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Thursday, 29 September 1904

Mr SPEAKER - I think that the honorable member for Hume can rely upon having fair play. I ask the Prime Minister to confine himself strictly, as I believe he will, to a personal explanation; but if, when he has finished, the honorable member for Hume also desires to make a statement, I am sure that the House will be willing to hear it.

Mr Reid - I was stating to the House that one of the gentlemen who was appointed by the honorable member for Hume to judge me, had already, as a hostile candidate at the elections, prejudged me. I submitted his utterances, as reported in the newspaper published in the district, to the honorable member for Hume, and I protested against being judged by a man who had condemned me before entering upon the investigation, and who was a political opponent.

Mr Crouch - The right honorable gentleman said the same thing about Mr. Dibbs.

Mr Reid - I hope that the honorable and learned member will keep quiet. If he has not a shred of care for reputation himself he might have some respect for the reputation of others. Under these circumstances, I refused to put myself in the hands of the Committee appointed by the honorable member for Hume, But what was the next step that I took? I asked the two institutions of accountants in Sydney to select two of their best men, without reference to me at all, and the two thus chosen were to select a third. One institution of accountants nominated Mr. Bowes, a leading accountant in Sydney, and a London chartered accountant ; and the other institution nominated Mr. Davis, another leading accountant in Sydney. Those two accountants nominated Mr. Richard Teece., whose name is known throughout the length and breadth of Australia as the general manager of the Australian Mutual Provident Society, the largest financial institution in the Commonwealth. Mr. Teece began his work with the other gentlemen whom I have named, when his directors withdrew him from the position, on the ground that it was a political matter, and they thought that their general manager should not be entangled in it. Then the other two accountants, who had been selected in the manner I have described, selected, as a third, Mr. Vane, of the well-known firm of Miles and Vane, accountants in Sydney. All three were selected absolutely without the exercise of a choice by me in any shape or form. But, as the matter was one outside the ordinary run of accountants' work, Mr. Davis waited on me to ascertain what the scope of the inquiry was to be, so that they might be able to form some idea as to the length of time for which they were to be taken away from their ordinary business. That was the private interview to which the honorable member for Hume has referred.

Mr Wilks - Mr. Davis was a prominent protectionist, too.

Mr Reid - Yes; he was a member of the Protectionist Party. Honorable members must know that I paid these accountants myself. As I would not go before the tribunal appointed by the honorable member for Hume, I felt that I owed it to the public to have an independent inquiry, and at my personal expense I appointed the gentlemen whom I have named, who were selected entirely by others. My written instructions to them were to take the accounts of the Treasurer and the Auditor-General, and, when there was a difference between the Treasurer's accounts and those of the Auditor-General to follow the Auditor-General's accounts, and not my accounts.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The right honorable member did not formulate a set of questions, as the honorable member for Hume did.

Mr Reid - No. I asked the honorable member for Hume, when' he was formulating his questions to his own Committee, to allow me to put some questions to them, but he would not do so. I then asked the honorable member, when the report of the three accountants nominated at any instance, was presented to me, to allow it to go into the journals of the Parliament of New South Wales, as the report of his own Committee had done, but he refused that, too. Fortunately I have some chance now of having my side of the case placed on the records of the New South Wales Parliament. But I wish to go further. The three accountants had each separate sets of the accounts of the Treasurer, and of the Auditor-General, placed before them, with instructions to follow the Auditor-General's accounts in any case of doubt. Each of them conducted an independent investigation, and they met and agreed upon a joint report which showed - what? That my statement of the balance which I left to the honorable member for Hume on the 1st July, 1899, namely, ^147,000, was ^110,000 under the mark - that, instead of overstating the accounts, amounts had been advanced to public officers during my last financial year which had to be returned under the Treasurership of the honorable member. . These three accountants pointed out that I had understated my balance, to the extent of j£i 10,000. The honorable member for Hume accepted my balance, and put it -in his own accounts as correct.

Sir William Lyne - That is not correct. I made a statement at the time as to why it was done.

Mr Reid - The Treasury accounts are there to be seen. The honorable member put some other statement on the table of the House, which the accountant to the Treasury would not sign.

