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Tuesday, 15 May 1928

Mr BRUCE (Flinders) (Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs) . - (By leave.) - I desire to announce that the Government proposes to appoint a royal commission to investigate certain charges affecting the honour and dignity of this legislature, and the reputation of certain of its members. Honorable members will recall that on the 7th May there appeared a statement in the press, attributed to Mr. Lambert, M,P., in which he alleged that- he had been offered £8,000 to vacate his seat for the representation of "West Sydney, in the interests of Mr. Theodore. It was stated, also, that a similar offer had been made to Mr. Anstey, M.P., the implication being that he should resign his seal in the interests of Mr. Theodore. On the 9th May, in another statement in the press, Mr. Lambert reiterated his charge, and on the same date Mr. G. Cann, a former member of this House, was reported to have stated that he had been advised by Mr. Coleman, M.P., that he had been approached with a . view to giving up his seat for a consideration, to make way for Mr. Theodore. On the 10th May, Mr. Cann is reported to have said that he stood by his statement. It has also been reported in the press that- the allegations have been denied by the honorable members to whom they referred. These statements, however, are attributed not to irresponsible persons, but to a member of this Parliament, and to an exMinister of the Crown in New South Wales. The repetition of the statements by both gentlemen a few days later indicates that they were correctly reported.

The allegation that seats in the national legislature are being bought and sold strikes at the honour and dignity of the Commonwealth Parliament, and threatens the very foundations of our democratic institutions. It is for the Government, as the custodian of the people's rights, to take action with a view to eliciting the actual facts. This it proposes to do. It feels that its action will be received with satisfaction by the people generally, and by the parties concerned; because, until the matter has been finally disposed of, a reflection will rest upon the honour of this Parliament and certain members of it. The Government believes that an inquiry which so fundamentally, affects the honour of the national parliament, can best be en trusted to the highest judicial authority in the Commonwealth, and accordingly it proposes to invite the Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir Adrian Knox, to investigate the allegations immediately.

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