time, has convoyed our troops overseas.
– But did not Mr. Catts merely quote from a journal?
– Yes; from a pro- German journal published in the United States before America entered the war.
– He was quoting a Japanese magazine, from an article written by a Japanese professor.
– He was quoting, as I have already stated, from a proGerman journal published in America before the United States entered the war. Now I ask honorable senators is this the time when the (public men of this country should be even repeating offensive statements in regard .to our Allies ?
– Your Government set an example.
– Whether Mr. Catts fathered the statements or not, the fact remains that if a public man got on to a platform, and repeated statements made by other people, the public would assume that he did father them. That was the offence for which Mr. Catts was prosecuted, and though he signed a bond - not to repeat the statements, he came into Parliament, and did so.
– I think the magistrate said there was nothing which by any stretch of the imagination could be regarded as likely to imperil the relations of the Crown.
– The magistrate was not passing judgment on the previous conviction at all.
– But the Minister said just now that Mr. Catts repeated the statements, and therefore the magistrate must have passed judgment on the same speech.
– What the magistrate said was that he did not think the remarks were likely to offend Japan, because we all know who Mr. Catts is. I take it that was what the magistrate meant. These were the circumstances responsible for the previous prosecution of Mr. Catts, and yet Senator Gardiner would urge now that we should repeal the regulations, so that a man who offended in this way would escape prosecution.
I ask Senator Gardiner to remember that Germany fights with two arms; she fights, not only with her armies in the field, but with propaganda in every land, neutral and enemy country alike. Is Senator Gardiner so simple as to believe that - Germany leaves Australia alone and that Australia is the only country on earth that is not receiving attention at the hands of those responsible for German propaganda ?
Senator Gardiner knows, I am sure, that the German Government does not always put German propaganda forward through German representatives, or by means of German pens. That propaganda is circulated and distributed by many people, who often do it quite innocently.
– Does the Minister suggest that Mr. Catts is in the pay of Germany ?
– I say that many men, in the belief that they are advancing some particular fad, are actually playing the German game, because it is by means such as these that Germany seeks to create discord in enemy countries. The German plan is to divide the Allies. How better can she do that than by creating mutual distrust among them; how better can this be brought about than by the circulation of German propaganda suggesting that one of our Allies is not really faithful to the Alliance? Does not Senator Gardiner see that if a man innocently quoted a statement of that kind he would be playing the German game?
– Notwithstanding that several prominent Japanese politicians say that they are untrue.
– Yes. Germany provides every facility for the extension of her propaganda, not merely by spies and paid agents, but by movements in enemy countries - movements which in themselves are quite innocent, but which under German influence are used for German purposes to disrupt and divide the Allies.
– That has been her policy for forty years in France.
– Undoubtedly it has, and we in Australia must realize the kind of enemy we are dealing with. In all earnestness I say - Would to God that the day had arrived when the whole of the War Precautions Act, the censorship, and everything connected with it could be swept away for ever, as I recongise that the War Precautions Act and its regulations regarding censorship are repugnant to democratic ideals.
– It is the manner in which they are administered that is repugnant.
– This Act and its regulations are the dire and awful consequences of war, especially war against an unscrupulous and unprincipled enemy such as Germany has- proved herself to be.
I ask Senator Gardiner also to remember we are fighting Germany at a great disadvantage, because we are a Democracy, and because Germany will tolerate anything so long as she gains her end. Is a Democracy to be set up in some enemy country that will create dissension among the people, and overthrow an Autocracy, then’ German money will be available to insure its success. No matter what form of government or misgovernment is proposed, so long as it will serve Germany’s turn, German money and German influence will be there to help it on. In a Democracy such as Australia we have to do such things as are authorized by the War Precautions Act to protect our Democracy and in order to save our life. We have to do things that are repugnant and absolutely opposed to democratic ideals and democratic government in the true sense of the word. In normal times, or even if we had to fight an enemy under a democratic form of government like our own, we could not defend for one moment regulations such as are now in force; but in the present circumstances we would be fools and worse than fools if we shut our eyes to the kind of enemy we are fighting, and refused to recognise that many of our own citizens quite innocently and without any knowledge- are helping Germany by pursuing certain lines ofconduct which they believe to be in the interests of their own country, but which unfortunately are being used by German agents to divide and disrupt the country and its Allies.
– Your remarks would apply very well to your own Government.
– The Government have not only to fight Germany with Australian soldiers, but have also, by means of these regulations, to fight Germany within Australia. If we allowed enemy influence free course in Australia, what would happen to us as part of the British Empire? If statements such as have been made were allowed publication throughout the length and breadth of this country, can we assume for a moment that our Ally to whom the statements referred would not make representations and protest? Let us put ourselves in the place of that Ally. What would be our attitude if statements offensive to Australia, throwing doubt on our loyalty to the Allied cause and our determination to help to win this war, were allowed circula tion in Allied countries? Would we not in such circumstances feel that any Allied country which allowed such statements to be circulated was not friendly towards us?
