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Friday, 9 August 1912

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I am not surprised that honorable senators opposite should put up so strenuous a fight in the interests of the companies, trusts, and combines they represent in this House.

Senator Vardon - I thought that we were here to represent the people, not combines.

Senator Millen - We are not here to represent a chartered bully.

Senator Needham - Who is he ?

Senator Millen - Judge Gordon.

Senator GARDINER - I rose chiefly to deal with the aspect of the question introduced by Senator Gould. It is to be regretted that honorable senators opposite should feel called upon to prevent the passage of any legislation which will compel rich companies and combines to conform to the laws as ordinary people are required to do.

Senator Millen - Do you say that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is a combine ?

Senator GARDINER - I regard that company as the most powerful combine in Australia.

Senator Millen - Then why do not the Government put the anti-trust law into operation against it?

Senator GARDINER - Senator Millen knows perfectly well that under the antitrust law as it stands, we cannot deal with the Sugar Combine.

Senator Millen - Why not?

Senator GARDINER - I am not going into that, but Senator Millen knows very well that we cannot. We have a Bill before us to increase the penalties which may be imposed on witnesses who refuse to give evidence before a Royal Commission. Senator Gould, if he were speaking with a fuller knowledge of the facts, deliberately made statements which were a gross reflection upon the Chairman of the Sugar Commission. They were statements which could not be borne out by reports of what transpired at the meetings of the Commission. I took exception' to the honorable senator's criticism. I considered that Mr. Justice Gordon is still a Judge, although he is a member- of the Sugar Commission, and I thought it most unfair that Senator Gould should say that as a member of the Commission, Mr. Justice Gordon called one of the witnesses who came before him, a deliberate liar.

Senator Millen - So he did.

Senator GARDINER - Here we have Senator Millen repeating the statement. I say that no such thing happened, and' I intend to prove that from the reports which appeared in the Sydney newspapers.

Senator Needham - Senator Millen would not call Mr. Justice Gordon " a chartered bully " outside this chamber.

Senator Millen - I have done so.

Senator GARDINER - Let us consider what really happened at the meetings of the Commission. Officials of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company were given four months' notice of questions they were to be asked. The Commission held a sitting in May, and the first question put to Mr. Knox was : " Are you Chairman of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company?" Instead of answering the question, the wit-, ness proceeded to read a statement. The Chairman of the Commission then remarked in the most gentlemanly way that at that stage of the proceedings the witness should not read a statement, but that if he had any facts or any statement to submit after he had given his evidence in the ordinary way, the Judge would take it, as he had done in other cases, and if it were admissible would have it placed before the members of the Commission. The Chairman of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company was again asked a question, and instead of answering, persisted in reading his statement. As he continued to do so, and persisted in his unruly and ungentlemanly conduct, the Chairman adjourned the meeting of the Commission. When the Commission met on the following day, and the Chairman took his seat, be had before him a letter in which there was a misstatement of fact. In reading the letter he characterized this misstatement of facts in plain langauge as a deliberate lie. There was no bullying and bouncing of a witness in connexion with the matter. I can support this statement by a quotation from the report of the pro ceedings of the Commission which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Senator Millen - If I tell the honorable senator that what he is saying is a deliberate lie is that not tantamount to saying that he is a deliberate liar?

Senator GARDINER - There is a great deal of difference between a man, when reading a letter which he has before him, characterizing a statement in it as a deliberate lie, and a man calling a witness a deliberate liar.

Senator Millen - The difference is that in this case it is done in cold blood, and not on the spur of the moment.

Senator GARDINER - Before the Chairman of the Commission there was a statement in writing which was a deliberate lie. There can be no question about that. I feel sure that the Leader of the Opposition cannot be aware of the facts.

Senator Millen - I am quite aware of them, and also of Judge Gordon's admission that he was wrong.

Senator GARDINER - Then I shall have to follow up that' statement also, and show that the Judge expressed regret for the expresson he used, and followed that up by saying that the statement contained in the letter was baseless.

Senator Millen - A statement may be baseless without being a deliberate lie.

