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Thursday, 9 November 1905

Senator STEWART - It has done it for the reason for which many other things have been done, because its authority has never been called into question. The point, so far as I know, has never been disputed. Here is the position : A civil servant is a ratepayer of a municipality. The constitution of that municipality gives every ratepayer of it the right to stand for the position of councillor. He is a shareholder to all intents and purposes in the business of the municipality. Is it right, proper, just, or expedient that we should seek to deprive him of his right to sit as a member of the local council, to take a part in the management of the town ih which- he "lives, and to oversee the expenditure of his own money, for that is practically what he would be doing? I have always thought that, not only the ' Federal Parliament, but the

States Parliaments, act very wrongly in treating the public servants not as slaves, as Senator Higgs suggested, but as political eunuchs. What is or ought to be the political aspiration of every man or woman in Australia? Is it not the right to avail themselves to the fullest possible extent of all the activities of citizenship? Yet here we presume to deprive certain of our citizens of their rights and privileges, and merely because they happen to be public servants.

Senator Mulcahy - If the honorable senator were logical, he would permit them to become members of Parliament.

Senator STEWART - I certainly would, but I should be still more logical, and I should say "One man one billet." If a man were a member of Parliament, he should not at the same time be a public servant.

Senator Mulcahy - That is where the honorable senator is illogical.

Senator STEWART -If a man is appointed a postmaster, he is not asked at the same time to fill some other position, and one position in the Public Service is enough for any individual at a time. Senator Millen talked about " the spoils to the victors," Americanizing our institutions, and that sort of thing. I have heard that before, here and elsewhere, but I never could see that as applied to Australia there was any force in it. Where are the spoils in the position of a municipal councillor? I have been a municipal councillor, but I never shared any spoils. I may tell honorable senators that I got more kicks than halfpennies. If we consider the work of any local authority whatever, it will be admitted that the conductofits business would not interfere in the slightest degree with a man's duties as a public servant.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - He would have to give about an hour a month to it.

Senator STEWART - Or less. It would not interfere in principle or in practice. Senator Millen conjured up some imaginary conflict between local and general politics in connexion with persons living in a certain locality, and he asked what would be the position of a civil servant in that case if he were a member of the local authority ? If the honorable senator had stated some example to show how such a position could arise there might have been some force in his contention.

Senator Millen - I think I did.

Senator STEWART - The honorable senator merely drew upon his imagination. He mentioned Broken Hill, where local politics are fought out on labour principles ; but I do not think that even at Broken Hill what Senator Millen imagined would apply. A man might very well be an ardent partisan in municipal politics, might take a very active and keen interest in the way in which the money he contributes to the rates is spent, and how the municipality in which he lives is governed, and at the same time be a perfectly honest electoral registrar for the Commonwealth. Senator Millen has had the misfortune to live in New South Wales-

Senator Millen - I do not regard it as such. I am battling along under it.

Senator STEWART - Where so many people have been convicted of corruption, and every man suspects his neighbour of being more or less off the straight. It is high time we applied some robust common sense to questions of this character. Either the public servants of the Commonwealth are citizens of Australia and of the local divisions in which they live, or they are not. If they are citizens they are entitled to all the rights and privileges of citizenship. I question very much whether we can deprive them of those rights. I say that we certainly ought not to attempt to do so. What should we say of the conduct of those controlling a private company if they expressly prohibited their employes from taking any part whatever in public matters? We should say that the shareholders of that company were tyrants, unfit to live in a free country, and that administration of that kind was a blot upon our free institutions. And we should be right in saying so. Yet here deliberately, and of set purpose, we maim men's citizenship and deprive them of a portion of their rights as citizens.

Senator Mulcahy - That is not the proposal.

Senator STEWART - We relegate them to an inferior position so far as their citizenship is concerned. Senator Mulcahy says that that is not the proposal. The proposal is that they shouldbe permitted to hold elected positions on municipal and other local-governing bodies. Does the honorable senator object to that?

Senator Mulcahy - Yes, I do.

Senator STEWART - Does the honorable senator think that any man should be degraded from his citizenship, and here is where the iniquity of the thing comes in according to Senator Mulcahy--

Senator Mulcahy - No.

Senator STEWART - That "no" is very cheap. We shall see what the honorable senator's "no" is worth when it comes to a vote. I say that here is where the iniquity of the thing comes in. THese men are not to be permitted to occupy these positions not because of anything they have done, but simply because they are public servants. For that reason they are to be prevented from holding any public position. An idea of this kind is out of harmony with our Australian institutions. No man who holds such ideas is fitted for Australian citizenship. He ought to go home to the old country, and serve a period of probation under a semi-despotism, and then come back and live here in free Australia. Some honorable senators do not appreciate the liberties they enjoy in this country. Honorable senators ought not, considering the position in which they find themselves,, to try to deprive other men of their rights. I trust that an overwhelming majority of the Senate will support the principles of liberty and full citizenship by passing the motion.

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