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Wednesday, 28 May 1902

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth) - I feel this afternoon that I have rather a delicate duty to perform, and I desire to perform it in the calmest and most dispassionate manner. The Prime Minister will be the subject of a certain amount of criticism; and he is absent, not only from this Chamber, but from the country, in the performance of a duty in which he represents not merely this or that side of the House, but the whole of the citizens of the Commonwealth. In the next place, the subject matter to which I shall call attention, is the salary and establishment of His Excellency the Governor-General ; and nobody more sincerely regrets than I do the introduction into any discussion of Parliament the name of His Excellency.We all believe that except on occasions of absolute necessity the Governor-General should not be made the subject of criticism in this House, but as the representative of His Majesty should continue in a position of strict neutrality in all political battles. Only yesterday afternoon I asked the Attorney-General if he would give the House a fair statement of all the facts connected with the resignation of His Excellency. Since this House adjourned in order that a visit might be paid to the sites for the capital, and since the passing of a certain Act of Parliament, the Governor-General has considered it necessary to resign his position. Since that resignation we have had published in the press of Australia, important State documents which were never put into the hands of honorable members; and we. have had many official and semi-officialstatements from Ministers of the Crown, all creating more chaos in regard to this question. When we consider that as the telegraph wire flashed this news to every corner of the continent a shock, which vibrates still, was felt by the people-

Mr Page - What a tale !

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN -I say there was a shock to the sensibilities of the people of Australia, and reasonably so. What was it that had to beannounced ? The resignation, within eighteen months of his appointment, of the first GovernorGeneral of Australia - a man who for several years occupied a high position in the State in which this Parliament holds its sittings. The Governor-General is a man who has endeared himself to members of this community, and he was chosen by a happy concatenation of events as the first Governor-General of Australia. TheImperial Government showed their tact and judgment in not merely giving us a prominent man from Great Britain, but in giving us the man whom we would have chosen ourselves. Surely the news that passed through the length and breadth of the land was sufficient to call for full explanation on the part of the Government; and, notwithstanding certain interjections, I hold that the people of this country are still expecting some explanation. If responsible Ministers do not see fit to admit the public to their confidence, we, the representatives in Parliament, have a right to do our utmost in order to drag into the light of day all the secrets connected with this fiasco. Let us look at the question as it concerns ourselves. Before the House adjourned a few weeks ago, a certain Bill was introduced dealing with the GovernorGeneral's salary and establishment. Unfortunately, I could not bepresent on that occasion. As honorable members understand, this session has been so prolonged, that any honorable member who has any private interests whatever, must be absent occasionally. I am informed that this Bill was introduced on one afternoon and practically passed through all its stages on the following afternoon. If the Governor-General's name is not to be easily dealt with in this Chamber, then on strict constitutional grounds, I venture to say that a Bill dealing with His Excellency ought to have been in the hands of honorable members for weeks and weeks if necessary, so that they might have been fully cognisant of what the Government intended to do.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That ought to have been done fifteen months ago.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN - I am coming to that point presently. Honorable members were perfectly satisfied that a certain sum would have to be granted to His Majesty's representative in order to defray the expenses of the Commonwealth celebrations and the entertainment of Royalty. Not one of us expected that His Excellency would have to pay these charges out of his private purse ; and, so far as most honorable members were concerned, it was understood that the Government would bring down a Bill dealing with them alone. Of course, the Governor-General's salary had to be embodied in an Act of Parliament ; and it was also understood that the whole of the allowances connected with the gubernatorial establishment would be separately dealt with. If that course had been pursued a great deal of the difficulty which we are now experiencing would have been obviated Let us see what did happen the other night. I do not want in any way to cast reflections. I believe that this House did its duty so far as was possible with the knowledge then in the possession of honorable members. But this House did not see all round the question when it was being debated on that particular occasion. Certain figures were given to us by the Prime Minister, and subsequently some figures were supplied to us by the Treasurer. The Governor-General's Establishment Bill was passed immediately after the speech by the Prime Minister, and honorable members did not have an opportunity to thoroughly understand the situation. The whole matter was so mixedup that it was almost impossible for any one to grasp it in its entirety. There was a degree of haste exhibited in regard to the passage of the Bill through the House that showed, I think, that there was something behind it which the public ought to know. During this long and weary session, have we ever had such a Bill passed through all its stages in one night? The Governor-General's Establishment Bill, above all others, ought to have followed the usual course. First of all, it should have been laid on the table of the House for a reasonable period ; next, it should have been fully explained by the Prime Minister; and then a reasonable time should have been allowed to intervene so that honorable members might thoroughly grasp the situation. Let us take one or two matters connected with it, which show clearly how very necessary it was that the ordinary course should be pursued in regard to the measure. According to the admission of the Treasurer, there was embedded in the grant of£8,000 to His Excellency, for which the Bill provided, a sum of £1,400 at least which appeared in the Estimates. Then reference was made to an item of £2,000 as being connected with the Governor-General's establishment, although it related purely to executive purposes. We have ' to go through the Estimates, and also through other documents which were distributed- a long time ago, and which probably have been lost by many honorable members, in order to ascertain where other items relating to the Governor-General's establishment are to be found. Altogether, when the Bill was before the House the whole matter was so complicated that I am perfectly satisfied that no man of ordinary intelligence could have grasped the situation immediately after the second reading speech by the Prime Minister. Yet the measure, which had been incubating for nearly eighteen months, was forced through the House in one night.

