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Wednesday, 28 May 1902

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I had no intention of taking part in this debate until I heard the speech delivered by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, who took the discussion away upon lines entirely different from those it had previously followed. He gave expression to opinions upon aspects of the subject which I do not think were necessarily involved in the debate, and I should be very sorry if, by my silence, I were to be considered as acquiescing in his views. This debate will undoubtedly excite interest far beyond the domain of the Commonwealth, because it will serve as a guide to the class of men who are likely . in the future to offer themselves for the high position of Governor-General of the Commonwealth, and it will be taken, to some extent, as indicating the attitude which members of the Commonwealth Parliament are likely to adopt with regard to the position of GovernorGeneral, and to the duties appertaining to it. My deliberate opinion is that the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne has made an improper use of this debate, because he went out of his way to make an unwarranted attack of an offensive character upon one of the ablest Ministers of the British Crown, and one of Australia's best friends. The honorable and learned member charged the Secretary of State for the Colonies with interfering in our Australian affairs. A dispassionate view of the circumstances surrounding this question will show, as the honorable member for South Australia has demonstrated, that all the Secretary of State for the Colonies did was in the nature of a fulfilment of his duty as the representative of His Majesty. We must recognise, if it is desired to obtain the very best type of men to fill the position of Governor-General, which is one of the highest in the Empire, we should hold out conditions of office and conditions of life in Australia which will be acceptable to the proudest - I use the word in the highest sense - to the most influential, the most learned and the most accomplished in all constitutional matters. I would ask honorable members to consider the duty of the Secretary of State for the Colonies with regard to the appointment of the Governor-General. If we can place ourselves for a moment in the position of the man who is invited to accept this office, we could not fail to see that one of the first inquiries made of the Colonial Secretary would be as to the conditions under which the Governor-General would be expected to live, and perform the work required of him. Is it not a corollary of the position which Mr. Chamberlain now occupies that he should be able to fully inform any such candidates of the conditions of its occupancy? How could he do this unless he had first made inquiries? Let us consider the circumstances in which the Secretary of State for the Colonies was placed at the time that negotiations were opened up with Lord Hopetoun. We had not then become a Commonwealth, and we had not chosen any seat of Government. The Constitution provided that a definite salary should attach to the position of GovernorGeneral, on the understanding that sooner or later - sooner, if possible - he would be furnished with a home at the seat of Government of the Commonwealth.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - The Constitution stated where the first Parliament would sit.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No doubt j but it did not state where the Governor-General was to reside. Under these circumstances, the Secretary of State for the' Colonies was justified in communicating with the Governments of the States. Until the Commonwealth has fixed upon a seat of Government there is no Commonwealth territory in Australia. Notwithstanding that the Governor-General had to come here and take up his residence, and it was perfectly clear that he would have to reside in at least one of the greater capitals, perhaps moving about from one to the other, according to the circumstances of the political sstuation. That view is confirmed by the speech which was delivered in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly by Sir William Lyne, in introducing the Bill providing for a grant of £3,000 towards the maintenance of the Governor-General's establishment. He then informed the House that he was doing his utmost to fix the residence of the GovernorGeneral in New South Wales. This was very laudable from a New South Wales stand-point, but no doubt there were many public men in Victoria who were equally anxious that the Governor-General should take up his residence in Melbourne. It would have been impossible for the Governor-General to live at any one place permanently year, after year, pending the establishment of the federal capital. This being the case, the Secretary of State for the Colonies could do nothing but communicate with the State Premiers, in order to ascertain what they proposed to do to enable the Governor-General to reside in their respective States. Therefore the charge of interference which the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne makes against the Secretary of

State for the Colonies is altogether unfounded. In the future, when the seat of Government has been fixed and there is a Federal Government House at which alone the Governor-General will generally reside and entertain, there will be no reason for any such communication by the Secretary of State for the Colonies with the State Governments. But for a time at least, the Governor-General is without a home, and has no absolute right to enter any of the State Government Houses without consulting the people under whose control they are. The Colonial Secretary could not ask the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth to permit the Governor-General to occupy Government House in either Melbourne or Sydney, and the only persons he could approach on that subject would be the Premier of Victoria or the Premier of New South Wales. Therefore, all the inquiries made by the Secretary of State fer the Colonies, with regard to Government Houses, and as to the means by which the Governor-General would be enabled to meet the abnormal expenditure he would have to incur until the seat of Federal Government was fixed upon, were perfectly justified. The attack made upon the Colonial Secretary ill became the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne. It was not merely an attack upon constitutional grounds, but upon personal grounds; because the honorable and learned member went out of his way to say that the correspondence contained " an abundance of vulgarity." I am quite sure that there are not half-a-dozen members in this Chamber who will indorse such a purely personal attack, as that in regard to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I venture to say that there is not a word used in Mr. Chamberlain's communications that is not perfectly justified by the unusual conditions which surrounded the position of the GovernorGeneral.

Mr Salmon - Surely not clause 6 of the second despatch.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member will admit that it was perfectly natural for the Governor-General, before accepting the position, to ask what he was expected to do, and whether he would be required to live in one, two, or three Government houses.

Mr Salmon - This has all occurred after his acceptance of the position.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have already pointed out that the Governor-General had no habitation in Australia, and that, therefore, the Colonial Secretary bad to communicate with the Premiers of the States in order to find out the conditions under which the Governor-General could occupy the State Government houses. Returning to the charge of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, let us consider what it means. Mr. Chamberlain refers once or twice to the question of entertaining in the different States. What can bo . more natural than that the Gover-General preparatory to accepting his position, should ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies what he was expected to -do in the way of entertainiug in New South Wales, Victoria, and perhaps in South Australia and other States, upon the salary of £10,000 a year? Seeing that these duties would involve a very large and abnormal expenditure, is it not perfectly reasonable also that the Colonial Secretary, as the medium of communication between the Governor-General as representing His Majesty and the Commonwealth should make inquiries as to whether it was expected that the Governor-General should entertain in all the States or in only one? If it be so, the inquiry complained of on behalf of the Governor-General was indispensable ; it was a perfectly natural question for the Colonial Secretary to ask both the representatives of the different States and the representatives of the Commonwealth.

Mr Salmon - There is no evidence that the Governor-General asked any such question.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member should know that personal interviews must have taken place between the Colonial Secretary and the intending GovernorGeneral.

Mr Salmon - These despatches were written when the Governor-General was on the sea, and when it was impossible for him to have any interview with the Colonial Secretary.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But the GovernorGeneral, prior to starting for Australia, must have had interviews with the Colonial Secretary, and have asked a number of questions of the kind. Does the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne imagine that either Mr. Chamberlain or the Governor-General was personally anxious about the giving of these entertainments ? I should say rather that the Colonial Secretary understood the proclivities of the Australian people, and was aware that sometimes an unfortunate Governor had to shake hands on a hot summer's day with 4,000 perspiring people at an afternoon tea. It is not the proposal of the Colonial Secretary that these entertainments should take place, but that he knows the weakness of the Australian people for such social entertainments, and that they will expect them.

Honorable Members. - No.

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