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Friday, 22 May 1914

Senator READY (Tasmania) .- There is a Government in office, but not in power, which is possibly the most devious, dubious, doubly dissolute set of deceivers and deluders that have ever occupied the Ministerial bench. It could well be termed the " Big Bluff " Government, and the " False Pretences " Government. In view of the fact that since they took office they have openly resorted to bribery of their own political supporters, I want to place on record one or two cases which will prove that the statement made in the Governor-General's Speech is the most hollow piece of transparent hypocrisy ever placed in the mouth of any representative of the King in these dominions. Senator Pearce rightly took exception to the words " or favoritism " in the following sentence, " Those subjects comprised Bills dealing with the prohibition of preference or favoritism in Government employment." I like that statement coming from this Government, in view of the revelations regarding the Teesdale Smith contract. Of course, there was nothing that could be called favoritism there !

Another matter was the appointment of Mr. G. Swinburne, a prominent party politician, to a high office, but that, of course, was the recognition of due rights, and not favoritism. It is different when we turn to the discharge of Mr. Ryland, an officer whose capabilities no one questioned.

Senator Millen - Everybody questioned them.

Senator READY - No official file can be produced to show where they were questioned.

Senator Millen - I should like to see the official file showing his application.

Senator READY - The honorable senator would condemn him simply because he was a Labour man. The first thing the Government did when they took office was to discharge Mr. Ryland and Mr. Chinn, although nothing could be found against Mr. Chinn by an open Court of inquiry, presided over by a Judge.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - The Scotch verdict of "not proven.

Senator READY - In two cases only. In the other cases the verdict was " not guilty." The honorable senator should be ashamed of the interjection. Both men were discharged because they happened to be Labour men, and dozens of other cases could Be found to illustrate the fact that the Government had been absolutely devoid of a sense of elementary fair play and justice. I propose to give an instance to show that they have been guilty of gross and deliberate favoritism to their own supporters, although during the election campaign they went through the country talking about tyranny and corruption on our part. I refer to their action with regard to advertising. They have deliberately given preference and shown favoritism to one of their political supporters and political pimps. During our Government's term of office we heard a good deal about advertisements being given to Labour newspapers. As a matter of fact, it was given equally to both sides, in that spirit of fairness which was characteristic of that Administration, but the newspapers on the other side thought it was a crime to give advertisements to a Labour newspaper, and a great song was made about it.

The present Government, however, have actually given a direct subsidy to a paper which has not a large circulation, and cannot claim to have much influence, although it is a direct and indirect supporter of the Government. This is the Fruit World, issued in Melbourne, and claiming to be representative of the fruit industry of Australia. Many of the fruit-growers of Tasmania have turned it down because it is known to be the petty pimp and supporter of the big fruit exporting agents who dominate the fruit trade of the Commonwealth, and to be subsidized by them by means of advertisements.

When the Labour Government appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into the fruit industry, this paper at once opposed the proposal, and, assuming the usual Liberal attitude, condemned the Commission before it had taken much evidence. On one occasion it published an article headed "Who is Whittles?" which was a deliberate and wicked perversion of the truth. This referred to a Tasmanian witness. It deliberately suppressed half the evidence, giving only that which supported its particular point of view, in order to damage the reputation of the Commission in the eyes of the fruitgrowers. The Labour Government, when in office, through representations made by its Liberal owner, Mr. Davey, a very pushing gentleman, gave the paper two contracts for the supply of a number of copies to be distributed abroad. On those occasions the paper was supplied to the Government at exactly the same price as it was issued to anybody else. No discrimination was made against the Government as a purchaser, but directly the present Government came into office, Mr. Davey put before them a proposition which every newspaper man will at once condemn as unfair and unjust.

Senator Russell - Is Davey a Labour man ?

Senator READY - No; he is a prominent Liberal, and a great supporter of the Liberal party. He induced the Department of External Affairs to give him a contract. He offered to supply no less than 5,000 copies of the Fruit World at 9d. per copy, which is 50 per cent, in excess of the price for which the periodical can be purchased ordinarily in the shops. This, of course, was not favoritism.

Senator Pearce - Was it not a corrupt use of public funds?

Senator READY - Of course it was not. It was an example of the businesslike methods of the Government, of which we have heard so much from the other side.

Senator McColl - Is the- honorable senator sure that his statement is correct ?

Senator READY - I am absolutely sure of it. If Senator McColl will look at Hansard, he will find that I asked the question, " how much per copy was paid for the publication" and the answer given to that question was -

The price amounted to 9d. per copy, which includes cost of wrappers, wrapping, and postage.

