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Thursday, 22 September 1904


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Mr. Speaker-


Mr SPEAKER - Does the honorable member propose to discuss the personal explanation just made by the honorable member for Coolgardie?


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I wish to make a personal explanation.


Mr SPEAKER - It is quite impossible for me to allow debates to take place upon personal explanations. If I permitted a personal explanation made by one honorable member to 'be replied to by another, there would be nothing to prevent every member of the House from entering into a debate under the cover of a personal explanation. The honorable member for Macquarie has not yet spoken to the motion of want of confidence, and it will be competent for him when he does so to deal with the matter to which reference has been made by the honorable member for Coolgardie. I do not think that' I should allow him to discuss the personal explanation made by the honorable member for Coolgardie. If he wishes to explain anything in regard to which he has been misunderstood, without discussing the personal explanation just made, the House will be pleased to hear him; but I cannot allow anything in the shape of a discussion of the personal explanation made by the honorable member for Coolgardie.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In regard to the explanation which I think it right to offer, I may state that my honorable friend, in making his explanation just now, omitted to say what led up to and gave reason for my interjection. He interjected something to enable an honorable member who was speaking' from that side of the House to cast a reflection upon me, and I then interjected that he had not the courage to give a decision on this very important matter.


Mr Thomas - What decision has the honorable member given?


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I will tell the honorable member presently. This matter came under my notice when I entered office, as a legacy left me by the honorable member for Coolgardie. I have not the papers before me, but I think that they were submitted to him on the 6th August, with a recommendation that he should accept certain tenders. The honorable member, not when the motion of censure debate was on, but on the 8th August-


Mr Groom - To what motion of censure debate does the Postmaster-General refer?


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I mean the debate on the clause in the Arbitration Bill which the Watson Government took as a censure debate. On the 8th August the honorable member for Coolgardie did not deal with the whole of the tenders, but made a minute to the effect that tenders where no preference is involved, " are approved," leaving the more important matter undealt with.


Mr Mahon - Yes; for Cabinet consideration.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member did not say for Cabinet consideration.


Mr Mahon - It is not necessary to put down everything. I say it now.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is no. doubt very convenient to say it now. The honorable gentleman said just now that the reason why the matter was delayed was because a question affecting the fate of the Government was before Parliament. But the action to which I refer was taken on the 8th August ; before that matter was before the House.


Mr Watson - That' was why he did not bring it before the Cabinet.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why should he bring a matter like that before the Cabinet?


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I did not submit the matter for the approval of the Cabinet in the! way suggested by the honorable member for Bland.


Mr Mahon - It was brought before the Barton Cabinet.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member has made his explanation. When this matter was submitted to me, I referred the papers back for information as to the practice of the Department at the time that the tenders were invited, and I received a report from mv Under-Secretary to the effect that the practice of the Department, under the administration of Senator Drake and the honorable member for Denison, was to give a .preference not exceeding 15 per cent.


Mr Page - But they are both protectionists.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - This decision was communicated by order to the various Deputy Postmasters-General on the 22nd August, 1903.


Mr Thomas - It was' a bad thing to do. The honorable member should have done better.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not going into that now. When the matter was submitted to me, I wrote this minute -

The practice in force under Ministerial decisions at the time of calling for tenders to be followed.


Mr King O'malley - Hear, hear ! The honorable member did the right thing


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I merely carried out the Ministerial decision which was in force at the time when tenders were invited, which had been communicated to the various Deputy Postmasters-General on the 22 nd August, .1903, and, I understand, made known to some of the contractors. The honorable member for Bourke, when I was referring to this matter, showed that he had learned all about it, either from the late Postmaster-General or from some one else, because he interjected, "Was not the decision of the PostmasterGeneral to be considered private and confidential ?" The honorable member must have seen the papers, or known all about the matter at the time the decision was given.


Mr SPEAKER - It appears to me that these remarks are not of the nature of a personal explanation, but that the honorable member is debating the question. I ask him not to continue his present line of argument.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have nothing more to say.







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