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Tuesday, 15 March 1904

Sir WILLIAM LYNE (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - You have got to give us something for this election. . . . We are going to be beaten. We must have money. I want £1,000 from those in this room before you leave, to fight this election. . . . these duties have been imposed for their (the manufacturers'! benefit -

That is the point. I wonder where the people "come in," seeing that the Minister for Trade and Customs admits that the duties are imposed for the benefit of manufacturers. According to the honorable member for South Sydney, the interview proceeded as follows: - and I think a quid -pro quo should be subscribed for those benefits. If we don't get sufficient money we shall be beaten in the fight, and instead of the duties being retained as they are, or made heavier, you will have them reduced by the other side.

It will be seen that the Minister pointed out that there was a danger, not only of the present duties being abolished, but also of their not being made heavier. Nothing was said at the interview about the working men or the poor people of Australia being called upon to pay additional taxation on their boots, clothing, and other necessaries of life; it was, as the Minister pointed out, for the benefit of the manufacturers that duties were imposed. The Minister, it will be seen, told the manufacturers that if they did not subscribe £1,000 the elections would be lost, and that even the present duties might not be retained.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is that the meeting at which the Minister for Defence was present ?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes; and here is what he said -

Mr AustinChapman followed Sir William Lyne. . . . They would not win without money.. . . . Amongst other things they wanted money to lick Edwards in South Sydney. . . . They could beat Edwards for £100.

It seems very amusing, after Parliament, at the instance of the Government, had passed a law limiting election expenses, to hear a Minister asking for subscriptions in order to prevent the election of the present honorable member for South Sydney, the member for Illawarra, or the honorable and learned member for Werriwa. Nothing was said at that meeting about my own electorate, because, I suppose, it was thought that my opponent, who desired to obtain ^250,000 of the public money as a bonus, would be able to pay all necessary expenses.

Mr Chapman - I suppose the honorable member knows that the statement he has read has been contradicted?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister for Defence very nicely and very cleverly contradicted the statement. In the first place, the honorable gentleman denied that any such meeting had taken place in Castlereaghstreet, as stated by the honorable member for South Sydney, though the fact remained that the meeting took place at the Commonwealth Offices in Macquarie-street. Unfortunately for themselves, the Minister for Defence was in one part of Australia at the time, and -the Minister for Trade and Customs in another, so that it was not possible for them to compare notes.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It was indecent to hold such a meeting in the Commonwealth offices.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - At all events, it was a very questionable proceeding. I know that Ave of the Opposition held no electioneering meeting, except in rooms, for the hire of which we paid. .The account of the meeting, as given by the honorable member for South Sydney proceeds -

Mr. Chapmanwent on to say that they could win two other seats if they had the money.

I have here the full account of the proceedings, as given by the Sydney newspapers.

Mr Mauger - Read it.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have often listened to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports reading columns of extracts relating to wages boards and similar institutions, but I shall not similarly weary honorable members. An appeal has been made for an inquiry into the management of the Electoral Office, and I, think that unprejudiced members in all parts of the House must admit, in view of what transpired during the recent elections, that there is need for most searching investigation. The Chief Justice of the High Court has referred to the administration of the Electoral Office in most severe terms, and has practically blamed the head of the Department for all the trouble and expense associated with the election for the Melbourne seat. Owing to the want of knowledge of the law, and of the proper mode of administration the head of Jhe Department has caused the two candidates for that seat to undergo all the expense, trouble, and anxiety of a second election.

Mr Crouch -* Would the honorable member l;ke an inquiry into the conduct of the Macquarie election?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am quite prepared for any inquiry into the election in the Macquarie constituency. I know, of course, that when the " big gun," who hoped to get a bonus to the amount of .£250,000, was sent down to contest the seat it was thought that all was secure, seeing that he was able to spend money.

Mr Crouch - What about the bill of £74 at an hotel ?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There was no expenditure of that kind, so far as I was concerned. No doubt the candidate who was opposed to me was a man of good repute.

