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Friday, 16 July 1926

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - I wish to say a few words in reply to the personal attack which has been made on myself by Senator Findley, based on rumour and gossip by some person whose name the honorable senator had not the courage to mention, so that Senator Findley in the allegation repeated by the honorable senator that although the Northern Territory Crown Lands Ordinance was passed some time ago, and a land board appointed, there were no regulations yet in existence, and consequently no leases or licences could be granted, and settlement in the Territory was held up. As I wa3 the responsible Minister, that was an attack on my ability, not only to hold office^ but also to carry out a promise I had made to Parliament. In fact, Senator Findley said that he intended it as such. He said that he had had confidence in me, but- that because of these allegations that confidence had been misplaced. Although I have already shown that these regulations have been in existence for six months, and that, therefore, the allegation of the slanderer quoted by the honorable senator is untrue, .Senator Findley proceeded to criticize me on further information apparently given to him by this slanderer whose name he will not reveal. It was unworthy of the honorable senator to retail here, without giving the source of his information, the gossip of some one who apparently wishes to damage me. That sort of conduct does not raise the tone of the Senate.

Senator Findley - We shall see about that later on.

Senator PEARCE - Senator Findley says that there has been unduedelay in giving effect to the provisions of the Northern Australia Act. Last night he and others were vigorously criticizing the Government, and alleging that Ministers had already appointed1 members of the Development and Migration Commission before the bill authorizing their appointment had been passed. They have condemned the Government for doing so, though the' statement 'made is not true. Now Senator Findley tells us that the North Australia Commission should have been appointed.

Senator Needham - I rise to a point of. order. No honorable senator on this side during the course of the debate last night said that Senator Pearce or his Government had appointed members of the Development and Migration Commission. I ask the honorable senator to withdraw his statement.

Senator Pearce - I shall not withdraw it.

Senator Needham - The statement of Senator Pearce was personally offensive to myself and to honorable senators on this side of the Senate. We did not say that members of the Development and Migration Commission had already been appointed. I ask Senator Pearce to indicate which honorable senator on this side made the statement that members of that commission had been appointed. Mr. President, as the right honorable senator does not see fit to withdraw his statement at my request, I ask you to exercise your authority, and compel, him to withdraw an assertion which is personally offensive to me.

The PRESIDENT - The Minister knows that when a statement is denied, and a withdrawal asked for, it is customary for a withdrawal to be made.

Senator PEARCE - I did not say that Senator Needham had made the statement, but if he thinks that I made it in regard to himself, I withdraw it, although I repeat that the statement was made in this chamber last night.

Senator Lynch - Who made it?

Senator PEARCE - Among others Senator Lynch said that he had been informed that the Government had already appointed the chairman of this commission, and he proceeded to criticize the Government for having done so before the bill had been passed.

Senator Findley - I also rise to a point of order. Senator Pearce made the definite statement that some one had said that the Government had made the appointment. He is now qualifying that statement by saying that Senator Lynch declared that he had been so informed. There is a great difference between the statement now made by the Minister and his previous statement.

The PRESIDENT - Senator Pearce has withdrawn his statement as applying to Senator Needham, and so has complied with the Standing Orders.

Senator Findley - I am not satisfied simply because the Leader of the Senate says that his remark did not apply to Senator Needham. It applied to every honorable senator, and as one humble senator I ask the Leader of the Senate, if he implies that I made this statement, to prove his assertion or else withdraw it.

The PRESIDENT - Does Senator Findley take exception to the statement made by Senator Pearce?

Senator Findley - Yes, I take very strong exception to it.

The PRESIDENT - Then I must ask Senator Pearce to withdraw his statement as applying to Senator Findley.

Senator PEARCE - I did not say that Senator Findley had made the statement ; I said that Senator Lynch had done so. I cannot withdraw something I did not say.

Senator Lynch - I appear to have been dragged into this controversy in quite an innocent fashion. I have not yet touched the Hansard proof of my speech last night. If Senator Pearce cares to do so he can look through it, and if he finds in it that I said that the Development and Migration Commission had been appointed, I shall apologize. That is playing the game by the Minister, a thing that he has never done by me.

Senator PEARCE - The statement I made was that Senator Lynch, in the course of the debate last night, said that he had been informed that the chairman of the commission had been appointed, and that he had then proceeded to censure the Government for having made that appointment. If Senator Lynch says now that he did not make that statement I am prepared to withdraw what I said.

Senator Lynch - I made no such statement, as the Minister can see from the proof of my speech.

Senator PEARCE - Another statement made by Senator Findley was that there had been undue delay in regard to the appointment of the North Australia Commission - that although the act had been passed, and had been in force for months, the Government had made no appointment. By interjection I said what I repeat now, that the bill was assented to on the4th June, 1926, only a month ago. Of course. Senator Findley could pick these commissioners in a few minutes, but Ministers are not so gifted, and require time to make a careful choice.

Senator Findley - You picked the Development and Migration Commission before the bill was passed. The PRESIDENT. - Order ! A few moments ago Senator Findley asked the Minister to withdraw an allegation ' that honorable senators had said that the Government had chosen the Development and Migration Commission before the Development and Migration Bill was passed, yet now he makes the very assertion which he denied having made last night. I must ask him to withdraw it.

Senator Findley - If my memory does not betray me, what I said was that the Government had probably picked the commission before the bill was passed ; but if you, sir, say that I made a straight-out assertion I withdraw it, although I still hold my own opinion about the matter.

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator's withdrawal must be without qualification.

Senator Findley - -I withdraw, abjectly.

Senator PEARCE - Perhaps I had better not pursue the subject of the appointment of the North Australia Commission, which seems to perturb Senator Findley. The honorable senator has referred to the unexpended balances on public works. He wil] remember that in introducing the Northern Australia Bill I explained that owing to the wet season intervening in the middle of the financial year there is always in the Northern Territory at the end of the year a large unexpended balance on works. Tt was partly to overcome that difficulty that the Government introduced the commission form of administration for the Territory.

Senator Lynchhas suggested consultation between Mr. Murdoch, the Government Architect, and the Federal Capital Commission in connexion with the construction of buildings at Canberra. As a matter of fact the commssion has been consulting Mr. Murdoch, but in order to put the matter on a proper footing it has recently asked the Minister for "Works and Railways for formal' permission to do so. That permission has been given, and in the future, as in the past, the commission will from time to time consult Mr. Murdoch on various works being carried out at the Federal Capital.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.

Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.


Senator LYNCH(Western Australia) tion regarding the item, " Erection of and additions to meteorological buildings, £7,000." On the north-west coast of Western Australia, and probably in the Gulf waters also, there is a large area which is lia'ble to cyclonic disturbances. The people there have no information of the approach of these storms ; they only know that they are the result of air currents. At one time a suggestion was made that the Meteorological Department should exchange meteorological information -with the Dutch authorities in Timor or Java with a view to obtaining advice of approaching storms in order that whatever preparation was possible might be made. On the Queensland coast similar conditions prevail, excepting that there are no neighbouring stations from which advice of approaching storms could be obtained.

Senator Foll - There is a station at Willis Island.

Senator Sir William Glasgow - The Willis Island station is occupied for a portion of the year only.

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