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Wednesday, 24 June 1914

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) .- I wish to express my displeasure and dissatisfaction with the answers given to two plain, simple questions on the noticepaper in my name to-day. I asked them of- the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, and I say emphatically that the answers he read out were not answers at all. I saw a paragraph in the paper to the effect that, in all probability, an action for some thousands of pounds' damages would be brought by Mr. Teesdale Smith against the Government for ignoring his contract. The honorable senator, in reply, referred me to some papers which, I believe, are contained in a printed document that has been for some time before the House. If the answers are in that document, ought not the Minister, as a matter of courtesy, to have supplied me with them from it? If, then, they were not to my satisfaction, or to the satisfaction of others who are just as much interested in the matter as I am, I could have followed it up. To say the least of it, it was discourteous to treat an honorable senator in the way that I was treated. The contract has caused a good deal of comment, and will cause a good deal more during the elections. It has been said that it was let under conditions not at all creditable to the Government, and that the contractor was treated in a way different from any other contractor in any part of Australia. It is alleged that the Government, who profess to have no time to offer preference to unionists, have in this case offered preference to pals, letting this man in in a way in which they would not let other contractors in. They let the contract without calling for tenders, and it is common rumour that the price he is being paid is such that he will make an immense sum of money, although he is employing unionists under union conditions. It is contract labour, but it is day labour all the same, plus the contract profits which are going into the hands of Mr. Teesdale Smith, and other contractors in other parts of Australia were not given the same opportunity as the Government gave him. Is there any likelihood of any action being brought by Mr. Teesdale Smith against the Government? Is there in the possession of any member of the Government any document that would indicate that Mr. Teesdale Smith, although he kas done exceptionally well in respect of the contract, and . will continue to do so for the next few weeks, is, like Oliver Twist, wanting more, and bringing an action against the Government for damages for cutting out a portion of the contract which, according to what I have been told, he says he is entitled to carry out? Do the Government think that in the circumstances people will be satisfied with answers such as were given to me here to-day ? If there is nothing to hide, why try to hoodwink and blind the people? Everything in connexion with the contract should be open and above board. It was begun in darkness, and the Government are apparently anxious to cover up their tracks by withholding information of moment to every citizen. If contracts are to be let, we want to know how they are let, and what conditions are specified. If there is nothing in the possession of the Government to indicate that Mr. Teesdale Smith is dissatisfied, and if he has no intention to bring an action against them, why did not Senator McColl say so to-day? I enter my protest against these ambiguous answers to plain and simple questions. Unless more satisfactory and straightforward answers are given, I shall follow the matter up on another day.

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