If we allow Id. for all the extras, that will make the price 8d. per copy for the 5,000 copies.

Senator Russell - A clear present of 2d. per copy for political services rendered.

Senator READY - Yes, a clear present. I have here the ordinary issue of this publication, and I shall be glad to have honorable senators compare the two. The ordinary issue can be purchased anywhere from any agent for 6d. per copy, and the Government paid 9d. per copy for the special publication.

Senator O'Keefe - Is there anything special about the special copy?

Senator READY - Yes, there is a little note on the cover referring to the price, because the words " Price 6d. " appear on the Government ninepenny copy. The note reads -

The price stated here is a printer's error. This is the price of the ordinary issue. No copies of the special issue published by the Government were made available for sale in Australia.

Senator Guthrie - A case of absolute corruption.

Senator READY - It is absolutely untrue, as I shall prove. The note continues -

The special issue contains more matter than the ordinary issue, and also special illustrations.

That' statement is also untrue. The special issue does not contain more matter, but there are a few more illustrations than ordinarily appear in the publication.

Senator Pearce - Are the two copies the honorable senator produces issues for the same date?

Senator READY - Yes; the issue for March. There are in the special copy five pages of illustrations from ordinary blocks, which I suppose could be purchased for 6s. a dozen. They appear to me to be Government blocks. Dealing with the matter published, there is in the ordinary issue seventy-four pages, but in the special issue only sixty pages, so that for the special issue fourteen pages less paper and printing were required. I come to another point which makes the transaction even blacker. For the special issue most of the ordinary advertisements were cut out.

Senator Pearce - All the private advertisements.

Senator READY - Most of them. These clever gentlemen went to the Governments of the different States, and secured from them nice advertisements for the special issue, for which I suppose they received fine figures. There is one from Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia, and New South Wales respectively. They cut out fourteen pages of the ordinary issue, and put in five pages of cheap illustrations, whilst they secured lucrative contracts for advertising from the State Governments. Then they said to the Department of External Affairs, ' ' Take this attenuated edition ; here it is, 9d. per copy." That is the price that was paid by the Government for the Commonwealth. Will honorable senators say that that is not an example of corruption?

Senator Russell - Does the honorable senator not think that the officers of the Department concerned should be asked why they made a lying reply to his question asked in this chamber ?

Senator READY - I say that the reply contains an untrue statement inasmuch as the special issue was smaller rather than larger than the ordinary issue. Any news agent can buy the ordinary issue of this publication for 4d. per copy, which is, I think, the trade rate, but the Government were mulcted to the extent of 8d. per copy, making allowance for postage and extras. I hold that this is a most glaring instance of incapacity, unfair preference, and favoritism. I wish now to make the Government an offer. I am a shareholder in a newspaper, and if the Government are prepared to give 50 per cent, more than the ordinary price charged for publications of this kind, I do not see why I should not get some of the pickings. There is a newspaper in Tasmania, the proprietors of which are quite prepared to take a contract to supply any number of copies-

Senator Pearce - What is its political colour ?

Senator READY - It supports the Labour party.

Senator Pearce - It is disqualified.

Senator Russell - If the honorable senator wishes to do business like that he should not make a public offer; he should go to the Government quietly.

Senator READY - The Launceston Courier is one of the best-illustrated papers in Australia, and if the Government are prepared to enable the proprietors to save printing and paper by the substitution of a special edition for the ordinary edition, and we give them 50 per cent, in excess of the price for which the paper is ordinarily sold, they will be prepared to supply the Government with any number of copies. I hope that honorable senators will inspect these issues of the Fruit World, because this advertising contract is, I think, about as fishy a contract as any that was ever let by a Government. It shows that if Government supporters want favours, they can get them without very much trouble.

I come now to another instance of favoritism shown by this pure Government, the members of which are out to prevent " Tammany" and corrupt practices. This case was brought before Senator Pearce when he was Minister of Defence, and it is a clear case of favoritism and preference connected with the Defence Department. There is in Launceston a Doctor L. Clarke Webster. He is not a Labour man. He has always been a big Australian, and is known to have very high ideals of Australian nationalism. He has taken a deep interest in our Defence Forces. In view of the interest he had displayed, he was asked, in 1910, to accept the position of medical examiner of Senior Cadets, but he refused to do so. In January, 1911, he was asked to apply for a commission in the Army Medical Corps as Area Medical Officer, at a salary of £25 a year. He refused, and told the Department that his professional duties did not allow him to take the position. On 1st May, 1911, he received a wire from Lt. -Colonel Giblin, Chief Medical Officer in Tasmania, in these terms -

Lieutenant Jenkins states you willing to examine his area as civilian. Are you willing? - Giblin.