Senator GARDINER - The only extent to which the Judge admitted that he was wrong was that, although he held that the statement was still a deliberate lie, he recognised that the Chairman of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company was not aware that it was a deliberate lie when he wrote it. In my opinion, Mr. Justice Gordon was justified in describing the statement in plain language as a deliberate lie. When I have read a quotation from the Sydney Morning Herald I shall expect Senator Millen to recognise that he. is doing an unfair and an unmanly thing in trying to twist the report of what occurred at the meeting of the Commission in the way he is doing. The Sydney Morning Herald report, of Mr. Justice Gordon's remarks is this - " I desire to explain that at every sitting of the Commission - after I excluded Mr. Mitchell, a gentleman learned in the law, has been attended by a bevy of gentlemen representing the C. S. R. Co." - His Honor mentioned Messrs. Braund (solicitor), Smith (a- chemical expert), and two shorthand writers--" These were at each place where the Commission sat where there was a company's mill augmented by the manager of the mill."

Mr. JusticeGordon is reported further to have said -

The next statement Mr. Knox makes is that it is not possible for him to do anything yet in the direction of replying to evidence, because I had refused to carry out certain arrangements. 1 think we have reached to that stage at which a little plain language will not do any harm, and I characterize that statement as a deliberate lie.

There is the statement which Senator Gould twists, and on the strength of which be says that the Chairman of the Commission offensively called Mr. Knox a deliberate liar.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - So he did. If I tell the honorable senator that he is telling a deliberate lie, do I not call him a deliberate liar?

Senator GARDINER - The Chairman of the Sugar Commission had a letter in his hand, and he said that some excuse contained in it was a deliberate lie. Senator Gould, I am sure, is fair enough to admit that he has made a grave mistake in saying that Mr. Justice Gordon characterized one of the witnesses who came before him as a deliberate liar.

Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30.p.m.

Senator GARDINER - When the sitting was suspended, I had just read an extract from a newspaper report which showed conclusively that the statement of Senator Gould that the Chairman of the Sugar Commission had used offensive language to Mr. Knox was not true. As the reports of the proceedings in the Sydney press clearly show the Chairman of that body merely characterized a statement which was contained in a letter forwarded by Mr. Knox as a deliberate lie. I now propose to read what Mr. Justice Gordon said when the Commission resumed its sittings a few days afterwards.

Senator St Ledger - That expression in itself was more or less a discredit to the Chairman of the Commission.

Senator GARDINER - There was a time when I would have taken some notice of what honorable senators opposite may think is the correct thing to do or to say, but in view of the language which the Leader of the Opposition applied this morning, to the Chairman of the Commission, I hope that for the sake of their own credit they will not attempt to establish a standard of ethics in this connexion. The party opposite still persist in attacking the Chairman of the Commission-

Senator MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - And the honorable senator's party persist in attempting to shield him.

Senator GARDINER - I intend to put the actual facts before the Senate with a view to showing that both Senator Gould and Senator Millen should be ashamed of the statements which they have made. When the Commission resumed its sittings on Monday, 6th May, the Chairman said -

Before we proceed to the business of the Commission this morning I desire to make a few observations. At the last meeting of the Commission, held on the 2nd instant, and at the very moment of my taking the chair, I was handed a letter from Mr. Knox, the general manager of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company; which gave a number of reasons for his disobeying a summons to attend before this Commission. Among these was the statement that at the outset - that means at the outset of the Commission's labours - the Chairman refused to carry out an arrangement he had authorized for the reporters to supply us with their transcript.In my not unnatural indignation at this unfounded charge being launched against me thus publicly and suddenly in respect of an incident which happened in November last year, and as to which no complaint had ever been made to me, I characterized it in terms which I now withdraw, and for which I express regret. I do so because since the meeting referred to Mr. Knox has published two statutory declarations, made by officers of his company, from which it would appear that he believed that he had grounds for his accusations. Therefore, assuming that belief, it cannot fairly be said that he deliberately intended to make an untrue statement. But I cannot, in justice to myself and to the Commission, leave the matter there, because, whatever Mr. Knox's belief may have been, the charge was baseless.

Senator St Ledger - He who excuseth himself accuseth himself.

Senator GARDINER - The Opposition have not merely attacked the reputation of the Chairman of the Commission,but they have used language which would be a discredit to a Domain orator - language which would be a disgrace to any section of the community. Yet they have the temerity to stand up here in their places, and accuse the Chairman of that body of having done certain things which he should not have done. I say that he never used offensive language to any witness.

Senator Millen - In his apology, he admits that he did.

Senator GARDINER - He does nothing of the kind. Honorable senators opposite apparently wish to prevent witnesses from being compelled to give the evidence which they should give before a Royal Commission. They appear to favour the introduction of American methods, where powerful trusts-

Senator Millen - The honorable senator means that this Bill is the result of the American methods of Tammany Hall.

