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Thursday, 4 June 1914

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) (Minister of Defence) . - I may reply to the last speaker first. The honorable senator's question was as to whether the prohibition of the catching and exporting of birds from the Northern Territory was due to an act of Parliament, or an administrative act of the Administrator of the Territory. I find that the prohibition does exist, and that action was taken by the Administrator of the Territory, by virtue of an Ordinance passed on 5th February, 1913. With regard to the matter raised by Senator Needham, it must be obvious to the honorable senator, and other members of the Senate, that it is not possible for me to express any opinion on the matters he has raised, other than perhaps to say that if what he indicates is the case, every one will agree that there is evidence of a laxity which, now that the Treasurer has had his attention directed to it, will no doubt be remedied.

Senator Needham - I did not mean to convey that there was any laxity in the office.

Senator MILLEN - I quite understand that; and I say that, now that attention has been directed to the matter, stops will be taken to remedy it. As to the matter brought forward by Senators Blakey and O'Loghlin, I would remind them that there is an Act in force with the passing of which many honorable senators present were associated. Under it, where any one leaves a division for a month, he is liable to have his name removed from the electoral roll for that division, but is qualified for enrolment in the division into which he has passed.

Senator Blakey - The lady referred to in the case I have brought under notice' was absent from her place of residence for only two weeks.

Senator MILLEN - I am not impugning the accuracy of the statement made by Senator Blakey, but he will admit that he has repeated the statement placed in his hands, whilst, on the other side, we have a notice by an official of the country, who is not a partisan or paid organizer for any political party. In this case, it was the Electoral Registrar who sent out the notice. He was in duty bound to do so, if he had information which led him to believe that the elector had been absent from the district, and had consequently become disqualified for enrolment.

Senator Buzacott - Does not the Act provide that inquiry shall be made before accepting a notice of objection 1

Senator MILLEN - The Act imposes upon the officials the duty of keeping the rolls as clean as they can.

Senator Lt Colonel O'Loghlin - S - Suppose a man goes shearing for five or six weeks, is he to have his name struck off the roll?

Senator MILLEN - Personally, I should say not. The Act for which honorable senators opposite are responsible provided that any person leaving one division and residing in another division for' a month, thereby became qualified for enrolment in the second division, and, consequently, disqualified for the first. This objection, according to Senator Blakey, was taken by the Electoral Registrar.

Senator Russell - He -lives practically opposite the lady.

Senator MILLEN - Then I assume that he acted on good information. Mistakes are sometimes made by even the best officials; but when an Electoral Registrar takes the serious step of lodging an objection, it is fair to assume that he has reasonable grounds for doing so. It was easy for the lady to reply that she was still living at the same place, and, apparently, it would have been easy for her to make herself visible to the Registrar. In the letter read by Senator Blakey these words occur -

Our opponents are evidently doing their best to secure a win by their usual methods.

Unless it is intended to suggest that the Registrar is an active Liberal partisan, there is no warrant for that sentence.

Senator Blakey - I do not say that the Registrar is a partisan, because I do not know him ; but I think that he is the channel through which some other objections have been sent. I do not say that he took the initiative. The objection was lodged with him, and, in the ordinary course of his duties, he gave effect to it.

Senator MILLEN - No Registrar is bound to take action on every complaint made to him; he must satisfy himself that there is ground for any objection. My experience of public officials is that when responsibility is thrown on them they, in the majority of cases, honestly carry out their duties.

Senator Needham - Must not a fee of 5s. be lodged with every objection?

Senator MILLEN - Any private individual lodging an objection must pay a fee of 5s. ; but in this case the objection was lodged by the Registrar:

Senator Needham - On whose information did he act?

Senator MILLEN - That is immaterial. In signing the objection-card, he took the responsibility, and, I suppose, had previously satisfied himself that there were grounds for the objection.

Senator Russell - I understand that you take objections from one side, and not from the other.

Senator MILLEN - If the honorable senator thinks that this or any other Registrar will accept information conveyed by members of one political party, and not that conveyed by members of another political party, it is his duty to bring the facts under the. notice of Ministers, so that the officials concerned may be dealt with.

Senator Russell - That has been done by me.

Senator MILLEN - I am glad to hear it. If there are officers who would act so unfairly, they should not be permitted to remain in the Service longer than may be necessary to sheet the charges home to them; but no one should be condemned on exparte evidence. Now that Senator Blakey has brought this matter under notice, I have not the slightest doubt that Senator McColl will take all necessary steps to probe it to the bottom.

Senator Blakey - I have a question on the notice-paper in regard to it.

Senator MILLEN - I should not have detained the Senate so long were it not for the possibility of the phrase to which I have referred being interpreted to mean that the objection was lodged by the representative of a political party.

Senator Lt Colonel O'Loghlin - I - It started from some organization.

Senator MILLEN - The Registrar, on signing the card, took responsibility for the objection ; and, in the absence of other evidence, we must assume that he has carried out his duties in a manner that he considers right and proper.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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