Mr Mauger - What was his name?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - My opponent had all the advantage of the support of the Government and of a large number of people who, for the time being, believed that the expected bonus would give employment to every man in the electorate. This gentleman also apparently had a well-lined purse, because he informed the electors that the parliamentary allowance of .£400 per year was to him a very small consideration. Yet, with all this against me, my majority was about twice as great as at the previous election.

Mr Fuller - And the State .Government was helping the opponent of the honorable member?

Mr Mauger - I suppose the protectionist propaganda had nothing to do with the matter?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Not in New. South Wales. The protectionist propaganda had some effect in Victoria, no doubt ; but the true state of affairs is shown by the fact that the whole of the rest of Australia has sent only five supporters of the Government to this House, while, taking the two Houses together, the

Government have thirty-three supporters, as against forty-four in the last Parliament, I do not think there could be a more disastrous result from the point of view of the Government.

Mr Chapman - If the honorable member will move an amendment to the Address in Reply and call for a division, he will see how far his figures are correct.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister for Defence will have enough to do with figures of that kind by-and-by.

Mr Crouch - Who paid for the fortyfour cabs at Portland?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - My honorable and learned friend has stated that the Portland Cement Company was established under protection. I have denied that statement here time and again, and to corroborate my denial I will read what one of the principals of the firm says upon the subject -

In reference to our own plant, I may say that practically the whole of this had arrived in Sydney before the duty was put on.

It was said at one time that unless a duty were imposed upon cement Portland would be ruined ; but when I went there three years ago I found that the men employed in the lime quarries were receiving from 6s 6d. to 7s. a day. That was under free-trade: When I visited them last December they were receiving only 6s. a day, notwithstanding that their industry was protected by a duty of over 30 per cent. - against which I voted ; and, furthermore, under the policy of the present Government they have to pay a tax of 2s. 6d. upon every pair of boots they buy. and owing to the nature of their work a pair of boots in many cases lasts only a week.

Mr johnson -But is it not argued that the foreigner always pays protective duties?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That was what they tried to make the people of Portland believe before I went up there. I was informed that because I had voted against the cement duty I should be beaten at Portland by three or four to one ; but I received a large majority there, without hiring cabs, or incurring any expenditure at all beyond a few shillings for travelling expenses. I have always found thatno amount of money will get a man returned to Parliament. In my electioneering contests I have had to fight some of* the wealthiest men in the community; but beyond paying for advertisements and the ordinary travelling expenses, my expenditure has been practically nothing.

Mr Frazer - Money helps a good deal, though.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not think that it helps as much as some persons imagine. I believe that the electors resent the expenditure of large sums by candidates, because they realize that attempts are being made to bribe them.

Mr Frazer - I do not dispute that.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have represented practically the same district, with only one. break, for over twenty years.