Senator GARDINER - I know that the party opposite have to make a valiant fight on this matter because they recognise where their support comes from. They will use all the opportunities which present themselves to justify their positions as the representatives of the big trusts, the big combines, and the big monopolies of this country. To begin with, we have the most offensive statement of the Leader of the Opposition regarding the Chairman of the Commission'. We also have the usual charge of bias levelled against the other members of that body. If we are to accept the statement made by Senator Sayers, we have already arrived at the position that when any outsider is appointed to any prominent office by the present Government, he must necessarily be biased. What more vindictive bias could be exhibited by honorable senators opposite than has been evidenced during this debate? The Chairman of the Commission, upon reading in a letter an unfounded statement characterized it as a deliberate lie. But Senator Gould declared that he called the witness a " deliberate liar."

Senator Millen - So he did.

Senator GARDINER - Now we have the Leader of the Opposition persisting in that statement.

Senator Millen - If I tell the honorable senator that what he is saying is a deliberate lie, would he not regard it as a personal challenge of his veracity?

Senator GARDINER - If the honorable senator said that my statement was a deliberate lie, he would be called to order. But if he read a statement which I had sent to the Chairman of a Royal Commission, and the honorable senator characterized that as a deliberate lie, he could not be interfered with, clearly showing that there is a vast distinction between the two positions. Senator Millen is simply endeavouring "to bolster up the big combines which he represents by putting the Chairman of the Sugar Commission in a false position.

Senator St Ledger - I do not care a straw either for Mr. Justice Gordon or the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.

Senator GARDINER - It is a strange circumstance that the most serious things may happen in this country, and not a word of protest will be uttered by honorable senators opposite. But if legislation be placed before us for the betterment of any section of the community outside of their own, we d?. not find them using all the powers of Parliament to hasten its passage. Yet the moment it affects the rich shareholders of this enormously powerful sugar refining company-

Senator Vardon - Why does not the honorable senator be specific ?

Senator GARDINER - I wonder why? It is glaringly apparent to every honorable senator that there is a party in this Parliament which is prepared' to fight every piece of legislation which affects the wealthy trusts and combines.

Senator St Ledger - If I were to say that that statement was a deliberate lie, I should be called to order.

Senator GARDINER - Senator Millen has declared that the Chairman of the Sugar Commission is a "chartered bully " on the bench.

Senator Millen - I do not see why Mr. Justice Gordon should have a monopoly of language of that kind.

Senator GARDINER - I do not see why the Leader of the Opposition should make that statement unless he has evidence of his bullying.

Senator Millen - The evidence is there.

Senator GARDINER - The report of the proceedings shows that the Chairman of the Commission put up with an amount of annoyance to which no Chairman of a similar body was ever subjected before. Not only did he submit to annoyance at the hands of Mr. Knox, but he submitted to it in a kindly and gentlemanly way, and when Mr. Knox persisted in his refusal to give evidence, he actually adjourned the Commission. It was only the following morning, when a letter was placed in his hands containing a deliberate untruth in justification of Mr. Knox's conduct, that he characterized that statement as a deliberate lie. After reasoning with Mr. Knox for some time, I find that one daily newspaper reports the proceedings thus -

The Chairman - You are the managing director of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company?

Mr. Knoxpersisted in reading the statement.

The Chairman - Do you refuse to answer the question ?

Mr. Knoxkept on reading.

The Chairman - I put the question to you once more, " Are you the general manager of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company?

Mr. Knox.I was told last October that I would be given every facility to give evidence, and I prepared the matter fully. I have it all here. I dc not refuse to answer any questions.

T.lie Chairman. - Do you intend to persist in your attitude, Mr. Knox? Mr. Knox persisted.

The Chairman - Then this Commission is adjourned until to-morrow morning.

Mr. Knoxcontinued to read his statement as the members of the Commission rose in a body and left their seats.

Tn order to make his action clear, the Chairman then announced the adjournment while the members were standing up.

The proceedings only lasted a few minutes. There were present a number of witnesses who were asked to appear the following morning.

Here was ihe Chairman of a Commission appointed by this Parliament- r

Senator Millen - A political commission appointed by a political party for a political purpose.

Senator McGregor - That statement is a deliberate untruth.

The PRES. DE NT.- Order! I must ask the1 Vice-President of the Executive Council to withdraw that statement.

Senator McGregor - All interjections are disorderly, and according to the decision of a previous President, any reply to them ought not to 1% considered.

The PRESIDENT - I must ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council to withdraw the statement. It is such statements that, give rise to disorder in the chamber. Senator Millen was certainly out of order in interjecting, but unless it is understood that there are to be no interjections whatever, it will be impossible for the Chair to maintain order. I must ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council to withdraw the statement that the interjection of Senator Millen is a deliberate untruth.

