Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 26 August 1902

Mr DEAKIN - I desire to say a word or two with regard to the general motion before the committee, and particularly in reference to the remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta. Honorablemembers will understand that the amendment of the honorable member for Kennedy would not only omit the provision for the maintenance of Government-house in Sydney, but would also prevent us from keeping the engagement into which we have entered with the Government of New South Wales up to the end of next year. I trust that whatever views honorable members may entertain as to the expediency of continuing the occupation of Government-house in Sydney, they will at no time be willing to throw upon the hands of the Government of New South Wales, who have treated us so generously, the building which they have placed at our disposal, and for which they have provided an expensive substitute as a residence for the State Governor. I propose to add to the motion the words, "during the term of office of the next Governor-General." The Governor-General is appointed practically for five years, and the object of bringing this matter before the committee at present is to enable the Secretary of State for the Colonies to communicate to the gentleman to whom the position of Governor-General may be offered the conditions which willattach to his occupancy of the office. The honorable member for Parramatta will see that it is for this reason that the alteration proposed to be made in the provision for the Executive Council is here introduced. Hitherto we have been content to pay a nominal sum to the officer who has discharged the duties of Clerk of the Executive Council. The work attaching to that office is of the most responsible character, although comparatively simple. It includes the safe custody of the. records, and attendance at the meetings of the executive, and precision in the entries is the chief requirement. In addition to that, it has been the practice to rely upon some member or members of the Governor-General's staff to carry out a number of transactions of the utmost importance to the Commonwealth. Every communication from the Secretary of State for the Colonies to the Commonwealth Government, or from the Government to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, or through him to any of his colleagues, or to the representatives of any foreign power, or the other great dependencies of the Empire, requires to be intrusted to some member of His Excellency's staff. The Governor-General chooses his staff for his own reasons, sometimes on account of relationship, and in other instances because of his desire to have about him gentlemen with whom he has already established friendly relations. I have no desire to criticise the Governor-General's choice, but it is undesirable, and on some occasions very unsatisfactory, that the business of the Commonwealth should be intrusted to those who are attached to His Excellency's staff. We may be compelled to rely for the safe despatch, and for the coding and decoding of important telegrams relating to the Commonwealth, upon some young gentleman who, whilst being actuated by the best intentions in the world, has his mind occupied by social engagements. In Canada it has been found desirable to separate these functions from those which more properly belong to the members of His Excellency's staff, and intrust them to an officer directly employed by the Government. We therefore propose that the office shall be altered from that of Clerk to the Executive Council to that of Secretary of the Executive Council. In the custody of this officer will be placed the whole of the despatches, confidential and general, which pass between this Government and any other governments, and he will be held responsible for their despatch and for their coding and decoding where necessary.

Sir William McMillan - Why should this provision be made here ?

Mr DEAKIN - Because it is necessary that the future Governor-General should know that he will not be required to make provision on his staff for oneor other of the aides-de-camp by whom these duties have hitherto been discharged. For obvious reasons it is difficult to discuss this matter in detail, but I have already told honorable members that on one occasion a loss of some thousands of pounds was caused by an unintentional error on the part of an amiable young gentleman who was called upon as aide-de-camp to a Governor to deal with an important despatch. Other instances might be cited in support of the change proposed.

Sir Langdon Bonython - Will this officer be on the staff of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral?

Mr DEAKIN - Not in this capacity ; he will be an officer of the Commonwealth, although he will be associated with His Excellency in a most confidential manner.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is it not a fact that the Government will provide in this way for the private secretary to His Excellency the Governor-General ?

Mr DEAKIN - No; His Excellency will have his own private secretary, who will be a member of his personal staff.

Sir William McMillan - Could it not be explained to His Excellency that the members of his staff would have nothing to do with the work of the Executive Council?

Mr DEAKIN - It is necessary for us to provide for the payment of this responsible officer, who, although he will be on the most confidential terms with His Excellency, will be in this position entirely independent of the Governor-General's staff, and directly responsible to us.

Sir William McMillan - Cannot the Governor- General be informed of that without our being called upon to pass this motion ?

Mr DEAKIN - One of the matters to which attention was called in the original despatches from the Secretary of State for the Colonies was that in Canada an arrangement similar to that now proposed had been made, and had been found advantageous both to the GovernorGeneral and to the Government. It is necessary to inform the new Governor-General of the change now proposed, so that he can make his own arrangements.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What is the £325 provided for ?

Mr DEAKIN - That is for the payment of the officer whom we have at present. It is his duty to perform all kinds of clerical work, including typewriting, the making ing of duplicates of telegrams and various other documents.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He must have a mighty lot to do.

Mr DEAKIN - He is very well occupied. I had much the same impression as the honorable member, but on inquiry found that this officer's time was amply occupied. Ithink that the criticism of the honorable member for South Australia, Sir Langdon Bonython, was an excellent one, and beg to assure him that there is no desire on the part of the Government to imply that the Governor-General is required to undertake anything more in connexion with his establishments than his own good judgment may induce him to think necessary. We do not desire to convey any impression that we wish to involve the GovernorGeneral in any additional expense. He will be informed that, in addition to the Governmenthouse at Melbourne, there will be another residence available for him in Sydney, which is rent free, and for which we find the necessary maintenance money, so that when he thinks it necessary to go to Sydney he may have a fitting house at his disposal. I agree with the honorable member for South Australia that there should be nothing that would imply any obligation.

An Honorable Member. -Will the GovernorGeneral appoint this officer ?

Mr DEAKIN - Certainly not.

Mr O'Malley - Is Captain Wallington to be selected?

Mr DEAKIN - So far as I am personally concerned, I should very strongly favour the appointment of Captain Wallington, because he has a greater knowledge of Australia, of the duties of the office, the functions of our Governors, and of our constitutional practice, than any one else of whom I know.

Sir Langdon Bonython - Hear, hear - an excellent man.

Mr DEAKIN - Personally, I shall be prepared to justify the selection of Captain Wallington for the position, but at present we are making provision for the office, and not for the man. I trust that what I have stated will induce the honorable member for Parramatta notto press his amendment, and that the honorable memberfor Kennedy, will also withdraw his proposal. I shall be prepared as soon as possible to move the amendment indicated. This will limit the operation of the motion, and doubtless at the end of the term specified, or perhaps before then, the whole question will be reconsidered in view of the early establishment of the federal capital.

SirWILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - I think that the honorable member for Parramatta has taken the right course. We are not dealing with the schedule submitted by the Government, which I understand to have been presented solely for our information. We are called upon to vote the amount proposed in a lump sum, and I do not see any objection to that. We understand, of course, that when we discuss the items we may reduce one amount and correspondingly increase another if we think they need adjustment. It would be difficult at this stage to say how much should be voted upon each item for the Governor-General's establishment. We are in a different position, however, in dealing with the proposed votes for the Federal Executive Council, That matter should be treated in detail, and each item should be discussed on the Estimates.

Mr Deakin - So they will be.

Suggest corrections