Mr SPEAKER - When making personal explanations, it is not permissible to introduce new matter, and I ask the right honorable gentleman not to do it.

Mr Reid - I will now leave that matter, and come to the more serious statement of the honorable gentleman, which imputed corruption to me in the administration of the office of Premier of New South Wales. I suppose we have not come to a state of things in this House when such charges may be made against a man without some seriousness being attached to the imputation under which he is made to lie. I suppose that on this matter, considering the nature of the statement which has gone on the permanent records of Parliament, I can claim1- the generous indulgence of every: member of the House. I would like, with reference to it, to say this : Senator Neild, who was at the time a member of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, and had been for years a member of my own party, was going to the mother country on other business, and asked me to authorize him to make inquiries on behalf of the Government of New South Wales as to the old-age pensions system, in connexion with which he had been prominent from the first. I gave him the commission, but like a prudent Minister, I stated in it that he was to do the work entirely without remuneration. Those were the terms on which I appointed him. I expected to receive a report such as any one of us might give after a visit to the mother country - a document containing forty or fifty pages. I did not dream of the length to which his report would go. The honorable gentleman came back, and was ill for a long time. Finally, he set to work, and presented to me a report containing 515 pages.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The best document on the subject in the world.

Mr Reid - It is a document containing information culled from the literature of various nations. I did not get it until it had been printed at the Government Printing Office, but the moment I saw it I said, "This must have cost you a good deal. We must put some amount on the Estimates for the trouble you have taken in this matter " ; and I promised to do so. As honorable members know, to put money on the Estimates is not to guarantee that it will be voted. I am now .giving merely the preliminary history of the matter.

Mr Wilks - This is all in the sworn evidence of the Committee.

Mr Reid - I intended to put a sum on the Additional Estimates for the year 1899, but as we had no Additional Estimates that year, the matter was allowed to stand over until the following session. We prorogued in December, and the payment was made to Senator Neild at a time when Parliament: was not sitting, and would not sit for six months. Not a penny was paid to him when Parliament was sitting, and I had no intention of paying him anything until Parliament had voted the money. But the honorable gentleman had suffered a number of misfortunes; his health, for instance, had broken down, and he came to me. and asked me to pay the actual expenses which he had been out of pocket for a considerable time, in anticipation of the grant of Parliament. The amount which I paid to him did not comprise one penny for his personal labour in this gigantic work. It was merely a reimbursement of the money he had actually spent in producing it. I paid it in the full belief that Parliament would recompense him for his gigantic labours in a national cause. It was not a matter of helping rich corporations, but of providing old-age pensions for the poor of Australia, and Senator Neild s work had a great deal to do with the ease with which that system was established in New South Wales. I now come to a more serious matter than that. The honorable gentleman spoke as if there had been a Committee sitting upon my conduct in connexion with that matter.

Sir William Lyne - No, I did not say that. '

Mr Reid - That is what one would gather from the honorable member's speech. That Committee did not sit to inquire into my conduct at all.

Sir William Lyne - I never said so.

Mr Reid - I accept the honorable member's statement. The Committee was appointed to inquire into the question whether Senator Neild had' entered into any contract, and whether by receiving payment from the Government he had forfeited his seat as a member of the Legislature, and it did not report upon my conduct in any shape or form. I admit that it is constitutionally dangerous to make payments to members of Parliament, and no one grants more freely than I do that since Parliament did' not approve of my conduct it had a perfect right to censure me for believing that it would approve, and for thus falling into an error. I have never grumbled about that. Will honorable members believe that the honorable gentleman who made this imputation against me, and his whole party, when I challenged them in the face of the House and the country as to whether their Statements amounted to an imputation upon my personal integrity gave me an assurance that they did not?

Sir William Lyne - I did nothing of the kind.

