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Wednesday, 27 July 1904

Mr SKENE (Grampians) - I desire to make some reference to the dispute between1 the honorable member for Riverina and myself, as to whether the Pastoralists' Associations of Victoria and New South Wales use their funds for political purposes. I was not present when the honorable member referred to the remarks which I made on a former occasion, but I find from Hansard that he said - " The honorable member for Grampians has questioned my veracity." That is not correct. I simply questioned the accuracy of the honorable member's information on the subject. Later on he proceeded to state that, to his own knowledge, a certain course of action had been adopted by the Pastoralists' Association. He said, according to Hansard -

From my own knowledge of the circumstances which obtain in the Riverina district, I unhesitatingly affirm that during the past twenty years the funds of the Pastoralists' Association have been very largely used for political purposes. I am assured, on the authority of a very reliable man, who is himself a pastoralist, that at one election in which he was interested, the Association engaged a special train to run from Melbourne for the purpose of conveying voters to the poll with a view to furthering the interests of the candidate who was a member of their body. These facts are within my own knowledge.

It now becomes a question of personal veracity as between the honorable member and the secretaries of these associations. The latter give a distinct contradiction to the statement of the facts which the honorable member said were within his own' knowledge. Before Hansard was available, I wrote to the Secretary of the Pastoralists' Association of Victoria and Southern Riverina, and the purport of that letter may be gathered from the reply, which was as follows : -

I have to thank you for your letter of 14th inst., referring to Mr. Chanter's rejoinder in the House.

I can only reiterate that the statement that the Pastoralists' Association funds have at any time been used for political purposes is absolutely without foundation. The train Mr. Chanter refers to is, I presume, a special between Moama and Melbourne which used to be chartered by certain pastoralists. This had nothing to do with the Pastoralists' Association, and the cost of the train did not come out of the Association's funds.

I enclose a further reply from the Secretary of the Pastoralists' Union of New South Wales.

I understand from the secretary that the trains in question were run about the year 1890 or 1 891. It was in the boom time, when men were, perhaps, not so particular in regard to the expenditure of money as they now are, and the pastoralists ran these trains at their own personal expense. The honorable member also took some 'exception to the reply which I received from the Secretary of the New South Wales Pastoralists' Union, setting forth that -

Chanter's statement that the Pastoralists' Association has a fund for political purposes, and makes special levies for political purposes, is absolutely without foundation so far as Pastoralists' Union of New South Wales is concerned.

The honorable member went on to say -

I notice that the author of this telegram is very careful not to affirm that the Pastoralists' Association does not use its funds for political purposes.

I have a letter from the Secretary of that Association, in reply to a communication from the Secretary of the Pastoralists' Association of Victoria and Southern Riverina, and it reads as follows : -

In reply to your letter of the 15th inst. calling attention to Mr. Chanter's statement -in the House of Representatives that a special train was chartered by the Pastoralists' Union to bring voters to the poll, I desire to say that the statement is absolutely false. I shall be glad if you will take steps to give it an unqualified contradiction.

In regard to my . former contradiction of Mr. Chanter's assertion that this Union had a special fund for political purposes, I notice he insinuated that as it was only the existence of a special fund that was denied, we might be using ordinary funds for such purpose. . My contradiction only referred to a " special " fund, because that was what Mr. Chanter charged against us, but ' I now wish to say most emphatically that no funds whatever of this Union have at any time been applied to political purposes.

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