Senator Gardiner also referred to incidents connected with the referendum. I am not going into the details of the Ryan and other cases, but I point out that members of the Senate generally know that the issue then was of. the gravest importance to this country. Because of the torrent of misrepresentation and lies which prevented the carrying of the previous referendum the Government desired only that the truth should be placed before the people on the second occasion.
– And when an opportunity offered, you prosecuted the people.
– The regulations were framed and were administered with a view only to securing the circulation of the truth. I am not going to say now that every prosecution authorized was justified, because where prosecutions failed it was evidently the opinion of the presiding magistrate that they were not justified. But because a mistake was made in administration, is that a reason why we should repeal the regulations if the regulations themselves are right and just? I say “No,” andI put it to Senator Gardiner that this is not the time to take action. So far as the effective regulations of the War Precautions Act are concerned, there is a real necessity for their retention to safeguard the interests of Australia. I ask Senator Gardiner, therefore, not to press his amendment, because the regulations do not affect the greater part of what he has been saying, and probably at a later stage the Government will review the whole of the War Service Regulations. At present they are passive, and no action in regard to them is being taken by the Government.
– It is rather late in the day for the Minister to hold out the olive branch in order to remove objections to these regulations. He has told us that during the recent referendum the Government only desired that the truth should be put before the people. From what occurred we are justified in assuming that what Senator Pearce and what the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) thought to be true was true, and what they thought to be lies were lies. At all events this was shown by the number of prosecutions which failed.
– You admit a good many of the statements were untrue.
– I say there were more untruthful, more slanderous, and more malicious and unfair statements made by those on the other side in the conscription campaign than by those opposing the views of the Government, and yet, as to the former, there was not one solitary case of prosecution.
– You can all make that statement.
– We are backed up in making such a statement because Senator Pearce said that only two applications were made to the Attorney-General by persons on the other side that prosecutions be instituted, and one was withdrawn. Who was going to make those applications on the other side? Did the Government wait, in the vast number” of prosecutions that they instituted ?
– Were they instituted, or prostituted?
– Among the vast number of people who were brought before the Courts, and treated as criminals, did the Government wait for applications to be made by private citizens ? No. They took the step themselves, but they were very slow to proceed in the cases of those whom they knew to be making untrue and unfair statements on the other side. One of the latest instructions issued to the censors is remarkable in a country which believes it is living under a fair and democratic system of government. There have been certain regulations issued only recently, and in connexion with them a notice has been sent to the newspapers that publication will be prohibited of any discussion upon the new. regulations, and that only editorials shall be permitted to be published. Does the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce; uphold that? There has been an instruction issued which refers to a regulation not embraced in those before the Senate, and which I may not, ‘therefore, discuss, but which, as a matter of fact, deals with what is known as Sinn Fein. The mouth of every person who may think that that regulation is wrong is closed. One dare not discuss the subject outside of Parliament. I have myself seen- a copy of an instruction to that effect. We have come to a pretty pass if that is to be permitted and condoned by Parliament. Members of both branches of the Legislature have reached such a stage in the conduct of the party machine, and have become so bitter in their partisanship, that they are prepared to lie down and let the Prime Minister and his colleagues walk over them. We have just seen an example of that in another place. All the privileges embraced by our freedom are to be taken away from the people of Australia, and yet .members on the other side are condoning it. .
Debate (on motion by Senator de Largie) adjourned.
– I move -
That Statutory Rule No. 325 of 1917 (Regurlation under War Precautions Act 1914-1916) be disallowed.
This is a motion of a nature that we have already discussed at some length this afternoon. Upon a previous occasion I endeavoured to move for the disallowance of the regulation in question, but that object was missed in the closing hours of last session. It will be admitted that the establishment of Commonwealth police in Queensland was founded on a blunder. A mistake was made in the initial issue of the regulation authorizing the appointment. It was regulation 64d, signed by Mr. Hughes, as Attorney-General, which had to be deleted by the regulation now before honorable senators; that is Statutory Rule 325, which was signed by Mr. Watt, for the Minister for Defence. Under the first regulation, 64d, Mr. Hughes set out to establish a Commonwealth Police Force in Queensland, which was obviously contrary to the Australian Constitution, making as it did a differentiation between the respective States. When he saw that he had blundered - following on his many blunders - he overcame the difficulty by issuing a further regulation. The establishment of this Commonwealth force was totally unnecessary. I do not think any honorable senator will justify its being brought into existence, much less the continuance of its inaction. I have endeavoured, in various parts of Queensland where units of the force are situated, to ascertain their duties. At one time I thought that these might have been semimilitary in character, but I have not been able to ascertain anything in that regard. The situation which gave Mr. Hughes the excuse to do what he did arose in an endeavour to cover up his tracks. He saw that Mr.. Ryan would badly beat him in the action which he had instituted with respect to raiding the Government Printing Office in Brisbane. Mr. Hughes is endowed with a lot of low cunning or scheming, which for many years he has been able to palm off and masquerade under as ability, but as to which, when it comes to a question of judgment, he is very generally found wanting. He showed evidence of that sort of thing repeatedly in the conscription referenda. And in the latter campaign, when he met a man of superior ability in open conflict, he went off to Warwick with the direct intention of creating some notoriety by the aid of which to cover his tracks.