Mr Reid - I shall read from the records of Parliament in justification of what I have said. When the motion of censure was tabled, the member for HastingsMacleay, Sir Edmund Barton, made use of observations in a daily newspaper interview which seemed to me to suggest some imputation of improper conduct on my part. I immediately challenged him. I came before the House upon a question of privilege, and took up this position : "If this is a mere censure upon me for making a mistake as a Minister, I am satisfied to abide by the decision of the House ; but 'df it is an imputation upon my personal character, if it is a charge of corruption against me, I claim the right to have a judicial investigation. I do not want my character to be the sport of a party censure vote." Honorable members will se,e the difference between the two things. If any of my honorable friends had his personal character impugned, would he be content to have it dragged into the mire of a censure debate? Would he not claim the right which belongs to the meanest criminal in the land to have a fair and impartial trial? I knew what use might be made of such statements. I shall read from the New South Wales Hansard. On the 5th of September, 1899, page 1136, I called attention to Mr. Barton's words, and said this-

I rise to say that my ideas of parliamentary fair play and honour are so different from those of the honorable member, that if this charge embodied in the amendment of the honorable member for Wickham-

That was Mr. Fegan, who pointed the honorable member's general motion, with some words I will read. There was no charge of corruption embodied in Mr. Fegan's amendment, which was couched in these words -

That the question be amended by inserting after the word " House " the words " and deserves censure for having made payments of public money to Mr. J. C. Neild, member for Paddington, without asking Parliament, and contrary to the assurance given by the right honorable the Premier."

That was .a perfectly legitimate ground for censuring any Government, and I did not object to anything of that kind, but when the honorable member for Hastings-Mac - leay said something which seemed to me to amount to a charge affecting my personal reputation, I got up in the House and made these remarks -

If this charge embodied in the amendment of the honorable member for Wickham is intended lis a deliberate charge of personal corruption against me, affecting my personal integrity-


Now I willi read a little further. I had a prophetic sense of the extreme's to ' which political malignity can go in some quarters, and I made these remarks, which are reported at page 1141 -

The Ministry are entitled to take up this position. Putting aside the language of the honorable member, suppose he is giving a description of certain things involved in a charge of corruption, all I can say is that, if there is an understanding, apart from what the honorable member has said on this matter, that it is not an attack on my personal integrity as a man-

Honorable Members. - Nothing of the kind !

That remark came from the honorable member for Hume and his friends, who were sitting opposite to me.

Sir William Lyne - It did not come from me.

Mr Reid - I am going on a little further. There is no getting away from the words contained in Hansard. I went on to say -

Well, I say if it is simply an attack upon me in a public way, a fair and legitimate public way, as- a public man who has made mistakes, then I will not have another word to say. My only desire is this : That after this debate is over, whatever the result is, I do not want it to be said that I was tried on a question affecting my personal honesty, and was found guilty by this House.

That is what is said now.

But if there is any understanding that there is a charge of corruption levelled against me, there is not a man in the House who would not do me the justice of having the matter thrashed out, before the House dealt with it, because in our party fights we do not want to mix up matters affecting our personal characters. I accept the assurance of the leader of the Opposition-

Who was he? The honorable member for Hume, who was sitting in front of me with his friends. as representing his party, that he is not making a charge affecting my personal honesty as a man, and I have, therefore, not another word to say. That is the honorable member who spoke as he did yesterday.

Sir William Lyne - To commence with, the last statement made by the Prime Minister

Mr Conroy - Let the honorable member admit that he was not sober, and say no more about it.

Mr Mauger - I desire. Mr. Speaker, to know whether the honorable and learned member for Werriwa is in order in making a remark implying that the honorable member for Hume was inebriated and not fit to speak?

Mr SPEAKER - If the honorable and learned member made any such remark he must withdraw it.

Mr Conroy - I withdraw the' statement. I admit that this is not the place to make it - I should make it elsewhere.

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member must withdraw the words absolutely.

Mr Conroy - I withdraw the remark.

Sir William Lyne - I regret that such an interjection should have been made, because I really feel that it was quite uncalled for. I do not think that any one in Australia has at any time seen me the worse for drink. . The Prime Minister, in another part of his statement, read to the House, not what was said by me, but what was stated by Sir Edmund Barton.

Mr Reid - The honorable member concurred in it.

Sir William Lyne - I' did not concur.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The whole of the honorable member's party did.

Sir William Lyne - I think I shall be able to show that I. did not concur.

Mr Reid - The honorable member concurred at that time.

