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Friday, 25 November 1910

Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - But for the fact that Senator Needham has made a direct charge against the High Commissioner, I should not have risen to make this explanation. I am sure that the honorable senator and other honorable senators often see in public prints statements by themselves which, if quoted against them, would cause them to be very indignant. That being so, I ask them to be wary about making accusations against the High Commissioner on the authority of some old newspaper which was probably picked out of the dust-bin.

Senator NEEDHAM - The interview to which I referred contains a verbatim report of the utterances of the High Commissioner.

Senator McGREGOR - That may be so. In any case, I have seen much more glaring mistakes made in what were supposed to be verbatim reports in Australian newspapers. But, even if the High Commissioner did make the mistake of which Senator Needham complains, surely he has redeemed himself by his latest utterance, in which he told the people of Great Britain that the reason why the Commonwealth expenditure had increased was on account of legislation in respect of old-age pensions, defence, and other matters, and not because of any so-called wild socialistic schemes. I come now to the appointment of a private secretary to the High Commissioner. It seems to me that honorable senators ought to think before they speak. If they did so, very often they would not say what they do. The High Commissioner went to London to discharge certain duties on behalf of the Commonwealth. He did not require any individual to tell him anything about Australia. He knew as much about it as all the private secretaries whom we could appoint. If Senator Needham or Senator Millen or myself were filling the office of High Commissioner, and if we required a private secretary upon whom we could rely for information - not about Australia, but about London. Manchester, and other cities in the Old Country - would we select him from Australia? Would we not choose some person of a reliable character who was on the spot? That was exactly what Sir George Reid did. If honorable senators will regard the matter from that stand-point, I think that in future they will have very few remarks to make about such matters.

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