Senator McGregor - I withdraw, and say that it is incorrect.

Senator Millen - May I express my regret that by breaking our Standing Orders, I, to some extent, contributed to a further breach of them by my honorable friend.

Senator GARDINER - If If the witness before the Sugar Commission had been as reasonable as Senator Millen and the VicePresident of the Executive Council, there would have been no trouble. But he was face to face with another gentleman who was acting under His Majesty's commission. If the trade unionists of this country had refused to give evidence before that Commission, they would have been branded, as disloyalists.

Senator Millen - The Bill would not be passed if that were the case.

Senator GARDINER - The Chairman of that Commission, I venture to say, went to lengths to which Senator Millen would not have gone in order to conduct the inquiry in a gentlemanly way.

Senator St Ledger - I think that he is foolish.

Senator GARDINER - Personally I am only familiar with the press reports of the proceedings of this particular case. But I have no hesitation in saying that a man who could prefer a charge of bullying against the Chairman of that Commission is not very careful of his own reputation for truthfulness. The whole desire of the Chairman of that, body was to be as obliging as he could to the witnesses who came before him. The very questions which this great concern, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, was called upon to answer were placed in the hands of its representatives months before. They had opportunities of preparing their answers. No question affecting the business of the company was sprung upon them suddenly. The question which the first witness refused to answer was, " Are you the Chairman of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company?"

Senator St Ledger - Was not that a test question?

Senator GARDINER - Exactly ; but this illustrates the methods of these rich companies. On a simple question they have held up the work of the Commission for three months. Surely it was a natural question to be put to the witness. It is a question such as must be put to any witness. Then, again, the case before the magistrate lasted three months. Of course, the company were exercising their legal rights, and I do not question them. But the point is that this company was able to prevent an inquiry which the Government of the Commonwealth had ordered to be made.

SenatorSt. Ledger__ Why was Sir

Normand McLaurin, and not Mr. Knox, prosecuted ?

Senator GARDINER - I cannot answer the question from authoritative information ; but Sir Normand McLaurin was the first witness who refused to answer the summons. I take it that, for that reason, he was the first to be prosecuted. Although Mr. Knox refused to answer questions, he did appear, and the test prosecution took place in the case of the witness who refused to appear at all. The person prosecuted was one holding a title from His Majesty the King, and he set the example of flouting the King's Commission. I venture to say that when this Bill becomes law it will be a little more difficult for gentlemen in that position to do the same sort of thing. I recognise that a fine to a great and wealthy institution like the Sugar Refining Company is not a serious matter. An increase of Jd. per lb. in the price of sugar would be sufficient to cover whatever fine was imposed. The company can make the residents of this country pay whatever penalties are inflicted. But I believe that there are sufficient powers under this measure to compel corporations of the kind to divulge the means by which they make enormous profits by imposing taxes upon the people. It is because honorable senators opposite are aware of this that they are fighting the measure so vigorously. They know that if legislation of this kind goes through, it will be made more difficult for these persons to evade their responsibilities. Senator Millen, the Leader of the Opposition, actually referred to the Chairman of the Commission as a "chartered bully." I do not expect much consideration from the other side when they are facing the opponents of the big trusts and combines ; but I do not know that there is anything to show that the learned Judge in question is an opponent of trusts. I do not know that he is not as fair-minded a man as ever sat on the Bench. I do not know that any one is able to say a word against the manner in which he conducted the proceedings of the Commission. The whole trouble was due to the fact that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company find it more profitable to hold up the Commission and refuse to give evidence than to let the public know how these huge profits are made. They want to stave off legislation. Consequently, their endeavour was to delay the work of the Commission. In the meantime additional profits will go into the pockets of the company. Senator Gould twisted the language of the Chairman of the Commission in order to place him in a false position. It is almost inconceivable that a gentleman in Senator Gould's position, who may some day be on the High Court Bench himself, should make use of his opportunities in this Chamber to do that in regard to a Judge in Sir John Gordon's position. Senator Millen, aided by his chief lieutenant, Senator St. Ledger, has also been trying to create a false impression of what happened. These gentlemen know that newspaper files cannot easily be consulted by the great .bulk of the people, and they hope that their misrepresentations will be believed when they are repeated outside. But I trust that the public will realize that honorable senators opposite have constituted themselves the defenders of the rich combines, and that they, by their efforts, are helping the trusts which are plundering the country.

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