Mr Page - A brutal majority earned it.

Sir WILLIAM MCMILLAN - I am not reflecting upon what was dene by the House. My object goes further than that. I think that the House must have acted according to its own feeling of what was right, and with every respect for the Governor-General. I am sure, too, that the House, although it pissed the measure in question, was at the same time desirous that the position of the Governor-General should be ful 1 y recognised, and that we should be able at all times to obtain for the position a gentleman who will be provided with an allowance sufficient to render it unnecessary for him to . resort to his own private purse. That is the feeling in this House and throughout Australia. Let us see what we were endeavouring to understand when the Bill was before us. What we desired to get at, and what the Government failed clearly to define, was the bed-rock salary of the Governor-General, that is to say, the bed-rock allowance which he, as a private individual, apart -from his duties as Governor-General, would have for the expenditure of his own household. I have taken out two statements. I shall refer first to that made by the Prime Minister in moving the second reading of the Bill, and which, of course, would not be easily grasped by honorable members who had no schedule before them and nothing to guide them save their memory, in arriving at an understanding of the position. We will take first the salary of £10,000, which has been voted to the Governor-General by the House. Out of that, provision has to be made for the private secretary's salary, £600 per annum ; the military secretary's salary, £500 per annum; and the aide-de-camp's salary, £300 per annum; gas and electric lighting, £1,600 per annum ; fuel, £400 per annum ; flags, £100 per annum; and printing connected with Government House entertainment, &c, £750 per annum. That makes a total of £4,250, leaving for the absolute bed-rock expenses of His Excellency the sum of £5,750. In order that there may be no mistake about the figures, I have also taken those supplied by the Treasurer to the press.

Sir George TURNER - I did not supply them.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN - They appear over my right honorable friend's name, and come to very much the same result as those .supplied by the Prime Minister, so that I do not imagine that he will discredit them. We have again, in the Treasurer's statement, the salary of £10,000 voted by the House. The original estimate of the special allowances was £7,530. I think that item will be found in the Estimates, if the different details are taken out ; but under the Governor-General's Establishment Bill we take away everything except the allowances in respect of what is called the absolute up-keep of the two Government Houses. That represents an expenditure of £5,750, leaving a balance of these allowances in our Estimates - which the GovernorGeneral has now to pay - of £1,780.

