Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 4 July 1906
Page: 1039

Mr KELLY (Wentworth) .- I wish to draw attention to the methods of evasion that have recently been adopted by the Minister of Defence in regard to the answers given to questions asked by honorable members. If Ministers do not care to answer a straightforward question they have the right to refuse. Considerations of public policy may demand that they should refuse. I do not think, however, that any consideration of public policy could be urged as a reason why a Minister should evade his responsibility to this House to supply such information as honorable members are entitled to. The honorable member for Maranoa recently asked a series of questions of the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, and received answers which were a perfect travesty. Today I asked four very simple questions, and I did so in the interests of the Defence Department. The answers that I received were absolute evasions. I asked in the first place whether officers seeking responsible positions in the Imperial service must have passed a certain examination. The statement made in reply was not an answer to my question. It was merely an assertion that certain officers had not passed such an examination, and that they had been appointed before the examp nation was* instituted. I tasked the question with reference to a present-day fact, and did not receive an answer.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - If the honorable member continues much longer the House will be counted out.

Mr KELLY - If I am not to be afforded an opportunity to state my grievance now I shall move the adjournment of the House to-morrow afternoon. The other questions addressed to the Minister representing the Minister of Defence by me were evaded in the same flagrant manner. My questions were asked in the public interest, and I desire to know why the Department cannot supply reasonable answers. Is it not in the public interest that honorable members should be informed whether the Defence Department is in a state of efficiency or inefficiency ? If it is in a state of inefficiency, we should know it. If it is in a state of efficiency, what harm would there be in making public the fact? We have to vote the money for the maintenance of the Department, and we are entitled to information as to whether or not our officers are efficient. Ministers in evading their responsibility cannot claim to be acting in the public interest, and therefore they must be endeavouring to serve the interest of some individual. Private inter ests should not outweigh considerations of the public weal. I asked my questions with the honest intention of finding out whether we have in the Commonwealth officers competent to occupy certain high positions. It is a duty which I owe to my constituents and to Australia to ascertain whether there are officers so qualified, and if I cannot obtain the information it is a fit subject for comment on the floor of the House. If .there are not officers so qualified, it may be all very well in " the piping times of peace," but it will become a very serious matter if ever there should be an outbreak of war. ' I did not raise this question until it was actually forced upon me. To-day I asked a few questions, which it was the duty of the Minister to have answered in a straightforward fashion. He saw fit to evade them. I warn him that if these attempts at evasion are continued I shall have to do something more than comment upon them on the ordinary motion for the adjournment of the House.

Suggest corrections