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Wednesday, 24 June 1914

The PRESIDENT - Order !

Senator Needham - It is a lie absolutely.

The PRESIDENT - I ask Senator McGregor and Senator Needham to withdraw the unparliamentary statements which they have used.

Senator McGregor - I am not accusing the Minister, sir. I say chat the statement, wherever he got it from, is a lie.

Senator Needham - I say that whoever informed the Minister told him a lie.

Senator MILLEN - My source of information was the report of a Select Committee appointed by the Legislative Council of South Australia, who found that a deliberate attempt had been made to place on the rolls the names of those who had no right to be there.

Senator McGregor - Not a single soul. '

Senator MILLEN - The Select Committee so found, and reported to Parliament, and the report was held to be so substantial that an effort was made to start the legal machinery by proceeding against the gentlemen who had been guilty of this fraud, and a Labour Government was in office at the time, let it be remembered. The defence taken was that the Government had delayed so long it was outside the six months stipulated in the Electoral law within which a prosecution had to commence. That is all circling around the officials of the Trades Hall.

Senator McGregor - Every one of them was entitled to be on the State rolls.

Senator MILLEN - Evidence was given that cards which were witnessed only, and which were not signed by the persons apparently applying to be enrolled, were sent on to have the names enrolled.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - In how many cases?

Senator MILLEN - It does not matter how many. It was done at the instance of the Trades Hall officials. The cards were collected in a mysterious way; they were in an equally mysterious way taken up and left on a table in the Trades Hall, without being placed in charge of any one; and they were then collected in an equally mysterious way and sent on that the names might be put on the rolls. I do not wish my honorable friends opposite to be annoyed about this. I am congratulating them upon the reform which has set in. I am delighted to think that gentlemen who, not long since, were associated with movements of this character, now see the error of their ways, and in electoral matters are trying to live as decent, honest citizens. It is not long since it was discovered in the same region, in connexion with the operation of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, that a number of applications for enrolment were received in blank, except for the fact that there was a witness's signature attached to them. When the honorable senator spoke of the efforts of his friends over there to leave cards at the houses, I interjected and asked him whether they were duly witnessed. I had in mind the incident to which I have just referred. I can only say that if my honorable friends have found out the error of their ways, Heaven forbid that I should do otherwise than extend to them a welcome now that they have entered on the path of rectitude. I am, however, a little dubious about the conversion of gentlemen who, a little while ago, were,, metaphorically, up to their necks in these nefarious practices, and now come forward with protestations that they are working upon so very high a political level. As for the other statementswhich have been made, they have recently been repeated so often in this Chamber that I should think that even those who make them should be getting tired of the frequent reiteration of vague and general statements, and of statements which, when they have been accompanied by definite details, have been refuted on the floor of this chamber.

Senator Pearce - Not one of them.

Senator Rae - No, they have only been contradicted.

Senator MILLEN - Senator Pearce says that not one of these statements has. been refuted, but he should remember that one statement made by Senator Russell was withdrawn, and the honorablesenator admitted that he had made a mistake. Another statement was answered by a letter from the official who was accused of showing partiality. My honorable friend, Senator McDougall, hasclearly allowed his enthusiasm to carry him beyond the limits of accuracy. Hemade a statement which was read to-day from the Hansard report to the effect that 11,000 names had been struck off or objected to by party organizations in theCook electorate.

Senator McDougall - I did not say that they were struck off at all.

Senator MILLEN - The honorablesenator said that they were objected to by party organizations. But the fact remains that, after inquiry, it was found that these were the names which were notified to the Registrar by the police.

Senator McDougall - That is exactly what I said.

Senator MILLEN - According to the Hansard report which was read to-day by Senator McColl, the honorable senator did not make any statement of that kind. I say that if in the Cook electorate the police exceeded their duty the Government are not responsible. Though occasional mistakes may occur, I say that I do not believe that the police have exceeded their duty. I venture to say that every one of the 11,000 names which have been used in this chamber as evidence of corruption on the part of the Government was notified to the Registrar bond fide by the police.

Senator Rae - The number has been increased to over 16,000 since.

Senator MILLEN - Am I to understand that, because the police have notified objections to these names, it is evidence that we are to have an impure roll.

Senator Pearce - No; we do not object to what the police have done.

Senator MILLEN - Objection was taken by them to the 11,000 names.

Senator Pearce - Our complaint is about those which were objected to by the political organizations.

Senator MILLEN - In the Cook electorate 11,000 names were objected to by the police.

Senator Pearce - No.

Senator MILLEN - Senator McDougall brought the matter up for the purpose of attacking the Government. He is not likely to bring up anything with the object of complimenting the Government. He brought it up for the purpose of launching a charge against the Government; but when it was looked into it was found that perfectly natural, right, and desirable action had been taken by the police, and that they had handed in to the Registrar the names of those who, so far as they could learn, were not living in the electorate for which they were enrolled.

Senator McDougall - Does the honorable senator believe that 11,000 people migrated from the Cook electorate within twelve months?

Senator MILLEN - If the police have said so, I do believe it.

Senator McDougall - Does the honorable senator honestly believe that 11,000 persons in the Cook electorate changed their residences within twelve months?

Senator MILLEN - I am astounded that such an inquiry should come from an old politician like my honorable friend Senator McDougall. If he looks at the returns presented to Parliament dealing with the redistribution of electorates, he will find that in the case of certain suburban electorates no less than 20 per cent, of the electors changed their residences in twelve months.