SenatorFoll. - You do not believe that.
– I suppose he arranged for the eggs to be thrown at himself.
– I have had eggs thrown at me, and I dare say the honorable senator has undergone a similar experience. I do not know that he arranged to run mad, but he undoubtedly and actually did that upon the platform at the Warwick station; and immense expense has been incurred as the result of the Prime Minister’s action, after he had been hit with an egg at Warwick. It is wholly unjustifiable. The existence of this body cannot be defended, and I am surprised at the members of the Government not bringing some pressure to bear on the Prime Minister to remove this governmental eyesore which has been established in Queensland. If honorable members on this side of the chamber should hear of any justification for the action taken, it would come as news to them. In these times, when we hear so much about economy, it strikes one as strange that a totally unnecessary duplication of duties should have been established in any one. of the States, just because Mr. Hughes had been hit by an egg. It was sug gested, by the way, in some quarters, that it had been proposed by the Defence Department to issue a regulation making it an offence for anybody to keep or be in the possession of or feed fowls within 5 miles of the Warwick post-office. Fortunately, it has not gone to that extent; but we who have had an opportunity of studying this frantic little man, realize that there are no steps which he may not traverse under one of his mental aberrations. I have held the view for a long time that since the conscription question arose in Australia, and on the question of Imperialism generally, Mr. Hughes has been - to put it mildly - not rational. I hope the Government will take the earliest opportunity to remove this eyesore. I understand that Senator Bolton narrowly missed being shot last night with a door key, at the meeting of the “ Black Hand Society.” If the throwing of an egg at Warwick justified the establishment of a Commonwealth Police Force in Queensland, surely Senator Bolton’s experience last night should justify the establishment of a similar body in Victoria. I am surprised that members of the Government generally have tolerated the position so long. I was one of those who had been prepared to make every allowance for the extreme excitement of the Prime Minister at that time, and. I quite realize that perhaps he was not all there in the matter of mental settlement. Will any honorable senator on the other side attempt to justify . the establishment of this force ? Will any of my colleagues from Queensland do that, if they supportthe conti nuance of this regulation? On equitable and argumentative grounds I venture to say that it cannot be done. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us some information as to what the members of this body are doing for the money which the taxpayers are paying them. Men from the Southern States do not go up to Queensland, even to put in time, for nothing, because putting in time is very hard work. I have no doubt that it is an extremely difficult task for the members of the Commonwealth police to put in time. Presumably they are being paid for doing nothing, and they are being paid a good wage. This may be a matter of hilarity to some honorable senators opposite, but I want to ask them how this Win-the-war Government has effected any economy by the establishment of the Commonwealth Police Force.
– Is it not an economy if less eggs are thrown ?
-We read in the newspapers at the time of the Warwick incident that when the Prime Minister emerged from the crowd blood was flowing from one of his hands. We now know that what was seen was not blood, but merely the colour of the egg which struck him. Yet because one egg was thrown at the right honorable gentleman, the Commonwealth Police Force was established in Queensland. I wish to know whether it is the intention of the Government to continue the existence of that body, and, if so, upon what grounds it can justify its action. It is only fair that the public should be enlightened on this matter. If it be a good thing for Queensland to have a body of Commonwealth police there, it must be an equally good thing for the other States to be similarly circumstanced. For the sake of consistence, therefore, the system should be extended to the other States, or the Commonwealth Police Force should be abolished.
– Otherwise a feeling of jealously might be aroused.
-I do not think that the citizens of Queensland will be jealous if the Commonwealth Police Force there is abolished. Practically the whole of the people of that State, when the time for the departure of the Commonwealth police arrives, will be prepared to wish them a happy farewell. They have not taken a very active part in the affairs of the different towns. Very frequently they are not even ‘known there. But it does seem an overwhelming farce that the expense of maintaining this body should be continued when we hear so much about economy. That is the ground of my protest. I trust that honorable senators will vote against this regulation. If they do not, it will be incumbent upon them to justify their attitude towards it.
Debate (on motion by Senator Millen) adjourned.