Mr Crouch - Why was the honorable member thrown out in 1899?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - At that time I was a Minister of the Crown, and held a prominent position in the Ministry ; but there are occasions when public men must speak out in the interests of the people, and I felt it my duty, notwithstanding that many of my constituents had taken an active part in the work of forwarding the Federal movement, to oppose the acceptance of the draft Constitution Bill. I was told that if I persisted in that attitude I should lose my seat ; but I replied then, as I would now, that I valued my position in Parliament only so long as I could honestly express my convictions there. Without that privilege Parliament would have no charm for me. But although I was defeated on that occasion, they sent for me to represent them in the first Federal Parliament, and I then had the pleasure of securing a reversal of their former verdict. Indeed, one of the principal leaders of the Federal movement in the district, in a letter which he published in the local press, complimented me for having had the foresight to predict trouble arising out of Federal legislation which they at the time did not foresee. The Prime Minister has asked us to submit some specific cases to justify an inquiry into the administration of the Electoral Department. I think that the condemnation of the Chief Electoral Officer expressed by the Chief Justice of the High Court, who is a non-party man, and had an opportunity to hear ample evidence on the subject, is a sufficient reason for demanding an inquiry. The Minister for Trade and Customs charges the leader of the Opposition with harboring a special animus against the Chief Electoral Officer ; but neither our leader nor any member sitting upon this side of the chamber has any feeling against that officer as an individual. We think, however, that a man who is not competent for the duties pertaining to his office should not continue to hold it, and it is our duty to express our views in regard to the competency of any officer. The leader of the Opposition was right in stating that Mr. Lewis was retired from the New South Wales Department of Lands after an inquiry made in 1887. Later, he became Chief Electoral Officer for New South Wales; but when the Public Service Board investigated the state of the Public Service in 1896, they reduced the staff from fifty to thirteen, and recommended his retirement, and that of thirty-seven of his officers. Ever since, the work of the office, except in emergencies, when there has been a rush, has been done by about thirteen men, and with greater efficiency and satisfaction to the State than was given before. The leader of the Opposition was perfectly right in challenging the action of the Government in placing at the head of the Commonwealth Electoral Office a man who had been retired as unfit to control a State Electoral Office. The Prime Minister challenges us to produce individual cases? I could produce many, and I will refer to two or three which occurred in my own district. But for the fact that I obtained a very large majority, the Macquarie election might have been upset, as the Melbourne election has been upset, because between 200 and 300 postal votes were recorded there, most of which, though not cast in my favour, were witnessed by the police. Then, at Cowra, I found that a man and his family, numbering seven or eight in all, who were old residents of the district, had not been enrolled, .while at Sofala, a number of miners living outside the town drove to the polling place, and then could not record their votes, because they found that their names had not been enrolled. At Little Hartley, again, I found that a number of electors, who had previously voted in the Macquarie division, had been placed in the Parramatta division. If my attention had not been directed to the matter I should have lost a number of votes there.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I had a batch of " 200 electors cut out altogether.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No doubt this sort of thing occurred in many divisions. If every honorable member were to relate his experience, it would be found that, in addition to the fact that 120,000 people were disfranchised in eight electorates by gerrymandering, and no fewer than 43,000 women in three electorates alone, hundreds of thousands of persons were prevented from voting through their names being left off the rolls. I happen to have the confi dence of the miners in the Macquarie division, and throughout New South Wales, and since the election I have ascertained that, at a mining centre which is one of my strongholds, only two votes were cast for me and one for my opponent, while in another place six were cast for me and four for my opponent.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Notwithstanding the fact that the honorable member addressed a meeting at 6 o'clock in the morning.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes. I gave my opponent ten days start, but when I commenced I made the pace. Under the regulations which were issued by the Government that numbers were not to be published except where they amounted to joo - a very wrong regulation, because there should be no secrecy about these matters - I should have known nothing of those occurrences ; but I learned through the press that in one place only ten votes were recorded, and I, therefore, made an inquiry into the reason. What did I find ? I have here the revised roll for a place named Airlie. There are 378 names upon that roll, but after revision 132 names were erased, and sixteen added, so that' the correct number of electors was 262. But owing to the neglect of the Department in not sending the revised roll to the printer the one containing 60 names was the only one sent to the electorate, and these 262 persons were disfranchised altogether.