Sir William Lyne - I did not concur: The right honorable gentleman merely read out what he said, and endeavoured, by securing the re-publication of his remarks in Hansard, to show that I concurred in relieving him from any personal imputation. But I did not do so.

Mr Reid - The honorable member did so when he was sitting opposite me in the House.

Sir William Lyne - I did nothing of the kind. The honorable member cannot show that by quoting from Hansard one word that I said.

Mr SPEAKER - Order. I hope that these interjections will not be continued. I' trust that the honorable member for Hume will address the Chair, and not make remarks which almost demand an answer.

Sir William Lyne - I hope that the Prime Minister will not interrupt me in my denial. I direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that the remarks of the right honorable gentleman, and the passages that he read, were intended to induce the House to believe that I concurred in the remarks evidently made by Mr. Barton. I did not concur in them, and the right honorable gentleman has not shown that I did so in any shape or form. As' a matter of fact, the contrary was the case. In the course of the speech I made on that' occasion, in moving the vote of censure, I recounted the whole history of the case, including the action of Mr. Neild, who had" come to me and had' stated that he was furious against the Government. I also.' stated that information was obtained by me that a conference had taken place between the right honorable gentleman and Mr. Neild, with the result that something had happened of which I did not know at that time, although I had a suspicion regarding it. Mr. Neild withdrew his opposition to the Government, and although he did not vote for them, spoke in their support. The Government won by a majority of four. I am not quite sure, but I believe that at that time Mr. Barton was leading the Opposition.


Mr Reid - The honorable gentleman was leading the Opposition, and moved the vote of censure.

Sir William Lyne - I believe that Mr. Barton was the leader of the Opposition at that time. At any rate, he had led it previously, if he was not actually in that position upon the occasion referred to. I have stated plainly what happened in the case, and the right honorable gentleman has not quoted one word from me in refutation of what I stated. My impression stands good to-day as it stood then. The right honorable gentleman has omitted to refer to the question that was asked of him by the Chairman of the Committee, recorded at page 1044 of Hansard. I do not know what Committee that was, but I believe it was connected with the question of old-age pensions. I know that Mr. Neild was connected with it. At that particular time, when the question was asked, it was! intended to move a vote of censure against the Premier if he said he was going to pay Mr. Neild. When the Government accounts came' out I could not discover how the payment had been made, although I had heard whispers regarding it, and I had to go to the AuditorGeneral, in order to find out under what heading it had been made. Parliament was not sitting, and, unquestionably, such a payment should not have been made. Not one word has been said by the right honorable gentleman to cause me to vary my original statement. If I had been proved to be wrong I should have been perfectly ready to withdraw what I said. But I know what happened, and I know that I am right. The right "honorable gentleman has stated that I appointed all the members of the Committee of Public Accounts. Technically I. did so, but two of the members were selected at the instigation of the right honorable gentleman, who mentioned their names across the table in the Legislative

Assembly, of New South Wales, when he was replying to my financial statement. He wanted to name the third member, but I stopped Mm, and said that I thought I was entitled to make that selection. I did not know Mr. Yarwood before I asked him to accept a seat on the Committee,, and I did not know that he had ever contested an election.

Mr Reid - I brought the fact under the honorable member's notice.

Sir William Lyne - That was after he had been appointed - he was appointed immediately. I did not know that that gentleman had stood for election, and, as a matter of fact, he, as a free-trader, did not object generally to the policy of. the right honorable gentleman, but only to his land legislation.

Mr Reid - He also referred to the question of the accounts.

Sir William Lyne - Then I was not aware of it. That was the way in which the Committee was appointed. I had nothing further to do with the matter, and, as I stated last night, Mr. Davis was one of the three whom the right honorable member appointed privately and paid. Mr. Davis wished to be placed on the Committee which I was appointing, but I did not know him, and I am not sure that I know him now. At any rate, I never knew before that he was a protectionist; and had I known of it that fact might have been supposed to influence me in his favour. I did not, however, appoint him. I know that he went to the right honorable gentleman's house - I have this in writing - and discussed the matter with him before the question of the report was raised.

Mr Page - There is no treason in that !