Mr Thomson - That was not caused by the passing of the Genernor - General's Establishment Bill.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN - I shall come to that matter later on. I shall show that this is the position which was put before the Governor-General in his interview with the Ministers of the Crown, after the vote was taken on the GovernorGeneral's Establishment Bill. When we add the items of the salaries of theprivate and military secretaries and aide-de-camp, which represent £1,400, fuel £400, flags £100, and printing, ttc, £750, we have a total deduction of £4,430, as against the Prime Minister's estimate of £4,250. Taking the mean between the two, when we deduct all these items, we have a balance of only something between £5,500 and £6,000 for the Governor-General's establishment. Of course, the House has yet to deal with the Estimates ; but let us see what the next step was. Holding the opinion, as I do, that the House never intended that the amount which I have named should be the' bed-rock salary of the Governor, with these deductions made, I want to show the House what was done. I understand that the Prime Minister and another member of the Government called upon His Excellency the Governor-General and told him that even the very allowances which had been provided for in the expected vote of this House - and to some of which I have referred - would have to be deducted from his salary. We shall see whether the Governor-General understood that that was the case. In his telegram to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, His Excellency said -

No allowances whatever will be given.

In other words, the Governor-General must have been told that apart from the £ 5,000 odd for the up-keep of the two houses which we requested him to live in, and with which practically he has nothing to do, not one shilling would be placed upon the Estimates in respect of his expenses.

Mr Poynton - Who has asked His Excellency to keep up two establishments ?

Mr Salmon - The people of New South Wales.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN - The GovernorGeneral stated in his cablegram to the Secretary of State for the Colonies -

No allowances whatever will be given. On a salary of £10,000 per annum I am expected to paystaff, visit various States, paying all travelling expenses excepting railway, occupy two great Government Houses, pay lights, fuel, stationery, telegrams, postage other than official, dispense hospitality, maintain dignity of the office. I have already strained my private resources beyond all justification. The position is impossible. After grave consideration I think that you had better recall me after the Coronation.

I think that when the House passed the Governor-General's Establishment Bill, as I believe, largely under a misconception-

Mr Mauger - No fear.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN - I believe there was a misconception, notwithstanding what may be said by honorable members.

Mr Kennedy - The light of subsequent events will not impel honorable members to change their minds.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN - I should like to know whether any attempt was made to ask the Governor-General to hold back his resignation. Probably, before cabling to London, His Excellency showed the text of this message to his responsible Ministers. At any rate, it is reasonable to believe that His Excellency did so.

Mr Deakin - He did not.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN - That makes the position worse. That would have been the only course if there had not been some absolute breach of faith at the back of this business. We come now to the most important part of the discussion. Honorable members will have had placed in their hands a document signed by Mr. Chamberlain in November, 1900, and which arrived in Australia a few days after the ceremony of the inauguration of the Commonwealth. If honorable members read that document, and if they understand, as everybody must understand, the multifarious duties of the Secretary of State for the Colonies - a man who probably isthe most important figure in English history at the present time - they will not think for one momentthat he initiated the proceedings without having been moved to that course by something. I do not know whether it is true or not, but I am told that there was a conference with the Secretary of State for the Colonies when Mr. Barton was in England, and that practically the question of allowances was decided then.

Mr Deakin - That is not so.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN - We must always distinguish between the matter of a Minister's responsibility and the subsequent attitude of the House itself. I take it that a Minister does not give an assurance to the Governor-General, above all people, that a certain thing will be done, unless he is either satisfied regarding the feeling of the House, or is ready to stand or fall by the result. If there is any person in our system of government who should have no assurance from Ministers except such as they are willing to stand or fall by, and in regard to which they have a perfect knowledge of the opinion of Parliament, he is the GovernorGeneral. Will any one tell me, from what he knows of the Governor-General, that he would have allowed the Establishment Bill to be placed before Parliament if he had thought that there was the slightest chance of it not being carried ? Does not everything point to the fact that the matter was incubating for practically eighteen months ; that during the whole of that period the Governor-General was resting on the good faith of his Ministers' promise that he would be put into a proper- position? Why was not the Bill brought before the House before? We balanced our accounts on the 30th June last, after the Commonwealth had been in existence for six months, and why was not this matter dealt with then ? Why was it deferred until the very eve of the Prime Minister's departure ? The manner in which it was treated was an absolute insult to His Excellency, and a course of procedure which he had no right to expect from his responsible advisers, who knew his constitutional position of absolute neutrality, and that he was unable to defend himself against criticism.