Mr Johnson - I had a similar experience.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I could name other instances in which names were left off the rolls, and the electors were prevented from exercising the franchise, and I feel sure that the experience of every honorable member has created the conviction in his mind that the time is ripe for a searching investigation into the administration of the Electoral Department. All we want is fair play and no favour. We only n.-,k that the people shall have an opportunity to exercise- the franchise conferred upon them by the law. The Act does not contemplate the adoption of the old American system of grouping the electors in- classes, but in New South Wales the free-traders were grouped together, and were practically disfranchised to the extent of many thousands. Notwithstanding that, however; the free-trade party won four seats and the" Government lost five seats altogether, and ought to have lost more. I now desire to refer to a very serious matter in connexion with our defences. We cannot foresee the results to Australia of the war which is now proceeding between Russia and Japan, and we ought to be prepared for every emergency. At present our forces are not in a fit condition to take the field. When the first Estimates were submitted, the defence vote was reduced by £120.000, because the Government failed to submit a proper scheme for the administration of the forces. When the next Estimates were brought down the Government failed to supply honorable members with such information as would enable them to judge whether the money proposed to be voted would be judiciously expended, and the vote was reduced by £50,000. The Treasurer, in his financial statement, made the extraordinary announcement that although the General Officer Commanding, who had been brought here specially for the purpose of re-organizing our forces, had applied for £125,000 for the purpose of completing the equipment of his forces, he had cut down the vote by £50,000. Honorable members will admit that the equipment of our forces is of the first importance, and yet the amount proposed to be devoted to that purpose was reduced by the Government. If the General Officer Commanding was right his requisition should have been complied with, and if he was wrong the Government should have made it clear that he had asked for too much. If our forces had been called upon, without proper equipment, to defend our shores during the last recess it would have been nothing short of murder, for which we should have been responsible. We know what occurred in South Africa with regard to the Imperial forces, and we have been acquainted with the result of the inquiry made at the instance of Lord Elgin and others. The condition of affairs disclosed was so unsatisfactory that a further Commission was appointed The Defence Forces in Tasmania are larger in proportion to population than in any other of the States. That State sent a large number of men away to South Africa, and they acquitted themselves with the utmost credit. Prior to the transfer of the Defence Department to the Commonwealth, the members of theTasmanian forces were so extremely loyal that they were content to accept a lower rate of remuneration than was paid to men performing similar services in other States. Afterwards they appealed to the Federal authorities to place them on the same footing, as regards pay, as other members of the Defence Force, and I understood the General Officer Commanding considered that their claim was justified. The State Government of Tasmania, however, represented that their finances were in such a condition that they could not afford to meet the extra demand t hat would be made upon them, and the Federal authorities took it upon themselves to withhold the additional pay to which the men were clearly entitled. The result was that 500 men, who had given full proof of their loyalty, became, in a sense, disloyal.

Mr McWilliams - They only wanted to be treated upon the same footing as the men of other States

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They were entitled to receive the same pay as members of the Defence Forces in other States. I always understood that one of the main objects sought to be achieved when the Defence Forces were placed under one control was to secure uniformity both as regards pay and administration. If one State Government is to be permitted to interfere in the matter of the pay given to the members of the Defence Forces, there will be nothing to prevent other Governments dictating to the Federal authorities in connexion with administration which they think may adversely affect their finances. The members of the Tasmanian Defence Forces have been treated most unfairly, and we shall probably lose the services of a number of men of the very class which we should encourage. The manner in which matters connected with our defences have been administered shows the necessity of appointing a Commission of inquiry, which will be able to tell us exactly how we stand, what is being done, and what is necessary to place our forces upon an effective footing. We have, perhaps, the very best material in the world, men who are ready to shed their last drop of blood in the defence of the Commonwealth, and it is absolutely necessary that our legislation and administration should be in keeping. I therefore appeal to the Government to arrange for a searching inquiry into our defence administration, with a view to the adoption of a scheme satisfactory to all concerned. Some honorable members seem to think that no such Commission is needed, but I would remind them that in England, where they have had much more practical experience, and have thoroughly practical men at the head of affairs, it has been considered necessary in the interests of the Empire to appoint a Commission to formulate a scheme for the effective organization of the military forces.

Mr Skene - Whom have we here to appoint to such a Commission?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I cannot sayoffhand, but I have no doubt that many gentlemen would be competent to perform the service we require of them. If, however, suitable men cannot be obtained locally they can be secured elsewhere. The honorable member must admit that we have splendid material for defence purposes, and, as one of his sons took part in the South African campaign, I am sure that he will be one of the first to insist that our forces shall be properly equipped. According to the statement of the General Officer Commanding, the present condition of affairs with regard to equipment is very unsatisfactory, and a much larger sum than that voted will have to be expended. I believe that the Minister of Defence is endeavouring to do his best, but I would urge upon him the necessity, in view of what is being done in England, and of the requisitions which have been made by the General Officer Commanding, to institute a searching inquiry into the administration, so that we may make sure that the money voted by us for defence purposes is being applied in the best possible way.

Mr Page - That is what the Minister is now doing.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have not seen anyresult.

Mr Page - Give the Minister a chance.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I only hope that the Minister will appoint a Commission, such as I have suggested.

