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Thursday, 26 May 1904

Mr KELLY (Wentworth) - I quite agree with the remarks of the right honorable member for Swan. It seems to me that this motion could have been concentrated under two or three heads, and that then the information required by the honorable member for Melbourne, could have been asked for in the ordinary way, at a convenient time, in the form of questions. . I should be the last to endeavour to curtail information supplied to any honorable member. But I do think, with the right Honorable member for Swan, that in this motion there is implied an indirect attack on the General Officer Commanding the Commonwealth Forces. I find, in support of my contention, that this motion might have been narrowed down considerably. Looking at paragraph 2, for instance, we find that it is desired by the honorable member to know "How many days MajorGeneral Hutton was absent on his recent visit to Tasmania " ? I am quite convinced that three minutes' conversation on the telephone with the shipping company would have extracted that valuable information. Therefore. I do not think it was necessary to ask for it in this form. As regards the other questions, they mainly concern details of the expenses of Major-General Hutton when he has been travelling. Surely, with regard to those questions, the matter is equally simple. The honorable member might simply have asked what travelling allowances the General Officer Commanding received from the Government. That would cover almost the whole of his questions. Lower down, we find that the same information' is wanted for years back. I do not know whether that is necessary for the honorable member's purposes. Of course, if it is, I would not attempt to suggest anything that would frustrate the obtaining of the information. I would defer to his request absolutely. But, at the same time, it appears to me that the information could have been obtained from the Estimates. The allowance paid to the General Officer Commanding would give the honorable member the result at once. Looking further down, we find that the honorable member wants to know the amount paid to the Major-General's aide-de-camp, and also whether he travels with a private secretary and an orderly. As the right honorable member for Swan very rightly said, it is absolutely necessary for the ' General Officer Commanding to travel with some servant, if only to look after his baggage. I should say that' it is also necessary for him to travel with his secretary, because, under our dual system of military control, he has a great amount of secretarial work to do. In this connexion, I should like to remind the House that some Ministers of the Commonwealth - very rightly, I think - have taken secretaries with them when they have travelled. I am not speaking of the members of the present Ministry, be! cause I do not actually know what they da

But certainly there have been Ministers who have travelled with secretaries as well as with servants.

Mr Page - Not the ex-Minister of Defence.

Mr KELLY - I am not mentioning any particular branch of the service, but I think all the Departments are affected in this respect. I think that it would be invidious to mention one; but when a Minister finds it necessary to travel with a secretary and with a servant, we may very well concede the same advantages to a distinguished officer who has to discharge the enormous duties devolving on the General Officer Commanding. I urge that all the information which the honorable member for Melbourne asks for in this series of questions could have been obtained in the ordinary way at question time. I hope that the honorable member will not suppose that I am objecting to his obtaining the information. If he attempted to obtain it at question time, andi it were refused, I should then be inclined to support a motion ofthis kind.

Mr Maloney - I could not obtain it by means of questions.

Mr KELLY - I do not think the honorable member could in this detailed form, but I think that if he narrowed down his motion, and put the questions under . two or three heads, or four or five, at the outside, they would have been allowed. Of course I am not an authority on these matters, and have never pretended to he cr.t. But it seems to me that the only way in which to get information of this kind, if an honorable member does not want to .'cave a sting in the minds of those against 1,1,On his questions are directed, is to ask them at question time in the ordinary way.

Mr Page - One cannot get information in' that way. Ministers often smother it up.

Mr KELLY - In that case such a mo- tion might be justified. As the case stands I regret that I must oppose the motion.

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