Mr Higgins - No one criticised him.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN - No ; but the Establishment Bill was not introduced without his consent. Will any one tell me that he had not the assurance of his Ministers in regard to it that it was a fair and reasonable proposal to put before Parliament?

Mr Page - This House was almost unanimous in its rejection of the Bill.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN - That does not touch the matter. Lord Hopetoun will not be the last Governor-General of Australia, and our object this afternoon should be to see that no such fiasco as has occurred during the past two weeks shall ever occur again in the history of the Commonwealth. The least Ministers could have done after the Bill was so radically altered was to make a clean breast of the whole proceedings to this House. Did any one ever before hear of a confidential document, which had been sent to the GovernorGeneral and had been handed by him to his Ministers, being flung before the people by the press of the country without a word of explanation from responsible Ministers ?

Mr Deakin - It was laid before the Senate.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN - But this Chamber upon re-assembling after the adjournment had a right to a full explanation from responsible Ministers.

Mr Glynn - The document in question was laidbefore the Senate only after the resignation of the Governor-General.


Mr Brown - It should have been placed before honorable members here prior to the introduction of the Bill.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN - The Government themselves evidently feel that they have bungled the matter, because they tell us that they are now formulating certain proposals to lay before the House for the proper up-keep of His Excellency's establishment. We must clearly determine in this House, or the Government must determine by some State document, what is to be expected from whoever fills that high position in the future. If, after he has met certain absolutely unavoidable expenses, his net salary is to be only £5,000 or £6,000 a year, to ask him to keep up two residences will be absolutely absurd. Is the Governor-General answerable for the present position of affairs? Surely we shouldhave some regard for the position of the representative of the King, to whom we have to-day voted a loyal address, and Ministers should have been able in some way or other to prevent his resignation. Will any one tell me that the GovernorGeneral resigned on account of a few thousand pounds ? He is reputed to bea wealthy man, and it is proved by the utterances of the Attorney-General that he resigned because he was disgusted with his. advisers. The whole matter has been treatedina most unbusiness-like and bungling fashion, and the public of Australia are to-day rising in indignation, not against their representatives, but at the way in which the Government placed the matter before them. Seeing that the Governor-General is the one visible link between us and the Empire of which we form a part, he should be given facilities for visiting the various States during his term of office, so that he may be known, revered, and respected throughout Australia, and may come into contact with the people as much as possible. Brilliant young men belonging to the upper classes in England, and, as a rule, taken from the House of Lords, are appointed to these posts, first, because their position as the apex of our political and social system will be beyond cavil, and secondly, so that they may return to England, and to their places in Parliament there, with a full knowledge of our conditions and requirements. Year after year are added to those in political life in England men who have become acquainted with our conditions, and who show themselves the friends Of Australia whenever political discussions regarding us arise there. That is a second reason why we should give them every facility to make themselves acquainted with the conditions of Australia, and so help to remove the false impression which so often prevails in regard to this country on the other side of the world. The Prime Minister on several occasions denied that any special allowances were given to the GovernorGeneral, although, as a matter of fact, such allowances were being paid. But the Government evidently did not like to bring this matter before the House, and it is clear that the Governor-General has been sacrificed to the weakness and inefficiency of his responsible advisers. The crushing fact that he did not consult them when about to send a cablegram to England is a sufficient proof that he was absolutely disgusted with his advisers, and reasonably so too, because the whole business has been mismanagedby them in such a way as to cause every citizen to blush for them. There has been a feeling in this House that if Mr. Chamberlain or any other British Minister communicates with Ministers here through His Excellency the Governor-General, it is an unnecessary interference on his part. But with scarcely an exception, no real interference with our concerns has occurred. I hold that Mr. Chamberlain has a perfect right to communicate his views to the Governor-General, and the Governor-General to transmit those views as suggestions or opinions to his responsible advisers.

