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Friday, 29 November 1935

Senator COLLINGS - At that time 1 was not a member of the Senate, but had I been, I certainly should have asked a question on the subject, although, no doubt, I should have been given an answer as unsatisfactory as that given to me a few days ago.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - What government was in office when the present Governor-General was sworn in?

Senator COLLINGS - The honorable senator who has asked that question knows the answer as well as I do. Interjections of this kind are intended to be smart, but their smartness is the smartness of ignorance. A wrong action by a Nationalist government is not made right because a Labour government did a similar thing on another occasion. The Opposition in the Senate is guided by certain basic principles and it is not to be diverted from the path that it considers to be right because somewhere else a Labour Government does something which does not conform to those principles. I should like honorable senators to realize that they cannot trap mc, or my colleagues, by interjections of that sort, which, however smart, do not get anywhere.

I am aware that at a later stage 1 shall have an opportunity to deal with some of the subjects to which I hav& referred this morning. I' shall certainly have more to say regarding the swearingin of the Governor-General elect when the appropriate occasion arrives.

The retiring Auditor-General has had a good deal to say regarding the accountancy methods adopted by the present Government. I listened with a great deal of interest to the statement made yesterday on this subject by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) and now confess that I found myself in entire agreement with him. But there is another phase of the Auditor-General's report with which I cannot agree. On the contrary, I register my most emphatic protest against the way in which he has reflected on invalid and old-age pensioners. I shall not go into details, because the whole subject has already been well ventilated in the House of Representatives and because I am sure that every honorable senator knows my views on this subject; but in my opinion, it is not right that any official appointed by the Government, and paid out of the public purse, should cast aspersions on any section of the community. In this chamber a year ago, I asked why the Auditor-General's Department had not been transferred to Canberra, and I said that if I had the power, I would give the Auditor-General 24 hours in which to come here. I was informed in reply that the AuditorGeneral had never refused to come to Canberra. Yet responsible newspapers in the country have definitely stated during the last week or two that this is the man, who had successfully defied the Cabinet to bring him to Canberra. I remind honorable senators that I had to be satisfied with the answer to my question that he had not refused to come here. Yesterday in the House of Representatives the Government announced that it would not withhold the sum of £1,538 proposed to be paid to the Auditor-General on his retirement in lieu of furlough. The Labour party for which I speak does not advocate a breach of contract with an individual, but I maintain that this man who has had the effrontery - a mild term to use, considering the circumstances - to slander the old-age and invalid pensioners does not deserve such consideration. Occupying a wonderful position, he has drawn a princely salary and is about to receive £1,538 as furlough pay. I maintain that the Government should have, by withholding this money from him, marked its disapproval of his conduct and of the infamous slanders which he uttered against people who pioneered this country, made Australia worth living in, and laid the foundations for providing the means to pay members of Parliament their allowances and to work in comfort in these palatial surroundings. This highly-paid official, having attacked persons unable to. protect themselves, now shelters within the coward's castle of immunity from political interference. In future an AuditorGeneral, judge or any other official should not be given an opportunity to declare himself immune from political control. Parliament should have the right to impeach this man and remove him from office without any further payment from the Treasury.

During the debate on the amending Crimes Bill, members of the Opposition were informed that they occupied a position of splendid isolation when they ventured to oppose the measure. When I said that our attitude was widely supported I was held up to derision by honorable senators supporting the Government.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - They do not read the newspapers.

Senator COLLINGS - Not with a view to digesting the contents as we do. I stated that unions throughout the Commonwealth were passing resolutions condemning this legislation and that some of the greatest legal luminaries in the country had personally written to me to compliment me on my stand. Judging from the smiles of smug satisfaction on the countenances of honorable senators, I assumed that they were doubtful of the accuracy of that statement. I have just received a telegram from the secretary of the Clerks Union, Brisbane, which has a membership exceeding 6,000 persons. It reads -

Have forwarded Lyons, Menzies protest amendment Crimes Act stating proposals inequitable unreasonable. Regards

Sanders, Clerks Union.

Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Is that gentleman a legal luminary?

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