In these circumstances, Dr. Clarke Webster wired "Yes" in reply to this telegram. He accepted the position at the low remuneration of £25 a year, and there were not many doctors after it at that price. A little later the matter was taken up by the medical men of Australia, who got up an agitation against what they considered the low rate of remuneration paid to Area Medical Officers.

Senator Guthrie - Did they go to the Arbitration Court?

Senator READY - No; they went to Senator Pearce, who was Minister of Defence at the time, and the honorable senator readily recognised their claim, and increased the payment to £60 per annum. Directly that payment was agreed upon, there was a rush of all the doctors in Launceston for this job. Dr. Clarke Webster received a letter on the 18th January, 1912, notifying him of the termination of all existing appointments of Area Medical Officers, and asking him to apply again. He did so, but did not receive any reply to his application. He made inquiries, which were sent on to Hobart; and in July, 1911, he found that Dr. Irvine, a doctor resident in Launceston, had been appointed to his area.

Senator Russell - Have we not heard the name " Irvine " mentioned in the Senate before?

Senator READY - Yes. Dr. Irvine is a partner of Dr. Clemons, who is a brother of the Honorary Minister in the Senate. I am going to link them all up. It was found that Dr. Irvine was appointed to two areas, and received £60 per annum for each position.

Senator Russell - Was Dr. Clarke Webster the gentleman who refused to grant the exemption to SenatorClemons' boy?

Senator READY - Yes ; I hope to link that up also. I have said that Dr. Irvine received two appointments. I took a hand in the business here. I saw Senator Pearce, and protested against what had been done, on behalf of Dr. Clarke Webster.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould. - Were these appointments made by Senator Pearce?

Senator READY - They were made by Lt. -Colonel Giblin, who is in charge of the Army Medical Corps in Tasmania.

Senator Pearce - And confirmed by me.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould. - Then why blame the present Government?

Senator READY - The honorable senator will see by-and-by; he should not be impetuous. I went to Senator Pearce and explained to him that Dr. Clarke Webster, at personal inconvenience, took the position at £25 a year when the Department had to beg doctors to accept such appointments. I mentioned that he had carried out the duties satisfactorily, and that there was nothing against him. Senator Pearce agreed with me that he had a decent claim, and he saw to it that he was reinstated. In the course of the inquiry which was being made, Dr. Irvine was forced to resign one of his areas. Senator Pearce did the right thing in the matter, and held the scales of justice evenly.

A little later, Dr. Clarke Webster was asked to resign, according to the regulations, and re-apply for appointment to area 92a.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould. - When was this?

Senator READY - On the 7th May, 1913.

Senator Pearce - That action was taken while I was in Western Australia.

Senator READY - Exactly. The doctors have to work in Tasmania, and this particular officer was passed out. He received his discharge on 10th May, 1913, and applied for an appointment in a new area on the same day. He continued to act, however, pending the receipt of news as to whether he was to be reappointed. He even travelled as far as Beaconsfield, where he conducted examinations, and generally carried out the duties of his office. No word came from Hobart for some time, and the next intimation received was that Doctors Thompson and Newell had been appointed to the positions on the 25th July, 1913.

Senator Pearce - That was after we went out of office.

Senator READY - It was a month later. Dr. Webster has not since occupied the position of area medical officer. Yet we are told that there is no favoritism exhibited by the present Government. The truth is that a brother of Senator Clemons is a partner of Dr. Irvine.

Senator de Largie - Dr. Webster was dismissed for the same reason as Mr. Ryland and Mr. Chinn were dismissed.

Senator READY - I suppose that the word was passed along that Dr. Clarke Webster was to go.

Senator O'keefe - Is it not a fact that Drs. Thompson and Newell were new men as compared with Dr. Webster?

Senator READY - It is. Dr. Irvine, through Senator Clemons, has worked this Government beautifully, and as a result Dr. Clarke Webster has received the order of the boot. Why has Senator Clemons got him " set " ? To explain this, I propose to relate something which I have already related on the floor of this Senate. Some time ago I accused Senator Clemons of attempting to evade his responsibility in respect of seeing that his sons were subjected to military training. I made that accusation, and he did not deny it. I have here a copy of a file of papers in connexion with that matter. The first has reference to a complaint made to Senator Milieu at the instance of Senator Clemons. It reads thus -

Department of Defence.

Minute Paper.


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