– I move -
That, in the opinion of the Senate -
South Wales, Victoria, South Aus- tralia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, the sum of 25s. per capita for citizens of the above-mentioned States who have enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, and are on active service abroad, is a breach of clause 4 of the Surplus Revenue Act of 1910.
The Commonwealth Government should pay to the Treasurers of the aforesaid States the sum of 25s. for every citizen who has enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, and who has been, and is, and who may be on active service abroad.
I am impelled to submit this motion by reason of the fact that for some time the Treasurers of the several States have not been paid by the Commonwealth the 25s. per capita for those of their citizens who have enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. Section 4 of the Surplus Revenue Act of 1910 specifically states -
The Commonwealth shall, during the period of ten years beginning on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and. ten, and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, pay to each State by monthly instalments, or apply to the payment of interest on the debts of the State taken over by the Commonwealth, an annual sum amounting to 25s. per head of the number of the people of the State.
I wish specially to direct the attention of honorable senators to the words “until the Parliament otherwise provides.” Parliament has not otherwise provided. It has not provided that those citizens of Australia who are abroad upon active service shall practically be placed in the category of non-citizens of the State in which they enlisted. The refusal of the Commonwealth to pay to the States 25s. per capita in respect of those citizens is a direct contravention of the Act. The true test of citizenship in any country is the franchise. Now, our soldier citizens, thank God, have not been disfranchised. Upon all occasions when the opportunity offered, they have registered their votes abroad.
– What about those who did not exercise their right to vote?
– That objection would apply with equal force to those citizens within a State who did not vote. It is passing strange that while our citizen soldiers have not been deprived of their citizen rights, the States in which they enlisted have been deprived of the benefit of section 4 of the Surplus Revenue Act. When I inquired into this matter a little while ago, I was informed that the view of the Crown Law authorities was that, because these soldier citizens were not resident in their respective States on the 31st December, the Treasurer was quite justified in refusing to pay to those States 25s. per capita in respect of them. I am not here to pit my humble opinion against that of the Solicitor-General, a man experienced in constitutional law, but I do not think the Surplus Revenue Act of 1910 gave the Commonwealth Treasurer or anybody else the right to take away this amount from the States in any circumstances. That Act says, “until the Parliament otherwise provides.”
– Is there provision in that Act to determine the number of people of the several States ?
– Not so far as I have read.
– Look at section 7.
– That section provides -
Where in this Act reference is made, in . relation to any payment or debit, to the number of the people of a State, the reference shall be deemed to be to the number of the people of the State as ascertained according to the laws of the Commonwealth by the Commonwealth Statistician as at the thirty-first day of December in the financial year in respect of which the payment or debit is to be made.
-That blows you right out.
– That is a matter of opinion, because section 4, which is the governing section, enacts -
The Commonwealth shall, during the period of ten years beginning on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and ten, and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, pay to each State by monthly instalments, or apply to the payment of interest on debts of the State taken over by the Commonwealth, an annual sum amounting to twenty-five shillings per head of the number of the people of the State.
I admit that section 7 provides that the people for whom the 25s. per head is to be paidmust be resident within the State, but I contend that, to all intents and purposes, our citizen soldiers are resident within their respective . States. They have gone forward to do battle for the nation. The State from which they go is con tributing through, its revenue for their maintenance. It might be said that the Commonwealth Government is paying the whole of the cost of their keep, training, equipment,, and transportation, but the Commonwealth Government gets at least portion of ‘that money from the Customs revenue, in which the States are equally concerned with the Commonwealth. After all, reducing the’ matter down to the finest point, we are all the same people in this regard, and the action of the Commonwealth Treasurer in refusing to continue the payment to the respective States of the per capita amount on account of the citizen’ soldiers is not only a breach of the Surplus Revenue Act, but an unfriendly action, although perhaps unintentional, to the States.. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a future sitting.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Relations between Government and Opposition.
Motion (by Senator Millen) . proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I take this opportunity to say, particularly . to Senator Pearce and to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Millen), that there appears to be some idea in their minds that this side of the Senate is anxious to attack them. I say, as Leader of this party, that if they have any definite proposals to put before this side of the Chamber,which will get over party differences, we are prepared to consider them. If they think they will get over party differences by uttering pious expressions of opinion that this is not the time for showing fight in this chamber, and then by speeches inferring that we are either the dupes of the Germans, or pro-Germans, they are very much mistaken. If Germany is as clever as Senator Pearce seems to think it is, and if dividing our people is the work of Germany, then Senator Pearce and his Prime Minister deserve well at its hands. There is nothing bitter in what I am saying.
– It sounds bitter !
– These things must be said. If the Government have any proposal to put forward to get over these differences, let them state it. If they have not, let them keep to themselves their innuendoes and insinuations about German influence.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 6.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 April 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1918/19180410_senate_7_84/>.