Mr Glynn - He has no right to argue upon points of local policy.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN - That may be; but in this case Mr. Chamberlain's letter to His Excellency, which has been placed before the Senate and before the public, should have formed part of the Prime Minister's explanation of the Establishment Bill. He should have told us that the Governor-General upon taking office had been led to believe that certain allowances for the upkeep of his establishment would be made to him.

Mr Deakin - The Prime Minister did say so.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN - He did not give us Mr. Chamberlain's letter.

Mr Deakin - He expressly refused to do so.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN - When the House is dealing with a matter of this kind it should know all the circumstances of the case. The only inference we can draw now is that His Excellency had some kind of assurance from his Ministers before he came here that these allowances would be agreed to.

Mr Glynn - That was clearly stated in the press, and not contradicted.

Mr Deakin - It was not true. Whoever takes notice of such statements in the press ?

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN - In speaking upon the second reading of the Establishment Bill. The honorable member for Bland said -

I do not know whether the inference to be drawn from the Prime Minister's statement is that he has had suggestions from the Colonialoffice with regard to the Governor-General's salary.

I would like honorable members to listen to this to see whether we were taken into the confidence of the Prime Minister. The honorable member for Bland continued -

If it is not, I do not understand why he should be in receipt of despatches on the subject. It is a peculiar thing if the Colonial-office has been applied to in this matter.

Mr. Bartonthen interjected, "It has not." If the Colonial-office had not been applied to, why did not the Prime Minister candidly confess that there had been suggestions made by the Colonial-office, and that these suggestions were made before the Governor-General came out here, and were embodied in a letter which arrived here four days after the establishment of the Commonwealth. I believe that this matter has been bungled, and that the whole of the people of Australia will say so. We have been placed in an awkward position before the whole world. It has been made to appear that theGovernorGeneral has resigned because this Parliament refused practically to keep the promise made to him by his responsible advisers. With all respect to the Prime Minister and, with a feeling of awkwardness in expressing myself in his absence, I say that he did not treat this matter as he ought to have done. If he gave His Excellency what was practically a pledge that a certain thing would be done within a certain time, and if - after having kept him upon tenter-hooks for eighteen months - hetold him that he was practically certain that Parliament would agree to the suggstion, he should have stood or fallen upon his action in the matter. Instead of that, on the eve of his departore, he flung a proposal before the House, told us that the matter was not one that would affect the Government, and left us to do exactly as we liked. I contend that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral has been badly treated. The moment there was any misapprehension about this matter, and the moment the Prime Minister saw, as he might have seen, that it would be difficult to give effect bo his pledges, he ought to have settled the question at once. If the proposal had been placed before us for a reasonable period, and if the leaders of the House had been consulted - as in a matter of this kind they should have been consulted, because there is no party element in it - whatever might have happened, whether we had lost the Governor - General or not, the business would have been carried through in a decent and circumspect manner, His Excellency would have been the last person in the world to object to what Parliament desired, and he could have retired for any reason but the one that has been given. The Government ought to bring down proposals setting forth the conditions under which future Governors-General shall come here. It ought to be settled once and for all, whether two large Government establishments are to be maintained, whether the Governor-General is to visit the different States, how his travelling expenses are to be paid, and what is really the salary to be given to him as a gentleman and as a Governor-General. .Finally, I declare that this matter has never been thoroughly seized by this House, and that the public do not know even now how it stands. It has been so mixed up in connexion with both the Estimates and the Bill recently passed, and has been so badly handled, owing to the procrastination of the Government, that the people of Australia have been led into a position in which they ought not to have been placed by the Government whom they have trusted.

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