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Wednesday, 28 May 1902

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not know anything .about that. In reply to my honorable and learned friend, I say that the Government knew that it was impossible to carry the Bill. They were assured by their own whip, as well as by myself, that it was impossible to do so. If honorable members had been allowed to vote upon the merits of the measure as introduced by the Government, without any further explanation than that offered by the Prime Minister, I do not think that half-a-dozen of those sitting behind the Ministry would have supported it.

Mr O'Malley - Just one.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I was told that there would be one.

Mr Poynton - The Government whip.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not wish to particularize. I went through the list, and I put down the names of six members who would have supported the Government if the principle of the Bill had been adhered to. The Government, however, did not adhere to it. The objection which the Opposition entertained toward the measure was that it was contrary to the spirit and intention of the Constitution. Mr. Chamberlain, in the correspondence which has now been presented for the first time, really admitted that to be the case, because he said -

Under the terms of the Constitution as fixed l>3' the Commonwealth Act a salary of £10,000 is to be paid to the Governor-General, and it is provided that the salary of a Governor-General shall not be altered during his continuance in office.

The Government, without taking the House into its confidence, sought to increase the Governor-General's salary ; but honorable members were of opinion that it would be contrary to the- spirit of the Constitution to do so. I blame the Government for having failed to take honorable members into their confidence by laying all this correspondence before them. They have had it in their possession since the beginning of 1901, but they have put it before the House now for the first time. I regret that during this debate some reference has been made to Sydney as if the people of that city had asked Parliament to pay the cost of maintaining Government House there for the use of the Governor-General. What did the Parliament of New South Wales do in the matter, and why did they do it ? I shall ask the Treasurer why he proposed the Bill which was rejected by the Victorian Parliament 1Sir William Lyne, as Premier of New South Wales, submitted a similar Bill for the consideration of the State Parliament. He did not make a lengthy explanation, because the Bill was submitted, I understand, after a long sitting. The Government should have taken Parliament into its confidence, and placed before us, not only Mr. Chamberlain's despatches to the Governor-General, but also the correspondence between Mr. Chamberlain and the various State Governments.

Mr Deakin - We have not seen it.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member's colleagues know something about it. The Treasurer, when Premier of Victoria, received a cablegram from Mr. Chamberlain, asking him to introduce into the Victorian Parliament a measure to provide a certain sum to supplement the GovernorGeneral's salary. Mr. F. B. Suttor, who at the time, was a colleague of the Minister for Home Affairs in the New South Wales Governnent, when introducing a Bill to the same effect, which subsequently became law, said -

A good deal of correspondence has passed between the Colonial-office in England and this Government respecting the position of the GovernorGeneral as regards the colonies, and it has been pointed out that, although the Commonwealth Act provides that the salary of the GovernorGeneral shall be £10,000, if the Governments expect the Governor-General to move from one place to another and to visit the different colonies, a further sum will be necessary to meet the increased expenses to which the Governor-General would necessarily be put.

He said, further, that -

This Bill is brought in practically in pursuance of an agreement come to between the Home Government and the Government of this county.

The Bill was passed without division on the 4th December, 1900. Although honorable members opposite have tried to show the grasping nature of 'New South Wales, that State recognised her responsibility in this matter, and actually passed an Act, which is the law to-day, appropriating over £3,000 per annum for the expense of the GovernorGeneral's establishment in Sydney.

Mr Poynton - Conditionally on the other States making up the balance.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The New South Wales Act was passed unconditionally, and the Government of the day said that they were prepared to find the money whether the other State Governments subscribed or not, though Mr. Chamberlain was of opinion that £10,000 should be subscribed by all the States in proportion to population.

Mr Poynton - At any rate, New South Wales has never paid the money ?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am assured by the Attorney-General that no request has been made to the Government of that State for it, and therefore no refusal can have been received from them. New South Wales has not asked for any consideration from this Parliament to which she is not entitled.

Mr Poynton - The whole trouble is due to her interference in the matter.

Mir. SYDNEY SMITH. - Why should not the Governor-General reside in New South Wales?

Mr Poynton - There is no reason why he should reside there more than in any of the other States. 37 a«

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The seat of Government is in New South. Wales.

Mr Poynton - No, it is in Melbourne.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Constitution says that the seat of Government shall be in New South Wales, but that until the capital site is agreed upon Parliament shall meet in Melbourne.

Mr Ronald - The common-sense interpretation of that provision is that the seat of Government shall be where the Parliament sits.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not accept my honorable friend's interpretation. I voted against the Governor-General's Establishment Bill, because I considered its principles opposed to .the Constitution.

Mr Ronald - And contrary to the letter of the Constitution as well.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - My chief complaint against the Government is that, although the honorable member for South Australia, Sir Langdon Bonython, asked a question upon this subject upon two or three occasions, they refused to give him any information. They wanted to make out that no communications had taken place between them and the Home authorities, and yet for eighteen months they had been in possession of Mr. Chamberlain's despatches, and knew of the correspondence which had taken place between the State Governments and the Home Secretary. The Prime Minister, in introducing the Governor-General's Establishment Bill, made no reference either to this correspondence or to his understanding with the Governor-General. He moved the second reading in a half-hearted way, and when the Government saw that the House was against them, they allowed a private member, sitting behind them, to take out the vital principles of the Bill and submit something quite different, a thing which I never saw done before during my political life. The Bill originally provided for an annual grant of £8,000, but when it left committee it provided only for a grant of £10,000 to defray the Governor-General's expenses in entertaining the Royal visitors, which honorable members unanimously felt should not come out of his own pocket. Every one regrets that the Governor-General has thought it necessary, in view of the determination of Parliament, to resign his position, but if I were called upon to deal with this matter to-morrow, I should be compelled to take a similar course to that followed on the former occasion. The Government submitted the Governor - General's Establishment Bill to the House in such a way as to infringe the Constitution, and to. place it beyond our power to assist the Governor-General. During the federal election campaign the Prime Minister specially warned the people against returning representatives who had voted against the Commonwealth Bill, because he said that they would probably take the first opportunity of altering the Constitution. Now the Prime Minister is the first man to attempt to alter the Constitution, not in the interests of the struggling masses in the Commonwealth, but in order to provide for .a large additional salary for the Governor-General. The Attorney-General has stated that His Excellency the Governor-General did not resign on account of any difference with 'his advisers; but if the relations existing between the 'Governor - General and the Ministry were as cordial as they should have been, why did he keep them in ignorance of his intention to resign. As one who has been a Minister for many years, I am well acquainted with the relations which exist between the Governors of States and their Ministers, and I know that there is nothing to prevent the Governors from conferring in the most friendly and cordial way with their advisers. We know from the Attorney-General.that, as a matter of fact, His Excellency has conferred with his Ministers on several occasions since his resignation. And we may assume that if the relations between the Governor-General and his Ministers had been thoroughly cordial he would have taken an opportunity of placing them in possession of the whole of the facts of the case 'before finally tendering his -resignation. The Ministry ^should have placed before us the whole of the correspondence between the State Governments and Mr. 'Chamberlain as well as that which took place between the Prime Minister .and Mr. Chamberlain. The way in which the whole matter has been bungled by the Government has entailed an amount Of unpleasantness which must be regretted bv every honorable member.

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