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Thursday, 24 June 1915

Mr KELLY (Wentworth) .- So far as the Works Committee and similar bodies are concerned, the House is in the position of having trusted servants, by whose judgment it must be prepared to abide more or less, because it would be impossible for any one who is not a member of a Committee to satisfy himself on any point as thoroughly as they had had an opportunity of doing. Whilst I am in favour of placing on the table, for the information of honorable members who are anxious to examine them, the plans laid before the Works Committee, apparently, if we accept the statement of the honorable member for Denison, not much would be gained by attaching copies of them to its reports,' because if the honorable member for Denison cannot understand these plans unless he has an expert present to explain them, I am afraid that the rest of us might be in nn even worse position.

Mr LAIRD SMITH (DENISON, TASMANIA) - The honorable member might be. He has never had to work for his living.

Mr KELLY - I rose to support my honorable friend, and he throws a brick at me for the only thing for which he envies me. I ask the Chairman of the Public Works Committee, through you, Mr. Speaker, whether it would not be possible to print, in the minutes of evidence, the questions asked by the mem bers of the Committee, as well as the answers given by the witnesses. One can get almost any answer from an ordinary witness, if the question is framed with sufficient acumen; though I do not charge the members of the Committee with framing their questions with a view to influencing the answers of the witnesses. A leading question will draw from most witnesses the reply sought for, and if a leading question were put to a series of witnesses, whose answers alone were printed in the minutes of evidence, any one reading that evidence would think that he was getting the unassisted opinion of these witnesses. What we need is to get at the minds of the witnesses, and we cannot do that unless we have an opportunity to read the questions that are put to them. It would help me enormously in connexion with some of the reports had I been able to know the form in which the questions asked of witnesses had been put. As the evidence is now presented, we have merely the statements of the witnesses, broken up with the bald explanation, " To Mr. Laird Smith," " To the Chairman," to indicate the questioner to whom the replies were given.

Mr J H Catts - It is a condensed report.

Mr KELLY - Yes ; but it is the worst form of condensation to omit the questions. To do what I suggest would not appreciably increase the cost. I take it that the questions asked are fairly concise, and that even when the members of the Committee are roving through anaerobic processes and other technicalities, their questions are precise and clear. Certainly there would be more human interest in the reports if the questions asked were given in the words in which they were couched ! It is a farce to publish evidence which cannot be read intelligently; and, without cavilling at the Committee, I say that one does not know the value of evidence without knowing the questions which elicited it.

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