Mr Page - The Minister is a Commission in himself.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not want that kind of a Commission, but one that will be of some service. The right honorable and learned member for Adelaide referred to the question of the Federal Capital site and spoke very strongly of the apathy displayed by the Government. With all due respect to my right honorable friend, I desire to say that, although I am very glad that he adopted this attitude, I am sorry that he did not take some energetic steps to bring about a settlement of the question when he was a member of the Government. We had no indication of any desire on the part of himself or his colleagues to expedite the matter. It was unnecessarily delayed for many months, and after members of both Houses had been afforded an opportunity of inspecting the sites suggested, a proposal was submitted at the fag end of the Parliament. No time was then available for the proper consideration of the matter, and the result was that no decision was arrived at.

Mr Fuller - The Minister for Trade and Customs says that the Opposition delayed the settlement of the matter.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not think that can fairly be said, because we did all we could to urge the importance of a prompt settlement, and some honorable members thoughtwe were too persistent in our efforts. When the voting took place for the selection of the site Lyndhurst occupied the premier position in the second, third, fourth, and fifth ballots, and the final contest lay between Tumut and Lyndhurst. Strangely enough, the Prime Minister and others, who were in favour of the Bombala site, on finding that they were hopelessly in a minority, transferred their support to Tumut, and, as a result, Lyndhurst was defeated by eleven votes. When the question was remitted to the Senate a dastardly attempt was made to exclude Lyndhurst from all consideration, but I am glad that it was defeated by the good sense and fairness of the members of that Chamber. There is no use disguising the fact that it was arranged by some members of the Government that a motion should be proposed which would have the effect of excluding Lyndhurst from the selection. We ask no favour for Lyndhurst, but I think that fair consideration should be given to all the sites. Even the Prime Minister, in response to a question of mine, said that a site which possessed such marked advantages as Lyndhurst could not be overlooked ; but what do we find ?

Mr Chapman - The House overlooked it.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That may be, but the Prime Minister said that a site which possessed such marked advantages as Lyndhurst must receive consideration.

Mr Chapman - Were those the words used bv the Prime Minister?

Mr.SYDNEY SMITH.- They represent the substance of his statement, and I claim that the implied promise then given shall be fulfilled.

Sir John Forrest - I looked for the statement referred to by the honorable member, but could not find it.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I directed the attention of the Minister of Home Affairs to the promise, and he promised to give it consideration.

Sir John Forrest - I could not find any reference to it.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I shall furnish the Minister with the exact words before I sit down. I have no right to question the opinions which are entertained by honorable members, but I am entitled to ask that fair consideration shall be extended to all the sites. I hold that honorable members should be granted an opportunity of studying their respective merits. The Government have no title to select two sites upon the borders of Victoria, and to declare that they alone shall receive consideration.

Mr Storrer - A majority of the House selected them.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No. This House decided against Bombala. It refused to allow it to be included in the final ballot. In that ballot only two sites were submitted, namely, Tumut and Lyndhurst.

Mr Storrer - Did not this House decide against Lyndhurst?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes ; but it also decided against Bombala. Bombala is put forward for consideration simply because it is represented by a member of the Ministry.

Sir John Forrest - The Senate recommended Bombala.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I admit that that is so. .

Sir John Forrest - That is the reason why its claims are now being considered.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is the duty of this House to extend consideration to all the sites, and especially to one whose claims were considered superior to those of Bombala.

Mr Chapman - Nonsense.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I appeal to honorable members to say whether in the ballot before the final ballot Lyndhurst did not poll the largest number of votes.

Mr Chapman - Which site obtained the highest number of No.1 votes?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Of the three sites which were considered eligible, Lyndhurst secured the highest number of votes.

Mr Storrer - We have read all about that, and it is of no use imputing motives to individuals now.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I know that the honorable member has expressed his opinion as to what should be done, and, therefore, I do not expect any consideration from him.

Mr Storrer - I have not expressed my opinion.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think so; I read the newspapers very closely. I appeal to the Government to carry out the implied promise of the Prime Minister, and to permit of consideration being extended to the Lyndhurst site.

Mr Chapman - A moment ago the honorable member said that a direct, and not an implied, promise was given by the Prime Minister.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable gentleman's promise was very clear.

Mr Chapman - Then let us have it.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In Hansard, volume xvii., page 6433, Ifind the following:

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does not the Prime Minister think it fair to give consideration to the Lyndhurst site?

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