Senator Rae - This was only twelve months.

Senator MILLEN - I am not saying how long it was, but I am pointing out that these changes, so far from being quite abnormal, as is suggested, are the rule, and there is a constant flow every year of the names on and off the rolls. I do not propose this afternoon to follow the indefinite statements which have been made.

Senator Rae - The honorable senator is dodging the real issue all the time.

Senator Needham - The honorable senator has not given any definite reply to the charges made so far.

Senator MILLEN - How can any one give definite replies to indefinite charges?

Senator Barnes - The honorable senator could give a reply to the definite question as to why the Government do not enforce the provision of the Act requiring 5s. to be deposited with each objection.

Senator MILLEN - Here again we have Senator Barnes ignoring, and I can only conclude that the honorable senator is wilfully doing so, the difference between objections lodged under the provision to which he refers and information supplied to an Electoral Registrar upon which he may act or not, as he thinks fit.

Senator Needham - What is the difference?

Senator MILLEN - In the case of an objection accompanied by the 5s. deposit, even though the Registrar should personally know the elector whose name is objected to, and that the objection is - invalid, it must be presented and proceeded with. But if any person furnishes information- to the Registrar raising an objection to the appearance of a name on the rolls, he is not bound to act upon it.

Senator McGregor - If the Government insisted on the 5s. fees, they could make up their deficit with them.

Senator MILLEN - I acknowledge the compliment involved in my honorable friend's remark. I am satisfied that honorable senators opposite can have only one object in view when they keep on reiterating these statements. They do so in the hope, no doubt, that by degrees they will come to believe them themselves, and will thus be put in a better position latex on to convince other people who may waste their time listening to them from some public platform.

Senator O'Keefe - The Minister will not deny that the Government are breaking the law?

Senator MILLEN -What I deny is that anybody is being injured by what is being done to-day.

Senator O'Keefe - That, is not an answer. ' Are not the Government breaking the law t

Senator MILLEN - I wish to turn now to the matter brought forward by Senator Story. I cannot comprehend his difficulty in understanding the document which has been placed in his hand.

Senator Story - It does not say anything.

Senator MILLEN - It says, as clearly as it is possible to put into words, that the position is that the Department will pay horse allowance when an officer keeps a horse and is entitled to the allowance, but will not pay a horse allowance of JE30 a year when an officer does not keep a horse, and does not own a horse, nor will it pay the allowance when an officer, for the few hours for which he requires a horse, may secure one by hiring it at a much less sum.

Senator Story - The Department has refused to pay in the case of officers who own their own horses.

Senator MILLEN - I can only tell the honorable senator that no regulation dealing with the matter has been altered since I have taken charge of the Department. I make that reference because Senator Story took exception to a change of regulation on the incoming of a new Minister. The honorable senator seemed to think that, because men enter the Service under one set of regulations, an injustice is done them if the regulations are altered during the time they are serving. If that argument were pressed to its logical conclusion, it would be impossible ever to alter a regulation. The honorable senator tried to make out that an injustice had been done to these men because an incoming Minister altered the regulation. I point out that, so far as I am concerned, the regulation remained unaltered.

Senator Story - No, it has been rescinded.

Senator MILLEN - The regulation, as set out in the paper supplied to me by Senator Story, provides that the allowance shall be paid to those noncommissioned officers of the Instructional Staff who are required to provide a horse. The question which came before the Military Board was whether these particular officers were entitled to draw the allowance under that regulation. The members of the Military Board did not know whether these officers had horses or were required to use horses, so they added to their statement of the regulation the direction that under it the commanding officer, the man who ought to know, and who is in a position to know, should say whether these non-commissioned officers had horses or were required to have them. They have decided that the commanding officer must himself take the responsibility, and every one can see the necessity for this, of saying whether the claimants in such cases were required to use horses and entitled to draw the horse allowance.

Senator Story - Will the Minister say what has been done in connexion with the claim for back allowance 1

Senator MILLEN - There is no allowance due to them if they do not require to have horses.

Senator Story - If they had and used them, what then ?

Senator MILLEN - If they have horses and are required to use them under the regulation, they are entitled to get the horse allowance.

Senator Story - They are claiming it, but they cannot get it. That is the trouble.

Senator MILLEN - Because they do not keep the horses. The trouble has arisen because some of these officers have assumed from reading the regulations that they were entitled to the horse allowance. There is no desire on my part to deprive any man of anything to which he is entitled. No man would for a moment give a decision on a case of this kind, the effect of which would be the payment to any persons from the public Treasury of sums of money to which they were not fairly entitled. In this matter there is no attempt to deprive officers of anything that is their due.

Senator Story - It has been done.

Senator MILLEN - The Board will not meet the claims of these gentlemen because their claims are not good. The only thing that it is open for the Minister to do is to say that where these officers are required to keep horses and do keep horses, they will get the horse allowance, and where they are not required to keep them, they will not get it.

Senator Story - When will they get it?

Senator MILLEN - When it is due.

Senator Story - It is twelve months overdue.

Senator MILLEN - The answer to that is that these men are not entitled to draw the horse allowance. The only thing that is new in the matter is the decision of the Military Board that the officer in charge shall take the responsibility of saying whether certain officers are entitled to the allowance or not. If he certifies that they require to have a horse and keep one, they will be paid the horse allowance, and if he does not they will not. That is all I have to say about it.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at 5.8 p.m.

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