Sir William Lyne - I do not say that there is. I obtained, I believe, the three very best men . for the work in New South Wales, and no one can point a finger at them now. But from the moment I made the appointment, the right honorable gentleman hurled his invectives at both Mr. Dibbs and Mr. Yarwood, though it is difficult to .see why, considering that he nominated one of. them himself. I do not. think there is any ne:cessity to say more. I should not have dealt with this matter had it riot been brought up by the right honorable gentleman himself with a view, if possible, to destroy the effect of the Committee's, report, which stands, and always will stand, as a record against his financial administration. " When the right honorable gentleman says that I accepted a balance of his in my financial operations as Treasurer, it must be remembered that when I assumed office I was compelled to accept the accounts as they were. The balance left by the right honorable gentleman was ^100,000 odd.

Mr SPEAKER - Wil[ the honorable member kindly take his seat? It must be obvious to the honorable member that it would be unfair to allow him to proceed with those remarks. I stopped the Prime Minister's references to that subject, and, on the same ground, I cannot permit the honorable member for Hume to continue.

Sir William Lyne - I have very nearly completed my remarks. The right honorable gentleman made a statement in this connexion, and I think I ought 10 be allowed to say a word in reply. I had to take his balance into consideration until such time as I could have the services of a special inspector in the Treasury to investigate the accounts.

Mr Reid - Mr. Martin !

Sir William Lyne - I explained the position when I made my financial statement later on, and the right honorable gentleman knows that, but he desires the House to believe that I made use of a balance which he left behind.

Mr Reid - The honorable member never altered the figures.

Mr Crouch - I desire to make a personal explanation.' The Prime Minister interjected, " If the honorable and learned member for Corio has no care fur his own reputation, he ought, at least, to have care for mine."

Mr Reid - The honorable and learned member alters my words, as usual.

Mr SPEAKER - I would point out to the honorable and learned member for Corio that any such interjection is not sufficient ground for a personal explanation on his part. The honorable and learned member may make a personal explanation as to any matter which he himself has brought forward, and in regard to which he has been misunderstood or misrepresented, but he cannot discuss an interjection by the Prime Minister.

Mr Crouch - I do not desire to discuss the interjection, but to make an explanation in fairness to the Prime Minister. That right honorable gentleman has been good enough, in quoting from the New South Wales Hansard,- to say that he accepts the assurance of the members of the

Parliament of that State that they did not attempt in any way to reflect upon his personal honour or private rectitude.

Mr SPEAKER - Will the honorable and learned member kindly say what remarks of his have been misunderstood or misrepresented? If he does so I will permit him to proceed.

Mr Crouch - The Prime Minister says-

Mr SPEAKER - But what remark of the honorable and learned member for Corio has been misunderstood or misrepresented ?

Mr Crouch - I am speaking of a statement of the Prime Minister in which he expressed the opinion that if I had no care for my own reputation I might have some care for his.

Mr SPEAKER -I do not think the honorable and learned member understands what I have endeavoured to place very clearly before him. I have already told the honorable and learned member, as I have told others over and over again, that he may make a personal explanation on any matter in relation to which he has been misunderstood or misrepresented. If the honorable and learned member will deal with any such matter I shall certainly not interrupt him. But if he persists in seeking to explain some remark which* the Prime Minister has made, he is not within his rights, and cannot be permitted to proceed.

Mr Crouch - Then I ask the indulgence of the House in order that I may make a statement. I presume that no honorable member will object.

Mr SPEAKER - Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable and learned member for Corio have leave to make a statement ?

Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !

Mr Crouch - The Prime Minister has said in reading extracts from the Hansard" reports of the New South Wales1 Parliament, that he accepted the assurance of the leader of the Opposition and other members of that Parliament that they had no intention to reflect on his personal honour or private rectitude. I understand from the interjection of the right honorable gentleman to-day that hethinks that anything I may have said in this Chamber or outside should not be viewed1 in a similar way, but that I have in someway reflected on his personal honour. I should like to assure honorable members that all I have said has been against the right honorable gentleman in his official position - that nothing I have either said or written is intended in any way to reflect on his personal honour or private rectitude.

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